Swimming in River Vjosa and meeting Paul, the sheep

It’s an easy day without any steep sections and the road is very good quality between Gjirokaster and Permet. We meet a proud coffee merchant and swim with local boys and girls in the River Vjosa. Then after a nap in Permet’s central park we find the worst equipped campsite ever. But Paul and Marika, the sheep, make up for it all, not to mention the cat-sounding dog. Day 38 (12 August): Gjirokastër – Permët Distance: 65 km Total distance: 1754 km Let’s start the day with Albanian cakes It wasn’t easy to leave the comfort of the hotel room …

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Greek atmosphere in the Vjosa Valley

Balkans Cycling Trip, Day 37 11 August 2017: Ksamil – Gjirokaster Thanks to the delicious ice coffees, we set off to cross the mountains full of energy. There are some hard parts to cope with but we reach the pass quite easily, despite the smoke from the forest fires. The second part of the day on the plain is much more difficult due to the scorching heat. We find a taverna with Greek atmosphere and walk around old Gjirokaster. Distance: 67 km Total distance: 1689 km To cross the Macedonian border at Lake Ohrid we had to tackle the mountains …

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Dizzying temperatures and a foaming maniac

Balkans Cycling Trip – Days 35-36 9-10 August 2017: Sidari – Ksamil We leave Sidari and head back to the capital of Corfu. This time our timing is better and we manage to squeeze two days’ distance into one despite the dizzying temperatures. It’s great to be back in Ksamil for one more relaxing day. Distance: 92 km Total distance: 1622 km Back to Albania As so often during our travels, we changed our plans again on our last day on Corfu. Originally we were going to head to the mountains directly from Igoumenitsa and reach Leskovik, high in the …

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Puncture after flat tire and a little sightseeing

Balkans Cycling Trip – Days 31-34 5-8 August 2017: Igoumenitsa – Sidari We wake up on the sandy beach and miss the early boat because of a puncture (followed by another one not long after). We spend hours in downtown Kerkyra (Corfu City) before cycling up north to Sidari. A modest distance but tough hills and yet another puncture slow us… Distance: 52+40 km Total distance: 1530 km Sleeping on the beach was not as peaceful as we expected: we were woken by stray dogs and the waves several times but at least we were ready to go shortly after …

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Greek coffee and tons of mosquitoes

Balkans cycling trip, Day 30 The day starts with a romantic ferry trip and breakfast in a forgotten village. Then we finally cross the border and arrive in Greece! Roadside dinner, mosquitoes attack us and we take a shower under the stars on our 30th day. 4 August 2017: Ksamil – Igoumenitsa (Greece) Distance: 65 km Total distance: 1438 km Our last night in Ksamil was anything but ideal. Two groups of guests arrived at the campsite around midnight and it took them nearly an hour to to put up the two simple tents. Then, when we were trying to …

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Stray dogs and rooftop camping

Balkans cycling trip, Days 28-29 2-3 August 2017: Qeparo – Ksamil A short day’s cyling along the picturesque Albanian Riviera and coffee stops in some lovely villages on the way. Then another day by the sea – perhaps we’re getting lazy? Rooftop camping in Ksamil is highly recommended! Distance: 52 km Total distance: 1373 km The day before the owner of the apartment house warned us to leave before 9. Normally I would have found it far too early but we wanted to make good use of the cooler hours of the morning so we didn’t mind. We managed to …

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Fig jam and careless days

Balkans cycling trip, Days 24-27  29 July – 1 August 2017: Qeparo We thought we deserved a few days’ rest and Qeparo was the perfect place to relax. Lying on the beach, picking figs and preparing fig jam were the main programs during these 4 days. Distance: 0 km Total distance: 1321 km We felt we deserved a few days off cycling after the hard days through the mountains. Anyway, Qeparo was one of our main destinations apart from Greece because we had spent very pleasant days in this small seaside town in 2009 and 2012.  The four days were …

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Forest fire and Albania’s worst road

Balkans cycling trip, Day 23 We get back the asphalt road for most of the day so we can concentrate on the picturesque scenery. At least until we notice the smoke of the forest fire. It drives up the mountain quickly and we spend the rest of the day struggling with the crumbling gravel road to the coast. Day 23 (28 July): Kotë – Qeparo Distance: 53 km Total distance: 1321 km We expected to wake up to the grazing sheep, a shepherd or his dog in the morning but it was the sun and the growing heat that didn’t …

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Fresh chicken and a man of odour

Balkans cycling trip, Day 22 27 July 2017: Greshicë – Kotë We enjoy the rain and Turkish coffee in a small village and later cause the death of an innocent animal because we want fresh chicken. After crossing the Vjosa River we struggle hard to cross the hills on terrible roads before Peshkepi only to find an equally bad road to Kotë. We have our first real crisis and I almost end up in the canyon of another river. Distance: 50 km Total distance: 1268 km We couldn’t say goodbye to our friendly hosts in the morning but at least …

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Forgotten roads and moonlike dust

Balkans cycling trip, Day 21 26 July 2017: Ura Vajgurorë – Greshicë My bicycle is finally repaired properly and after a short stop in historical Berat we continue south across the mountains. The route offers a row of surprises, good and bad, as we learn to ride our bikes on roads with potholes and huge stones covered with ten centimetres of fine dust. Distance: 70 km Total distance: 1218 km Crossing the central mountains of Albania is not an easy feat unless you have a 4-wheel drive because there are very few paved roads. This was the reason why I abandoned the plan …

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