February 26 – Vlore to Saranda part 3
I woke at 6am intending to give myself as much time as possible, in the light of past experience. Went to the loo, but the flush didn’t work – no water in the cistern. Taps didn’t work – no water anywhere. Switched on the light – no electricity. No worries, so I set off in similar vein to yesterday. But then it got worse. As I climbed, the wind got up and in a matter of minutes it was gale force, coming straignt at me from the south. I’ll swear that the gusts were around 60mph – I’ve never experienced wind like it. Of course, it was picking up grit from the road and sand blasting my face. This is why there are few photos from today, I didn’t want to damage the lense. There were times where I had to make an effort to cycle down hill. I was blown off the bike three times. Sometimes I had to stop pushing and just brace myself and the bike. I could see gusts approaching by their effect on trees ahead. Then I could brace. This went on for around 6 hours.
I stopped at a small restaurant, which was closed, but they did me an omelet. I asked about the buses that ran between Vlore and Saranda. Some take bikes. The next one was in 10 minutes. We flagged it down. No luck, they wouldn’t take me. Then it got worse. It started to rain. I looked at the weather forecast for Saranda – it was rain. So I dragged out all my water-proofs and put them on over everything else, said goodbye and thanks for the omelet, and rode off. The next couple of hours were not good, as you can imagine, but gradually the gradients got a little less severe and I was able to get on the saddle more. There were a couple more horrendous climbs and descents before the route took me inland a little and the weather improved. Saranda was now just around 15 km away and I arrived just before dark, had a nice chicken and chips (sorry, fries) before meeting up with Kiel and his mum who showed me to the flat. Keil (the English speaker) is a first year student in the capital Tirana, studying software engineering. Great to have someone to talk to. I’ll describe the flat and my thoughts about the journey there later.