Dust and getting lost

July 29, 2017 0 By Viktor

Balkans cycling trip, Day 17

22 July 2017: Ulez – Vore
From the green mountains down to the plain. A long and exhausting day with a little from everything: crazy traffic and deserted dirt roads, big city crowd and goat herds, getting lost and luckily finding a nice hotel in the end
Distance: 84 km
Total distance: 1001 km

Rickety bridge in Albania

I was woken up by the sound of cowbells before sunrise and I didn’t feel like going back to sleep. I sat down on the concrete wall over the lake and watched the fishing boats on the lake. Later a woman led her goats to the lake to drink and the sun slowly rose over the horizon. 

Fishing boat on Ulez Lake

Don’t you envy the man in the boat, who only needs to worry about the day’s catch? I did.

I exchanged a few words with the two fishermen who came home after spending the night on the water and then the others got up, too. We washed in the water of the lake again, packed in and pedalled back up to the main square. The old man in the small bar was very happy too see us and he invited me for a raki. No, not a shot of raki, I got a small glass of the strong drink but at least it gave me energy for the morning.


Then we bought a couple of things for breakfast in the shop across the road and started our way back on the same route along the Mat river. The lights, the colours and the views were just as beautiful as the day before and we were sorry to leave this green valley too soon.

The gorge on the Mat River

Aron gets fresh water from a spring. The monster on the right is my bike.

Back on flat land again

Then we followed the main road as far as the bridge to Lezhë, where we turned left and rode to Laç along quiet country roads. It was already getting hot when we reached the small town but we pressed on because our plan for the day was to get as far as the seaside near Durrës, a distance of more than 100 km.

Farmhouse by the Mat River

A family’s home by the Mat River

Then after another 8 km we gave in to the heat and sat down in a small park in Marmurres to have a rest. It was a neat little park but, funnily, none of the benches had seats so we occupied the small wooden table and the stools around it that were placed in the shadow. Just as we started playing cards, four elderly men arrived and watched us with great surprise but they let us stay. They sat on one of the broken benches instead. After an hour we gave back the table to the old men and had a drink in a nearby bar because it was still boiling hot. 

We wanted to avoid the busy Shkodër-Tiranë highway (A1) so my choice fell on a minor road in the west connecting Kapinadaj with Vorë. The first problem was that I missed the turnoff so we had to backtrack about 2 km. But getting lost was just the beginning of the hardships. We found the rural road and it seemed a great decision as the quality was fine and there was hardly any traffic. But when we crossed the A1 (with great difficulty, it was so crowded), we saw that the next 6 km would be on a shaky gravel road…


Gravel road in Central Albania

It always looks better in the photo

So now it was not just hot but we also had to go much slower and more carefully, plus we were gradually turning yellow from the dust. We thought we would never reach the other end as the quality of the lane turned from bad to worse. We had to cross some ancient (I mean Communist era) bridges and ride through a whole flock of sheep but then we arrived in Kapidanaj and its nice paved road that took us almost as far as Vore. Of course, we stopped for drinks and a whole melon again along the way.

Cows, goats and sheep on an Albanian road

We were actually happy to meet them becasue it meant the village wasn’t that far away

From bad to worse

I didn’t want to risk our lives on the dreary A1 too long so we left it for another rural road (this time paved!) a few km before the city. By that time my telehone with the map was getting very low and I just couldn’t charge it with the solar charger. Later I found out that its micro-USB socket had broken, which was to be a big problem in the following days. Ten minutes later I wanted to check where we were becasue I suspected we were getting lost again and I saw it had switched off. So there we were in some village near Vorë and I had no idea how we could reach the centre of the city. I remembered it was tricky because Vorë lies by the A1 so by bike you have to take a service road and then find an underpass to reach the city proper. 

Boy with cows

A boy with cows – at least he knew where he was going

We did in the end but it took very long and now it was clear we couldn’t make it to the seaside, more than 30 km away, as it was nearly 8 pm. Just after Vorë, we saw the sign of a small hotel (Atlantic). We tried to bargain a bit with the owner-chef and then stayed for the night. I must say the chef did a great job with our spaghettis and the local wine was also delicious.