January 11

Had an incredibly lazy Sunday today and it was brilliant.  Didn’t get out of bed until 1pm, and only then to wander into Bari to have a spot of lunch and check out the old town.  Came back quite quickly as I realised I actually need to make a fairly big decision – Greece or Albania.

From Bari, we can take a ferry straight to Igoumenitsa in Greece, a great starting place to move through Greece.  From Brindisi – the port that, historically, pilgrims would leave from to go to Jerusalem – we can take a ferry to either Vlore in Albania, or Igoumenitsa.  Now, I’m not political about this trip at all.  I am more than willing to take a train if need be, or jump on a bus or a ferry.  Political no.  Romantic, absolutely.  So I’m definitely partial to leaving from Brindisi. 

We’ve made good time through Italy, getting here as fast as I hoped for – especially good considering by day 3 we hadn’t even gone a hundred kilometres.  I was worried.  Albania has a bad reputation, and the reputation of the roads as especially bad for Europe.  But the route we would be taking, from Vlore south to Sarande, and then to Igou, goes along well made, asphalt roads.  Vlore and Sarande are supposedly beautiful cities as well, unlike some of the other Albanian towns I’ve read about.  And the crowning glory of Albania, for me at least, is the Llogara pass – a 1000m high pass, rising from sea level and then descending to sea level pretty much immediately.  It would be a hell of an accomplishment to bag it within our first two weeks of cycling.  As soon as I read about it I knew I wanted to do it, and considering Tuesday is supposed to be warm, clear and without a breath of wind, there can’t be any doubt.  We’re going to Albania.  Two days of fast riding will take us to Igoumenitsa, and from there, we’ll follow the E92 east to Larisa.  I’m anticipating some snow, cold temperatures and almost definitely some big scary Greek sheepdogs.  Very much not looking forward to them.  It should take us two days to get through Albania, a week to get to Thessaloniki, and then perhaps another week to cruise through to Istanbul, so if all goes well we’ll be in Istanbul by the end of January. 

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