Dec 30, 2014

Bradashesh, briefly

I checked out and was on the road early this morning. No breakfast, but a double espresso. It was sunny, but extremely windy. At the first service station with a café, I fished the nylon shell trousers out of my pack and ‎pulled them on. I'd hoped to get something to eat at the same time, but had to settle for another coffee. This set the pattern for the rest of the day, right down to the details of speaking English with kids and not being allowed to pay for my coffee.

Well, that's not quite true. In the town of Pajove, I saw food on display through the steamed-up window of the café, so I did get my first taste of the Albanian version of a triangular flaky pastry with nuts soaked in sugar. It's called "trigone." I chatted with some of the young people in the café for a good 20 minutes, and when I went to pay I was told that one of them was the proprietor and he would not take my money.

By noon, I was starting to feel it. I spotted a Bar/Kafe/Restorant ahead, but they only had beverages. I ordered a coffee and pulled out my little bag of snack food -- which has been supplemented several times by road-side vendors who wave me over, ask me where I'm from, and give me oranges.‎ Some leftover cheese I'd bought in Rome, some leftover panettone I'd bought in Durrës, a few bites of chocolate, and an orange. When I'd finished and went to pay for my coffee, my money was refused. Albanians rightly pride themselves on their hospitality. (It may also help that I greet people in Albanian, order coffee with a "ju lutem" and "falemenderet," and apologise for not speaking Albanian - in Albanian. {The latter piece of dialogue brought giggles to a school kid yesterday.})

At any rate, the puddles remained frozen all day, although it wasn't cold enough to freeze the running water.‎ The wind, though! Once again, I disregarded the beautifully written and researched guidebook to avoid fording those icy cold streams. I missed out on some glorious views, but I had the chance to meet some wonderful and warm people. And drink coffee. (Not many cafés on those mountain trails.) Another benefit is that the 39 kms of trail walking is only 33 kms by road.

I didn't make it all the way into Elbasan, though. I'd had it in my sight for over three hours, once the road had rounded a ridge and the valley opened up before me. The city is nestled at far edge of the valley, at the foot of a series of snowcapped mountains. Very beautiful scenery, but the headwind was even more fierce. (My phone was swaddled several windproof layers deep, so there are no photos.) The road followed the contour of the surrounding hills, so it was a little maddening to see my destination just... over... there... and see the road wind its way along.

I was still 4.5 kms away from the heart of the city when, with daylight rapidly fading and the temperature dropping, I saw a sign. It said HOTEL. Tomorrow I'll sleep in, walk an hour into town, and find a place to stay for New Year's Eve. I'm pretty sure there's an Orthodox Church in town, so I may even get to Liturgy on January 1 and start the new year off well.

And before I venture into the mountains, I'll be buying a proper pair of gloves. My light touch-screen gloves sheathed in yellow rubber gloves are fine for wind and rain, but just aren't adequate for below freezing temperatures.


  1. Hope you are keeping warm Peter and had a lovely NYE. Hope the coccyx has recovered too.

    1. Thanks, Kym. I'm still sore, so I've decided to take a few rest days in Elbasan. NYE involved watching fireworks from my hotel balcony while listening to the Canada-US hockey game.

    2. Sounds like a good visa to race and many more miles to walk.