Paolo could see we were just trying to find shelter from the rain.
He was waiting under the factory canopy himself for the rain to ease so he could leave work for the day.
Minutes earlier we were hurtling down the edge of the four-lane divided highway, when the wind reared up and the rain was so thick we were getting pushed all over the road. There was no shoulder so we were taking up half of the outside lane, and some cars didn’t like that.
Jake was in front and I wasn’t sure how much longer he was going to ride, but it was fierce and when we saw the next building we both braked to roll through the entrance gate, but a security man called out no to us, we couldn’t go in there.
Still moving, still soaking, I slipped with my bike, hitting my arm on the metal door frame of the security man’s booth and losing control of the heavy bike.
Helplessly, we stood there, unable to get the courage or stupidity to head back out in the rain, and unable to see another building in the distance. Paolo ran out and told us it was okay, we could come under cover.
The factory we were at was the same dairy that makes a delicious yoghurt drink we’d tried for breakfast that morning. One of the men, still in gumboots, hairnet and white coat, brought out a bottle of betadine and tipped it onto the graze on my arm from where I fell. Within 24 hours I had a leg full of purple bruises and a few scratches on my arm and legs.
After 10 minutes the rain had slightly eased and Paolo suggested getting a coffee from a restaurant a few hundred metres down the road. We agreed, defeated for now, keen to wait out the worst part of the rain.
We had to walk the bikes on the raised edge of an underpass tunnel under the highway, which was flooded with water, to a restaurant on the other side, and found some of Paolo’s friends already off work for the day and enjoying a kafe.
They all work in different areas, packing or lidding the produce. Paolo grew up in a small town nearby where his family all live.
The boys said there was a hotel a kilometre up the road, and the rain still hadn’t let off much so we conceded and decided to get dry. The restaurant owner, who was also sitting drinking coffee with us, called ahead and told the motel owners two soaked cyclists were on their way, and Paolo, after refusing to take money for our drinks, delivered us on his motorbike to the couple who were waiting outside under an umbrella.
Not long after, we’d had hot showers, put on dry clothes and got a warm, tasty meal into our bellies. We just hoped the sun would be shining the next morning, and if not, then to meet another guardian angel along the way. Have I mentioned how lovely Albanian people are?!