While close to Gramsh (the one near Elbasan) we visited the Kanioni i Holtës. A very nice canyon (again..) in Albania. After exploring the canyon we went to look for a place to stay for the night, and ended up near Poroçan. The area is not rich in nice wild-camp spaces, so it took some time and distance to cover before we succeeded to find a nice spot just after sunset. Nice enough to stay an extra day to do some laundry, general relaxation and for me to have an opportunity to take a spin on the bike.
The area is alpine enough: peaks up to 1200-1300 masl and only dirt tracks. These tracks are constructed in the typical Albanian way I might say, now that I have been in the country for a longer time. These tracks, suitable for 4×4’s or brave Albanians with 4×2, are carved out of the mountain slopes and are almost without exception higher on the slopes, far away from the rivers. Tunnelling or bridging is avoided as much as possible. My starting point this time is near the Poroçan Hydro-electricity installation at an altitude of 521 masl according to WGS84, in this case the most accurate guess. I decided to follow the track to Poroçan. The village itself has seen better days. Still, there is a sort of medical post and a school building. Some men are sitting at the local cafe, talking and drinking coffee. A few weeks ago I was told that you can measure the capacity of a village by the size of it’s church. Now, I heard about this in an area of Orthodox religion and this area seems to be more Islamic oriented. Nevertheless, Poroçan does not have a religious building at all. Thus, following this logic, it is an indication that not much people will be living here. Myself, I would have expected that the capacity of a village would be measured on the amount of arable land, but I guess truth will be that both can be used to estimate the number of inhabitants.
I chose to cycle up the slope from the village, but soon I started to think that this might be the wrong slope to conquer. The average climb rate was somewhere in between 20 and 30%, with the usual loose rocks. In lowest gear ans such conditions it is a challenge to keep track and go forward at he same time. Better turn around then and find a more enjoyable track going up.
Back in Poroçan I decided to follow the river bed instead. It was interesting enough. The river bed is used as a bypass for trucks: the dirt track that runs through Poroçan is not wide enough to accommodate these. Then I came across a Bailey Bridge. The trucks were also not allowed to use the Bailey bridge because of load limit. So, here too, a bypass is used and the trucks drive trough the river.
There are still many of these bridges found in Albania, I guess Donald Bailey would be proud. Because of Albania’s communist past I kind of expected it to be a Russian version – if they exist – but close inspection reveals that it is a “Mark II” bridge, so it must be an original British one. These bridges originate from the second world war but these bridges are so simple, modular, robust etc. that they fit very well in Albania. I remember that my father, while in military service, also build these bridges in the Engineer Regiment.
I followed the river bed In Easterly direction and came across a flimsy suspension bridge for pedestrian use with old wooden floor panels and concrete reinforcement wire used as railing.
Further upstream the valley splits up in three directions. Because I already noticed a track going up the mountain, I decided to go for that one. From up there I expected the view to be great. On top of that, my GPS indicated that I could make a small round course higher on the mountain, so I made that my goal to reach. Almost there, I came across a bulldozer that was improving the track somewhat; yes, it’s more level, but ah, it’s also much more loose now..
I succeeded to make it to my earlier set goal, and concluded that I chose well by doing the small round course counter clockwise. That way I had the difficult single track while riding down.
From there, the rest of the tour was going back the way I came, with the opportunity to explore the other valleys. I decided to ride a short distance into one other valley and came across yet another but even older looking suspension bridge for pedestrian use.
Because daytime was running short I decided to go back to the van without much more exploration, allowing me to enjoy the last rays of sun while taking a shower. Mind you, when the sun is away, it is quite cold up here.