Peoples says, that on the top of it, the sky meets the earth. We are not able to confirm that, but we can certainly say that it is a true Albanian paradise for motorcyclists. You may already have guessed that we’re talking about probably the best-known route in Albania – the SH20 road. We also managed to get there during our last trip to the Balkans. The SH20 on a motorcycle or any other vehicle is certainly a route, to die for.
The way through the Cursed Mountains – Bjeshket e Namuna
The locals call them Bjeshket e Namuna, which is the Cursed Mountains. Not much arable land and not much wants to grow on it, and in winter the local population is separated from the rest of Albania and the world. The Cursed Mountains are the highest range of the Dinarskie Mountains. They are located on the territory of three countries – Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The SH20 road connects Albania with Montenegro, and to be precise, Vermosh with the Lake Szkoderskie area. It winds slowly along the slopes of the mountains, raw and majestic, sometimes next to streams and mountain rivers, to gain momentum before the final climb to the Albanian Stelvio. This name fits perfectly because the view from the terrace at the top of the pass resembles the famous zig-zag from Passo Dello Stelvio. Legend has it that the history of two sons of a hunter, whom met a beautiful girl on their way one day, gave the name of Cursed Mountains. The brothers fought over her and they killed each other. Their mother, when she found the dead bodies of her most beloved sons, cursed the beautiful girl, and her scream, full of pain, sorrow and hatred – “Prokleti-je, prokleti-je! (I curse you, I curse you!)” – was still carried around the valleys, repeated by echo hundreds of times.
SH20 by a motorcycle – no more gravel madness
The route is fully asphalted from 2016 onwards. Yes, we know, some of you must be very disappointed about it, because it had its gravel charm before, but for us, it was great news, because we knew that our Piggy would be able to handle it. And she did. Despite the fact that the road, right abroad with Montenegro (from Plav side), starts with stones, maybe a kilometer further it turns into a decent asphalt, which even the Austrians wouldn’t be ashamed of. At the moment, the route is fully accessible for all types of motorcycles and cars.
Is that a positive change? We saw a lot of comments that the route had lost its charm, that it was not the same, that the authorities should not modernize it. Well, maybe, although for us it hasn’t lost its charm. She is still wild and fascinating. For the local community, however, this is a major step forward. We don’t think that any of us would enjoy having to travel to the nearest town every day on a gravel road. Everyone wants to live in decent conditions. There are always two sides to the coin, it is worth remembering.
Drive through SH20 on a motorcycle
In the beginning, the route does not seem very demanding, mainly due to the excellent quality of the asphalt. It passes quietly along the canyon of the river, which behind the village of Tamare takes the name Cem. It winds through gentle bends for a long time to gain momentum in the last section. The Leqet e Hotit Pass can raise the pressure gently, but it is not one of the most difficult we have ever had the pleasure to do so. It’s easy for everyone. Behind the last corner of the climb, there is a vantage point, from which probably everyone is taking pictures. No wonder, the view of the turns downstairs combined with the harshness of the surrounding landscape is amazing. And then what happens next? Then it is only simpler, the way quietly winds across the plateau towards Lake Szkoderskie in order to show its beauty in all its glory on the last turns. Lake Szkoderskie, silver-plated in the rays of the sun, which definitely at such a distance made a greater impression on us than up close. The gilded gentle, low hills of the surrounding plateau are beautiful. Red, scorched by the hot sun, earth. This is how Albania welcomed us.