Me and my travel companions crossed the Macedonian border and continued walking for another kilometre to the Albanian border, where the border control looked at us slightly confused for a moment and after scanning our passports let us continue. We walked for less than half kilometre before my companions managed to flag us down a car! First hitch-hiking experience in Europe. The guy was Albanian, the woman was from the Philippines if I remember right, they took us to town, where we exchanged money, had something to eat and continued hitch-hiking south.
We went to try flag another car to take us further south, and despite that many people approached us to ask us if we need a ride and how much we’d pay them, us refusing each time, and they telling us there’s no way anyone is picking us up for free, we did manage to get a ride. But the key was to move away from the more populated area, where people were curiously approaching us and trying to kill our enthusiasm with their offers for paid rides. We walked a bit further down the road and it wasn’t long before a car stopped and a really nice young man, drove us down south from Pogradec to Korçë.
What is important to note is that the people were very responsive to our thumbs up, pretty much no one ignored us, many people waved, many people stopped to ask us what we are doing and where we are going, many made signs showing they are not in our direction. This is a massive contrast to my experience of hitch-hiking from near Stoke-on-Trent to Oxford in the UK, where most people ignored me as if I was a dead fox on the side of the street. (note: hitch-hiking in the UK is permitted only is you hike from safe areas, such as service stations).
The views were absolutely gorgeous, anywhere I went – the mountains were breath taking, the water was clear and in all fairness I think the roads between the cities were just fine!
I realized that considering that I now had a date to be flying back home, I’ve lost a bit too much time around Ohrid lake, and it was better to miss Korçë, despite having spoken to CouchSurfers to meet and be assisted to find a good camping spot… So we continued hitch-hiking together towards Sarandë.
In total we were taken from one spot to another by 7 separate cars, reaching Leskovik hitch-hiking. With a hiccup which scared the crap out of us, yet it might well have been a misunderstanding of the different roads that could be taken to Sarandë. Kind people, a young family, came to the rescue and took us to their house, feeding us, giving us soft and hard drinks, offering kindness, beds, sharing their lives and making the greatest efforts to communicate with us, despite the language barrier. I must say I am at awe with the kindness and welcoming and accommodating nature of Albanians! I would absolutely go back to explore more of the country!
It was in Leskovik where me and my companions separated, each choosing different time and ways to continue their journey south. I got on a little bus to Sarandë, and while going through the recent pictures on my phone, including one with the family and my fellow travellers, a woman sitting next to me started a conversation, asking me how I know the family on the picture. I said they helped me and my companions in a difficult moment and that they were wonderful. Imagine my surprise when she said, the lady on the picture was her sister-in-law. This lady did not look like or sound like the locals, and that was easily observed in her clothes, jewellery, style, and also in her slightly German pronunciation in English and saying Ja instead of Yes; she shared she lives in Switzerland. This was yet another time when I felt and thought, Wow the world is tiny!
A few hours later, I was finally in Sarandë! Again, nothing arranged, no accommodation, no plans. I only knew I want to spend time on the beach and see Ksamil Islands.