Leaving Tirana I headed once again for the coast; the lure of simple navigation, keeping the ocean to the right hand side, the relative ease of camping on the beach; the guarantee of a swim morning, noon and evening and the promise of boundless sunsets made for an easy choice.
Living with the weather is as much a part of the challenge as any other aspect of a world cycle. Your waking hours are spent in it, your movements can be determenined by it and your sleep can be disturbed by it. The weather is your everything. Obvious as this may sound, the last few days have been a stark reminder that on a long trip you really need to be prepared for the worst and ready for anything.
At length, I finally made it to the boat. What a week. Since leaving the family home from the Village in sleepy rural Staffordshire on a fully laden bicycle it feels more like I’ve been riding a rollercoaster than a bike. I’ve toasted friends’ birthdays, drank endless cups of tea with Grandmothers and conversed with World cyclists. I’ve not even left the country and I’ve already been gifted numerous meals, stayed with a wonderful couple in Rawdon (thanks Dave & Sue) and been loaded up with more cake than you can shake a stick at. People are lovely. I feel blessed.
Zagreb was eerie and quiet, It’s Sunday morning. We park our bikes against a wall, take stock on our losses and figure out where to stay the night. We’re amazed by how thoroughly the thieves have gone through our stuff, right under our noses. They’d even taken care to remove cash from our wallets then carefully place them back in our bags. We’d been fleeced good and proper. We carry on looking. Phone, cammera, yep, gone. They’d even taken Jim’s jeans. We were livid, scratching our heads in bewilderment, how didn’t we wake up? Did they really gas our cabin? The truth is we’ll never know but we arrived in Zagreb feeling pretty down about it all. The weather had taken a sudden winter-ward snap. The cold fog was sucking the life out of us as we sat dejected on the pavement. Continue reading →
Albania has a bit of a dodgy reputation for some reason. We approached the Balkan’s very own wild west with apprehension, I didn’t know what to expect. Peasants shitting in the streets, bent cops after our cash, gun toting drug barons lurking in the shadows and desperate thieves sniffing around our wheels! If rumour is to be believed then these are some of the sketchy folk we’re likely to come across in this part of the world… It’s a good job we don’t care about rumours, but is this really the most backward country in Europe? Is cycling here as dangerous as people say? What are we getting ourselves in to? There’s only one way to find out… Continue reading →
Happily this last few weeks we’ve fallen into a pattern of crossing borders on a Sunday, we’re spending a week in each of these fabulous Balkan states and making the most of the rich culture, the glorious weather and the traveller-friendly prices. This week we have been mostly enjoying Macedonia; the food and people we have met along the way have been of high calibre. I’ve also after more than sixty days on the road begun to keep my journal up to date and in some meaningful order – this is of great use when now I am writing for you an account of what we have seen and done and experienced. Continue reading →
A surreal feeling came upon us as we approached the Greek boarder, it could have been a small dose of culture shock or perhaps it was the drop in elevation going to our heads. It was certainly surreal. As we rolled through the baron scrub of no man’s land the customs and excise complex stood looming ahead, a structure of standards far excelling any buildings we had encountered on our passage through the Balkans. The significance of our arrival to Greece, the geographical pinnacle of our journey, added to our bewilderment. I presented my passport to the official, he looked at me and my vehicle. He actually laughed, an unexpected sign of emotion from a boarder rozzer, he waved me through then took a look at Jim “you bicycle from UK?…” Jim nodded. Yes we have! Continue reading →
It was like we had travelled back to time somehow. As if cycling through one of my granddad’s memories of Staffordshire when he were a lad, we start our Serbian journey in little farming villages. Buzzing with activity, real work, real places, real people. As we pass them by everyone says hello or waves us on. Old folk watch the world go by their doorstep, farm workers ride on tractor trailers, children play in the streets and half a dozen escapee piglets scuttle off squealing down the road. People still grow their own food and collect their own fuel. Village shops, fascinating dimly lit little grottos, sell just about everything under the sun. Welcome to the Balkans! Continue reading →