How to go from Valbone to Theth in Albania?
6 am and Gocha and me were up. After a very pleasant shower, taking down the tents and having a typical Albanian breakfast (bread, two types of jam, eggs and herbal tea) all the three of us had to check-out. A day before, when I already knew that I was not going back to Koman, I tried to sell my ferry ticket – to no effect. Katherine was trying to help a bit, but nobody was interested. During the check-out, Katherine actually took my ticket and said I don’t need to pay for the camping, food and anything else at all. My bill was around 10 Euros, so exactly the amount of the ticket. Such a nice deal!
Katherine has a guesthouse and a camping in Valbona and does her best to develop tourism in this area, additionally giving work to quite a number of local people. I always strongly support such initiatives, so if you ever end up in Valbona, I highly recommend staying at Kate’s guesthouse. Not only will you get cosy room or a place for a tent, but also a lot of fun, chit-chats, hospitality, caring and warmth.
As it turned out a day before, Katherine’s place was around 10 km away from the beginning of the Valbone to Theth trail, but luckily, she organized us some transport. Together with another two girls from UK, Helen and her friend (unfortunately I forgot her name) we hopped on a mini-bus. It was 25 Euros shared between everybody, so we paid 5 Euros each.
At the beginning of the trail, there was an Albanian man waiting with a horse. Girls decided to go with a local guide and put their backpacks on the animal. I have no idea how, but quite naturally my backpack landed there as well. Jarmo had no luggage with himself at all (he wisely left it in Shkodra, knowing that he will do mountain hiking) and Gocha’s bag was quite light (she wisely didn’t take a laptop and a huge camera..). Helen offered to help with my bag, and so I could walk with a small backpack only. I appreciated it later very much, once the trail became very steep and tiring.
Helen’s friend wasn’t feeling well so she walked quite slowly and made a lot of stops on the way. Gocha was not feeling the best either, and she also needed some stops. I, on the other hand, was at my fullest physical capacity, but I was shit-scared of narrow, stony passages from which I could slide down. Jarmo was feeling best of us all, offering help whenever we needed it.
When the trail became very narrow (probably a bit more wide than two feet standing closely together), I got paralyzed. When I am afraid, my brain refuses to cooperate with the rest of my body and I just can’t make the next step. When I am standing on this narrow passage and see that there is absolutely nothing to hold on to, it all becomes even worse. I experienced two moments of such panic. The first time, Gocha helped me immensely by just turning my attention away from what was beneath and above me (rocks, rocks, more rocks and abyss). The second time, it was Jarmo and his calm voice saying completely irrelevant things about singing birds. It worked miracles and my brain cooled down and body became relaxed. If I had been alone, things would probably get much worse.
Valbona valley looked quite different from the Thethi side. The first one being rather rocky, wild and austere. The second one, on the contrary, green, mild, full of flowery meadows, less steep and looking like some kind of rustic utopia.
Albanian mountains are just perfect. Even though my body was nearly exhausted after 7 hours of walking up and downhill in scorching heat, my mind was clear and happy. In Thethi, I incidentally met the four Polish people from Lake Shkoder Resort. The world is so small. Seeing me in Thethi, all happy and in one piece, Ula said that I’m crazy. Am I?
Next post will be about the first impressions of colorful and diverse Tirana, how great it is to explore a new place with someone so tuned with you, about staying in an amazing hostel, which could be an attraction itself and a first farewell.