I Biked Through Albania. Alone. As a Woman.

And discovered that the headlines have it all wrong.

I Biked Through Albania. Alone. As a Woman.

Flickr.com/Muharem Bendo

The road is blocked by goats again. It really is the last straw. I’m two months into a 10,000-kilometer cycling trip across Europe and the Middle East, and I’ve just chugged over a truly enormous hill (let’s call it a mountain) between Montenegro and Albania, only to run out of paved road. And food. And water. And then the rain arrived. Right before the goats.

I am saved by a kindly man with a van. The track is just rubble, hemmed in tightly by cliffs and plunging ravines, and we stop regularly to wait for bulldozers to clear the way. The nail-biting journey takes three hours, and when we arrive at my destination it’s pitch-black and pouring. But the guesthouse is charming: a 150-year-old haven of warm hospitality, where I am generously fed and pampered.

This is not the Albania I was warned about. Don’t cycle alone, I was told. Trust no one. It’s a land of thieves. But along my ride I have encountered only goodwill and the kind of everyday decency that never makes the headlines.

Follow Rebecca’s ride on her site, thebicyclediaries.co.uk.

>>Next: I Was a Bollywood Extra.

Rebecca Lowe is a London-based freelance journalist with a decade of experience writing for regional, national and international publications. She specialises in human rights, with a focus on the Middle East. In July 2015-16, she cycled solo through 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in order to challenge preconceptions about the region and tell the stories of the people she met there. The 11,000km journey from London to Tehran took her a year, and will be documented in a forthcoming book – Neither East Nor West – due to be published in early 2020.
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