Thursday 2016/05/05

From Berat via Përmet to Voskopoja


Markus still isn't fit, so I decide to ride further south today. I have created two alternative routes in Basecamp. For the first one I assume that it is quite a lot off-road, but I did not get detailed information from the locals here in the hotel about the conditions of the two routes. That's the usual way here in Albania. One should not rely too much on informations of locals, if you don't really know them well.

The breakfast at the hotel is great and after talking to two French women who stayed at the hotel, I set off. I try the first route and soon it's turning into a nice gravel road. These gravel roads are fun with the GS. With the TKC80 the GS is like on rails. You do not feel insecure for a moment. But soon the route leads away from the gravel road. I don't really have to make a decision. The route points to a dirt road which is pretty much under water and totally muddy. Nope, I will not go for that! I ride on a little further on the gravel road, because I get a nice view of the nearby mountains from there, but then I return again. It's option 2 for today.

This track is paved and meanders along a valley of the river Osum and turns into a gorge later on, rather already a canyon (Albanian: Kanioni i Osumit). Very impressive views. In a bend in a depression down to the canyon, I see a parking lot where three people are getting out of a car. There seems to be a picnic spot and I decide to take a closer look at it and park my bike and follow the three people, who walk on a path into the gorge.

This path is really impressive. Over a rock-washed ramp, it enters the ever-narrowing gorge, where a small bridge leads up to the other side to a steep path. That would be a nice hike, but not in motorcycle clothes on a fairly warm day.

With the three people that I mistakenly think of as a family first, I get into conversation because I ask them to take a picture of me. Then it's time for an animated conversation and a photo session. I learn that the man works as a freelance journalist and was also occasionally on business in Berlin years ago. Too bad that there is not really more time, because I would like to talk to him about Albania and his view about the situation here. A journalist certainly has deeper insights into society and knows a lot about it. His nephew, as it turns out later, takes some pics with my camera and he speaks English quite well. I take a selfie with him while his mother, the man's niece, is more concerned that we should not go too far up the trail.

“My name is name (naim)”

The man gives me his email address, so I can send him some of the photos, which I'll do the same evening. Then we make friends on Facebook and Naim Zoto ("my name is name = naim") has written a post on Facebook next morning about the encounter with a German in the gorge.

In the south, the canyon then opens to a lake where my route suddenly changes from an asphalted track to a dirt track. I ask a shepherd on the side of the road, if that is the right direction and he affirms. Hmmmh. I have promised that I will not dare to venture too much on my own, but let's see how the dirt road will be. Perhaps I can do it. At the lake I see a car and a camper parked and on the dirt road I realize marks from car tires. On some places along the dirt road it's a bit muddy and that's what I don't like with my GS. Don't be afraid too fast, I tell myself. So I ride on a bit further and I'm able to overcome the muddy spots pretty good. So I ride on kilometer for kilometer and I'am rewarded by an impressive landscape. Soon I have already made a quarter, then a third of the distance. It is very lonely here, but there are still lanes, so I dare to ride on. Soon there is a settlement. Well, even if I drop down my bike, I will not have more than 5-10 kilometers to walk for help. At about half of the way I pass an empty police car, a 4WD vehicle. Well, what should happen to me here, even if the police are patrolling here. I am now relaxed and soon see one of the obligatory Mercedes driving in front of me in the same direction. Even if the many super pros laugh about me: I am quite proud to have ridden offroad for the first time alone (about 25 km)!

I am very proud to be riding off-road alone for the first time!

In the south, I come across a track that I rode in 2013. I have to decide now, where to go next. It is about half past two and I decide that I have enough time to ride to the beautiful south-east route towards Korça and perhaps even further to Voskopoja, where we stayed in the guesthouse Hotel Pashuta in 2013.

The ride on this route I as beautiful as I remembered back then.

The last 20-30 kilometers before Korça is a gravel road. Construction area now. Now? Hmm, I'm not sure, maybe that was a construction area three years ago already?

Since I am still very early, I decide to ride on to Voskopoja, where we stayed in 2013. I ride directly to the guest house Hotel Pashuta, where the host mother is currently working in the yard. The season has not really started here and the son of the family tells me that at the time only Albanian weekend guests would come. So I'm the only guest.

It's damn cold in Voskopoja. It's quite high here. After dinner I spend in the living room in the company of two swallows who have decided to build their own nest in the room and who get frightened when entering or leaving the house. I enjoy being on my own, but in such a quiet place it is almost a bit lonely. After dinner, I take a walk around the town where not much has changed since 2013. Actually, I had the impression in 2013 that the town is developing, but it does not seem to be developed since then. Maybe one or the other guest house has been added, but some parts of the town look quite messy.

Since I'm freezing, I go to bed early to warm up. Markus announces that he is trying to set off for Shkodra the next day. We make an appointment to meet again at the Hotel Kaduku.