5 Days in Albania's Accursed Mountains
Days 25-26: Jess is a Wanderer was hiking mountains, chasing waterfalls and sampling homemade rakia in Albania's wilderness and it couldn't have been more perfect!
Arriving into the village was perfect timing as - per usual - Wolvo and I desperately needed to pee. We pulled up to Sadri Lukes 'Hotel' and realised very quickly that it wasn't a hotel and in fact, a lady's house. You could' really get two more awkward people so put us together in a homestay situation and, well, it's a recipe for disaster. Or extreme awkwardness if nothing else.
We were greeted by a small, smiley 60+ year old lady who spoke no English and hefted our backpacks (one on each shoulder) like they were filled with feathers. We stood in awe of her slight frame and super-human strength feeling pathetic about our complaints of how heavy our bags were!
Maria, our hostess, welcomed us into her three storey part-wood, part-stone home and explained in broken English that we were the only guests. Yes. We sighed with relief as we don't usually talk to each other and were looking forward to sitting in silence reading our books. We were very excited to have escaped the 'how long are you here for?' and 'how long have you been travelling for?' small talk which is so often the mundane conversation of backpackers.
Downstairs, we parked ourselves in front of the log fire - it was still raining outside - and set to reading our books. Despite our rather adventurous journey into the wilderness, we'd arrived and had the next five days - weather permitting - to get out in the fresh air and set off exploring the area. First things first, reading time.
It wasn't far off 6 - the time we'd arranged to have dinner, through actions and hand gestures - when we heard some commotion outside. New guests had just arrived!! Our silent, anti-social behaviour was short-lived. We were going to have to make small talk! Insert panic here!!!
Fortunately for us, the new arrivals (a German couple), couldn't have been more friendly and we were actually able to talk normally and spend the next two days hanging out and genuinely having a ball.
Maria had prepared a feast for dinner and actually, it was good the Germans had arrived as there was no way Wolvo and I could have polished off the mighty spread she had laid on for us. All the food is homemade or homegrown or home-reared. Cheese, milk, meat, bread, veggies, butter... you name it, Maria has grown/made it. Super impressive.
Sitting around the table eating breakfast, discussing the amazing night's sleep we'd all had, guess who walks into the room? MARTIN!!! Bloody Martin had come from Shkodër to Theth and was now here, in our guest house, standing over us as we ate breakfast. It turns out he was the man at the hotel who bought us a Coke and he, in fact, was Maria's brother. It was all making sense. He'd come by the house to pack the four of us into his pick-up truck and take us to Theth's famous waterfall. It was the rockiest, bounciest, craziest, squishiest of journeys as we were all squeezed into the backseat of his truck. Martin was driving and Joni, Maria's husband, was riding shotgun. He dropped us off and said he'd return four hours (approximately) later and we could either wait for him or walk back to Maria's.
Off we went, Wolvo and I split up from the Germans (it was still that awkward phase of 'we don't really know each other and we've sort of been thrown together so let's sort of do our own thing' stage) and set off for the waterfall. There was also a cave to be found but, despite scrambling up several dried up riverbeds, there was nothing to be seen. We covered around 7km and returned to the beginning of the trail. It was a fabulous walk and the waterfall was impressive indeed.
This was a guest house called Shpella and was on the outskirts of the town, before the town became 'river'. We decided to grab a drink and ended up eating cheese and tomatoes and doing shots of rakia with Samuel and his father, the owner of the guest house. It was a bizarre afternoon that soon progressed on to homemade wine before Martin appeared in his pick-up and whisked us away before things could escalate any further!
Arriving back at Maria's place, somewhat tipsy, she'd prepared a sort of afternoon snack. Having had a fair amount to drink, she provided more rakia to go along with our nibbles. Needless to say, the afternoon ended up with naps all round. Our first day in the mountains and here we were being led astray with the locals and their homemade concoctions. As tasty as they were, we all agreed that tomorrow there would be no alcohol before dinner!