Thursday 16th of July: crossing the border, Albania here we come!
We left Ohrid to meet up at Radožda – which according to the map would be on our road but was 2 km out of it, so that some were there, and all others arrived at the border crossing for a long lunch. When we got all together we passed the border and enjoyed a long, long downhill with a stop in Përrenjas – where Daniel made the local kids very happy with some acrobatics. After we continued a bit more, following the main way and the -still very clean and hard flowing- Shkumbin river. A bit after Volchan we made a camp off the road, where we had a very enjoyable swim and cloth washing session at the river. We didn’t feel so comfortable that night – still unknown with Albanian mentality, poverty (risks) and language, so we kept silent.
Friday 17th of July: Elbasan “haydi people, come to the park!”
After arriving in Elbasan we meet up with Ahmet Mehmeti, forrester and part of the ecoclub of Elbasan. His ngo works on forestery and paths, lobbies with industry and local government for a cleaner Elbasan – and work on a better democratic process (Aarhus convention). Although Albania follows EU environmental standards by law, there is little control on local level.
Elbasan used to be the heaviest polluted city of the whole Balkans due to heavy industrialisation – which still leads to severe diseases under citizens, among Leukemia for childeren. As a result of offlay after privatisation in the 90’s, there is less industry nowadays, so less industrial pollution (during summer is equals the traffic pollution). The biggest industries still are the Steel Mill owned by Turkish Kurum, Darfo Fero Chrome Factory and the Libanese owned Cement Factory. One achievement is that the cement factory lately placed it’s last filter, and this way works according to standards. But Kurum makes little changes, and the steel factory keeps crossing the maximum emissions over and over.
After lunch in the cool building of a streetkids project, we made a flyer to ask to stop polluting and inform the public of Elbasan. The idea was to call public to come to the park, hand out flyers for information and get press there to lift the message further. Unfortunately the press didn’t come, and the amount of curious people (more towards us then our message) was overwhelming, and finally made us run away from the spot. We decided it was impossible to sleep in the city park – and decided to wild camp at the closed off memorial park next to it: nice and quite under the palm trees – with a garden hose for a quick shower party.
Saturday 18th of July: occupying a restaurant
After a sleep in the memorial park we woke up early to avoid trouble and sun, and hit the road. First part was on the highway through the huge industrial area of Elbasin where we passed all 3 main industries: the metal smelter, cement factory and Chrome factory. After breakfast in the shade of a gass station we decided to leave the heavy traffic road towards the sea on one of the unpaved roads. It was incredible hot by now. In the one street village of Luz i Madh we kind of occupied the only restaurant there, first for cooking, but as it was the only shady place – for a bit unrespectfull siesta as well. The villagers took it very hospitable though, and after this break and a photo shoot we hit the cobbly sand roads again towards the fist suitable campspot at the beach, which was 2 km before Spille. Spille is a local touristic spot of beaches full of garbage but a nice sea, beautifull dunes and a stroke of dark pine trees along it to give the necessary shade. A great location for a restday.
Sunday 19th of July: Spille
Finally a restday, with beach, sea, sand and shade! Besides the daily cooking sessions, we had 2 workshops: Yarden gave a very good one on the Israelian-Palestinian conflict (also very interesting to compare with other conflicts), and some of us made BT logo stencils and wallets out of tetrapak.
Monday 20th of July: mountains and sea scenery
In the morning we went on to enjoy our nice place under the pinetrees a bit more. When the sun got a bit hotter we did a cleaning action at the beach, but there was just way to much garbage to do anything more then making a statement toward other beach users. Besides an overloaded container next to the road, there was no real place to get rid of all the collected plastic and trash. At the hottest moment of the day we finally started cycling (yes, once more: we really like to feel the heat!) to try offmap roads of which we knew very little, but which lead us on lose stone roads up and down hills, with beautifull views on the sea below us. We moved very slow though, and had to camp out at the seaside when it got dark, around the village of Karpen/Shkalinur – between some of the cement bunkers that Enver Hoxha left after the Communist regime had left behind (around 700.000 in the whole country).