The village of Ducaj near Boge, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Tirana Airport, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Porto, Portugal on June 25th!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Our Travel Insurance - HeyMondo

Many countries around the world are beginning to open up for summer travel. And if you are going to travel, you want to have travel insurance that covers you for Covid related problems.

I don't want this to sound like an advertisement, because it's not. As any of our regular readers know, I put a lot of effort into researching just about anything we do. It's not only so that we get a good deal, although that is certainly a priority. It's also so that things go smoothly and we have a good understanding of what to do when things don't go smoothly.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

We can't seem to get to where we want to go!

And I'm not just talking about Germany!

Although, while we're on the subject I'll give you an update on that problem. I had applied through the German Border Police for special permission to enter the country for 72 hours (the official "transit" time allowed) in order to pick up our motorhome and then drive directly to Poland where Canadian citizens are welcome.

Surprisingly, they got back to me within a couple of days. Unsurprisingly, it was denied. Going to pick up our motorhome in Germany is not an "essential" reason for entering the country, even though I would be coming from a country (Albania) that is not considered a country of risk by Germany.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

There is still lots of snow up here!

Most people come to this area in order to get to the village of Theth and Theth National Park. And there are only three ways to get to Theth. One is by hiking, and the other two require 4 wheel drive. 

It's a very remote area.

Unfortunately, that is changing.

Friday, May 28, 2021

First day out hiking in the Albanian Alps

Well, I had said yesterday that we didn't want to jump right into a big hike because we hadn't done one for a while.

And what did we do? We ended up doing 13 kms (8 miles)! But, it was only an elevation gain of about 360 meters (1,200') so it wasn't really that strenuous. Of course we have lots of pictures to show you!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Check out our home in the mountains for the next week...

When we first decided to come to Albania, it was party because of the photos I had seen of the Albanian Alps mountain range, and the hiking possibilities I could imagine existed there. But of course when we arrived here in March, there was still too much snow up in those mountains. 

So, we spent the last two months exploring the southern part of the country waiting for the roads to open up in the mountains. But we are here now, and it's everything we imagined it would be!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Now this is the kind of scenery we love!

Yesterday we took off for a drive up into the Albanian Alps. This northern mountain range stretches into both Montenegro and Kosovo and is also known as the Accursed Mountains. 

We had been told that there might still be snow up there, and some of the roads can be in bad condition so we didn't know exactly how far we would make it. But it turned out we could have gone further... we ran out of time though. Too many beautiful views to stop and admire.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The top 5 so far, and why

I follow the blog of Johnny Ward at One Step 4 Ward. He has been to every country in the world. Not only the 192 United Nations listed countries, but the ones that really are countries, but not necessarily recognized as such by other countries. That brings the total list up to 215.

He posted a list of all those countries on Facebook the other day, and asked readers how many they had been to, and what their favorites were. Of course that got me thinking about what our top five might be.

Monday, May 24, 2021

It's not every day you have lunch with a MIG jet fighter pilot

Well yesterday was an interesting day!

Remember I mentioned that we had a noise coming from the transmission of our rental car? Well on Friday, we did a switch and they gave us a temporary car until they can figure out what's going on with the other one. So we were talking to the guys at Go Rent Albania about the great time we've been having here, and Zeni suggests that we should have lunch together during our time in Shkodra. Of course we agreed. Then on Saturday, he called and invited us to his family home for lunch! He said we would have a real traditional Albanian experience. And boy, was he right!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Rozafa Castle in Shkodra, Albania

On Saturday, we walked over and then up to Rozafa Castle, also known as Shkodra Castle. 

The origins of the castle date to the 300 BC, and as with any structure that old, it has been added to and renovated several times over the last 2,400 years! But the thick walls will last for a long time yet.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

A few things to talk about today!

In no particular order of importance though, so we'll start with email notifications. Many of you (almost 400 of you!) are signed up to receive an email notification whenever we make a new post. Unfortunately, the powers that be at Google have decided to discontinue this service as of June, so we have made some changes so that you can continue to receive email notifications. 

I am manually transferring all the old subscriptions to the new service, but just in case, it would be a good idea to do it yourself.

Friday, May 21, 2021

First day in Shkodra

It was a mixed bag of weather on Thursday, our first day in the city of Shkodra. With a population of 135,000 people, Shkodra is the 5th largest city in Albania. Temperature about 20C (68F) but mostly cloudy with possible thunderstorms.

I had contacted the guys at Go Rent Albania about the transmission noise, and we made arrangements to send the car out for service. I followed one of the guys back to the office, and of course now the noise is gone! But they gave us another car and said they would drive the other one for a day and see if the problem returns. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Moving day, and possible good news regarding Europe

Let's talk about the possible good news first.

