When I was 14 my dad pastored a church in a tiny town in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The church was on the main street and the parsonage was right next door. One day in the spring I was out in the front yard and two French girls on a motorcycle came by waving a fistful of envelopes looking for the "post offeeece." I recall thinking that it looked like they were on the ultimate adventure - two foreign girls exploring the countryside. So much of my young life was spent daydreaming about traveling to faraway places. I still have those daydreams and lucky for me, my real life consists of so many of these adventures.
Trudy and I flew from Milan to Corfu on Tuesday. After checking a hundred different ways to get to the Albanian beaches, turns out that Corfu is closest, with cheap flights and a 45 minute ferry trip across to Saranda, Albania. Many people asked me why on earth I wanted to come to Albania. I didn't have any really great answer, just that I had seen pictures of the beaches and they looked cool. For me, that's as good an excuse as any. That, and I committed to come help out at the pre-European championships in Macedonia starting in about a week, so I would be close by. I've said for so many years that hang gliding takes me to places I would never ever think to go otherwise.
When I close my eyes and try to come up with the greatest adventure I can imagine, it always involves a foreign country (of course), usually one where I can't speak a single word of the language. For me, the ultimate trip involves a hot, dry rural part of some Mediterranean country, a beat up old jeep and a lot of exploring around the countryside.
Trudy and I picked up a soft-top jeep to check out some areas outside the town of Saranda where we're staying. There's an UNESCO world heritage sight about a hour drive from here where sometime in the 1920's I think, an Italian archaeologist uncovered an ancient village completely overrun by vegetation. The village is called Butrint and was settled by exiles fleeing the fall of Troy. In the center is a castle and it's a cool place to explore - literally cool because there are lots of trees and the paths around the village are all shaded - a very nice break from the heat here.
The next day we made a second attempt to find another place that is supposed to be interesting. It's called the Blue Eye and it's a 150 foot deep pool created by a natural spring. We've now tried and failed to get there twice! After visiting Butrint the first day, we set out for the Blue Eye coming from the south. When we got tired of pot hole filled dirt roads and the sun beating down on us in the jeep, we thought we'd give its another try the next day. After a little lunch and swim in the Aegean, we tried from the west to find the Blue Eye. This country is much more mountainous than I knew. The roads that appear on our paper map and even on Google maps on my iPhone are very few and far between. I suppose because that's all they've got, the roads on the map appear to be highways, maybe not 4 lane divided highways, but at least paved roads. Ha! After an hour or so making our way deeper and deeper into the mountains, our highway became dirt road. We followed it for a while. The landscape here is very Mediterranean - mostly rocky with small vegetation, if any. So, we could see our little dirt road switchbacking up the side of the barren hills and presumably eventually bringing us to the Blue Eye. But, I'm pretty sure we were both having the same silent concerns about the low fuel level, deserted road, and the late hour, so we made the decision that I'm sure my mother would be pleased with, to turn around and work our way back home again. We made it back into the last little village we passed on our way out, sweaty and sun baked, in search of a white chocolate Magnum. A small cafe/bar in the center of town was full of small round Albanian men who must have found it funny that we had not a single word of Albanian to try to ask for ice cream.
We never saw anything terribly notable out there, but the whole trip made me think of the French girls on the motorcycle and the fact that sometimes I get to live my best dreams. Funny thing is that my travel addiction gets worse with every trip. Like a drug, it takes more and more exotic locations to get the same gratification....soon, I'm going to have to start looking into space travel ;-).
Here's Trudy with a big announcement at the Butrint amphitheater.
Some local traffic on the way to find the Blue Eye.
One of my favorite ferry crossings ever.
Selfie at Butrint.