20 JUL


Awake at 9am. I got up and headed to Mano Hotel cafe, greeting oh so lovely Romina on the way downstairs for some Albanian style brekky, lo and behold, they knew how to make toast. Eureka, the first place so far to do so! Rohan joined me shortly after, somewhat hungover. Coffee and eggs for that lad.

We ventured through the immediate surrounding Sarandë area on our way to the beach, stopping at a local market to buy some fruit. The vendors were of a different breed, more like the villagers we’d experience in the mountains. They were warm and hospitable and loved our attempts at speaking Albanian.

Ventured to Afrika beach again and sank into a comfy deck chair to read and chill for a while. Ice frappe fueled time. It was the moment to take the first ever dip into the Ionian Sea. The large pebbles on the beach was a knew experience for an Aussie blessed with fine white sandy beaches. It felt like I was mountain climbing into the water, a precarious balancing act that made the destination worthwhile – oh so warm water. I just couldn’t imagine setting up cricket stumps here. I guess this is why most European (pebble lined) beaches have deck chairs everywhere, you cant lay on these large smoothly polished pebbles and rocks!

I went off for a walk. The beaches were lined with outdoor bars, who also owned the rights (and placed) deck chairs along their section of the beach. I dropped into the Equinox Club on a recon for lunch, which there wasn’t, no problems finding booze though. Chatted with the DJ and his companion for a while, trading cultural notes about dance music! After trading contacts Rohan and I stayed stuck on deck chairs at beach for several more hours enjoying the spectacular views at beach.

Finally back to hotel, we were greeted by hotel owner Christopher, who had organized a tour guide to take us around on a tour of the surrounding sights. Tour guides name was Ola. We called her to arrange to meet briefly later at a cafe along the boardwalk to workout what the tour plan was.

After another nanna nap, we headed down to meet Ola for coffee at a tacky cafe along the beach. First thing we noticed was that she was very pretty, and keen, to show us some exciting sights of Sarandë that is. We were no doubt a good income for her! After a rather nice coffee we parted ways. Ola suggested we meet with her and partner later on for drinks at Mango Bar.

After we parted ways Rohan and had a quick bite to eat at a rooftop pizza bar. Where we discovered a more novel environmental approach to solving the pesky tree problem, blocking the onslaught of commerce and the view its meant to provide whilst chowing down a meal. The New York large pan thin crust pizza was really amazing, as was the view!

We dropped by the Orange Bar again, then after a few drinks headed back to Mango Bar. This time it was jumping, pumping, thumping – a totally different place to what we experienced the night before! House music was the local flavor of doof that night. Knowing the terrain Rohan and I sleeked in, the obvious non-locals, all eyes (guys and girls) seemed to be upon us. There was something like a protective pack mentality permeating this young culture. Were we a threat, should they be locking up their daughters. We relaxed at end of the large central circular bar and let the scene, fluids and doof wash over us.

Rohan and I were laughing our heads off sooo much that we found it hard to breath, we were absolutely doubling over in laughter, reflecting and retelling encounters we had had so far with Bashkim, Spartak, Igli and others in last several days. We began making up a Star Trek spin offs (spoofs) ‘Sparrrrtacking, across the Universe, on the Star-ship Enterprise, thrusters in reverse…’

Given the layout of the venue, which stepped downward in toward center bar and dance-floor area from the outside in, we had what seemed like the whole club way too curious about us. We were on Mars! I have never laughed so hard!

Now, if I do say so myself, Rohan and I aren’t that ugly to the eye (I hope); nor are we uninteresting as far as educated conversation is concerned, we’re both very friendly, worldly and informed men. But dam if we could get any conversation out of most people around us. Language barriers aside, the modern urban Albanian is a hard nut to crack. It was perplexing to say the least. I could go in to theories about collective cultural identity crisis since the demise of communism blah blah…

I eventually took my USB stick and played some of my early VJ mixes up on the massive LCD array. I haven’t seen so much punch in color on a large screen since I VJ’d at Earthdance at Fed SQ in Melbourne. My visuals sure did make a visual impact on the room, or so I thought from an informed aesthetic perspective.

By the time I returned to the bar area, Rohan was talking to the girl who worked at the Afrika Bar. She was all over Rohan like a pheromone. Come up for air Rohan I thought to myself. Rohan played it very cool, he knew the Game. She was with a bunch of salivating young lads all trying to lasso their tongues around her face.

We eventually found Ola, who was having drinks with her partner Emilio and friends Claudio and girlfriend. By freak chance Claudio knew Bashkim and Spartak. Which inadvertently triggered Rohan and I off again with intergalactic laughter. Breath…

They eventually left at a reasonable hour for locals who have to work the next day. Not us, we were tourists reclaiming our roots! We ventured outside in the plaza area to give our ears some relief from the 100 decibel sound system. Just as we had decided to vacate the venue, which was thinning by this stage, we met Genta, Silvana and Diro. You couldn’t put three more unique personalities together if you had planned to do so.

After light hearted conversation we all headed off to have coffee in the Boulevard. Other than Genta, who was a lawyer and by far the most interesting (conversation) of the three, the other two girls were annoyingly SMS’ing and Facebook’n constantly! How many selfies can one post in a night! That was our first random social connection of our trip with a non-relative. After exchanging numbers Rohan and I called it a night.