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 leave Qeparo around 7 after eating up the remaining pieces of the martabak I “baked” last night.
We knew there was a long uphill stretch between Qeparo and Borsh but we had no idea it continued so long and with such a gradient. The air didn’t move as we slowly climbed higher and higher above the sea level. At least we had great views.
Pretty villages along the way
We stopped for a drink in Piqeras and then another one in Sen Vasil, which surprised us with its cosy central square shaded by a plane tree. Old men were talking on the benches and a cow was just returning home.
Luckily, the road turns downwards after Sen Vasil and from there it was an easy ride as far as Saranda. Otherwise, I don’t think we could have carried on without a long break because the first 25 km were extremely difficult.
If there was a road, we would have avoided Saranda altogether. It is an overgrown resort town, one of the worst examples of uncontrolled development in the region. Many years ago we spent a few days there to use it as a base for our excursions but, all in all, it was forgettable.
We were hungry, though, so we headed to the heart of the city, the seaside streets, and found a fast food restaurant. They prepared decent suflaqe with xaxiq. It was almost the hottest part of the day but we knew we had only about 15 km more to go so we carried on.
The road between Saranda and Ksamil is more or less flat and there is a spring with fresh cold water somewhere in the middle. You can see the valley below and the mountains in the distance so the views are fine. The only memorable event was when five stray dogs attacked us in a bend. Fortunately, by this time the “dog routine” was second nature to all of us (get off the bike on the other side, pick up or pretend to pick up a stone) so we could fight them off easily.
The map showed four campsites in Ksamil, unusual in Albania. The first one didn’t exist but we still had three to check. The one named after the setting sun is basically a car park with some facilities. There were hardly any free spots, all of them in the sun, so we tried the other two.
Rooftop camping is fun!
Finally, we chose Ksamil Caravan Camping and I can highly recommend it to anyone who looks for friendly service and a full range of facilities at an affordable price. What’s more, you can experience what it’s like to camp on a roof! Because of the lack of space, the inventive owners turned the roof of the main building into a camping area, where you can put up your tent on carpets in the shade of vines and beans.
But the real draw of the place is the hospitable couple who run the campsite. We received undivided attention at all times and free frappe every day of our stay and even before we left. Add to this that you can use the gas cooker, sandwich makers, coffee makers, hand mixer and fridges free of charge and you’ll understand why we were sorry to leave after two nights.
Two nights means that we had another lazy day here. We mostly spent it on the nearby private beaches, jumping into the deep water from 3 metres high. A great program for eternal children!