Day 51. 81km. Pac – Bicaj

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Albania, Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Who to trust? Who to believe? After an uneventful cycle, I found myself taking down my tent in the dark, and listening to stories of rebels and stabbings in the area in front of a little electric heater in a small room in the town hall building. I didn’t sleep all night, lying on the floor of the café opposite the town hall with the café owner next to me to stop break-ins. Ouch.

Tent position in Bicaj before all the stress

Tent position in Bicaj before all the stress

The day had a happy start, listening to the call to prayer from the mosque directly behind me in my tent at 5am. I was excited all over again camping in front of a mosque.

It was cold, dropping to 0C at night, with some ice on my tent. I started my cycling briefly above the clouds before plunging down into them, where I was most of the day.

My perch above the clouds

My perch above the clouds

On the road to Kukës

On the road to Kukës

On the road to Kukës

On the road to Kukës

My tent stood nicely on the lawns of the town hall in the evening (as instructed by a local). On returning to the tent in the dark, after a stop in the local café, I saw a light circling the tent. The creepy conversation using 3 words, sign language and drawing began. The word ‘problem’ was common, the sign for a throat being slit, a bike chain being cut and the bike being taken away, the rubbing of fingers indicating money, and again, ‘problem’. The guy watched me as I took down my tent in the dark, and moved everything into the town hall building, for which he had a key.
Then it got very weird. There was a ‘problem’ between Bicaj and Peshkopi (where I was headed). Men in balaclavas, slitting throats and stealing. There was no ‘problem’ in the direction of Kosovo. I should sleep in the town hall. That would be safe. He would leave me there, and let me out at 5am. Leaving later than that would cause a ‘problem’ with the officials at the town hall. At this point, I was really getting worried.
‘I’m leaving.’
I got up and lugged bike and luggage out the door, and across the street to the café. My friend followed. I should not mention anything, he said. There are spies in the café.

I was allowed to sleep on the floor in the café. I asked them to help me catch a bus to Peshkopi the next day. They seemed to understand, and made a call to arrange it.

When all the customers had left, the café owner set up his bed on the couch in the café. He has a house just across the way, but sleeps here because of thieves. He told me to keep my wallet and passport in the sleeping bag – just to be safe.
The café owner had been good to me. He had also been friendly with Mr ‘Problem’. The customers in the café all seemed nice people. In fact, everyone in Albania has been nice. Was there reason for worry? I was most worried about Mr. Problem cutting me off at the pass the next day.

My night was spent thinking on what to do the next day, and how to stow my valuables as safely as possible on the bus trip.

  1. Alessandro says:

    Well – nothing untoward happened. But it must be VERY stressful when you get such opposing vibes. Be careful with your possessions, but at the same time, don’t let this ruin your trip (easy for me to say – comfortably seated here at home 🙂 ). From reading other ride reports (motorcyling rides) in that area, chances are that all will be well.

  2. ton smeets says:

    Hoi Matthew

    Heftig om dit nu te horen. Reis je nu weer alleen ?
    Hopelijk blijft het bij dit incident en ga je snel weer hele leuke en lieve mensen ontmoeten.
    Vertrouw erop dat dit niet meer zal gebeuren en ga weer gauw in je droom geloven.

    Vanaf nu weer heel veel fietsplezier gewenst.

    Gr. je trouwe volger ( achter de computer ) Ton

    • Hoi Ton.
      Ja. Het was geen leuke ervaring, maar, als ik nu terug kijk, het ging alles goed.
      (Dit gebeurde een paar dagen terug, ik post nu met een vertraging van een paar dagen.. Ik ben nu veilig en gelukkig in Macedonië)

  3. Why you go through Albania?
    It is worst country in Europe,with highest level of kidnapping,murder,rape….?
    Albanians are well known as organ traders.

  4. felixxbln says:

    The Albanian men live in a arachaic social order, for decades preserved by the pseudo-socialist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha. At some place there should be blood revenge as a principle of conflict resolution.As a foreign cyclist you are line an alien, which they don’t know to react at.

    • Most of the people I met were very friendly and interested in me and my trip. I’m glad no blood was spilt.. 🙂 I think I just met a strange person, which are to be found in all countries.

  5. Kittl says:

    Ich verfolge deine Berichte jeden Tag mit Spannung und freue mich quasi mitreisen zu können.
    Was dir nun geschehen ist habe ich aber nicht ganz verstanden. Mein Englisch ist wahrscheinlich zu schlecht, aber ich lerne hier täglich. Hat dich jemand vorsorglich vor den Banden im Rathaus und dann im Café untergebracht oder bist du überfallen und beraubt worden? Was meinst du mit der ‘Problem’?
    Viel Glück und Gesundheit auf deinem weiteren Weg, ich warte schon mit Spannung auf deine weiteren Berichte.
    Gruß Kittl

    • Hallo Kittl.
      Der Typen hat gemeint, dass es zu gefährlich wäre draußen zu schlafen und hat mich zum Rathaus gebracht. Allerdings musste ich um 5 Uhr schon raus. Sonst gäbe ‘Problem’. Die Behörde im Rathaus würden Probleme machen. Auch auf dem Weg nach Peshkopi gäbs Probleme. Beräubungen etc.
      Ich fande es alles zu unheimlich und bin weggegangen – rüber zum café. Dort durfte ich schlafen. Der cafebesitzer schläft immer auch im Café wegens diebstahlgefahr.
      Alles ist aber gut geendet. Ich poste mit 3 Tage Verzögerung und bin jetzt sicher und glücklich in Mazedonien.

  6. Annie Wolterink says:

    TAKE CARE !!!

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn iPad

    > Op 4 nov. 2014 om 16:56 heeft het volgende geschreven:

  7. Doug Fannon says:

    Glad you are well and safely in Macedonia. Sitting here at my desk, I happened upon a new Philips US webpage – and low and behold look who’s face is emblazoned across the top!! It is you, is it not?

    I thoroughly enjoy your posts – they typically arrive at midday and offer a fabulous glimpse into a new corner of the globe.

    Thanks – Doug

  8. Kittl says:

    Ah so war das. Alles Gute weiterhin, sei wachsam!

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