• Simon Lane

Corfu, Greece. OK, technically it's not Albania, but its where our Balkan chapter started. We took a ferry from Corfu to Sarande, Albania.

Next stop: Himare, Albania (pronounced him-ar-ah). Home to the Greek myth of the Chimera, with which it shares its name. Quite the hidden gem.

Vlore, further north from Himare. Home of incredible lamb chops, sunsets, and the toepocalypse. Gjirokaster was chronologically inbetween, but it gets its own post.

"I don't think you're ready for this feta"

"We're on a mission from God!" Blues Brothers spotted in Tirana

Surveillance equipment at The House Of Leaves, Tirana. A museum showcasing the surveillance state that existed under Enver Hoxcha and communist rule.

And last, but not least, a rogue tortoise roaming a restaurant in Shkoder.

Tortoises are wild and plentiful in Albania. We have saved several from busy roads, but that doesn't stop them from going wherever they damn well please. Did you know the collective noun is a creep of tortoises? Tells you everything you need to know.

  • Simon Lane

Berat, Albania

We are six months in to a year-long sabbatical and, at this point, we're so far behind on editing photos, posting and whatnot, that we decided to start in the middle by presenting the current stuff. We will also do posts about the previous locations and footage as well (we have a truckload of photos/videos from prior places to sort...) The aim is to create posts that move backwards and forwards in time, because its not as fun always writing in a lagged/past-tense capacity.

So we'll endeavour to label posts "present day" versus "happened a few months ago" etc. you get the idea. We'll put it in some kind of order eventually eh.

So without further ado, this is "present day" footage from Berat in central Albania:

View of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church and Kokovesh mountain range from Berat Castle

Southfacing view of the adjacent hillside village Gorice from Berat Castle lookout

In Albania, everything is drive through. Zuccinis, honey, whatever you need. Pull up beside someone sitting by the road and they'll sell you just about anything through the window.

East-facing view over Berat new-town from the Castle. In the background is Tomorit Mountain, a sacred site for local Muslim pilgramages.

Each town/city we have visited in Albania so far has been distinctly different. One explanation for this given by a local tour guide is that under Enver Hoxha and communist rule ('44-'92), Albanians seldom traveled beyond their villages. They were very poor, worked all the time, and didn't have cars until the reopening in '92. Travel outside of one's village was only when necessary (family weddings and funerals were exceptions). And if you were trying to leave Albania? Well, that could get you shot at the border.

Thankfully the country is free from that tyranny now, and despite lingering side-effects of communism in its administrations, is as hopeful and budding a young economy as you might find. Berat old town is nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Windows" and is heritage listed under UNESCO status. Albanians are incredibly generous, practical, and thoughtful, and Beratians (in particular our guesthouse hosts) were a prime example of this.

Visiting Osumi Canyon and Nearby Waterfalls

A short drive by Furgon south-east of Berat brought us to to the site below. Furgons are the small mini-vans/busses that take most of the inter-city traffic. They are sometimes chartered (in the case of this day trip), and sometimes have a/c...

The region gets as hot as low 40s in summer, but this little lagoon was freezing cold! Water here travels all the way from the Albanian Alps, partially underground.

Osumi Canyon from lookout (east)

Osumi Canyon from lookout (west)

Swimming Through the Canyon

Further downstream is a part of the Canyon suitable for swimming and kayaking. Thankfully the water is not as cold here (different water source) and we were able to swim and walk about a kilometer before turning back.

Back at the entrance was a small shack-like taverna where we finished the days activities with a late lunch, cold beers, and great raki.

  • Simon Lane

It's been a while between posts, so it is high time we broke the drought. We have been on the road since January and can't wait to share some of the wonderful experiences we've had.

This can, however, sometimes be tricky. Trying to fit in time to rest and communicate while juggling all aspects of nomadic life (most of them routine and fairly boring) can certainly be a challenge. We have a newfound admiration for travel bloggers who have been doing this for years, and even during the pandemic.

Coming home to Australia after two years of being separated from most of our beloved family and friends was always going to be emotional, and we didn't get to see nearly half of those we had hoped to. A lot of this was due to covid. For instance we didn't make it to NZ at all because of the border closures and quarantine restrictions at the time. Other times it was classic 'Straya serving up a "once in a 500-year flood" (more than once in some places). And other times just plain old health issues that required time, money, and a tolerance for tedium to oversee.

Despite this we were, and are, ever so grateful for having had the ability and opportunity to make it back and to see many of you. Being back together again was exactly the medicine we needed and in a time of so much global struggle and suffering we realized precisely why human connection is so important. It was time to put the phone away and sit down together for a cuppa, so we did.

Additionally, while visiting some deadset legends in Cairns (you know who you are) we undertook a bucket list item and learned how to SCUBA dive on the Great Barrier Reef. This entailed completing our PADI Open Water dive course with a crew of quality fellow grasshoppers and left us, surprisingly, with a great sense of national pride, as well as renewed admiration for the oceans. But Aussie or not, we would both highly recommend it to anyone willing and able to take the plunge (no pun intended) if you are even the slightest bit curious.