Post 49: Kosovo?
'The road to Puke is bad, .. very bad, .. even on bikes', .. Jack looks worried for us, 'the ferry from Koman to Kosovo, it is good, very good,.. much better,.. it leaves at 11am,.. we can hurry'. Jack's hand demonstrates the speed and ease with which the ferry will whisk us into Kosovo, ... 'we go now'.
We follow Jack's 'Aprilia-Bitza' out of Shkoder and upwards into the mountains where the litter vanishes and the air becomes instantly clear. We're traveling slowly, Jack's bike wobbles more than is normal, he uses both sides of the road, ... it looks less stable, .... flat rear tyre, ... Unlucky. We stop, we offer to help, we offer to pay but he will have none of it, 'your late, .. go, go, go'. He gives us rough directions and off we set towards the town of Koman and the ferry onwards. We consult our maps and find ourselves in the middle of a very 'blank' are of Albania and so employ the Garmin SatNav only to see the not so comforting sight of a small icon of a motorcycle on an otherwise totally blank screen. If there had been words, I'm sure they would have read .... 'Beware, .. there be monsters here'.
As we enter the hills, the roads become worse, the pot holes are deeper than the Tigers spindles, more sand than tarmac and then no tarmac at all, just dust and debris. At all times to one side a drop of several hundred feet to the ravine below and to the other, a steep rock wall and memorials at every bend to commemorate those who's journeys were never completed, ... hopefully we will not be adding to their numbers today. The road is blind and narrow, streams flow across it and construction traffic blocks our progress at every turn. Overtaking becomes a matter of blind faith, .... but we place our trust in every deity known and press on for the 11am ferry.
In the town of Koman; 3 cafe and 2 houses, we ask about the ferry and are waved onwards into the mountains. We head on, climbing until we see before us a hole in the rock face, not quite a tunnel, not quite a cave. We enter nervously, the floor, walls and ceiling all of the same sandy texture making navigation difficult, ... we keep going fueled only by blind faith and the knowledge that retracing our route to this point would be almost suicidal. Eventually a light appears, we ride towards it and emerge onto a concrete jetty, ... of sorts. This is the ferry terminal from Koman to Kosovo and the next stage of our journey.
A small Albanian man, big smile and crap crumpledsuit, approaches us, .... too slick, too friendly, .. another bloody 'fixer'. He confirms that the 11am Ferry departed at 10am, ... unlucky. The next ferry is at 15:30pm, ... Inshallah. We meet in a huddle and make two executive decisions: 1. We're not going back down the road we've just come along, ... and 2: Mr Fixer's palm will remain ungreased by Poor Circulation. Living on bikes makes breaks like this more bearable, we have everything we need and so do what every other Englishman would do in the baking midday sun, .. we light the Primus and make a brew, .. 'top tea sir'.
Finally, at a little after five in the evening, the Roll-On Reverse-Off Ferry (one platform wasn't working) chugs slowly towards the dock. A Le Mans type start breaks out as every vehicle races for prime position on the pre-war vessel. We're English don't you know, .. we coolly wait working on a last on first off basis and end up wedged between lorries and cars as the ferry casts off and heads for Kosovo. We head to the top deck and watch as the mountains flow past us providing amazing view after amazing view, ... these mountains are unspoilt by man and are truely spectacualr. Along the side of the ravines we see the alternate to the ferry, ... the road that Jack warned us about, he was so right, it looks worse than anything we have experienced thus far, .. under our breath we thank him once again.
The 1 hour sailng actually took almost 3 and we arrived in Kosovo at around 8pm as the sun began to set. We were amazed at the lack of formality as we cleared customs and rode on into Kosovo towards Pristina. After about an hour on equally crap roads to those experienced in Albania it dawned on us why the roads were so bad and the customs so sloppy, ..... we were still in bloody Albania.