Today we move on up the coast to Himarë, a smaller town to Sarandë and where, reputedly there are some nice beaches to enjoy.
Having checked where ‘furgons’ and buses left Sarandë for Himarë we were quickly able to find a furgon that was nearly full with a sign ‘Himarë’ displayed in the windscreen. There was an Australian called Jerry who was also interested to get to the same destination so with the three of us , all seats were then taken and off we went.
Up the twisty road into the coastal hills and along cliff top stretches and down into seaside villages we went as we followed the road to our destination. During our sardine-like ride we got to know Luisa, a Portuguese lady seated near us in the minibus, and together with Jerry the four of us exchanged travellers’ tales as one often does when on the road. The 1½ hour ride soon passed and we were all able to unfold ourselves out of the full minibus at Himarë.
At first sight this seemed an attractive place with two stretches of sandy beaches book-ended with woodland and without much development up into the hinterland. And it was not nearly so busy as Sarandë.
Now to find our accommodation, booked through booking.com whivh seems to be the website of preference for most Albanian accommodation providers. Cryptically the directions given said… “follow the steps opposite the pizza place ‘La Famiglia’ up to the top. If you have a low car best to find parking in town because our street is under construction”
Google maps was not indicating any paths to the pin position provided and our open source mapping app showed a bit of a spiders web of pathways. Anyhow, following pathways, past a digger in the process of constructing a new road and over a few mounds of gravel we got as close as we could to the map pin. Suddenly we noticed a small handwritten sign stuck to a gate, no larger than A6 with ‘Tasos House’ displayed on it, that being the name of the place we were staying in.
We were greeted by an elderly couple who clearly lived there and who, it turned out, were Greek… and they only spoke Greek and Albanian. Anyhow, daughter was on the end of a phone, who spoke English, so we were able to check in and pay her parents the agreed €35 for the room. It seems daughter is the organiser of the letting of the 3 or 4 rooms in the house and her parents do the ‘meet and greet’ and room cleaning and preparation.
Our pleasant room had a sea-facing balcony with a lovely view over the bay and mountains beyond. Being a little way above the seafront bars and restaurants it was also nice and peaceful.
Then to the beach, where we again met Jerry (of the bus) who very conveniently had a parasol with him that had been loaned by the backpackers hostel where he was staying. We all were able to sit in its shade whilst more travellers’ tales were exchanged; these interspersed with refreshing dips in the clear blue waters of the bay to cool off from the powerful heat and sunlight.
Thus we passed a pleasant and lazy beach afternoon spent in the sunshine.
We three decided to meet up again for dinner, inviting Luisa who was staying at Livadi beach, the next bay a short distance along the coast.
Having toured the various beachfront restaurants, and with somewhat involved conversations with puzzled ‘greeters’ about gluten free AND vegetarian foods, we elected to go to a Taverna style establishment a couple of blocks in from the front. We duly Whatsapped Jerry with our location and shortly after we enjoyed a nice meal together, with Luisa joining us at ‘Portugese eating time’ somewhat later, having had a rather convoluted journey from her apartment to reach us.
The next day we planned to get to Orikum some 60km further up the coast, since it looked possible to take a boat trip from there along a marine protection zone nearby.
However, before we left, we decided to take a little ramble over the headland, to Levadi beach which we estimated to be about 5km over paths and tracks.
We managed to find the steps leading us up and out of Himarë but, disconcertingly it led us to a construction site. However, we could see the continuation of the path beyond the workings, and decided to walk through the site to reach it. No hi-viz clad foreman shouted at us and workers seemed totally unconcerned at us walking through.
We continued on our narrow path steeply upward, then down through woodland and across some rocks, where we came across a beautifully situated little bar/cafe nestling in a secret cove. So, of course, refreshments had to be ordered and enjoyed.
The woman at the bar told us how to get to Levadi and off we went up some steep steps and onto the footpath again. This time we noticed the occasional footpath markers painted in red and white flashes onto convenient stones to show us the way.
The beach was lovely – a long stretch of soft gravel and sand backed by trees and with a small number of beachside bars and restaurants strung along the rear of the beach that had yet to open up for the season.
As we retraced our path we were saddened by the amount of discarded plastic bottles and packaging to be seen. So, using a couple of plastic bags we had in our pockets from fruit we had bought earlier, we litter picked as we went. By the time we reached Himarë we had two small carrier bags full which we were able to place in the litter bins on the sea front. Hopefully this would be recycled or at least processed appropriately rather than littering a beautiful place.
We did not have to wait long at the accepted waiting area beside some shops before a furgon arrived headed for Vlore, a large town some 75km away and beyond Orikum where we were headed.