Hard

Ohrid, Macedonia:   I made it through Albania but it was hard going as I cycled eastward from Tirana through the Balkans, climbing more than 1,500 meters yesterday against a hard headwind for most of the way.

When I left Tirana I had no idea how much I would need to climb, how far I would get or where I would sleep that night.   I winged it.  By the time I arrived in Perrenjas my batteries were on empty and I was almost out of daylight.   I had no choice but to pull the wheels up.  I am not a fan of any Albanian city, but Perrenjas is a singular armpit of a place.  Abandoned factories litter the outskirts of town, and the whole city looks depressed.  You can see it on people’s faces.

In Perrenjas there is a newish small inn located in a gas station complex, and with no other viable option that’s where I stayed last night.

The whole experience at Kompleks Tirona was special.  My dinner choices were rice pilaf with mystery meat; pasta with ketchup; or a cheese omelette.   I opted for the omelette.  A most rancid odour wreaked from the bathroom plumbing in my room.   The smell was so revolting I did not drink any water last night to avoid having to visit the bathroom.  As I sat on the bed watching a Woody Allen film with Albanian subtitles (go figure), I began to itch.   So I unrolled my sleeping bag and rested in my cocoon rather than trust the hotel’s sheets.

But the real charm occurred this morning.  I went back downstairs to the restaurant for a breakfast omelette.   As I spoke to the only server in the restaurant, she picked her nose.

I could not get out of Perrenjas quickly enough.

The bright spot yesterday was meeting an Italian cyclist who likes to be called “Gibi.” Gibi is a pilot for the Albanian airline and he cycled out of Tirana on his day off to avoid the “crazy drivers and pollution” of the capital.  We cycled together for a bit and he treated me to coffee at a cafe near the top of a challenging mountain pass.

 

 

Today I cycled into Macedonia, the 14th country on this tour and the last of the former Yugoslav territories I will pass through.  In Ohrid I am back — at least for a short while — on the tourist grid.   Lake Ohrid is Macedonia’s top tourist destination, and in Ohrid you can buy all the tourist essentials — post cards, trinkets, tattoos — plus enjoy a selection of hotels, restaurants and gelato stores.  This is a big change from Albania where I did not see a single post card but I did see plenty of cool bunkers throughout the countryside. These bunkers were built by the former dictator to repel an invasion.   The only prospects of invasion which I saw were of these mountain goats a kilometer shy of the Macedonian border.

Days 68-69:  Tirana, Albania — Perrenjas, Albania — Ohrid, Macedonia  

Distance:  110.44 kilometers (Day 68) and 41.89 kilometers (Day 69)

Ascent:  1,532 meters (Day 68) and  533 meters (Day 69)

Weather:  Beautiful but windy

Terrain:   Mountainous and littered with trash

TransEuropa 2011 Trip Summary:

Distance:  4,890.04 kilometers

Ascent:   35,573 meters

Countries:  14:  Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia

Incidents:  4: flat tires on Days 45, 53 and 56;  police reprimand on Day 2

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About Todd

Around-the-world cycling, one continent at a time
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4 Responses to Hard

  1. Ellen says:

    Better days are coming! I am right there with you, Todd!

  2. Margot says:

    You look amazing, and that bike looks very heavy! Keep it up Todd. It’s all so amazing. xo M

    • Todd says:

      Hey Margot – Thank you for your continuing support. I miss riding with you. I am staying in a very cool place tonight ay in Greece, and I thought, Margot would like this! Unfortunately I have had to stay in one or two places that make John Day look good. I guess it all balances out!

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