Met a German (Berlin) couple on their way home from an internship in Istanbul, Turkey for a year and a half in social work. Interesting their perspective since it was a very liberal organization which was hoping Arab spring would come to Turkey.
We asked at the hotel dsk after breakfast at checkout where we might catch a louage/bus to Sarande and she said at the corner by the university (which is right across from our hotel). However, she said the next one isn't until 1pm! We considered waiting at the hotel but instead we walked towards the corner she had indicted and along the way a man standing by a louage/taxi asked us where we were going. We told him and he (speaking no English - it seems they all know Italian though) pointed to he watch and seemed to be saying the same as the gal in the hotel, not until 1pm. In trying to clarify (it was now 9:45am), it turned out he was attempting to indicate a bus might not be by for 15 to 20 min. or 5-10 min after 10am. Lucky for us we pursued it and indeed he showed us exactly where to stand and waited with us. Sadly, he stepped backwards off the curb and his foot went into a deep mud hole totally soaking his shoe and pant cuff. He fell but quickly got up not having hurt himself (other than his pride perhaps) but still stayed until, yes indeed, a bus labelled 'Sarande' drove up. We had given him some paper towels to wipe his shoe with and before we got on the bus Mari gave him some hard candies she always carries with. We shook hands and in our pathetic Albanian said, 'falamendere'-thank you!
The ride was beautiful, never expected this scenery in Albania - see photos. An hour into our ride we stopped for 'breakfast', 'lunch? just before entering Llogora National Park (which encompasses the mountain pass we traversed) and I had enjoyed wonderful yogurt and rice! Our trip over the mountain was picturesque to say the least.
When we arrived in Sarande we checked out 2 hotels near the bus stop and they both were closed (well, we went in and no one was there - Bon & Mari took the opportunity to use their facilities however!). A woman on a street corner asked if she could help and I told her we were looking for a hotel. She said her home was a hotel did we wish to see it, it was closeby? I asked Bon and Mari who were a block away watching the bags (& using above mentioned facilities), and Bon said no she did not want to go but if Mari & I did she'd watch the bags. She mentioned at the time that she always feels uncomfortable when this sort of thing happens and we've gone to the trouble of taking our bags with no excuse not to accept. As it turned out, the woman's place was not that close - she drove Mari & I there - and it was indeed in their partially completed home. The room we'd stay in had a stove, bathroom, and 3 unmade beds pushed together in the middle of the room. She offered it to me at first for 24euro, but now we were there and it became 20euro - but no breakfast I guessed since there was the stove. We declined and she drove us back.
Bon was right, it would have been uncomfortable especially since the woman had said we needed to drive because she had to go pick up her children very soon! Bon & I checked out 3 more hotels before we finally found one with 3 beds in one room for 25 euro incl tea/coffee in the morning - Hotel Real - Spanish flavor and all! See photos of our view. On a walk along the waterfront we found the tourist office with a very helpful gal who gave us all the info we need for day trips to Butrint and Gjirokastra, plus onward bus to Athens. Bon thought maybe there'd be a ferry to Greece which might be cheaper but alas, the only ferry from here goes to Corfu!