ON A NIGHT like this, you look up at the starry sky and realize it doesn’t get much better than this. That’s my favorite kind of night.
DAY 17. ALBANIA. ÇERMË-PROSHK – VLORË. 20/02/15
Black full beard, Swiss accent and strong entertaining skills: I’ve shared the road with Luca for three days now and we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s still hard to believe how he appeared out of nowhere at the right moment. And I don’t know what my Albanian experience would have been like without his company.
What’s interesting about Luca is that he is quite new to bike traveling. He’s never done it before. One day he simply quit his job as a children’s nurse in Zürich and went. Heading East. He is somewhat secretive about his plans, but as he tells me, India is on his list.
To make his travel endeavours worthwhile, Luca bought some of the best equipment by the most renounced brands. He is literally a sports store model. He has understood that the quality of his equipment will play a role in the success of his travel, but it is not gonna do the traveling for him. The one piece of gear that impressed me most was his insulating shoe inlets. What a great invention! Those are definitely on my packing list for my next winter tour.
From our lovely puppy restaurant, we directly head to the highway. Yesterday we asked the people about three times in a row whether it was okay to cycle on highways in Albania. They said yes.
We strap on our high visibility vests, a very un-Albanian thing to do, and plug in our earphones. I listen to my #bikingthebalkans playlist, which together with the great tarmac and the flat straight road makes for a fun riding experience. As both of us are partly deaf by the music, we communicate in diver’s (sign) language, which works really well. We make about 50 kilometers in two hours.
The Most Random Get-Together In The History Of The Wheel
It happens shortly before Vlorë. Luca and I roll down a hill and into this coast town, as I spot a pink dot at a distance. A pink dot moving on two wheels. There is no doubt: This must be Angela, a fellow cyclist from Germany that Luca’s told me about. On her blog I say the pink jacket and pink bike and pink everything—this must be her. I hurry up to her and she is not alone. Luca has told me that Linda from Switzerland is also on her way South-East, pedaling right in front of Angela on her massively packed bike. I overtake her casually, asking her “You must be Linda, right?“. She seems perplex, almost frightened, but really amazed by the whole situation. We stop, shake hands and cannot believe all of this is happening. This might very well be the most random get-together of touring cyclists in the history of the wheel. Seriously, this would not have worked if we had planned it.
Saxy Bonfire Time
At a café, we decide to camp together tonight. At the sea. The four of us. Linda and Angela, both keen chefs, buy lots of fresh ingredients for a tasty dinner. And tasty it is: Rice with chicken-vegetable-soy-sauce. To go along: Onions in honey (slightly grilled, this is a sweet treat) and dark bread Angela bought in Tiranë. Yes, dark bread for the first time in ages!
Later we light a bonfire on the beach and sit around it while Angela pulls out her saxophone (!) and plays some RnB—relaxing and beautiful.
We spend an evening talking about our experiences on the road, about Germany, Austria and Switzerland, about God and the world. Above us: A mesmerizing night sky. While enjoying all that, I quietly tell myself: This might very well be the most awesome night of my trip. And it is. Without a doubt.
(bottom 3 photos: Linda Baer)