Swimming with cows


The morning sun just started to emerge. Alen and I ride on curvy macadam roads through a canyon of Albanian Alps also known as “Accursed Mountains”. The road is so narrow that we merely squeeze past toothless truckers taking the trees from the woods. Except this nun in Defender and lost Polish tourists, those are the only people we’ve encountered. And suddenly that warning we’ve spotted on a map in our camp one day before (saying: don’t bother trying without ’4X4′ fierce off-road car) becomes crystal clear. I ride. Still, I keep spinning those Ally McBeal-like moments in my head, but no whining, so HE couldn’t joke about it later. I’m impressed with all-around water wells, surreal nature I’m passing through and authentic villages ( 3 houses = 3 villages) which I haven’t got a clue how to reach, and if there are any inhabitants or they’re just abandoned. After 35 killometres of uphill macadam (in this team I’m here for statistics, while Alen is navigation), we’re coming to the saddle. Alen randomly takes us the right way, I mean, he chooses ‘the most logical way’ in respect of coordination. We’re going downhill. Mountains are getting wilder, while abyss still creeps. The speed is the same one we had while riding uphill, ’cause of this rocky road resembling Ementaler cheese giving wings to our saddle-bags. I hear Alen behind me: ‘ You know what, I’ve been watching you, you’re doin’ really good’. At that point I’ve installed a grin on my face and instantly pressed ‘MUTE’ on fight in my own head. HE never let me take downhill at local Sljeme forrest ’cause it’s dangerous’, so instead he took me to Albania for my first downhill on a terrain different than asphalt. I just keep giving myself pep-talk ‘Yeah, if you knock the hell out of yourself it’s gonna be fine, the lady at the insurance company told you that it covers even a helicopter ride’. The pain from my legs switched to my arms so I was fortunate for a break caused by Alen’s flat tyre. We parked our bikes by the rock at the one side, while cows stood in a row cooling their legs in a creek at the other side of a curve. I’ve started making lunch while Alen went into the woods to find the spring. The next scene looked something like this: I’m sitting in a shade, cooking. We’re 50 kilometres away from the nearest civilization. Two Albanians in white suits and shirts are passing by on their donkeys and they’re waving at me. It must be a sun-stroke or I’ve completely popped… or maybe one thing led to another. I’ve decided to take a dip in the lake Alen found, while cow kept me company. Halutinations, or just Albania?


We’re breaking the green canyon silence with singing. While launching the last peanut into my dry throat I’m starting to run out of ideas to raise our spirits. And after every filthy road turn I’m hoping to reach the end of a climb. F*** it, where does it end?! She keeps whining she cannot make it, but somehow she manages. Just a little more. I’ve spotted some kind of a transmitter and that makes me happy every time. We’re approaching the saddle that offers new sceneries. Petra dashes in the front not minding her brakes. The road still looks the same – narrow track covered in dirt and gigantic raw stones. On the right an abyss yawns. Breaks keep schreeching as saddle-bags hold on tight to the bike. Until now, my quadriceps gave me a hard time, but now arms are killing me. We need to slow down ’cause otherwise we’ll fall appart. At the unmarked crossroad we turn right. Behind the bush a pub appears. Even though we’ve got plenty of road until the first village, few wooden pillars and a leaf-covered roof top seems as sufficient comfort for the two of us, and some of endemic species around. While sucking coke from the can I’m checking out motor pool – old Land Rover Defender, our two bikes and one skinny horse. Finger-pointing a map I’m asking a bar tender if we’re on the right road. The man raises his hand showing the right direction. We’re grabbing our steel horses again and continue downhill. One killometer later I feel my front wheel decaying slowly, which means I got fizzled out. We’re reaching a shade under a rock so we can make quick lunch and reapair my flat tyre. Meanwhile, three cows that came for a cool down at a nearby creek kept us company. As they were slowly digesting their food I pass them by in pursuit for drinking water. When all of a sudden, low and behold, I’ve see a small lake! At first I’ve decided to check out for any venomous shit on the shore, and than soon after I’ve jumped into crystal cool water. While chillin’ out upstream from the cows I’ve heard Petra talking to someone. And I asked myself if she snapped because of the sunlight. I’ve seen her sitting under the rock, and she’s still been alone. As I’ve been approaching I’ve asked if anyone stopped by. She said: ‘Two guys on donkeys were here and now they’re gone.’ My reply: ‘Whatever’.