Amazing Albania, Amazing People.

Oct. 24: Paddling the Adriatic Sea is challenging.  Leaving Ulcinj we hit turbulence. Wind. Waves and currents. Paddling three kms we round a penninsula and find calmer waters. Called The Great Beach, we paddle 12 kms in calm sea and wonderful rolling swells. 

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The swells change to breaking waves and we are forced further out into the sea. Getting around them is a challenge.  

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Waves break along this 12 km beach and we paddle at least 2 km from shore. We pass Bojana Island and enter Albania.  

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We cross into Albania and paddle by Velipoje. With no place to beach the kayak, we paddle further towards Shengjin. Calm waters but waves breaking on the shoreline keep us from taking a rest. By the time we get to Shengjin, we will have covered some 40 km, sitting in a kayak for 5.5 hours; flat bum. Lol. 

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We arrive in Shengjin and locate the port police to check into Albania. They are nice and helpful, but their  computer systems are old and we cannot complete the paper work. 

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Albania is different. A lot of litter and things are not similar as to Europe.

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We paddle further and head out. After an hour we realize that we cannot make it. Wind is increasing as well as the waves, and paddle back to the port. One hour out, two hours back. We are exhausted. Into the Shengjin port once again, Nikola - riding his bike - stops and says he will store the kayaks. We follow him. 

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Nikola takes us to a yacht. He ties up our kayaks and offers us a place to stay. We then later share a wonderful dinner with his lovely family.  

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Our first time and first day in Albania is wonderful. We meet people who care and are kind. We meet people who are willing to help others. We meet people who are like everyone else in Europe. They want to work. They want to create a future for their children. And, they have a dream; to build a new house.  

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A lovely meal, a lovely family. Albania has so many hidden gems: Nikola is one of them.  I was so impressed with this family. Albania’s strength is the people. Without a doubt. 

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It is sad to see so much value being discarded. Maybe not enough money to maintain things. Europe is different. But Albania is going to change for the good. Just a matter of time. 

Oct. 25: Up early. Great sleep. Nikola took us to a place for coffee and then we came back and packed. The weather is bad. Gusting winds of 10 meters per second. Not good. We ask a local man to drive us to Durres. He agrees and we load our kayaks.  

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We pack the kayaks as good as we can and set off to Durres. I say good bye to the police.  

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Police can be friendly. Mark, the policeman, had spent several weeks training in London. 

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We arrive in Durres and go through several stages of getting our passport stamped. It takes two hours. Finally through, we board a bus and head off to Tirana. A short bus ride and we are here. What a gorgeous city. 

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Tonight I get to take a long shower and shave. Wow. It’s been weeks since the last time.  

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