Wednesday 30 September 2015

Mirake to Dardhe day six 29/9/15

Mirake to Dardhe

29th September Tuesday 

day six Via Egnatia 
18 km
We have breakfast at 7:30 am and leave the Ballkan Resort to walk to Dardhe at 8:15 
Looks like a bit of up hill walking again today.
Last night we made sure all our cameras and gadgets are fully charged, in case we can't charge them in the next couple of days... Not sure what will be in store for us...

An interesting, and challenging walk today!
After leave the Hotel Ballkan and cross back over the bridge we walk on the first sections of visible Via Egnatia Road! 

The erosion and landslides have destroyed some sections of the Via Egnatia, and left the track with very narrow, steep paths in some sections
I went in "4wd" mode a couple of times!
 definitely not a walk for anyone concerned about heights today! 
A nice little spring to refill water bottles along the path.
Saw plenty of demolished bunkers and a few tunnels, of course Patrick had to explore! 
Head torch on, ready to explore... These two bunkers are actually connected like two letter t joined together... I guess the shepherds would have been safe in the event of a nuclear war...

The exploded remains of bunkers litter the tracks today, I think they've been demolished to extract and recycle the steel. 

We walk through the pretty village of Babje, walking past, we saw what we think is a little shop, with tables and chairs inside, we had a lovely Turkish coffee , the owners phoned a young lady who lives over the road who speaks English, she's on a break from studying psychology at Elbasan university, her English is very good, and we have a pleasant chat. They wouldn't accept any money for the coffee.

On the walk in the afternoon we walked on visible stones from the VE again, the hills start to become a little less bare and more wooded.

Stinky "doggy doo" vine reappears! I first discovered the stench of this flowering vine walking along the Via  Francigena... To me it smells like dog poo!

When we wave "hello" to people, they wave back and the palms of their hands are stained darkly from harvesting and cracking walnuts - ara

Met up with a lovely lady from Darde who showed us the way down the path to the school. I think she thought we were very amusing... Why are we walking? She fed me some fresh walnuts on the way down the path.

Arrived at Darde at 3:45, we were invited into the little bar next to the school, were given figs, grapes, and walnuts! Turns out our guide down the path is the bar owners mother!  Photo below is mother and son of Mustafa, bar owner.
The little  bar next to the school
Inside the men's domain of the bar. 😉
I had a strong coffee, Patrick had a Korca beer. Not sure if there's been many women in this little men's bar before! We were made very welcome. 
We're sleeping in the kindergarten room at the school tonight!
Had a wash in the toilets/ bathrooms... 
Mustafa, bar owner offered to cook us dinner. He and his wife clean the school and have keys to let us in.

Mustafa Hajdari : Dardhe ,  Librazhd   Albania 
Owns the little bar next to the school and will cook us dinner!
Mustafa cooked a delicious dinner of chicken, bread, salad, yoghurt all local food, 1500 leke including a couple of beers for Patrick and coffee for me.

 I shijshem - Delicious
Rush-( roosh)  grapes 
Kish- church 
Ecur - Walk
Fleme- sleep 

Head off to kindergarten room to sleep at 7:30 pm. The locals are still wandering around and chatting. No street lights here, and they don't seem to use torches much either!


 Darde School

Another option, but I don't know what it's like: 
 Floria’s (+355 69 21 39787, no English)  €20 a night

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Elbasan to Mirake day five 28/9/15

I Elbasan to Mirake

28th September Monday 

day five Via Egnatia 
21 km

I think we're up way to early ready for breakfast at 7 am! No hotel staff to be seen anywhere, although the TV is on. Staff appear about 7:20 and we have a good breakfast of omelette, toast and coffee.

Time to leave the serenity and luxury of the Real Scampis Hotel, heave on our packs again and fill up water bottles "ikim" walk onwards... I've put an extra layer of "me more foam" inner soles into my boots, hopefully they'll help cushion my feet a little more!

We head away from the city of Elbasan towards the Hills.
There are lots of intriguing market stalls on the way out of Elbasan,

 I think you could pretty much buy anything along the Rruga Thoma Kalefi in Elbasan! 

Cooking gear, timber butter churns...
Or we could buy some livestock or poultry for dinner!

Patrick decides to stop off at a Vodafone shop and get a data sim for his iPad $9 AUD for 3 GB. Took about half an hour! I waited outside and had a coffee, I was the only female sitting in the outdoor coffee shop! Lots of local men sitting around smoking, having their espresso and morning raki!

The walk has been lovely this morning, I need to hold on to the feeling of no pain, the pack not feeling heavy and having a little spring in my Step! 

Lots of rural farm scenes of grapes, crops, fertile hills...

