We decided to try and stick with our original plan and follow the coastline up from Greece into Albania. This meant crossing a very small border control rather than the main motorway one. It could go either way, we thought. They could be very busy, bored and ready to tear a small van apart to try and find any contraband that could be described as illegal to generate a fine for the “Albanian Customs Annual Ball” fund or they could be very quiet, and very excited to see tourists that they would greet us with a massive smile, exclaim very loudly in Albanian that they are so happy to see us (or similar as we didn’t speak Albanian) whilst waving our passports about and then send us on our way…
We received option number 2, and were welcomed into this amazing, friendly country with an attitude that followed us around until we left to Montenegro.
First stop was a campground on the southern coast of Albania. We had several options pinpointed on the map so we thought that it was just a matter of driving the coast line, checking them out and choosing the best one.
Lesson in Albanian Culture No. 1
Albanian camping is not like camping in other parts of Europe. Albanian people are very social and like to spend lots of time together, especially when on holiday. Camping is also a new concept and the Albanians have embraced it as a cheap holiday option, especially by the beach but not many people have camping gear. This translates to the campgrounds supplying the tents, roll matts and setting the tents up side by side on top of each other similar to a music festival leaving very little room for people with their own tents, and usually without shade.
We found one “real camping” site, but this was already rammed with camper vans, caravans and tents. This was our fall back option as we visited many campgrounds only to find them either full of their own tents or not even open yet for the season (it was last weeks of June and the Albanians tend to holiday in July/August).
We slowly exhausted all of our options and just as we were losing the will to live and head back to the “real camping” site, we tried to find our last option of a Hostel that had a camping area. Julie managed to spot a tiny sign in Vuno village that pointed down the hill to Shkolla Hostel, and we followed a small dirt road into an olive grove, and then saw a tent, then another and a very welcoming yellow/orange building that had the look of a cheerful hostel. We were welcomed and sent down into the olive grove to find a spot for our bell tent (under the morning shade – quickly determined with our compass) and spent 6 very enjoyable nights hanging out with the hostel crew, cooking big group tomato curry, watching the World Cup football up in the local cafe, visiting amazing beaches, holding our own little Glastonbury festival (as we were in Vuno this year instead of the famous music festival for the first time in 8 years).
Similarities between Vuno and Glasto
We were camping in the bell tent
We had music (although Robboy on the guitar and Dolly Parton on the Jambox is not the biggest of lineups)
We had tasty vegetarian food options
Great crew of friendly world wide travellers
Party around the campfire drinking lots of local alcohol (but not pear cider)
You had to squat to use the toilet