Coda: Lake Koman - Shkodër - Ada Bojana - Tirana

Tuesday, 30th June 2015

Having reached Valbona last night, my 330km hike along the Via Dinarica was essentially completed. However I still had 5 days to kill before my flight home from Tirana.

I wasn't quite sure what to do, but had more or less decided to go to Shkodra via Lake Koman, and then probably go to the beach for a few days at Ada Bojana.

So after a very short brief breakfast at Rilindja, I caught a minibus (furgon) to Bajram Curri, then jumped into a taxi, and raced to make the 9am Lake Koman ferry. In fact we had plenty of time, given the rather lengthy process to board the cars onto the shiny new Alpin car ferry.  There was no slipway, the ferry simply bashed down the car ramp into an area of gravel, and then 2 guys with shovels worked away to smooth the resultant piles of rubble just enough to safely drive cars onto the ferry.

The ferry ride was pretty much all it was cracked up to be. The beautiful weather helped. A slow and sedate passage down an impressive dammed river gorge, for roughly 3 hours.

Making safe for cars to embark
Lake Koman

Lake Koman

Arriving at Koman ferry terminal
Lake Koman ferry terminal
Once at the far end of Lake Koman, I had an interesting 2-hour taxi ride to Shokdra along largely unsurfaced roads, crammed into a Mercedes along with 4 other passengers.

Taxi ride from Lake Koman to Shkodra
Shkodra turned out to be pleasant and scenic, with Italian-style cafe-lined streets.  The town centre is dominated by the

Ebu Beker Mosque, Shkoder
Rruga Kole Idromeno, Shkoder

Rruga Kole Idromeno, Shkoder
After wandering about for a bit, I checked into the almost deserted Wanderers Hostel in Shkoder.
Wanderers Hostel, Shkoder
The hostel was extremely quiet and chilled out, and a good place to relax and re-charge the batteries.

Wednesday, 1st July - Friday, 3rd July 2015

The following day I decided to jump on a bus to Ulcinj in Montenegro, then catch a taxi along to the reclusive island of Ada Bojana, at the very southernmost tip of Montenegro.

Apart from using a boat, Bojana Island only has one narrow bridge connecting it to the mainland. It sits in the delta of the Bojana River that flows down from Shkodra Lake.

Ada Bojana
Bojana Island

Sunset from Ada Bojana

Sunset from Ada Bojana
For 3 days I did nothing except wander up and down the 3km stretch of beach, and watch the sunset each night.

Saturday 4th July 2015

After 3 days at Ada Bojana, it was time to head back to civilisation.  I'd booked an early taxi to reach Ulcinj for the 6am bus, but then just jumped in another taxi for a quicker and more interesting ride back to Shkodra.  So I was back at the Wanderers Hostel by about 7am, pretty much before anyone was up and about.

I met and chatted with the owner, collected the bits and bobs I'd left there a few days ago.

I then spent the morning writing postcards, and chatting with various other travellers, including one British guy from Bristol, who was cycling from London to Istanbul, before continuing around the world.

By early afternoon, I thought I should make a move, so jumped on a bus to Tirana.
Tirana city centre, Skanderbeg Square

Tirana city centre, Skanderbeg Square
 It was fairly warm when I arrived in Tirana, Albania's capital city, late afternoon. I wandered into the city centre, sat down for a pizza, briefly checked out the Backpacker Hostel, and then decided to start walking to the airport.  As far as I could tell from my Garmin eTrex 20, the airport was about 12km away, i.e. 7.5 miles. But this was as the crow flies.

I had no idea which was the correct road to take, but decided to trust the Garmin and follow the bearing.

This took me through all sorts of interesting back streets, before crossing the Lumi i Tiranes river just as the sun was setting. I still had a fair way to go at this point, and had long since left any areas where you might catch a taxi.

Sunset at Lumi i Tiranes
It was now getting very dark, there was no street lighting, and all the manhole covers on the pavements were missing.

I didn't really fancy falling 2 metres down an open manhole, so stopped to find my headtorch, then stopped again soon to buy a couple of drinks and some cherries at a late night convenience store.  I was told I was on the wrong road to the Airport, and that I'd never find it in the dark.

However, I kept on trusting my Garmin, and knew I was getting close.

With less than 3km to go, I needed to start crossing fields in the dark, and then popped out onto a dead end road.  I was sure I could find a way through but then realised I was standing next to 3 Albanians in the pitch dark.  I told them I just walking to the airport, but they told me that was impossible, and insisted I joined them for drinks in their garden.

The entire family and neighbours gathered to quiz me, to try to understand how this strange alien being had arrived in their midst.  All questions went via a teenage school-girl, who was the only person who spoke any English.  They couldn't really comprehend that I'd walked to Albania from Bosnia, and also seemed surprised that I didn't own any livestock.

Anyhow, just before midnight, another neighbour appeared and insisted on giving me a lift to the airport.  So just about on the stroke of midnight, I strode up to the reception desk in Hotel Tirana Airport, and my adventure was over.

4 comments:

  1. Great adventure Chris and a hilarious account which I thoroughly enjoyed reading- well done!

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  2. I just realized that I missed this last bit of your Adventure...
    Ending is epic... :)

    Greetings from Sarajevo!

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  3. Hi Samer - glad you enjoyed. Btw, I went back for more Balkans fun in September... Not quite finished writing up here: http://balkanspart2.blogspot.co.uk. Highlights were camping with the bears, being pursued by Greek sheepdogs into Albania, epic run up Mt Olympus

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