March 16th to 21st. 336km
We said farewell to Todd and Vicky in Napoli as they couldn’t be persuaded to join us on the bikes. Something about jobs and lives back in the UK, and not really liking cycling that much. They took the easy way home, on board a British Airways 737, while we got back on our Long Haul Truckers and rode out of town. We didn’t want to ride far on that first day, as its always a bit slow leaving a city and cycling through the suburbs. We’d arranged to stay with a Warmshowers host about 30km away in Santa Maria Capua Vetere. As expected, it was a slow ride, busy roads and numerous traffic lights hampered our progress, but we arrived at about 4 o’clock as planned. Our host, Cristian, was still at work, but he’d arranged for a friend, Annalisa, to meet us and show us around town. There was a big amphitheatre which we looked around, and then a museum with a large exhibit about the Appian Way, a route we’d followed for some of the ride from Bari. Later in the afternoon we followed Annalisa back to Cristian’s house where we were spoilt with a delicious meal prepared by his mother.
March 6th to 12th. 331km
We took an overnight ferry from Durres (or Durazzo as it’s know in Italian) over to Bari in Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot. It was easy enough getting tickets then getting through the terminal with the bikes and on to the boat, they didn’t bother x raying our panniers. We had 300 Lek left overt in Albanian currency, which they wouldn’t accept onboard, so I ran down to the shop in the terminal to buy a few beers. They were 80 each, so I couldn’t quite afford four. I asked for three, but the guy said ‘Four beers, my friend’ and took the rest of my coins. A little gesture, but it left me with a nice final impression of Albania.
Not many people know much about Albania, us included. Hopefully we know a bit more now! We had been told that it would pretty different to the Europe we know and had just come from. And we felt the change almost straight away as we crossed the border. It was absolutely stunning where we crossed over, and the people, the buildings, the roads were all different. We were given a great first impression though as so many people said hello, in English, the area was beautiful with a lot of rivers and lakes in the first 30-40 kms. Of course it always helps when the sun is shining too, which it was. Then getting into Sarande the owner of the hotel we stayed in was super friendly and welcoming, the port area was nice and it was just a great start.
February 24th to march 4th. 338km
The coast road north of Sarande immediately started climbing, and this set the tone for the next two days. As with most of the other beautiful coast roads we’ve ridden, we had to earn the good views. We headed slightly inland for the first couple of hours with the signs showing a 10% gradient. But the signs only ever said 10%, they didn’t seem to have any other numbers. In reality some were less, but a lot were more! Most of the land was dedicated to orchards, oranges I think, with the mountains in the distance hidden in the clouds. We reached a few hundred metres altitude and then had an equally steep downhill taking us back down to the sea.