Woolly says – Why is it that every bus we have to catch is at silly o’clock in the morning when mammoths should be sleeping! As our sleepy party stood at the kerbside we weren’t even sure if the bus would come, having asked a variety of people we had been given five different times and four different locations as to where to catch it. Before Jo lost the will to live one person had finally rung the bus people to tell them to pick us up and was then told that the vehicle could arrive at anytime between 7am and 7.45 am unless of course we wanted to try the 5am slot.....I voted with my paws on that option. Luck however did seem to be on our side and at 7.35am our transport rumbled into sight, climbing on board I plonked myself down and tried to go back to sleep. As we climbed higher and higher into the mountains the views were tremendous, Albania certainly is an incredible country, passing through tiny villages we stopped at points to pick up other bleary eyed travellers before winding higher and higher again, with the yellow of the broom
bushes littering the landscape and rocky crags to admire the beauty vanished as we started to drive through thick fog. Woolly says – through small breaks in the fog I could see very long drops down the mountainsides with nothing to stop us plunging to our deaths and as we rounded a particularly sharp turned I clutched onto the seat and tried not to think of all the thinks I had yet to do and might not get a chance. Just as I clenched my buttocks for the hundredth time we came to a halt, the engine was turned off and everyone started to get off, not wanting to be left behind I hurried after my companions to find the Albanian equivalent of a transport café, warm and cosy inside we sat admiring the foggy views whilst heating our insides with a hot brew. With no apparent signal the coach started to fill once more and we were on a downhill slalom course passing deer, cows and sheep at each bend in the road. The sea re-appeared and the town of Vlore looked sunny and bright amongst it’s major building works. Many
of the seaside towns seem to have intensive work going on to provide further services and comfort for the growing tourist trade. Woolly says – as the landscape flattened and became more industrial hour after hour passed, Jo and Zoe seemed trance like as they stared out of the window, signs for Durres started to appear as we sped through mile after mile of flat lands, finally with only a short way to go I could feel my excitement levels growing and as we entered the outskirts of the town I looked forward to stretching my paws after such a long ride. As the bus took a turn to the right I wondered if we were circumnavigating the city before dropping us off, as the motorway opened up in front of us I felt panic start to set in, why weren’t we stopping? HELP I want to get off! We were all perplexed at this development and having gained the conductors eye I checked out the situation, it transpired that the bus didn’t actually stop in Durres but went straight through to Tirana and we would have to change busses and go
back on ourselves! Woolly says – perplexed! I was spitting pistachios and a further forty five minutes later I still couldn’t understand the reasoning behind this as we alighted into the incredibly busy central bus station in the wrong place! Having dragged our baggage onto another bus we honked our way back onto the road and back the way we had just travelled. At last we pulled up into the centre of Durres. Used as a harbour since the 12th century BC it was the main trading posts that linked Rome with Byzantium and was the epicentre of the Roman civil war which took place between Pompey and Julius Caesar in 49 BC. The area has had over 33 different rulers in its time including the Normans, Venetians, the Serbs and the Ottomans, following the independence declaration it was appointed as Albania’s capital, lots to see and do for an intrepid traveller like myself plus a good base to make some side trips as well. All seemed to be going well as we jumped into a taxi and with Zoe pointing at the address that we wanted we shot through the streets, ten minutes later the
driver was looking bemused as she showed him the street on the map, shrugging he indicated that he had no idea of the location we were seeking and started to drive back the way we had come passing the bus station once more and heading along the coast road. Further minutes ticked by as we all played the game of spotting something our host had mentioned on her directions, the driver tired of the pursuit first and set us down by a bright red school building and with a final shrug left us to it. Stepping into a nearby bar our woeful group asked for directions, the young man spent an age looking on goggle maps before pointing in the right direction. We hoisted the back packs once more and plodded down the road, ten minutes later Woolly asked some taxi drivers for further help. Woolly says – I was all for lying down and playing dead but being the sensible one of us I knew that I had to take control, the gents debated our situation before asking a further group of men there opinions, at last one of them ventured
to tell us with lots of arm waving which way to go, it all sounded Greek to me (or Albanian) and glancing across at the girls I suggested that he just drove us there. Having taken another few turns the car slowed to a crawl as the man asked every passing pedestrian the way, I sighed it had taken us ten hours so far and looked as though it might take another ten at this rate. At last he displayed a beaming smile and stopped at a gate, I didn’t want to get excited, working on the principle that we were probably still another decade away from finding our home to be but surprisingly he pressed a buzzer and we were ushered into a garden area to find ourselves being hugged and kissed by a very enthusiastic Italian lady, mother of our host, only a climb to the second floor left to do but it felt like conquering Everest as the lovely women showed us the apartment and left in another flurry of hugging and kissing with chows all round we could finally sit down and relax and start planning the next few days of our adventure.
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