One of the 23 different waterfalls in Slunj, Croatia.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Slunj, Croatia.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Well that was lucky!

When we flew from Dar es Salaam to Rome, we were forced by Qatar Airways to purchase a flight out of Albania. It's a long story, which you can read here, but essentially it meant that we were out of pocket €120 ($177 CAD, $141 USD) for nothing.

I've registered a formal complaint with Qatar Airways, because I think the manager in charge at the check in desk (not a Qatar Airways employee) was wrong both in his interpretation of the rules, and the way they handled the situation.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Staying in Berat another week

Our host lady Susana doesn't speak any English, so we do most of the communicating of anything important through her son using WhatsApp. 

So when I made the dentist appointment for 11:30am yesterday morning, I let him know because although he had given me the dentist's name and number, I didn't know where the office was. He said "oh, my mother will take you there".

And so that's what happened.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Off to the dentist!

The other day, I noticed a problem with a dental bridge that I have had in mouth since 2009. It was done in Chetumal, Mexico. So it's lasted 12 problem free years, which is better than I would have expected.

But something has happened with one of the anchor teeth. It's not causing me any pain, but I know there is something not right. So I contacted our host here at the Airbnb to see if he could recommend someone here in Berat to have a look at it.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

More great views around Berat, Albania

As was forecast, we woke up to another beautiful blue sky day. And the temperature is also rising as they said it would with an expected high of 18C (65F). That's near perfect hiking weather in our minds so we packed a lunch and set off across the river and up a hill with a different view.

The hill across the river is actually higher than the one that the castle is on.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Beautiful day to visit a castle with a view

Berat Castle isn't really a castle as such. It's more of a fortress... a walled village on top of a hill, and many people still live within the fortress. There's quite a bit to see, and at one time there were over 20 churches up there. There are also quite a few guest houses. Most of the buildings inside the fort were built in the 13th century, although there is evidence of occupation that goes back to 200 BC.

We were surprised that they actually charge a 300 lek ($3.60 CAD. $2.85 USD) per person entrance fee, but it's only applicable if you drive up and enter through the main gate. I had read that if you walk up using a path that the locals use to get from the castle to the city and back, then it's totally free. Of course we were going to hike up anyhow, so that's the route we took!

Friday, March 26, 2021

A beautiful day in Berat, Albania

We had two busy days in a row, so we didn't have anything strenuous planned on Thursday. We relaxed for the morning, and then went for a walk around town.

Our cottage is located right in the center of town, and there are a lot of walks we can do right from town so the rental car might end up parked the entire time we're here. It doesn't seem to make sense to pay for a car rental when the vehicle is just parked, but there is some logic to what we're doing.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Castles, hiking, and gorgeous scenery. What more could you want?

Wednesday was a travel day as we made our way south from Tirana to the city of Berat. It's only about 100 kms (60 miles) if you take the fastest route, but even the fastest route is still about an hour and forty minutes.

But we had some things we wanted to see and do along the way, plus we wanted to take a more scenic route on some less traveled roads.

Great Ocean Road: A fascinating road trip in the world

Great Ocean Road is one of the most famous road trips in the world. The route of 243 kilometres will captivate you with the culmination, of course, of the 12 Apostles. There may be only 8 left to date, but they are just as impressive. Along the way, you will enjoy the Pacific Ocean and surfers trying to tame the huge waves. Also, in the area, you can do activities such as cycling, water sports, horseback riding and a helicopter flight over the area of ​​12 Apostles.

The road trip to Great Ocean Road is unique because the variety of nature is so huge that you can see rainforests, ocean surfers, wildlife and waterfalls all the way to its end. The choices in activities are tremendous and cover all tastes. You can go hiking, mountain biking and see museums or cultural heritage sites. You also can see ostriches, koalas and kangaroos and taste nice seafood and good wine in some of its depots. Great Ocean Road is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne city centre.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Day trip to the coastal city of Durres, Albania

We woke up to blue sky and sunshine on Tuesday morning, and that kind of weather is supposed to stay with us for a while now here in Albania!

So we hopped in the car, put our sunglasses on, and headed for the nearby coastal city of Durres.

Durres is Albania's second largest city next to Tirana. Tirana is 500,000, and Durres is about 175,000. But because it's located only 35 kms (22 miles) away, it's pretty built up the whole drive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Despite some issues, we still really like the city of Tirana, Albania

The rain finally stopped after lunch yesterday, but it was around 2:30pm before we felt it was clearing enough to risk going for a walk. We planned a route that would take us along the small Lana River that flows through the city.

