To Tirana

5 May

The next day Dhermi made it’s flukeless presence felt again. The plan was for us to get a lift for Axelle, then for me to ride on, and we meet over the other side of Qorshe mountain. The first step was the 3.5km climb up from the beach to Dhermi town. This was another steep climb. Halfway up to Dhermi town I hitched Axelle a lift in a red truck and chased after it on my bike and we met in the restaurant quite late, at lunchtime. Our first meal of the day, we treated ourselves to delicious barbequed pork, chips, salad and beers, and several litres of water.

Getting Axelle a bus to Vlore should have been the easy bit, but buses, minivans and potential hitchhiking opportunities always drove off when they saw that they had to carry a bicycle. Hours passed by.

Earlier I had asked a man in the restaurant who worked for Vodafone for help with my Albanian sim card. He kindly obliged and then promptly lost the mouse joystick button on his laptop, which I found. His name was Ndray and he was a good guy. A proud city boy with a wife and son. He would help us get to Vlore no matter what, he said. More hours passed by.

At around 6pm we figured a way to get both bikes, all our bags and the 3 of us into Ndray’s Ford hatchback without jettisoning his Vodafone Christmas freebies. Boot open, bags wedged in, we climbed the mountain pass while Ndray told us some half joking xenophobic, homophobic and sexist stories. We half laughed, half debated. We got to Vlore. Ndray asked us if we would stay with him and his family in Tirana. We had an icecream and coffee in Vlore and said we would.

Ndray was glad to have some company on his long commute and talked informatively about Albania. There never has been a word in Albanian for ‘illegal’, he told us, in a telling fashion.

It was after midnight when we arrived at Ndray’s modern apartment in Tirana’s outskirts. Ndray’s wife returned from a night out and cooked us all some food and gave Axelle and I a bottle of white wine. We were all tired and Axelle and Ndray’s wife were very quiet. Ndray and I chatted until about 2am, before his wife took some kind of offence to my cycling instead of working towards my future and we called it a night. We were gently asked to leave early the next morning. They are an intelligent, generous and hardworking couple with a young son. I’m grateful to them and they had better things to be doing than hosting a couple of cyclists.

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