Early start this morning, arriving in Vlore at 715. Managed to make it off the boat nice and quickly, with a friendly Albanian man standing in front of a bus to give us enough space to get off. One stamp in the passport later, we had moved through customs and security, and within an hour we had managed to make it to the town or Orikum, south of Vlore. This was where the climb began. In front of us, lay the Llogara pass, a 1043m high mountain pass, rising from sea level on either side, connecting the towns of Vlore and Sarande. As we approached it, I stopped and spoke to an old man working on his house, and he told me that it would take us no more than an hour to climb to the top. An hour, I thought. Easy. Let’s go.
Well bloody hell it was hard. First of all, we were both exhausted before we even attempted the pass itself. There were two fairly large hills before we got to the foot of the pass, and we had to climb and descend both of these before we could really take on the ascent. It took us four hours to climb from the base, to the saddle, and it was incredibly tough. I was in my lowest gear almost the entire time and it was still tough going – weaving over the road to get up and having to pause almost any time a car or truck came. The Albanian drivers, however, were brilliant. Always gave us plenty of room, and every single person I waved at either tooted their horn or waved back. Friendliest people so far. Well, at the end of the four hours I was glad to see Corfu and the sea once I’d gained the top of the pass, and twenty minutes later, Ryan heaved himself into view. He’d had some trouble with his cleats and a dog, annoyingly, that had delayed him, but we were both ready to descend now.
Well, if the ascent was hard, the descent was stressful. Having to descend a kilometre in twenty minutes, with heavy winds and sheer slopes meant by the time I got down the bottom my hands were sore from gripping onto my handlebars so hard. But what a ride. It was absolutely beautiful, having Corfu and the Adriatic laid out before us and I found it hard to take it all in. We both hoped once we’d arrived at sea level on the other side that the road would flatten out, but it was not to be, and from 1pm until 4, we had more and more climbing to do. The Albanian countryside, although beautiful and warm, make for extremely hard riding, and by the time Ryan and I finally pulled into Himare about 415, we were exhausted. A quick kebab in a local sandwich shop and we were on our way out of town. I looked at the map to see if there were any good camping spots, and seeing nothing but hills, and remembering that I hadn’t seen a single good wild camping spot all day, I decided it would be best for us to find a cheap hotel and boost out of town early the next day. 5000 lek later, we’re safely ensconced in a room with a very 80s theme. Tomorrow will be tough, but hoping to make it into Greece. Road to Sarande should be hills again, but after that I think it should flatten out and allow us to make some quick miles.