Our maps.me app showed that there were walking paths on both sides of the river. And in the downtown core, we knew that was the case. But when we arrived at the section of the river that is closest to our apartment, it was disappointing.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Traffic circle entertainment

It was a rain day yesterday, and we only left the apartment to go downstairs to the grocery store that is located next door.

Fortunately, we have an unlimited supply of internet... and some entertainment right from our balcony. This area has some road construction going on, and when you couple that with the fact that there aren't very many parking spots it makes for some pretty chaotic traffic. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

I guess it just doesn't bother most people

Saturday's forecast was for overcast and scattered showers. That's supposed to be the way it is through to Monday now. But then clearing and warming up through the week.

It's so nice having an unlimited supply of internet. So we spent yesterday morning researching where we want to go from here. There's a lot we want to see in this area, and the area north of here, but those parts of the country are going to be better in a couple of weeks time, so we are going to head south and stay away from the mountains until mid April when the hiking will be better there.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Our first day trip in Albania

While we are itching to get up into the mountains to do some hiking, there is still too much snow up there. The temperatures are definitely trending upwards though, and we'll get there eventually. In the meantime, we are sticking closer to the coast.

The capital city of Tirana where we are currently staying is located only 35 kms (22 miles) from the coast. And it is even closer to the start of the mountains. It's such a great location. The only issue we are noticing is traffic getting in and out of the city itself.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Could we live here?

Thursday was pretty much a day of rest, although we did get out to pick up a few more supplies. Now that we are back to making most of our own meals, there are a lot of kitchen preparation items that we need to keep with us.

And I need a haircut, but I'm not going to go out of my way to get one. We walked by two different barber shops yesterday, but one was more of a salon, and the other already had someone in the chair with a couple of people waiting.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Like Vancouver. But far cheaper, and with nicer weather

We were supposed to check out of our central Tirana apartment at 10:00am, but when I sent our host a message to confirm, he said we could stay until 11:00am. Which was nice, because we couldn't check into our new place on the outskirts until after 3:00pm.

At 11:00am, we locked all of our things into the car and headed off to do some more exploring. There is a beautiful big park located only a kilometer or so south, so we set off to check it out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The city of Tirana, and first impressions of Albania

Albania's population is about 2.8 million people, and about 500,000 of them live here in the capital city of Tirana. The country itself is only slightly larger than the state of Vermont!

Yesterday was our first day in Albania, and if the first day is any indication, we are going to LOVE Albania! Now of course it's only been one day, but so far it comes across as a mixture between Turkey and Romania, and we loved both of those countries.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Arrived in Albania... country #41 for us!

When we left you off in yesterday's blog post we had arrived in Doha, Qatar for a two and a half hour layover.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about our luggage. We are traveling with a small backpack each, and a carry on size suitcase each. When we checked in for our original flight in Dar es Salaam, they told us they were marking our checked bags to include the flight to Tirana on a different carrier. I didn't think that was possible, and that we would have to pick them up in Rome, but they insisted it would work.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The plan is coming together, but not without some hiccups...

Writing this from FCO (Rome) Airport in Italy. It is now Monday afternoon at around 2:00pm local time. We are here waiting for our connecting flight to Tirana, Albania later this afternoon.

When we left our apartment in Dar es Salaam, we had to be out by 11:00am, but our flight wasn't until 9:30pm. So we just went to the airport and hung out. We took an Uber taxi from the house, and we couldn't believe how cheap it was. For the 12 km (7.5 mile) trip, it cost 10,500 shillings ($5.65 CAD, $4.50 USD). I thought they made a mistake, but our host had told us it was the cheapest way.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

I'm not normally a negative person

But today, we are quite happy to be negative!

On Saturday, a mere 28 hours after being tested, we received an email and a text message from the National Public Health Laboratory here in Tanzania. 

We are NEGATIVE.

The very official looking certificate was dated March 13th so we are well within the 96 hour window given by our airline for compliance with their rules.

So... we are definitely off to Albania!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

So now we wait

Yesterday was Covid PCR test day. 

We are flying to Albania on Sunday evening, and although the country itself does not require any sort of testing as a requirement for entry, we are flying with Qatar Airways and they require a negative Covid PCR test certificate that has been done within 96 hours of boarding the plane.

