Like other countries I have visited namely India, Bangladesh and China, official road etiquette doesn’t exist, Tirana in Albania was no different. I just had to watch how road users navigate the streets and it made me nervous. The smell of burning rubber was disconcerting too, thankfully it wasn’t Lexi (well we don’t think), but just one of the hundreds of smells of the city. For foreigners like myself it appears to be a constant game of dodging, weaving and guesses work on where to go. Not sure they know what sign posts are here, since quite a few street/A-roads we went down just came to sudden dead-ends as they were incomplete…which was always was followed by a puzzled look to one another. Driving at night was just an extra challenge, we all love one of those, no matter it was good practice as I am sure we may have to do it again..
I knew that there was some natural sense of order to driving in a city like Tirana. As we entered in darkness, I immediately had thoughts back of watching tuk-tuk drivers dart around the streets in and out of cars, cows and people. It was very much the same here. The streets were also littered with large potholes that would appear without warning, which I am sure are slowly taking a toll on poor Lexi. As she would creak and thud as we fell into the ones I couldn’t swerve around.
As I started out I realised I was a little nervous, my hands clenched around the steering wheel in and before I realised it my neck was quite tense, since I was on alert trying to process all the car headlights coming from various directions. After about 10 minutes I relaxed and eased into it and I had become accustomed to how the roads work… i.e. just go if you see a gap in the road ahead. While it felt like dodgems at a fairground (without all the collisions), there was always a small fear of being rammed into, but I started to enjoy the thrill. I knew all those of hours of playing Need for Speed with my brother would pay off. I am sure Henry thinks it’s just my boy racing side wanting to come out, which is probably true, but just to let you all know (mainly for the parents reading this) I was fairly sensible and in control.
The blur of the Albanian city of Tirana
On leaving Tirana, we entered a maze of hair pin bends heading up and down mountain sides to the Macedonian border, the steep gradients, high revs and close to 360 degree bends in darkness really made Lexi work. It’s a shame the rev counter doesn’t always work, but you could feel Lexi was chugging away and trying her best.
The morning after while doing our daily checks on the car, we had a slight worry as Henry pulled out the oil dip-stick it was bone dry… which really showed us the effort and the intensity of the high revs on the Albanian mountain roads. Good thing we have plenty of spare oil!
It may sound like we are putting Lexi through her paces, but we are looking after her and testing that she is ready for what is to come, remembering that Europe is this easy part!