We stop for a break at 11 am at a lovely spring, 

where there are old intriguing trees, all with gaps in their bases. According to the guide book this is an old stopping place for travellers and caravans, and the trees have grown up from stakes put into the ground to tether animals... At this point it looks as though we're a quarter of the way along the route for today.

Heading along a new tar road with a bit of busy traffic into the village of Shushica

Somewhere amongst that load of grass is a donkey!
Shushica seems to be a thriving agricultural village! Lots of very productive little farms.

Harvesting corn - maize 
As we walk higher up into the hills above the farms and villages, there's lovely views down the valley!
The tracks are much easier to follow today, we still need the GPS to check for the locations of new paths. We head up the steep hill.
View to the river far below, and Elbasan, now way in the distance. That's where we started this morning!

Meeting some locals coming down from the hills with medicinal wild flowers and herbs they've collected. They point to our packs, and then their loads... Yes, tourista!

Some of the pretty and delicate herbs and wildflowers up on the hills.

There's quite a few demolished - dynamited Hoxta Communist bunkers along the ridge line up here !

We start to head gradually back down hill towards the river Shkumbin

We see a random, out of the blue red and white painted way mark! The first we've seen... And don't see any more. Not sure what that's about...

Hectic traffic heading towards Polis Vogel village! 
Nice scythe!
Heading down along springs and streams towards the river Shkumbin

Over another suspension bridge 

Quite an interesting and enjoyable walk today.
The shop in Mirake as described in the guide book doesn't exist any more, and there was no one to ask about camping by the river near Mirake. Al lady walking along the road gives us a bunch of grapes each, but she doesn't know if camping is OK...

We walked to the main road and turned right to walk about another 600 m to "Hotel Ballkan" Arrived at hotel Ballkan at 5:15 pm
Negotiated 50 € for b&b - it's right by the river 

and quite a resort! Even a swimming pool!

Vegetable soup 350 leke 
Grilled vegetables 300 leke 
Tzaziki. 200 leke 
Calamari 800 leke 
Local white wine from Macedonia - quite florally but not too sweet
Beers for Patrick


Hotel Ballkan 50€ b&b
PH: 0699466888 

Monday 28 September 2015

Elbasan day four 27/9/15


27th September, Sunday 

day four Via Egnatia 

We've booked two nights in Elbasan to allow us a little rest, and time to explore.
We spend the day in Elbasan exploring the castle, relaxing and catching up on writing.
Beautiful surroundings in Real Scampis Hotel! 

There are gardens  and artefacts everywhere.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of omelet, coffee etc.. 
Sunday is wedding day in Elbasan! There are processions, music, tooting of horns, even letting off firecrackers in the middle of the day!

We wandered around the castle area. Walked down the Rruga Egnatia, which goes through the centre of the castle.

Went on the hunt in the streets outside the castle for some socks for Patrick, and some inner soles for me, my left instep bones are quite sore... Think it's the total weight of the full pack, plus day pack and water must be about 15 kg... A couple of kilos too much! And I'm feeling a little old and worn out at the end of the day :(

Walked along the rough cobble streets and alleys and found the King's Mosque founded in 1492, the oldest mosque in Elbasan. I didn't have a head scarf with me, so we didn't go in.

Then we found the Orthodox church of St Mary within the castle walls. 
The priest (Father Nicolin) gave me a tour  in Italian after I paid the equivalent of 2 euro donation-, I understood about half of what he said... The church is very beautiful, lots of artwork, the frescos were painted over in the communist era.

Wandering through the castle  streets

We called into a bakery along the Rruga Egnatia, Patrick bought some sweet goodies, I got a byreck. There were lovely photos of children with disabilities doing activities around the walls, the owner explained she's a teacher of students who have Down syndrome. this is the first time I've seen any reference to people who have a disability so far in Albania.

Lunch at Real Scampis
Sallat shef - chef salad 600 leke
Qofte Te zgares- grilled Qofte 500 leke
Bruskete me ton - bruschetta with tomato 200 leke
Supe zarzavate- Vegetable soup - 300 leke
Very generous serves! I'm ready for a siesta now...

I spend the afternoon writing and organising photos. Then we venture out along the boulevard for an evening stroll, along with most of Elbasan! There are so many people out and about, the coffee shops are full!
We had dinner at Lio, local food place just outside the castle walls, good street food and pizza.
These guys put on a bit of a show !
All sorts of bakery goodies! Very tempting, so I get a couple for the walk tomorrow. 
The hotel has done our washing and returned it all this evening, how good is that!
 "Good night" need to rest ready for the 21km walk tomorrow to Mirake.


Real Scampis, in the castle  45 Euro per night  incl breakfast 
Blv:Q.Stafa, Lagja Kala, Elbasan, Albania