Our maximum three months in Albania will end around June 14th. There is a direct flight from Tirana, Albania to Dortmund, Germany on June 10th, and we want to be on it. That is only three weeks away.

Yesterday, the European Union agreed to increase the number of "safe" countries that can visit the EU as tourists. Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated. This list is expected to be updated by early next week at the latest. Albania's numbers are really low, and we are expecting (hoping?) that Albania will be on that list. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Albania continues to impress us...

I messed up our posting schedule, and you may have missed yesterday's post. If so, you can read it here...

Yesterday, we drove up into the mountains in behind Pogradec. We were looking for a way to get to Guri i Kamjes, a neat geological formation that sticks up from the surrounding hills. We could see it from a distance, but weren't sure what roads might take us there, and of course whether or not the roads might be passable without a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Dos and don’ts of traveling in Thailand

Thailand is one of the greatest countries in the world for travelers. Whether you’re visiting on a luxury budget or backpacking around, you will love what the country has to offer. It’s a super friendly place, it’s relatively safe, and it’s full of amazing experiences for all types of travelers. Here are the dos and don’ts of traveling in Thailand:

More beautiful Lake Ohrid scenery

Perfect day to go out and do some more exploring yesterday, so we set off in the car at around 10:00am, heading north up the western shore of Lake Ohrid. We've been here since last Wednesday, and that was the first time we've used the car since we arrived!

We were headed up to the town of Lin, located on a peninsula that juts out into the lake at the North Macedonia border.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Views of Lake Ohrid, nice hike, and anniversary dinner

We were overdue for some exercise, so we made plans to climb up the hill to Pogradec Castle. From there, there were several choices to continue our hike. 

I did some research before we left. It turns out that some visitors attempt to drive up to the castle. Yes, there is a road, but as with many rural roads in Albania, you are better off if you have a 4 wheel drive. I read stories of people attempting it in a regular car, but once you get to a certain point there is no way to turn around, and if you can't make it, you have to back all the way down.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Saving the best to the last

We have totally been enjoying our time in Albania. 

It's only in hindsight that you can get a clear idea of whether or not a decision has been a good one, but we feel we've made a lot of good decisions through this whole pandemic. Yes, we fully realize that not everybody agrees with the fact that we have continued to travel. But we have zero regrets, and for us it was the right thing to do. Three months in Turkey was fantastic, and there is so much more to see there. Two months in Tanzania was good. For me, it was about a month too long though. It's not an easy country to travel without spending loads of money. And it's too hot and buggy for our liking. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Pogradec Beach and Albania's Drilon National Park

On Friday, we walked almost the full length of the waterfront here in Pogradec, all the way to Drilon National Park. It was about 5 kms (3 miles) each way. In fact, only 2 kms further and we would have been at the North Macedonia border crossing.

They're doing a lot of spring clean up work on the beachfront. This is a busy area on hot summer weekends, so starting about a month from now the lakeside beach will be packed.

Friday, May 14, 2021

First day in Pogradec

We like to spend the first day in a new town just wandering around and seeing where things are. Just to kind of get a feel for the place. And, we usually need to pick up some groceries to stock the fridge for the week. Although, it's kind of funny because we end up doing some kind of grocery shopping almost every day!

When we were traveling North America in Sherman, we would typically do a big shop once a week or so. Usually at Walmart, or some other big one stop shop type of place. But here in Albania there are no Walmarts, and very few actually large full service grocery stores. Lots of smaller shops where we get general groceries in one place, meat in another, and fruits and vegetables in another. And when we have had an apartment in town, there has always been a shop within close walking distance.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Our new motorhome is paid for... and we think we will be using it next month!

Wednesday was moving day as we made our way from Korca to Pogradec. Not a long drive, only about 40 kms (25 miles). 

Pogradec is a small city with a population of about 21,000 people. It's located on the sandy shores of Lake Ohrid. The border between Albania and North Macedonia runs right through the lake, and we are only about 6 kms from the North Macedonia land border crossing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

What an interesting day we had... and it ended with more excitement!

After having done that 17 km hike the day before, we were planning on a bit of a rest day. But we still didn't want to waste our last day in the area, so we decided to drive up to the mountain town of Dardha just to see the scenery. 

And we did make it to Dardha... but from there on, our plans of having a rest day fell apart!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

We never know how long we'll be gone!

We ended up hiking 17 kms (10.5 miles) yesterday! Certainly didn't plan on that, and we weren't really prepared, but that's what happened.

There are several easy day trips that can be done from where we are staying in the city of Korca. Yesterday, we chose to drive into the mountains to the town of Voskopoja. It's only about a half an hour drive.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Eye surgery update

Well, it's been about four and a half months since our Christmas Day eye surgery took place.

