Day 45 – Orikum

And so to Orikum. The journey in our almost empty furgon from Himarë was spectacular. The road hugged the mountainous coastline on our journey northwards. We twisted and twined up mountainsides with magnificent views down the coast far below.

We passed through the occasional hilltop villages and picked up the occasional passenger and then we descended the twisty and  sometimes sharp descents over the other side which took us through the  thickly forested Llogara National Park area.

The scenery here now cool and misty with forested vistas being quite a contrast to the more arid and hot coastal plain.

Eventually, we were back down on the coastal plain where we reached Orikum, with the town having two distinct halves. The more populated residential area and the beach area with its small hotels and bars strung out along the sea shore.

The place we stayed at was Maxola’s Dream, a small fairly basic family-run guesthouse right on the beach with its own parasols and loungers ready set up for lazy days at the seaside. The guest house took its name from a famous Albanian footballer from Vlorë who often visited Orikum in the past.

Our original reason for spending two nights here at Orikum was to try and take a boat trip exploring the caves and coves on a nearby peninsula which was a National Park and Marine Protection Zone. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that such trips needed to be organised from Vlorë a large town some 20km away up the coast. Although it would only take about 1 hour on the bus with a 300 lek  fare for both of us (€3) we would not be able to get to Vlorë early enough to take a boat trip.

So, a lazy beach day it had to be under the parasol on the loungers beside the sea.

It was an attractive, shingly beach, with lovely views of the mountains ringing the town which you could admire if you were swimming.

In the evening we went for a beautifully peaceful dusk time stroll to explore a large brackish water lagoon with extensive reed beds around it that was a short distance from where we were staying. We later found out from a faded interpretation board we passed on our way into Orikum main town (to buy lunchtime supplies) that it was an important migratory bird feeding zone and was part of the National Park protection zone.

The walk into ‘town’ was down a wide decently paved and tree lined boulevard which contrasted somewhat with the smaller tarmacked road beside the beachfront. We wondered whether there had been, at some time in the past, plans to extensively develop the beach area, but for whatever reason had not taken place.

Although disappointing that we were denied our planned boatrip it was nice enough to laze about for a day, with cooling dips in the sea from time to time.

We met some Kosovans who were also staying at the hotel and we had some interesting conversations with them. For example, about how Kosova was once part of Albania and how, after the collapse of the communist regime in Albania that Kosovans were the trailblazers for the fledgling Albanian tourism industry as it gradually emerged from its peculiar self-enforced isolation. Interestingly, they considered that Albania was now getting quite ‘Mediterranean’ in its culture, and changing from its original Balkan identity, which they felt landlocked Kosova retained.

The next day we planned to take the bus up to Vlorë and then onward for our last two nights in Albania spending a little time in its capital city, Tiranë. Of course, we had previously checked out where one had to stand to catch buses to get to Vlorë since there were no obvious signed bus stops. Just a convenient shady tree on the main road near a bar/cafe for handy refreshments.

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