Today showed us the other side of Albania.
Roberto had warned about the quality of Albanian pavement – that is very little friction and loads of slip. I had noticed my back wheel doing big power slides this morning – a new experience for me and a little on the sketchy side but all good. All came crashing down leaving a small town where I was rushing maybe a wee bit – all taking turns passing cars coming out of town and maybe giving a bit too much throttle on a hairpin. Bike was down in a flash. Funny that yesterday I was riding corners much harder and dragging boots and pegs in many turns, albeit with tiny smears of the rear tire, but today the pavement was evil.
Later on the 28 km of major off-road from Berat with its steep, rutted, loose terrain and trip ending drops off the side (like a thousand foot drop) the mountain bike skills from my past life kept the bike upright, but just barely. Andrew’s KTM took a nap in a mud rut. No damage. But it shows the value of having friends around to pick up 500 pounds of bike and luggage on a steep slope.
What was most amazing though were the lives people had carved out for themselves in this most rugged mountain scape. We wondered if they had been supported in the communist days or whether this is existence predated the regime. Small groupings of houses at least 2 hours by dirt track from the nearest patch of pavement with old men and boys keeping sheep or goats in the few small rough fields perched thousands of feet of the valleys, and women wearing fashions from the communist 1960s . And little boys the age of my son running out to see the helmeted strangers astride their huge motorcycles.