Friday, June 8, 2012


Derricks dotted the countryside
ONE of my lasting memories traveling through Albania, was the smell.  The cities had an odor that crossed between salt air, garbage, humans and cars.

The countryside smelled of animal musk, decaying vegetation and old oil.

Dotting the rural landscape were numerous rusting derricks and pumps.  There was an unmistakeable smell of oil that had penetrated not only the ground, but the air and buildings and the plants themselves.

NO matter where I was, I could almost taste the rank odor of oil as if the very molecules that were entering my nose, were the size of rain drops.

I have to admit, my sense of smell is rather poor.

Often my companions have asked me to smell the roses, others the coffee.

Hard to see, but that ledge drops about 12"

OCCASIONALLY I can, but 90% of the time, I honestly can't tell the difference between doggy doo, and dippity doo!

But here, it was unmistakeable wherever I went.

In the middle of nowhere, a condo next to an oilfield

I have no idea if the locals can smell it too.  I guess if you were born there and grew up with it, maybe it's just like a wheat field to them.

Twice I was stopped by a uniformed officer or two, unmarked decrepit car parked crossways on some little back road around a corner or at the bottom of the hill.

BOTH times I was not able to understand anything and just gestured and waved my hand and pointed to my Maple Leaf on the windscreen.

I remembered clearly Manfred's warning from two days before.

"Do not stop for anyone..."
Roadside cafe

THESE officers were not armed, but seemed rather aggressive.  After a few minutes when other cars approached, they left me and I accelerated out of there without a backward glance!

The road in places was super highway, in others, virtually non existant.  Huge drop offs, deep gravel, boulders, inexplicable detours, all more suitable to an XT 600 rather than a Diversion.

Drop dead gorgeous.

THE countryside was beautiful if stinky.  There was evidence of villages that had been shelled into rubble during the 90's, when warfare erupted yet again in the Balkins.

Mountains, ruins, blue skies, clear rivers, dry riverbeds...

For a small country, Albania was certainly diverse.  

AFTER what seemed like an eternity, bouncing along among huge potholes and over and around rocks and boulders on my street bike, I finally entered a small mountain village and soon after, the road opened up into a virtual freeway!  This... in the middle of nowhere!

Welcome to Greece!

HOURS of travel many times in first gear, many times slipping the clutch in first gear, I was now finally able to make some time.  My speedo leapt to 100-120 kph.  I was glad to be back up to speed.

It wasn't long before the road carried me back to the Adriatic.  Here the air cooled and the sea breezes were fresh, a pleasant change from the oil drenched air of the interior.

After a brief stop at a small cafe, I bid the sea and shortly afterwards, the country, 'goodbye' as I came to the border crossing leading me to one of the most ancient civilizations on earth... Greece.

The temperature climbed, the highway likewise, Little Red and her pilot, adjusting to the excellent quality pavement, the wider roads, sweeping bends that could now be taken with confidence at speed...

Gate guardian Lockheed F 104 Starfighter

We were back in the "modern" world.   

I have said it many times... this would be one of the most memorable places I've visited in my lifetime.

Next stop... the Parthenon.

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