INTRIGUE in the James Bond tradition nearly marred a trade visit to little-known Albania by two Bury businessmen earlier this month.

Incorrect visas, petulant officials, poor communications and primitive transport facilities forced the two men to make a ‘back-door’ entry into the country – but their mission was nevertheless a success.

The men, Christopher Fielden, aged 25, of Walmersley Road, and 29-year-old Roger Duxbury of The Drive in Seedfield, are directors of Boldgate Ltd, a Bury import and export firm.

The main aim of their visit was to sample Albanian wines with a view to importing them into this country.

But the struggle they had getting into the Iron Curtain country was so great that they were almost persuaded to turn back before they arrived.

The men had their first hint of the difficulties to come when they arrived in Paris to collect their visas.

At the Albanian Embassy they were told that a mistake had been made and their visas were in the wrong names.

Undeterred, they flew on to Belgrade in Yugoslavia and telephoned the Albanian Government from there. But the delay caused them to miss the only plane for five days.

Mr Fielden, who is prospective Parliamentary Conservative candidate for St Helens, said: “By this time we were beginning to think this was a deliberate attempt to keep us out of the country, although we were going at the Albanians’ request.”

The two men decided to carry on, and numerous inquiries showed that there was a daily bus service across the border into Albania from a tiny village in southern Yugoslavia.

They reached the village only to be told that the bus service had been stopped three days before when the Albanians had withdrawn their legation.

They awoke in the hotel the following morning to find that a bus had, in fact, left for the border an hour earlier. There was a lot more footslogging in store before someone remembered that a mail vaqn was due to leave for Albania that afternoon.

Mr Fielden said: “We were directed to an area of waste land about the size of The Mosses.

“Right in the middle, we saw a tiny van which must have been at least 30 years old.

“There was no one in the vehicle and not a soul in sight, so we just sat on the steps for about an hour until the driver came along.

“Eventually he agreed to take us to the border. We set off, and after about 200 yards the road turned into a rock-strewn path.

“We had about 30 miles of this before we arrived at the border.

“There customs men searched us and took all our Yugoslav money from us.

“A little further on we came to a barbed wire fence guarded by what seemed like battalion of soldiers.

“This was the Albanian border post and we had a lot of difficulty persuading the soldiers to let us through.

“Eventually, however, they allowed us to carry on and we came to a town.

“Apparently there should have been a taxi and driver waiting for us there.

“We found the taxi but there was no driver.”

The situation was soon to be cleared up, but not before the Mayor and about 30 town hall officials had scoured the town for a Government official.

When the official did arrive he was not apologetic and from then on the visit went perfectly.

The biggest thing which struck Mr Fielden and Mr Duxbury in Albania was the comparative luck of motor transport.

Mr Duxbury said: “As far as we could gather there were only about 70 cars in the whole of Tirana, the capital.”

The mission was a complete success. The two men returned with sample bottles of most of Albania’s national drinks, including a particularly potent concoction known as Raki.