Reaching the sea again in Albania reminded me of how much I had missed it. Bapsi was leaving the tour here and the group was changing again. I planted a seed of imagination, suggesting we ride up the coast together – and soon a plan was formulated. Hugging our now firm friends goodbye, we peddled out of the city, onto the autoroute. It was a strange first day. I felt sad at saying goodbye, restless of the open road, and waiting for the unexpected.
Around 7pm, as the sun was sinking, I had a crash.
We had been peddling along a horrible unkempt road with tons of traffic and inching a little too close to the curb, my tyre went over the edge, I tried to recorrect, bent the shit out of my wheel and fell onto the tarmac. I jumped straight back up and flew to the side… a break in the traffic had saved my life. But my bike, my beautiful bike! Almost every one of the 36 spokes were bent and the rim looked more like a figure 8 than a circle. We sat in the dirt by the road, as the cars zoomed on past, and laughed. It was too crazy. Just before leaving that day, Bapsi had lost her camera, and now this… were we not meant to leave??
People started stopping, seeing if we needed help, and finally someone who spoke English came to our rescue. Her name was Ella. She told us the best place to head to for a fixup, and found us a mini-bus to Shkoder – THE bicycle centre of Albania. It was 50kms in our direction and the bus cost 3 euros.
Apart from the actual falling off and almost killing myself part, things couldnt have been more perfect. We were dropped off outside a super cheap hostel, told there was a bike shop around the corner and spent the night in the coolest Albanian town I had seen yet. Bikes everwhere! Really helpful people, and good vibes flowing. In the morning the little old bike repair man “fixed” my bike for free and although i still needed a new wheel, meeting him and sharing an offered coffee was well worth the experience. We felt on top of the world, everything just fell into place. My new wheel was found, and 10 euros later the bike was running great! A watermelon and a ride out of town, we crossed into Montenegro the same day.
Montenegro is beautiful. Little village roads took us to the coast and wild plums fed us along the way. It definitely lives up to his name – there were lots of up up ups. Just as many downs though of course and I think I have finally cured my hill phobia. I really enjoyed the ride, sweat dripping out of every pore, then a cool sea swim to revitalize the spirit.
Into Croatia on the fourth day and lots of hard climbs into Dubrovnik. A steep descent to finish though and the water never felt so fresh. Now my weary body is taking a bus ride over more mountains along the Croatian coast, back to Zadar and back to the love my heart continues to call – Charlie.