For any new blog readers, the procedure we both had done is called Intraocular Lens Replacement. It's essentially the same surgery that people have done when they have cataracts, except we didn't have cataracts. We did it simply to get rid of having to wear glasses all the time.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Views above Korca

Saturday was forecast to be a blue skies and sunshine kind of day... exactly what we were looking for to do the walk up to the cross and chapel on top of a nearby hill overlooking Korca.

There is no hiking trail, but the road goes up to a big resort hotel, almost all the way to the cross and chapel so we could have easily driven up. But, we're not normal and needed some exercise. It turned out to be steeper than it looked!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Things are good here in Albania!

A news report out yesterday from the Ministry of Health here in Albania says that the country is now officially out of "the red zone" regarding Covid, and now has the lowest numbers of any of the surrounding countries as well as Europe, at only 26 cases per 100,000 residents. For perspective, the province of Ontario has 250 cases per 100,000 residents.

Yesterday, they did 2,728 tests and 67 residents tested positive. There were 2 deaths.

RV Maintenance

Regular maintenance is an important part of owning an RV if you want to get years of trouble free enjoyment from it. As with any type of machinery, there is a set schedule you should follow that the manufacturer recommends. Trailers are one thing, but with a motorhome you have to look after both the house part of the unit, and the maintenance schedule of the chassis manufacturer.

It's fairly easy with the chassis maintenance because the chassis owners manual has a list of the details required to keep the engine in top running condition, and to meet warranty obligations. But the actual RV maintenance is a little more difficult because there are important things to do on a regular basis that could cause loss of enjoyment if they aren't looked after.

Friday, May 7, 2021

What goes on behind the scenes? And a beautiful day in the city of Korca, Albania!

We spent the morning getting caught up on some internet work. Yes, I'm sure it looks like all we do is have fun and explore every day. And we do try to do that. But there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is more like work than play! It's the fact that we can do it from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection that makes our lifestyle so enjoyable to us.

We have heard some comment that we are "lucky" to be doing what we're doing, but everything we're doing has been planned, and is the result of a conscious decision on our part.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

4 hours to drive 135 kms (84 miles). But the scenery was worth it...

The guy at the tourist office in Permet had told us that it would take "about 5 hours" to do the drive from Permet to Korca, but we wouldn't mind because we would be too busy enjoying the scenery. And he was right!

But still, it's hard to believe there isn't a more direct route. This part of Albania near the border with Greece is pretty remote. In fact, we were saying that people who live here have to be pretty self sufficient because it's a long drive to any kind of services. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wonderful day at Langarica Canyon and Benja Thermal Waters

We wanted to get an early start because we had read that the hot springs area can get busy. And, there is a lot of hiking in and around the canyon behind the hot springs, so we knew we would be in for a full day.

Langarica Canyon is located only 12 kms (7 miles) from the town of Permet. And Benja Hot Springs is located at the entrance to the canyon. And both attractions are located within Fir of Hotova-Dangelli National Park, the largest national park in Albania.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Another Kevin and Ruth mystery tour

We set off yesterday morning on a hike. We didn't really have a planned destination, and we just started walking up the mountain in behind the town of Permet. We figured we'd be gone a couple of hours, but as usual it turned into a bit of a mystery tour as we tried to find the Shen Elena Shrine located somewhere up there.

We had no problem making our way up to the almost ghost town like village of Lipa. But from there it became a series of dead ends as we tried to find the shrine.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Our accommodation in Permet, and exploring the town

There weren't a lot of Airbnb choices in Permet. It's only a small city of about 10,000 people. There were a lot of guest houses listed, which normally we wouldn't mind staying in shared facilities, but with the whole Covid situation, our preference is to have a place to ourselves. 

And normally when there are a lot of options, we try to pick a place that has a lot of good reviews. But obviously there's always a bit of risk involved because what some people find acceptable, others do not.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The most beautiful waterfall in Albania

Saturday was moving day as we made our way from Gjirokaster to Permet. Not a long distance, only about 62 kms (38 miles). But there were a few things we wanted to see along the way.

The main thing we wanted to see was the Peshtures Waterfall near the village of Progonat. We had read that it is the most beautiful waterfall in Albania, and the pictures we had seen sure made it look that way.

But, it's not easy to get to.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Taxes done, and then hike to a 16th century monastery

May the 1st today. Wow. We've been in Albania for a month and a half.

I posted our April expenses last night if you missed it, you can see it here...

Well, I've spent an hour or so a day for the last three days getting our Canadian income taxes done and making sure all of the i's were dotted and t's were crossed. Then yesterday morning when I attempted to send everything in, I got an error message.