Arguably the most remarkable time we had in Albania, was during our visit to the Divjake Karavaste National Park, in Central Albania, around 50km down the coast of Durrës. It is named after the Karavasta Lagoon, the biggest lagoon in Albania and one of the biggest one in the Medditeraneans. We didn’t really know that, when we came there. In fact we were cycling the whole day and it was already getting dark, when we decided to head to that “forrest next to the water” (according to our map), in order to find a quiet place to camp. But on the way there, we already realized that that might harder than we thought. Left and right of the road, the land was mostly covered in foot-deep water, or there was no land visible at all. The walking ways through the forest were on 2m high plateaus, and after cycling many kilometers without finding a good place to camp, we were standing in front of the building of the park administration. There was still light on, but we were not sure as to what was the best to do. Wild camping in a National Park might be not so welcome, especially if we want to make a fire. But during the last kilometers there was no space to camp at all, and in front of the office there was a huge yard. We decided to ask in the office, and to our surprise, the park ranger directly showed us where we could camp, but also offered us to stay inside of the office with him. He also showed us a fireplace, helped us to collect firewood and gave us a little tour through the information centre with a 3D-map of the area. What we thought of as a lake, was actually a huge lagoon, seperated from the Adriatic Sea just by thin strip of sand. After going to toilet i took a peek around the building and there was suddenly a big bird standing in front of me! A second glance affirmed my impression: The bird standing in front of me was a Pelikan. And after talking to the guard, i also knew his name: Johnny. He is one of two Pelikans wich are living with the guards, because they couldn’t survive in the wild (Johnny has a damaged wing). They somehow function as the mascots of the national park, which is one of the biggest areas for the so called “Dalmatian Pelican”.
After making dinner at the fireplace and already freezing our toes of we decided to take the offer and sleep inside of the warm office. We shared some mandarines and after the videos about primitive fishing techniques changed into weird Cut-ups of wrestling matches, where you never see them actually fighting, we went to sleep. The next morning we met the whole crew of park rangers and could watch the pelicans being fed.
We tried to find out if it’s possible to go through the lagoon with the bikes, or if we have to go back to the road, and go around (a detour of a couple of kilometers). As far as i remember everyone we asked, discouraged us from going through the lagoon, but god knows why, we still cycled towards the thin strip of sand. I think we just wanted to have a look at it, if it’s possible. But after crossing several pits and one of my shoes already soaked in water, we were standing in front of the “road”, that was going along the sandstrip. It had some pits on it, but it also looked kind of okay. We thought that it can’t be much worse than the last couple of kilometers and thought to continue on that route. After all, we made it already so far. Going back would mean an even bigger detour, right?
But when we thought our day was over, we were wrong. Like i mentioned, we only had a couple of oranges with us and we were up since 7AM. We were really hungry. But it took us another 10km to the first town. And the road, wich was labeled a proper road according to our map, turned out to be maybe even worse then the path we just took over the lagoon. Just minus the pits. In addition there were a herd of 100 sheeps and cows in front of us, not wanting to go out of their way or a little bit faster. It was almost dark already, my feet were getting really cold, because they were completely wet, btu we had to be patient because of the sheeps. After we finally made it to a town, we found that there were indeed houses, but that was it. No shop, no restaurant, no nothing. So we cycled another 15 km till we were finally in a town with a restaurant. The owner already waved us from the side of the road and we happily went in. After we were seated, we asked for the menu and he explained us that they only have drinks. Although the sign over the door said “restaurant” and “fast food”. After this dissapointment, a person we met outside brought us 30m down the road, to another restaurant. I was already suspicious and thinking to maybe not take my backpack up, but Hsiang-Hsin said they HAVE TO have something. So i locked my bike and took my backpack. But when i went up the stairs i heard the owner explaining that the kitchen is already closed! Even our beggings to let us just use the kitchen and let us cook for ourselve were not given in to. We had to stick to cold food from the market across.
Actually this tough day still got an happy end: After eating the cold meal with cold feet we went to find a proper camping space. But we couldn’t find anything fitting. Everything was muddy or fenced off. We resorted to ask a man if we could camp in his garden. He didnt speak any english, but he asked us inside, and there was this super hot stove, and we didnt want to leave anymore. His wife served us a warm meal and even though we were not really hungry anymore, we were still so grateful for waaarm food! Then their son arrived with the car, seemingly they just called him to translate, but he turned out to also don’t speak english, so they called someone on the phone who then translated for us. Turned out, they had an unused room in the backyard , were we could stay for the night. Thank you for that!