Last night we had a blast. This morning held a spectacle that we'll remember for a while. It should be a story by itself under "The people you meet". Poker faces and taught lips we endured a lecture by what could be a movie character in an 'old' tarantino film. He'll go by the name of Carbone, G. Carbone. So G. Carbone is a 50something fellow Italian man who moved to Montenegro last year because "it's the most fantastic country in the world" [read that with a heavily marked Italian accent, please, do it].
Supposedly he's an author and is very famous. He's been interviewed many times and he is an activist against the sexual abuse of minors; which we somewhat did not believe. We got the vibe he was... embellishing a few details, plus his newly wed wife doubtfully looked barely 17. We met him as we were having coffee and he overheard us speaking Italian. We were bound to leave as he came over and started conversing. It escalated quickly and we sat there obliged to listen to his life story in between orders to his (friend?) who was anxious to leave. We told him we were travelling to Greece overland and he pounced on the opportunity to bestow us with very detailed knowledge of spots we "HAD" to visit. He ripped a page out of the bartenders notebook and started scribbling, as we intently gazed onto the paper trying to slither out of the bind we'd gotten ourselves in; well Alberto was. Pietro was having a blast and intently and enthusiastically fueled Mr. Carbone into disclosing more of his secrets as Filippo wingmanned him giggling, giggling away as if he had turrets. It lasted a good 20 minutes until Alberto and the monkeys were exasperated and grabbed the devil by it's balls during one of Mr. Carbone's pauses.
We left. Off to Albania. The border crossing was 'fast' but a we got checked for "real life". We saw Gypsy immigrants illegally jump the barbed wire fences as 5 year old boys and girls walked through the column of cars. You may think we are over-cautious but we have our reasons. Windows up, doors locked until we were in the clear. We would have been an easy target and it seemed like the area was controlled by no one.
Once in Albania we were startled. A totally different world. men on wooden carts pulled by donkeys and immense poverty. Our excitement was overtaken by awe. Never would we have thought to see this here. Alberto spent time in Tanzania and he admitted the scenes we were seeing were not too far apart.
We crossed northern Albania as we decided that we wanted to clear the area by nightfall. One highway was mapped. Intermittently paved we crossed different towns and villages along with water crossings when the highway was closed off and we had to take alternate routes. Besides the Unimog we met up with along the way what was there was broken, Infrastructure close to inexistent by European standards and it seemed the main occupation of the male population was "Car Watching". Yes you read that right. Along every road, highway, trail and curbs, weather sitting on guard rails, leaning on walls, trees, light posts or just standing there grown men just watched cars go by everyday. It's still a mystery to us what the heck those guys were doing so humor took over and we came up with different solutions to the problem: national sport? hobby? doctors prescription? Dating? Or simply a very deep societal problem deriving from epidemic unemployment and a culture we probably don't understand.
Tirana was whole different story. We saw how patriotic, congested and disorienting the city was. We didn't have the time stop for a proper visit so we drove around for a while. Flags and emblems on every square, roundabout and street we started counting them.... we lost count.
As we left Tirana, the capital, and back into open country we left the storm front behind us and drove by car crashes, ridiculous amounts of roadkill and recently built but disused gas stations. [Not entirely disused as there was always someone benefitting of the shade from the killer sun at its zenith point]. We took a wrong turn and found ourselves in the middle of a gypsy camp, itself under an overpass, in the middle of a garbage dump. Children collected trash, horses ate trash and eyes followed our every move.
By early afternoon, having crossed half of the country we stopped for lunch and intel. We got word of a beach south of the neighbouring town and went for it.
Asking for directions, as our map lacked the info, we met very helpful and polite people and policemen. All with hearty moustaches who told us that our beach was:
"4 kilomters right then bridge"
We were happy for the directions and followed them diligently. We must have missed the turn and asked again:
"4 kilomters right then bridge"
Everyone told us the same thing, over and over again. We drove more than 5 miles until we finally found a man who was digging a ditch with his son, both had 80's porno moustaches but got us going in the right direction. We found the damn bridge.
In the shabbiest grouping of shacks were impressive compounds where Mercedes GLA's or entirely blacked out Audi Q7's roamed the potholed dirt roads. hmmm. "Soon" we found the beach, right next to a military base and made our way onto the cleanest spot we found about a mile south. The beach was a dump. A real pity because the water was clear and the sand nice and soft.
We set up camp and met a local who reassured us it would be safe for us to spend the night there. We weren't going to let our guards down. Minutes earlier Alberto waved to four men riding scooters along the breakwater. They replied and it seemed like their gesture was closer to hand sliding across the throat rather than friendly wave. Fed and finally out of the truck we took a moment to relax. A humongous shooting star provoked cheers and laughter and Yee-Haas! Giving us a good reason for being there, staring at the milky way, amongst what could have been an immaculate beach. We posted guard and kept an eye out for approaching lights and sounds.