And suddenly, we are in Patras, waiting for the ferry that will bring us to Venice. Just two weeks from our last blog post from Berat in Albania, but that feels so far away. Berat was beautiful and it finished with the most memorable dinner we had on the whole trip. A small courtyard with just four tables, cramped together with people from all over the world. The owner was truly fantastic and explained enthusiastically every meal on offer. There were just 6 dishes, the only drink available was homemade wine and water. We ordered everything on the card, and it was just excellent.
Good fueling up was needed, because we had decided on the “Albanian death road”, over a mountain range towards Gjirokastar for the next day. The day started very nice, along the Osumi Canyon along a quiet country road, until the road just stops, and a truly rough path starts. Big stones, super steep and as it had rained the days before, deep slippery sticky mud in parts. That part of the road is just 40km, but it took us most of the day with much pushing battling up the pass… and down. The downhill was not really fun. I guess on a mountain bike it would have, but on a loaden touring bike it was pure torture. It was already dark when we finally arrived at our next destination. Next day it rained cats and dogs, Toby finally got the cold as well and we arrived in Gjirokastar cold, wet and in dire need of some place to warm up. Gjirokastar in another UNESCO town and we had booked a cheap apartment in the old town that sounded good “welcome to the 18th century” it said. We just forgot that 18th century means also no heating, barely functional kitchen and bathroom. The town itself is pretty cool and we stayed two days. Cobblestone streets, stone roofs and a stunning castle overlooking the town. It was not as atmospheric as Berat, but maybe it was the miserable weather that took some of the glory away. It kept raining when we made our way back to the coast, via a cool little lake to the monstrosity of Sarandae, the main tourist town along the Albanian Riviera. Now in winter it was completely dead, ugly and all in all not a place you need to stop. Luckily, that was also the end of the bad weather and the next day we had a brilliant day along little roads, past some interesting ancient ruins into Greece.
And Greece has been the total winner. We are all loving it here. The road along the coast is very peaceful, brilliant views, not many cars, warm water and lively small cities. A thing that all of us are astounded of are the amount of Eucalyptus trees here. Red Gums everywhere. We stayed a few days in Lefkada and it was such a cool spot. It obviously helped that we had perfect weather the whole time. Greece is definitely a place we need t come back with our bikes.
And now, that is the end of our road together. Our original plan had us in Israel by now, heading into Saudi Arabia…. But that is not an option currently. So, we take the ferry to Venice tonight and will all go our ways. Toby will train it back home to Rotterdam (I shiver just by the idea of November in the Netherlands), Ellie and Max will fly home to Horsham on the 30th. The both look a bit forward having some time off at home, skating, gardening, doing leisurely stuff and I will fly to Dubai and explore the UAE and Oman a bit more with my bicycle.
So long and thank you for the fish (If you are as old as we are and still remember the hitchhiker through the galaxy)