Friday 02 August
I’ve been woken up by an Albanian man mumbling something as he taps the side of the van. The rattle of cow bells cements the fact that I’m not getting back to sleep. I throw open the sliding door to be greeted by some strange sights. An old man flicks away flies from his face with a tree branch and a toothless grin, while several skinny pack horses laden with goods descend a rocky path. The view is breathtaking. We’re finally off Corfu, and we’ve made it to Gjirokaster. It’s a beautiful sight for sore eyes.
It’s a lazy sort of day as we contemplate a new feeling. Sobriety. In spite of being in the back of a van, the shut-eye was satisfactory and we’re in for a productive day. Gjirokaster castle is pretty spectacular, and the steep, cobbled streets have real charm. It’s well worth a visit should you ever venture out this way.
We push on. The journey starts on relatively decent roads, which means Mike can practice his favourite past-time of speeding. We’re making good with the clock en route to Berat; another medieval town a few hours North; when it all goes downhill. And uphill. 60 kilometeres of off-road, dirt track with massive rocks, sheer cliff drops and no safety barriers. Mike’s van is a UK right hand drive, so I’m literally looking out the passenger side window to certain death. One particularly hair-raising moment has me screaming “RIGHT! RIGHT! RIGHT!” As the tyres slipped on the rough shingle. It’s not too dissimilar the death road in Bolivia. Small towns we scrape through periodically have junk yards rammed with car shells and wreckage. I wonder what that could be from? Somebody change my shorts.
All credit to Mike though as his experience pays off and we make it to tarmac after a grueling three hours. Three hours to travel 60KM. We treat ourselves to a slap up meal at a top hotel, and read the following review:
“Berat backpacks is a nice hostel, but you couldn’t get much sense out of the owner as he’s drunk most of the time.”
We booked it straight away. In such as small and beautiful little town, you would never have expected the kind of night we had. But after several near-death experiences; we deserved it didn’t we? I’ve never eaten cheesy onion-rings out of a girls cleavage either.