Monday, 19 October 2015

Albania: Tirana - Permet

After a few sunny and warm days in Tirana it was finally time to pack up and move on to do some more of what we came to do in Albania: touring off road.  As we set off from Tirana grey clouds were brewing up a thunderstorm, which was torrential, but passed quickly and then cleared up.  I've read that this is not unusual weather for Albania.  

And so we embarked on what would be a three day route; covered in this and the next blog.  We don't always know how many days any planned route will take, because it's impossible to know what the terrain will be like and how fast we can expect to travel.  We just head off with ample food and supplies and it takes as long as it takes.  The first day was still on a sealed road. 

Berat - a town unlike others in Albania

Town Square

Mosque and church next to each other

University building and the picture below shows buildings just opposite 

Back to wild camping for a few nights as we were getting ready to do more off roading in Albania. It was the first night, just at the beginning of the track we were to continue the following day.

Very inconveniently we had run out of gas in Tirana so we had to do with whatever was available for it was impossible to refill our gas bottle.  As it turned out it wasn't really such an issue.

Once again we were amazed with Albanian's generosity: whilst filling up the water tank in the car  back at the campsite in Tirana we were approached by a man who simply handed in a few pomegranates. We weren't sure who he was but we guessed he lived just next door to the campsite and shared a road and possibly the well we were getting the water from. Another thing we weren't sure about was whether he wanted to get paid. I offered him some money but he looked offended (he didn't speak any English) so instead I put a little butterfly clip into his daughter's hair. That seemed to please him as we were given even more fruit! As you can see in the photo below, the pomegranates were quite big!

Morning at the camping spot

On the track

Possibly a monastery with some accommodation, along a way to a pilgrimage site

And here's the pilgrimage site, on a mountain over 2000m above see level.

Views from the top

This is a village named Gjerbes.  Despite a total population of 350 people it had at least five cafes dotted around the centre square.  

Gjerbes happens to be situated at the cross-roads of tracks that access other remote areas besides the route we were following.  Only locals and occasional 4wd tour groups take these routes.  As soon as we drove into the village square we were spotted and welcomed by a young man who owned one of the cafe's, which we then stopped at for what turned out to be quite a good coffee.  One of the doors to his cafe was adorned with stickers left by various 4wd groups, tours and/or organised rallies that had passed that way in recent years.  Aaron chatted with the young man, who it turned out was a good source of information and not only that. When asked where we could buy bread, he simply offered us a loaf of home baked bread.  He also explained that in years gone by Gjerbes had had a population of 1,000.  These more remote villages have been in decline over time as the younger generations have moved to cities in search of a more prosperous life.

I couldn't help but notice the lovely paved centre of Gjerbes..... as we drove over it with muddy tyres.  

Lunch stop up the hill from Gjerbes where we tried the bread. It was delicious!

Zombeen! Nope, there is no spelling mistake here. This is how Micky pronounces 'zombie'.

Note the tyres and chains!

Smooth and perfectly cut blocks of stone

We gathered these used to be military barracks.

The first of only two towns (as opposed to numerous villages) that we would go through on our route: Cordova

Continuing past gorges 

Another night of wild camping, this time by a river. 

Coping just fine without gas. Pots and pans started to get a bit smoky. It doesn't bother Marcel who enjoys camp fires a lot. 

Last year we had no choice but to drive across a bridge that was in a much worse condition. This time we avoided the bridge in the photo below and just drove across the riverbed. 

We drove off our route and took a track up to a little village further up in the mountains. And this is what we found.

Although parts of the village had been abandoned it was still inhabited.  The house in the photo below was actually quite nice and I think the road going past it led to a still inhabited section of the village.  One thing about this village though - the only access track up to it was rough, really rough.  Rocks, ruts, mud bogs - not what you'd expect for a track leading to a still inhabited village. But that's Albania.  Perhaps the track was once in a reasonable condition, but when continued erosion meets with zero budget for road maintenance in this region that's what you get.

Cleaning the waterproof enclosure for the bonnet mounted action camera.  It keeps fogging up.  Have to find a solution!

Here's first of two movies, a compilation of the three days of off roading, footage taken with the above camera.

Nearly back down to paved roads near the largest town in the area - Permet.

The next stop: Permet
4 -6 October 2015

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