That was the breaking point and I became firm in my growing belief that there is no reason on earth for anyone to remain stationary in Albania for any time period longer than a red traffic light. I've been to very poor places before and happily trudged around next to tips, wandered down dusty streets, driven in chaotic places, but they all had charm and the people have been, well, just normal people really - friendly and welcoming to visitors. Albania is simply grim and smiling is clearly illegal. I think the word 'Albania' actually translates as "Satan's Armpit".
A radical course of action was decided upon. The next day was supposed to be from Albania to Parga in Greece, staying at a small family-owned hotel where we have been before on holiday, so I telephoned them to say 'help, I need a room tonight as well'. I don't know if you are aware of the general view that Greeks have of the Albanians, but a guaranteed way of getting sympathy is to say "Dimitris, it's Adam, I am in Albania - do you have a room for tonight as Albania is, well, shit, to be honest". Cue much laughing and the fine chap that he is, he found me a room, told me he would leave the key in the room door if I arrived after the staff had left for the night, and wished me good luck. Star man!
So, no stopping in Albania, and onwards towards Greece and a return to the present centrury. Just as I had made this decision and carried on down the main road, my luck ran out and I got stopped at one of the checkpoints. Being rather concerned about a massive fine for driving with no insurance I decided to take what I will call the 'Empire Approach', which is to stop, wind the passenger side window down, and speak to the policeman loudly in one's best Queen's English, "Good evening, and how are you". It worked! He just looked irritated and waved me on, the perfect get-out-of-jail-free weapon actually worked!
Now I had a choice. The one consistent piece of advice from sensible people such as the RAC was not to go into rural areas if you can help it, and definitely not to go into rural areas after dark. I had a choice of two routes, one along the coast which was very much the long way around and would take about 8 hours to get to Parga, or the shorter way which would only take about 5 1/2 hours to Parga, but was on a main road going right up through the mountains in about as rural and remote Albania as you can get. By now it was 6pm and would go dark in about two hours. I reckoned I could make it to the border before dark if I chanced it and went the shorter route, and as it was a main road it must be safe and bandit-free, so took off that way.
About half an hour in I began to regret this decision. There is remote, then there is 'oh my God this is proper bandit territory' remote. And the road... The road was one of Albania's main routes, the SH4, and some parts of it have been paid for by the European Union to link Greece to Croatia and look like this: