Friday, July 3, 2009

Into the mountains

Leaving Permet we wound our way along the Vjosa river admiring the seeming impregnability of the mountains beside us. Anyone with the idea of conquering such a place must clearly be out of their minds. Away from the river valleys of Southern Albania it must be some painfully slow going. I can't imagine the effort made to install some of the bunkers in these hard to reach places, but over 400 years ago the Turks swept in and in the 1940's the Greeks did as well so the bunkers weren't created of total paranoia.

Stopping to lube our chains, we are approached by some greek speaking Albanian farmers who are curious about our ride and are eager to share tales of their mountains. I am in awe that they harvest their hay by hand with a sickle. It gives new meaning to the impressive haystacks we see piled up alongside the road.

Turning away from the narrow valley we begin to make our way inland toward the famed Barmash Pass. A few kilometers from the town of Leskoviak we camp by a fountain well hidden from the meandering road. Below us an impressive chorus of frogs croak without tiring and the tingle of sheep bells puts us to sleep with dreams of fresh milk.

Let me tell you: an Albanians can bellow. We awaken early to a startling holler from the driver of the milk truck calling for milk collection from the shepherds in the valley below us. Minutes later fresh milk is sauntering by our front door. Basil scores some for his pet.

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