Hiking? Yes, hiking!

For once we use our feet as a means of transport and discover the mountains of Albania.


This title may come as a surprise, since we are known to be on the road with our two bikes. By the way, we gave them names (actually a long time ago). They are called "Mani" and "Bulli". They are both still in good health and have not suffered a single flat tyre so far. All hail our bicycle mechanic Tobi from Kurbeldreher. The recommended tyres live up to the expectations. But back to the hiking.
In the north of Albania there is a beautiful mountain region and we decided to discover this area on foot for once. Shkodër is a bigger town in the north near the border and the starting point of our tour. It should be said that the density of bicycles in this town is by far the highest in Albania. The bicycle is used as an everyday means of transport and we felt right at home in the crowd.
We were kindly allowed to leave our two bicycles in the hostel during our trip, so that we travelled into the mountains with little ballast. We organised tickets for transport to the ferry and the ferry ride via a trustworthy homepage and had them confirmed at the hostel for safety's sake. So we wait punctually at 6:20 in front of the hostel, as the taxi should arrive between 6:20-7:00. At ten past seven, we get increasingly nervous, because the ferry only leaves once a day, so it is important to be there on time. A private car turns up and reveals itself to be our taxi. We pick up a Dutch couple on the way and they explain that they called the bus company because no one had come and were told that they had forgotten them.... It's just as well that these two called. We are pretty sure that we too were victims of this forgetfulness.

We want to fasten our seatbelts, but the driver tells us not to. There are no police here, so it is not necessary. Maybe it would make sense to explain the purpose of a seat belt again... Those who have a functioning seat belt discreetly fasten it in an unobserved minute. To our relief, we reach the ferry in time and are surprised by the big rush. We find space on the deck, where many tourists are milling about. The ferry trip across Lake Komas is touted as one of the most beautiful cruises in Europe, another superlative. Steep rock walls surround the gorge, the narrowest passages are barely 50m wide. Individual small original villages adorn the coast and rubbish forms dots of colour on the blue lake. On deck, there is an unspoken battle over the best place for photos and views, but the longer the journey, the more relaxed the situation becomes.

After another trip by minibus, we reach our destination for the day, Valbona. Beautiful mountains, forests and rivers invite us to relax or go hiking, which we do the next day. From Valbona you can cross the pass to Teth, another mountain village. The route is popular, but we are on the road early, so the crowds are kept to a minimum. We hike briskly through the scenery worth seeing to the top of the pass, enjoy the view and then descend again into the other valley to Theth. Theth is a pretty village, which consists mainly of guesthouses. It is booming and in a few years it will probably look very different again. It is to be hoped that the pretty village can retain its charm. Tourism has always been a bit of a curse and a blessing at the same time. We spend the night in one of these guesthouses. We always get breakfast and dinner, which consists of whatever the garden and animals have to offer.

We go for another hike on the second day, even though we feel our legs a bit. They are used to cycling, but hiking obviously activates completely different muscle groups. We hike to a small waterfall and back again, whereby the way back is rather tedious, especially with tired legs. With an exciting podcast in our ears, we make our way home on the gravel road. We stay one last night in the fresh mountain air and then we travel back to Shkodër. We enjoyed the time without a bike, but are now looking forward to exploring Albania again with our faithful friends.