My last day in Italy……. Was one filled with beautiful weather lots of relaxing and good company.
The first couple of hours I was relaxing in the sun enjoying some music and watching people go by on the boulevard.
After a little while I had enough of that and decided to contact a guy I met at the train station when I just arrived in Brindisi to see if was up for hanging out, luckily he was. Apparently he was very close on a sailboat he was looking after on the same boulevard I was relaxing at ^^ it was really cool to see one of those boats up close and, inside and out. We enjoyed some coffee played some chess (I won :P) and had some fun conversations for a couple of hours.
After a little while I got a message from one of my Brindisi hosts friends to meet up and get some dinner which we planned a little earlier that day, unfortunately she was stuck in traffic and arrive a bit on the late side since I had a ferry to catch and she the last bus back to Mesagne.
Luckily I was more than on time for the ferry even though I had to be there an hour before departure (23.15) and I arrived maybe 15 minutes before departure, but the check in was very quick and I didn’t have to get in the crazy long line since I was on a “vehicle” and use the pretty much empty vehicle line :D and all in all the ferry didn’t leave until 00.30 anyway………
The ferry was to be honest pretty damn uncomfortable since I only had a cheap deck space ticket and sleeping in a chair never is very comfortable …… especially if there are some busy and loud kids right behind you :/ luckily I had some movies/series to watch to kill some time and after a while the parents and kids went somewhere else, thank heavens and I tried to catch some sleep after all, which worked quite ok ^^
The next morning though I was feeling very tired and bleeghh but that was to be somewhat expected after sleeping in a chair and regular people walking by making noise……. But all in all I survived the trip to Vlora, Albania where my host was already waiting for me ^^
First order of business was to get ourselves a coffee to wake up since it was still pretty early and we both needed some breakfast after which we went to her apartment to ditch my stuff and grab some things to keep myself busy during the hours she needed to work.
Since I was still quite sleepy I decided to relax on a terrace and get another coffee before taking a bit of a walk around Vlora, which I have to be honest is not the best first impression to get of the country….. Many broken roads…..disappearing sidewalks partly finished buildings and loads of construction work….. I hope they finish that all quickly so it will give a much better (first) impression ^^
After some time I got a message from Lorena that she was done with work and wanted to have lunch, so I went back to her apartment and had some nice lunch and conversations with her, after which we both needed a little nap before heading out again later in the evening to meet with some of her friends.
The next morning Wednesday (23-05-2016) Lorena was pounding on the door at 9 am ……”Wake up ! We have to go….. my boss is waiting for me downstairs.” So in 5 minutes I got up….Brushed my teeth etc…. got my stuff for the day together and down we went…….. No boss in sight….and he turned up about 20 minutes later … :/
After some walking around and relaxing in a park I went to the beach and enjoy the nice and hot sun, played around with a puppy that was there with somebody and refused to go into the sea….. since I heard there was a nasty oil spill on a northern beach of Vlora (Lorena was one of those in charge of the cleaning organization) and the wind/ current seemed to be going south and since I heard about their way of cleaning….. I decided it would be better not to go for a swim ^^.
Around 3pm me and Lorena had a nice lunch again and after that she went for another nap and I chilled out some more in the sun, until in the early evening we went to get a beer and wait for her friends and hang out again……. Unfortunately it was not to easy to have a conversation with Lorena since it was very difficult to get her attention away from her phone …. Luckily it was much more fun when her friends showed up though ^^
Together we went to another bar, had some drinks until a colleague/ friend of Lorena showed up who insisted to have me try a typical Albanian dish, some rice with several herbs wrapped in a grapeleaf….. pretty tasty I must say ^^ during dinner Lorena disappeared somewhere and turned out she fell asleep so we spent that night at her colleagues/friends house.
Thursday morning was a bit of a repetition of the previous one…. Me being dragged out of bed had to get my stuff in order in 5 minutes and head back to Lorena’s apartment……. Brush my teeth get some stuff and head out again…….. I first went to a local market to have a look around, which was pretty nice but nothing that I needed so again I went to the beach for a good long day of relaxing. In the evening I went back to the apartment and found a hurrying Lorena getting ready to head out again…… I preferred to stay in that evening and watch a movie or two instead of repeating the previous evening/morning ^^ since I was getting out of Vlora he next day.
