Watermelon and grubby workshops
Days 14-15 (19-20 July): Shkodër – Shengjin
Distance: 65 + 20 km
Total distance: 867 km
Three years ago when Aron and I were on our way back to Montenegro, we spent two days on the beach in Shengjin, a popular holiday destination for Albanians. We liked the laid-back atmoshphere and the campsite, where hens, pigs, ducks and turkey were running around our tent so this time I included it in our route to relax there after the mountains.
It was supposed to be an easy ride with no hills but I was nervous because we needed to find a solution to my bike and Aron’s could also do with new front plates. I knew Shkodër has the highest number of bicycles per capita in Albania so I hoped to find a well-prepared repair shop.
We had one last look at the lake and left the campsite along the terrible 1.5 km long gravel road. Soon we were in the chaotic main road of Shkodër and I spotted a bicycle workshop in what looked like a small garage. Dressed in filthy overalls, the owner was changing the inner tube in a boy’s bike. There were ancient parts heaped on shelves and in the corners and I knew I would never trust our bicycles on him. I asked if he had a celës angles but he didn’t. He pointed towards the next street, though, so we looked.
There was a bicycle parts shop there but Anita’s bike badly needed a new pair of brakes so I bought two. They cost less than 20 eurocents each. Unbelievable! Then I asked the people in the queue if they knew a good repair shop and a man directed us to another nearby street, where we finally found a more promising garage. The bald little man quickly fastened the loose bolt and said he accepted no money for it. He pointed at a faded photo on the wall, showing bicycle racers, and said he was one of them, looking at me meaningfully. I shook his hand and thanked him and we went back to the centre.
We wanted to have something for breakfast (it was to be byrek with meat) and then we couldn’t leave without tasting the traditionally prepared ice-cream with a drink made from corn flour. It’s called akullore me boze and it is speciality of North Albania.
After filling our stomachs we rode along the tastefully renovated main street of the old town and headed towards the castle to continue our way to the nearby beach and have a little break.
The road to Lezhe was way too busy and felt dangerous so we took the first opportunity to leave it and use back roads instead. Luckily, even these less important roads are of acceptable quality here. It was getting terribly hot by about eleven and this time we didn’t want to stop for hours to have more time to enjoy the sea.
We bought a watermelon from a seller by the road and ate it there. Then finally we arrived in Lezhe, from where Shengjin is just another 10 km.
Shengjin is highly popular with Albanians, especially people from Shkoder and Lezhe. Prices and quality are generally low with plenty of rubbish everywhere (but this is sadly true of most of Albania). Still, the sea is refreshing as it is cooled by cold springs located under the water just a few metres from the shore.
We found the old campsite easily although it had changed a lot: as we were told it had new owners, which meant that the animals were gone and the old bar was given new, flashy glass walls. What they didn’t change was the shower (yes, one!) and the toilets (two). They were barely usable back in 2014 so I was surprised that they still functioned now. I must also add that the price reflected the state of the infrastructure: we paid only 5 euros per night. The name is Torino Camping if you are on a tight budget.
We spent the rest of the day on the beach opposite the campsite and did the same the next day. We found a nice pizzeria nearby and the only exciting moments were when we had to chase off a crazy dog with stones every time we wanted to return to or leave the campsite.