ALBANIA PART 3 – THETH & VALBONA

Dani walking over the riverbed in Valbonë

If you would  try to describe Theth, it would be something like the last place on earth. Valbone would then be the second last place on earth. The difference between both is that Theth is impossible to reach by a normal car, except if you want to shorten the life expectation of your car by five years you could give it a try, and Valbonë could be reached on a nice asphalt road. This pretty much says it all. In both towns time stood still. Except for the wifi, that’s definitely better than in many places on Mallorca.

Thursday morning we finally drove to Theth. The initial plan was to go earlier but the weather didn’t allow us to go. Before we headed to Theth, we went to the castle of Shkodër, with beautiful views over the city, we did some groceries, bought coolant for the car and went to the ATM. Business as usual you would think, only here it’s a real road adventure. For every little thing there is a specific shop and you park your car in front of the shop where you need to buy something. We already get used to this phenomena so let’s try to describe this as good as possible. The feeling you’ll get when driving the boulevard lets paraphrase itself best as a combination of Mario Kart, and for the people who are familiar with Amsterdam, the Albert Kuijp market on a Saturday morning. Everybody has fun with each other, everybody is chitchating with each other and overall it’s just very busy. Now it’s time to picture the whole situation. Imagine a street. On both sides you’ll find shops in front of the shop there is a pedestrian zone then there is this part of the pedestrian zone occupied by merchandisers, then there is actually a part next to the pedestrian zone where you can park your car. Then you have a two lane road on both sides. However, the right lane is mainly used as a “short term parking zone” so no room for traffic. And the last lane, the left one, is shared by all sorts of traffic: cars, motorbikes, cyclists, horses and dogs. Ooh and crossing pedistrians. So if you need something, you stop in front of the shop and park your car at “short term” parking and if somebody needs to go out from the “long term” parking zone and you’re blocking him, he will gently inform you with his horn that you have to hurry up. Business as usual!

Boulevard of Shkodër

After we got everything we needed we headed to Theth. Despite Theth is very small and the village itself consist only of a few guest houses a Church and an old tower it’s one of the highlights for the small bunch of tourists who are visiting Albania, and we can only agree with them. The first part of the road to Theth consist of a descent asphalt road. Tom got actually quite disappointed when we didn’t see a sign of a dirt road after an hour driving. But, no worries eventually we got on the dirt road and Tom was totally in his element. Like two bouncing balls in a sardine can we passed traffic in the opposite direction on very small roads. Sometimes we had to put the car in the reverse to go back to a part where we could pass traffic in the opposite direction or put our car up to a steep hill. After two hours of bouncing we arrived in Theth, fortunately in one piece. After a short drive through the main street we found a place to park our car and unfold our roof top tent. We enjoyed a cold beer in the garden of the restaurant where we got informed about Theth and its surrounding. Because it was not very late we wanted to go to the blue eye, the highlight of Theth and maybe one of the most beautiful things in Albania to see.

Blue eye of Theth

Before we continue our story about the blue eye, we have to inform you about the fact that there exists two different roads to and from Theth. The first one, which is the better one, we described above, the other one, the worse one, leads to the blue eye and eventually all the way back to Shkodër. Before we drove off to the Blue Eye we were considering to take this road back to Shkodër, they informed us that it would take at least six hours due to the bad conditions of the road. So with this in our heads we drove off to the Blue Eye, actually we were not driving but bouncing at an average speed of 8 km/h. Walking would take us just a little longer than driving. The road was demanding a lot of our car so we decided that it was definitely better for us and our car not to drive this road back to Shkodër. The car is just missing a bit of ground clearance to deal with this heavy shit. Tom is looking for different solutions to lift the car a bit, maybe a suspension lift, we’ll see. However, we got to the Blue Eye and back with no damage to the car. And the Blue Eye was beautiful definitely worth to visit.

Road from the Blue eye to Theth (descent part of the road)

The next morning we started our hike to Valbonë. A beautiful but very demanding hike high up in the mountain. Enjoying the beautiful views, heavily breathing (mainly Dani) we climbed further up. We took our lunch at the top of the mountain, in a beautiful scenery and afterwards we descended to Valbonë. The annoying part of it was that we knew we had to climb this part the next day to get back in Theth. When we arrived in Valbonë we had to look for a place to stay for one night. Not very much choice around there, so randomly we picked a place and asked them for a place. The first impression like in most cases is “where the hell did we end up this time” but then the welcome is so warm that you actually do not want to leave the place the next morning. So the owner showed us our room, which was situated on the ground floor of his own house. A perfect place to stay for the night and probably the best in Valbonë was the only thing we could think of ten minutes later when we had a nice refreshing shower and enjoying a fresh beer in the sun.

The next morning after we finished a traditional breakfast with fig jam, sheep cheese and hot milk we started our way back. We knew what to expect, and fortunately it was easier than expected. We were faster on the top than we had expected and just after the mountain ridge we ate our lunch. In only five and a half hours we were back in Theth, which is fast for this hike (normally 7h). Tired but satisfied we had a softdrink at the restaurant where we had slept the other night, before we started our bouncing ride back to Shkodër.

Well deserved break during our hike to Valbonë

You are now familiar with  Theth and Valbonë, the last and second last place on earth. Well believe it or not, we found the third last place on earth: Koman. Beautiful roads, however bad, with breathtaking views over parts of the Komani lake will take you to Koman. If you arrive in Koman, it’s only possible via one way, you’ll find a small campsite/hotel, a tiny really tiny grocery store, approximately three houses and one other bar. From here there is only one way that leads you to the Komani lake. To get there you have to go through a 500 meter long tunnel, which is quite dark. After this tunnel you’ll reach the Komani lake from where you can take the ferry to Fierze and nothing else.

And then we have our campsite in Koman, definitely worth to mention here as well. This campsite, which actually is not even a campsite, but one of world’s most desolated hotels, is situated under the main road to the Komani lake. The part that is situated under the road or better the bridge, contains: the restaurant, the hotel rooms and the toilet/shower area. This means, that if you have a shower or have to go to the toilet you’re literally staring at the concrete pillars and main construction of the bridge. The part where you can camp, situated next to the restaurant and hotel, which actually is the terrace and or parking place of the restaurant, but can

Hotel/campsite in Koman