Finally Friday (27-05-2016) it was time to leave Vlora and make my way to a helpX hostel in a village called Vuno. The day started pretty relaxed and as soon as I left Vlora I was confronted with the beauty, the Albanian coastline has to offer ^^ after an hour or so on a flat road along the coast the big climb of that day was getting near and very quickly the ride became very difficult for two reasons;
1. I didn’t really have a descent breakfast.
2. All the climbs were at 10% incline or more ….. :/
But after a long lunch, during which I met two older German cyclists walking their bike up, I felt ready to get going again, quickly enough I found the German couple again and cycled together a little bit, but I was a bit too fast and quickly lost them……. Met them again during another break….. lost them again and then didn’t see them anymore……
The closer I came to the top of the mountain…. The harder it was getting for me, my legs had lost all their strength and the last 5km or so I was pretty much only walking my bike up the steep 10%+ climbs had to take a break around every 100m it felt and I was kinda done with it all, the heat….. the steep climbs and lack of cold water…… but I persisted and was extremely happy to find myself at the top after some 2.5hours of struggling uphill. The climbing was over, there was a beautiful view to enjoy and only downhill from here on out……. Or so I thought……
Going down the mountain was again really awesome and gave me a lot of energy again, I passed at least 3 cars that were going way too slow and yes mom I was very careful not to hit any cars in the tight corners, or anywhere else for that matter ^^ after about 10minutes I had descended from 1200m down to maybe 20m and thought it was smooth cycling from here on out……man was I wrong……
I still had another 18km to go to get to the hostel and the entire road it was up and down, up and down and some more up…… all the time with those freaking 10% inclines…pfffffff …. The first couple of hills I was able to cycle but soon enough the adrenaline of the downhill left my body, the strength left my legs again and once more I was pushing my bike up…. But at least I could ride it down before having to push it up again, a nice touch though that many people in their cars were all giving me compliments and thumbs up for making it where I was at the time they passed me ^^
After another hour or 2 of struggling I finally arrived in Vuno and first had a couple of nice cold drinks at the only bar in town where I quickly met Paula, a backpacking girl from Spain who saw me rushing down a hill and later passed me by in a hitched ride, she was also staying at the same hostel and together made our way there, since it was a bit on a hidden road.
The hostel is very basic, but in a beautiful and relaxing area, the showers are cold and outside…….the toilets are squatting toilets and to get drinking water we’d had to take it from a tap somewhere outside….. and as a finishing touch no wifi and many electric outings due to maintenance on the main lines……. And I am to spend a week there……..
After having slept like a baby that night, I woke up early and very rested , took my time with breakfast and waking up properly while enjoying the wonderful view. When Paula and another guest, Jean Claude from France were also ready, the 3 of us went to a recommended beach we were told was pretty nice only it was about an hour by foot to get there. After about an hour of walking, instead of finding ourselves on the beach, we found ourselves walking into someone’s garden and found a woman giving us a strange look :p She then called out her kids who could speak English and offered to show us the way along the nicer path to the beach, which we passed by earlier due to it not being very clear there was a path there ^^
The closer we got to the beach the more we realized it was definitely not a pretty nice beach…… it was freaking beautiful ! there was a steep path leading some 200m down along the cliffs with incredible view over the beach and coastline beyond….. really …. Just WOW!!!!
The first thing when reaching the beach was to take a nice refreshing dip in the sea and go for a nice swim, strangely a little further from the beach (in the water) I felt some stinging on my skin …. But there was nothing to be seen that could be stinging me……. After getting out of the water the only thing I could think of ……..was that it was probably due to the oil spill in Vlora that may have drifted all the way down there….. bleegh L
After some hours of chilling and talking on the beach me an Paula decided to head back to the hostel (Jean Claude left earlier) and the very first car that passed us by, after mayb 15minutes of walking offered us a ride, cooool my very first Hitchhike ^^ and in 5 to 10 minutes we were back in Vuno, instead of 1 hour, where we found an exhausted Jean Claude since he only arrive 10 minutes earlier since he couldn’t find a ride to hitch and walked for more than an hour.
After a quick lunch at the bar I went back to the hostel to see what I could do workwise, which was not very much…. Some weeding, but quickly got called back to relax since Robo (hostel manager) found it too for me to work in the sun ^^. Later in the afternoon Paula left for Himura since she desperately needed/wanted some wifi and in the evening, Robo, Jean-Claude and me went to watch the Final match of real madrid vs Atletico madrid at the bar.
