This blog post was copied from www.travellinghewitts.com – the blog I maintained between 2015 and 2018 with Lena, my now ex-wife who I was travelling with at the time. I have no intention of going through the old posts to update them – the past is what it is and doesn’t change. Apologies if some of the context seems a little strange as a result!
Lena’s posted her (extensive!) opinions on Albania and I’ve not got a lot to add to her comments on the country itself. I was sad to leave; it’s a truly wonderful country with beautiful landscapes, friendly people and amazing food.
The attempt on the SH74 was a highlight for me; despite the challenges it posed and the disappointment of defeat. I really wish we’d have known what we were getting ourselves into but we made some last minute route changes and the maps all suggested that it was a normal “A” class road. In reality it was exactly the sort of hilly, rocky track I would love to have spent a day crossing with the Tiger – if we’d have had water, food and time. I was damned impressed with the performance of both machines and especially with Lena as a rider. It was harder terrain than I have ever thrown at the Tiger before and it coped remarkably well – the only drop was due to my own stupidity – I parked on a ridge to get Lena’s bike back up and the bike was precariously balanced. I knocked it and down it went, past the vertical to the right. I knew I had parked in gear so I didn’t check before picking it up – I guess the force of the drop knocked it into neutral and as soon as it was back up on it’s wheels it rolled off the stand and went down on the left. Smashed off the RHS pannier and smashed the same indicator my dealer only replaced a few weeks ago at the 20k service! The new crash bars (H&B) saved the plastics and the pannier (Touratech) went back on; it’ll need a hammer when I get back but it’ll be fine.
If the Tiger did it’s job well Lena and Kung-Fu (her G650 Xcountry) were amazing. She’s proven the superiority of soft luggage and of Barkbusters – her bike was on its side countless times and has suffered zero damage. She’s also proven the superiority of tough German women! I’d never have gone near that track with six weeks of riding experience; she tackled water crossings and tough terrain with admirable bravery and skill. Unfortunately she’s picked up my complex about going downhill which led to fear, which led to panic breaking, which led to drops, leading to a half-baked attempt to get back down the hill with the engine off. Which led to a dead battery* and recovery on a flatbed truck by the wonderful Xavier.
I’d recommend Albania to anyone looking for an accessible chunk of the “Adventure Motorcycling Zone”. It’s readily accessible by ferry and offers as much or as little challenge as you want to take on. The SH74 would be an amazing days ride with proper planning and no novice riders. I’ve seen countless other tracks which would also be great fun – the disused railway line which largely follows the Qafë Thanë road from Tirana to Ohrid looks like it offers tunnels and (death-defying) bridges galore. The roads, where you choose to use them, are good enough for a novice to have no trouble with and for a more experienced rider to have a lot of fun with. The culture isn’t worlds apart from the EU but it’s different enough to be interesting. For my money it is without question a better place to dip your toe into some more adventurous travel than Morocco (our 2015 trip) was. Go there – you won’t regret it.
*Not helped by my own failure to jump her bike; I couldn’t get her battery out to get to the terminals and get it going again. To be fair I’ve never jumped any vehicle before and was far from at my best!