So we made appointments to have the tests done at the nearby Muhumbili University Hospital. You book the day, but not the time. They said they take samples between 8am and 5pm, and we wanted to show up right at 8am.

Friday, March 12, 2021

It's better to keep your expectations low so that you're not disappointed

The problem with spending six days in Dar es Salaam is that it's about four days too many! There's really not a lot worth seeing, and of course it's so hot that it's not really enjoyable just to go out and wander around. Which is too bad, because there are interesting things to see just watching people get on with their daily lives.

So, we force ourselves to go out and get some exercise. On Thursday, we walked over to the Botanical Gardens. Ruth had read that it wasn't anything special, and that it would have been better after rainy season. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Visit to the hospital

We woke up yesterday morning with no power in our little apartment. So far, in our experience in Tanzania, the power goes out regularly, so we didn't think anything of it. After an hour or so, I went outside and noticed that the air conditioning was running in the apartment next to us!

So I sent a message to our host, and he was on it right away. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Back in civilization!

Our main reason for being here in Dar es Salaam so early is that we are flying with Qatar Airways this coming Sunday, and the airline themselves require a negative PCR test done within 96 hours prior to boarding your flight. There's not a lot of accurate detailed information available online regarding where to get the test, or how much it costs. So we wanted to get here with lots of time to spare in order to figure things out.

The government has a website to register for booking your test, but all it does is list the different centers that take the samples. The samples are then sent to the main government laboratory for analysis, and your results are posted online within 24 hours. Or at least that's the way things are supposed to work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

You never know what to expect on a travel day

I've said it before... travel days are always interesting. It's probably the reason I never sleep very well the night before a travel day, You just never know what's going to happen or what's going to go wrong. And sometimes (it does happen occasionally!) we are surprised when everything goes according to plan!

We were up early because we had prearranged with our taxi guy in Tanga to pick us up at 7:00am. Sure enough, he arrived at about 6:50am, so the day was off to a good start.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

We are off to the big city

We are up early this Monday morning because our taxi guy is picking us up at 7:00am!

On Sunday, we walked into town to what we thought was where we could buy tickets for today's bus ride. But it turns out that sometime in the last four months that particular bus company moved, and I could not find any current information online. But, we asked some questions and found that we had to head another kilometer to a different bus line.

Once we get into our new motorhome, what's the plan?

Of course it's too soon to make any firm plans, and whatever we end up doing will depend totally on what time of year it is. We know that we will have maximum three months in Albania, so that brings us up to June 15th or so. With any luck at all, hopefully we will be allowed into Germany by then so that we can pick up our new motorhome.

If that happens at that time, our plan is to head north!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The highlights of Tanga

Despite the heat, we figured we had better get out and see the highlights of the city. We thought about riding the bikes over to the beach area, but while it's a slight downhill the whole way there, it would be a slight uphill the whole way back! 

So we decided to walk the 7 kms (4.3 miles) one way, find somewhere to have a meal, and then take a taxi back.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Biding our time

We came to Tanzania specifically to hike Kilimanjaro, and we honestly figured we could take up the balance of two months here without much problem. And that is certainly doable... if you have lots of money to spend.

But doing Tanzania on a tight budget is not that enjoyable. Now that we have our flights to Albania booked for March 14th, we feel like we are just biding our time until we can get out of here.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Paying for our new motorhome

Sometimes the logistics of making a big purchase in a far away country can be a little overwhelming. 

I remember when we bought our truck and camper in Australia how we jumped through hoops trying to follow all the right procedures. After all, we were physically in Mexico at the time... and we were buying an Australian vehicle by paying a Swiss bank from our Canadian bank. 

And, we didn't want to get taken advantage of by the big banks in Canada. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Well, there's that mess sorted out... for now...

Unimpressed with KLM. 

I was double checking our flight times and I went into "manage bookings" on the KLM website yesterday morning. I happened to notice that the first leg of our flights from Dar es Salaam to Amsterdam was showing as "Cancelled". 

Hmph. I hadn't received any email from KLM telling me they had cancelled my flights. I wonder when I would have found out if I hadn't been checking for something else.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Travel days are always interesting

We were up at 6:30am Monday morning.

There are no "scheduled" buses that run between Lushoto and Tanga. We had asked around a few days earlier, and it seems that beginning at 7:00am or so, they depart every ten minutes "or so". Considering it's a distance of 168 kms (104 miles), we thought that was an awfully lot of buses, but it turned out to be accurate based on our experience.