Sunday 29-05-2016 was another early but rested morning and when we all were ready went to Himura to drop of Jean Claude at a hostel there, the very first thing we were offered on arrival was Raki (a 50% drink) quickly followed by some coffee…… a good start for a Sunday morning (10am) especially on a empty stomach :p after the hostel we went to a camping which is run by Robo’s cousin since Paula “forgot” to pay and there we got both a big pint of beer…… this Sunday can’t go wrong from this point….. after having done what Robo had to do, I got some cash which I really needed, got some small groceries and headed back to the hostel again where there was more beer waiting to be drunk ^^ The rest of the day was mostly just hanging around, relaxing and pick some weeds, but mostly just chilling :p
I think I’m getting the hang of these early mornings again :P Had a very nice relaxing morning, had the whole hostel to myself for the first couple of hours so I decided to do some needed yoga and meditating…. Man am I getting stiff :p it was very relaxing with the birds singing the their songs while doing some yoga and meditate :D Soon enough I felt I had to do some work, so did some more weeding and started with painting some metal doors and window bars with a primer ^^
After lunch around 2pm I went to another beach a bit closer than the incredibly beautiful one which was about 5km away, downhill, but very steep again…… the Albanians really have a thing for 10% inclines :/ after some 15 minutes of walking I heard a car coming and stuck up my thumb….. let’s see what happens……… 3 minutes later…. I was chilling on the beach ^^ it’s really incredibly easy to hitch a ride here :D The beach was very nice and relaxing, as I was listening to some chillout music I could still hear the waves easily wash into the beach……aaaaaaaahhhwwww how incredibly relaxing that was…. I actually fell asleep for a bit ^^
On the way back I managed again to hitch a ride, this time by an artist painter from Kosovo who was there for a symposium, it was really interesting to talk with him but I arrived at my point of destination before we could finish our conversation, he gave me his business card in case I would visit Kosovo and might need a ride or help with something….. really cool ^^
Ok…. So maybe I’m not getting used to the early mornings :P…….. Tuesday 31-05-2016 I woke up around my more usual time, 10.30 am…… I blame the beers of the previous night though ^^ Since my Albanian phone credit was running low I had to go to Himara to get it charged again, unfortunately I missed the bus which was 10 minutes early and didn’t really want to walk the 10km……. so again I tried my luck with the magical thumb ^^
It took me a couple of tries and was starting to doubt the power of the magical thumb but ……. As soon as I was out of the village it regained it’s power and found a ride to Himara, unfortunately neither of the men spoke English, Italian, German or Dutch and I didn’t speak Albanian or Greek L but we managed somewhat of communication with hand gestures and names of football teams :P
After I left the vodafoon shop with my credit recharged I immediately bumped into Jean Claude who also wanted to get an Albanian number to have some more available access to internet, although there were some complications with his phone and the simcard (I think it may have been simlocked) so all in all it didn’t really work out for him, so he asked me to join him for some coffee and a chat.
Turned out he wanted the internet access so he could use google maps so I told him about the offline navigation apps I use which he was thrilled to learn about……. And afterwards didn’t need the Albanian SIM anymore ^^. After the coffee and all my downloads were finished (yes I was downloading Game of thrones using the coffeeshos wifi) we went our separate ways again…… mine was of course to the beach ^^ had a nice Gyros souflaki lunch and a little later got a message from Robo if I could come back a bit sooner since he had some other stuff to do………
The bus was not going for at least another hour and a half and so I was again depending on the magical powers of the thumb which once again proved powerless inside the town itself, but as soon as I was on the road in between towns the very first car I saw picked me up and dropped me off where I needed to be, this time a really nice couple who invited me to join them to a village for some drinks but I had to go back to the hostel, too bad it might have been a lot of fun.
Back at the hostel I did some more painting and soon after Robo returned, there was a new guest arriving….. a backpacking guy from the Chicago US but for some reason he wasn’t very keen on talking….. but luckily that changed soon enough during the evening BBQ and some beers.
The next couple of days were quite uneventful……. Mostly just LOTS of relaxing some painting weeding and an evening of drinking the 50% Raki…. Which left me with a GIANT headache the next day until later in the evening, man that was horrible……. But I learned my lesson and will stay away from Raki in the future ^^
Other than that I finally edited all my video’s from my last weeks in Italy touched up my photos from my arrival till now in Albania and type out this bookwork of a blog post ^^