We had done some research about Albania, having previously thought it a bit dodgy to visit but had been reassured by many people about it's safety, especially along the southern coastal roads. Our van insurance doesn't cover us outside of the EU, but we had been told we could buy border insurance.
The border was very quiet and on the Greek side we were ushered through quickly after a cursory glance at the passports. We asked about insurance but were told to ask in one of the duty free shops (?) which we did to no avail. On the Albanian side, our passports and V5 were checked, but nothing was mentioned about insurance. We tried to ask but there was a definite language problem and we were shooed away from the border office. Looking around, we could see no obvious place to get insurance, just several cafes and a Western Union. Quite a few dodgy types were hanging around and a few approached us, seemingly keen to try out their English, but not understanding what we were saying. By this point, Nathanial felt we were making ourselves an obvious target and decided that we'd be better to push on.
Our first views of the country were pretty impressive. More lush mountain scenery, possibly greener than Greece had been, with wide open spaces and very quiet roads. The sat-nav decided to give up altogether soon after the border, so we relied on our European map and navigated by looking for signs to places along our intended route, which served us pretty well wherever the signs actually existed.
|At this point Nathanial kept saying he should be on a motor bike|
|The roads really started to test the vans suspension|
|It was no fun getting lost with out the sat nav|
|Antonio and his wife appear to live in the tent to the left of this photo|
|The little allotment on the actual camp site|
|We're loving waking up to these views|
|Al fresco potwash, drainage onto rocks!|
|A very nice shower actually|
The drive out of Himare was spectacular and soon involved one of my favourites, a twisty mountain road! Luckily, the view was mostly on my side, so I kept the camera away from Nathanial and concentrated on photography. My pictures do not begin to convey the vastness of the view. As we approached the summit along multiple switch-backs the view was akin to being in an aeroplane.
|At this point it felt like we were on a Scalextric track|
|You can see the road we climbed up snaking all along the coast and then upwards.|
|The road wound its way up the mountain in the distance|
|The road had actually fallen off the side of the mountain|
As we travelled, we found ourselves on a mixture of roads, some fantastic, others not so great. Outside of Durres, where we knew a campsite was located, we made a massive wrong turn down what seemed like a smooth dual carriageway, but what turned out to be a dead-end road which had been used as a tip, complete with foraging pigs!
|Wow, this road is really smooth and really quiet!|
|Ooo, that's a bit of a mess|
|Beth, are you sure this is the way?!|
|Bloody hell woman, where have you brought us ??!!!|
|We think 'Shiten' means 'for sale'. We saw it a lot.|
I was shown to the only available computer and logged on, feeling the stares of a dozen pairs of eyes at my back. I quickly found and wrote down our directions and went up to the desk to pay. The chap told me the cost was 20 Lek. I brought out one of my 5,000 Lek notes and the chap grinned at me, before informing me that he would make an exception for tourists. As I thanked him profusely, turning redder by the second, one of the lads commented that "it was his pleasure". I made a hasty retreat.
|This was one of the more conventional modes of transport we saw!|
|Lake Shkodra Resort|
|Albania's version of that famous print|
|Paddle faster Dad!|
|Left a bit Mum|
We saw several ladies taking their cows out for a walk, one helpfully pointed us in the right direction.
|Not a combine harvester in sight|
|They were almost as fascinated by us as we were by them.|
|Almost everyone gave us a cheery wave|
|Another cow out for a stroll|
|You wouldn't believe how much noise these make|
|Man, wife and horse ploughing|
|Our friend with the big fish|
|The splash you can see was made by a young lad jumping in this water|
|The heat was getting to him|
|Mes Bridge, as seen by Nathanial only.|
|Most of the gardens were beautifully tended with veg, not many flowers|
|These bunkers are all over Albania, left over from a paranoid communist dictator|
|The universal language of seven year old boys.|
*For reference, a euro is worth about 140 Lek, so my ten thousand was worth about €70, or £50 and I tried to pay the roughly equivalent 10p for the computer with a £25 note.