November 2020

We started November in the area of Gramsh. A larger town with a lot of facilities, located between the mountains and the river Devoll. We drove up to see the Kopacit canyon. In the small town Grabove e Siperme we kind of got stuck on a small dirt road because of thick tree branches. Kilian had to saw them away, because backing up was not an option.

We got some help from a local family. The three girls spoke Spanish?! When I asked them why, using the little Spanish I’ve learned, they told me it was because of the telenovelas they watch! So instead of taking several Spanish classes we could’ve been watching tv :). We walked through the small village to the canyon but quickly realised we could only reach the canyon from below. And by now the van was starting to make some really worrying noises. Later we found out it was the ball joint that needed replacement. The road up to Grabove was a very rough road so it made the problem worse. We found a place for the night to camp. The next day we drove to the bottom part of the canyon, near the town Kurata. We also had internet there and decided to have a chat with PostNL as our 2 packages were now in transit for 8 days. Whether that meant they were in Belgium or close to the Albanian border, was unknown, despite the track and trace. Unfortunately PostNL was their usual unhelpful and unfriendly self, so we wasted half an hour getting nowhere. I wonder why they even bother having a customer service. One of the packages contained the spare car parts, which we now desperately needed. There was nothing we could do about it so we hiked up to the canyon.

It is a rather unknown canyon, we came across it by accident on Google maps. We had to make our own trail, manoeuvring across the river, rocks and trees. But it was beautiful although the Tepelene canyon is still the most beautiful one we’ve visited. We enjoyed a few sunny days at a nice meadow in the mountains between Grabove and Gramsh, making sure we didn’t drive any more than necessary. Checking the whereabouts of the packages several times a day, without any progress.

We drove down again for some shopping and found a nice quiet spot near Gramsh. There our household battery suddenly crashed. Dropping from 80% to 20%, in a few seconds, setting of the alarm. Without battery we have no lights, no refrigerator, no water(pump),no heating and of course we cannot charge any appliances. Trouble never comes alone; car trouble, lost packages and now a near dead battery. We had enough and decided to repair what was urgently needed and not wait with repairing the car for the packages any more, but try to find the right parts here. A waste of money maybe, but so be it. The next day Kilian biked into Gramsh to get some information on repairs and met Alfred, who helped with translations at the car part shop. You can read all about that and he reparation here. So with the car now fixed we could drive around again to charge the battery to see if the sudden drop in percentage was a one time fluke or was something really broken? A few weeks later after two more sudden drops in percentage, we bought a new battery, because it was obviously no fluke. November was quite an expensive month!

One of the packages also contained supplies for Binkie. For a few weeks now he was having diarrhoea on and off. I ordered some giardia tests and something to stop the diarrhoea, but those were somewhere in transit as well. In the whole of Albania there are exactly two places where you can get proper veterinarian care. Both in Tirana. There are “veterinair pharmacies “ throughout Albania, but they only have some medication and a stethoscope, they can’t do any tests. So while we were waiting for the packages, we drove down to Tirana for the second time. We handed in some faeces. They found no parasites whatsoever and by now Binkie had normal poop again. So we really hoped he was ok now and had had some virus or something, that solved itself. We did some shopping and we went in to the city centre again. There we had another lovely cheesecake with white melted chocolate at Cioccolatitaliani. Which is absolutely delicious! We also took a few to go ;).

By now we were really just hanging around in Albania, waiting for the packages. So we decided to follow up on a tip from Alfred and drive up mount Tomorr. We also spent a few relaxing days at the edge of the almost dry river bed of Tomorrica.

The weather was still nice with temperatures up to 20°C. To pass the time we drove across the mountains along the small but nice town of Greve and camped near Dushar.

And then we had a little party because we finally got the message that the packages where now in Albania!!! They still had to go through customs and get to Pogradec, but it least they weren’t completely lost. A few days later, a month after they were send, we could finally pick up the packages. Normally a package from the Netherlands to Albania takes about five days to arrive. We had anticipated on ten days because of al the Covid measurements. Our plan was to leave Albania as soon as we got the packages. But the day after we left Tirana for the second time, Binkie had diarrhoea again. And it stayed that way unfortunately. I gave him the Finidiar which normally works great and a probiotic, and we decided to give it another week. In the mean time Kilian got the car fixed at a garage in Korçë.

But Binkie was still having diarrhoea without improvement so we drove down to Tirana for the third time, almost two weeks after our second visit. This time we asked the vet to check everything possible. So Binkie‘s faeces was thoroughly checked, blood was analysed and of course Binkie himself was examined. We got the results the same day. The good news was, that there were no organic problems, the bad news was that he did have a bad case of giardia, despite the former negative test. Sometimes a giardia test gives a false result. So with new medication to treat the giardia, the vet told us there was no reason why we couldn’t travel on as Binkie was in perfect health otherwise.

We arrived in Albania on September the 15th and now on the 26th of November we drove in to North Macedonia. After a thorough check by the Albanian customs. Kilian had taped a few spare parts for the van under the van, using a lot of cardboard and plastic wrap. Naively we didn’t realise that this would look a bit suspicious at customs…. Once the package was checked and a dog sniffed out the van, they were satisfied that we weren’t smuggling any drugs. We drove past the Macedonian border without any problems We did some shopping at Struga where we also bought an extra sweater each, as it was now pretty cold. The next day we drove up to Vevchani. A small town with very narrow streets, creating a real challenge driving, we quickly left after we visited the springs of Vevchani.

We met some really nice people in the area and drove up mount Crn Kamen. After two days we drove down and met up for lunch with Alladdin in Struga and did some shopping. We drove on to Mavrovo National Park to visit mount Korab, the highest mountain in both Albania and North Macedonia. You”ll be able to read more about that in our December blog.

View from mount Crn Kamen

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