Driving through and camping at Dhermi

Albania has always been a mystery to me. So close and yet so unknown. I realize that it all depends on the economy and politics of a country but it is somehow strange that Albania has the same beaches as Croatia (They are one above the other bordering the Adriatic sea) and yet the world seems to know only Croatia as a summer destination, totally ignoring Albania.. Or is Albania ignoring the rest of the world?

Nowadays with globalization all over us and people travelling freely almost everywhere it is somehow considered a luxury to find a nice virgin spot that no one has yet tagged, marked, checked in at or told the world about. Today it is harder than ever to make a photo without capturing someone else there too… Perhaps this is the actual reason why the selfies got invented and became so popular. Living in a digital era, the focus now lies on being original, fun and somehow to manage to get envied by others, strictly positively of course. Today making the perfect landscape/landmark photo is a job for the professionals who might have already made that great shot in the previous era when cameras had films in them… For us, all the others, taking a photo nowadays feels a bit like a signature, a statement and a proof saying “me too” or “been there, done that”.

So, having in mind all this together with my inexplicable inner drive to try to see as many new places as possible – 4 friends including me decided to go camping in Albania. We desperately wanted to go by car so that we can have our independence and go and discover places that no one has seen yet. So we did. We went by car and we entered Albania through Macedonia. 

This could be the right moment for me to admit that I have once before been in Albania. It was 2 or 3 years ago when a group of 7 friends decided that we should celebrate New Year’s Eve in Durrës – a touristic place on the seaside of Albania. We were then again travelling by car. The weather on our way to there was terrible, we somehow managed to survive, to buy and put on the car’s chains on the border with Macedonia or they wouldn’t let us pass without them. We also managed to help an Albanian guy put just one chain on his old Mercedes while his wife was keeping the interior of the Mercedes warm. We then drove through white, iced, steep and well-curved roads which were extremely difficult to differentiate between the horizon and the sky. We survived alright. It’s just that now that I think about it, this is one of my two car experiences when I actually got scared of “ a white death”.

Anyway, as it turned out, that New Year’s Eve 2 or 3 years ago only made me want to go back to Albania and see what it is like out there in the summer. So I did. This year, during the most touristic month of August 2017.

The roads

While still on the subject of driving I have to admit that it is only now that I finally understood what my dad meant when he said: “Be very careful there, Albanians learned how to drive literally just yesterday”. This is what he said to me and I just smiled then. I also literally got the meaning of his words just now while driving from Elbasan, through Vlorë, to Himarë and back, Porto Palermo and finally to Saradnë where we caught a ferry to sail to Corfu, Greece.

The thing is that the roads are ok. They too are relatively new and in a good condition. During most of our route, there were also two lanes which I would suppose should cause absolutely no worries for two cars to pass each other, going in the opposite directions.   My greatest concern came with the fact that all the cars that were driving in the opposite direction of ours, actually drove in the middle of the two lanes of the way too curved roads. My second great concern was that the cars behind me overtook us always while in the middle of a 180 degrees angle turn. I understand that it is much easier to overtake when in such a great curve but without knowing if and what is happening on the same road, on that very same turn just moving in the other direction is somewhat not only suicidal to me but also irresponsible and generally stressful. Call me over exaggerating – I don’t mind.

The camp

We stayed at Sea Turtle Camp which I found through the internet and “booked” on Facebook messenger. When we got there, the very owner was at the reception and in perfect English, he told us, in brief, the history of the lands where now the camp is situated. We were accommodated in two tents under a fig tree with real beds inside that were pretty comfortable. The only downside was that there wasn’t much space in between the tents, so literally, the person snoring in the tent next to mine was somehow closer to me that the person sleeping in the same tent as I was. Apart from that, I believe it was a pretty good deal. For as little as €10, you get an already set up tent with a bed and clean sheets on it, clean WC and showers with almost warm water, breakfast, and dinner.

One should note that this specific camping is more suitable for travellers with backpacks rather than a car trunk full of camping equipment. It was a bit of a surprise to us that we could neither set up our own “kitchen” between our tents nor sit in front of them after going to the beach…

The beaches

As much as I have seen Albania has a combination of long sandy beaches suitable for families and small rocky beaches where one can go snorkelling. Of course on all the beaches we discovered there were other discoverers there already with their umbrellas and fridge boxes… There were also bars on every single beach we went to. Nothing fancy, just a place with a bit of shadow offering cold water and some refreshments. Just so you know.

To sum it all up

  • Some people – some English, working wifi, low prices, clean sea waters
  • Mad driving and garbage along the roads (as caring for the environment is considerate a duty to the poor only).
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