Thursday, 20 November 2014

Albanian Alps and Theth

This route lived up to expectations I formed when planning this stage from London; definitely a highlight of our journey so far!  Two perfect sunny days while we undertook this route was simply the icing on the cake.

Whilst all of the mountain stages in Albania were beautiful, the area surrounding Theth, known as the Albanian Alps, was especially scenically stunning. We did this section as a loop, starting and ending in Shkoder but with a night spent in the Alps.  We stayed in a family run guest house in the mountain village of Theth.   The route we took into Theth was rough and slow going, taking about 5 hours driving time to cover the 70 kilometre 4wd route from Shkoder, but with stunning views the entire way it was time well spent.

On the sealed road, heading to a small village from which the 4wd route takes over.


In a small village at the end of the tarmac, stopped to air down the tyres in preparation for the off-road stage.  A group of children who were playing football nearby came to watch.  They didn’t speak English, but I let them inspect the car and they seemed very interested.







A few photos from the track, twisting towards the ridge of mountains we would need to pass over.
















This is an Albanian mountain cafe.  Cafe’s are to be seen everywhere in Albania, whether in a remote village or in an isolated spot like this one.  They serve a purpose as a social gathering place for the people who live in remote locations to converge upon. 





A small plateau at the side of the track where we stopped for a picnic lunch in beautiful surroundings.  Although it was early November the temperature was still in the low 20's.



                                                  
  

Working our way higher towards the pass.





Going over the pass and down into the Alpine valley.
 




Micky Moo has grown into a huge Peppa Pig fan during the trip.  She flicks through all the DVD’s, invariably stopping on a Peppa Pig DVD and then insisting it is put on for her to watch.  She can say "Peppa".

   





The track winds down to a river running through the valley.  Just look how beautifully clear the water is.

This is a hospital in the middle of nowhere.  Well it seems like the middle of nowhere, but there are enough inhabited houses in the valley, though dispersed all around, to equate to a reasonable population. 
A sealed road along from the hospital.  Yes, about 200 metres of sealed road, complete with street lights!  Yet either end of the short sealed section is rough track.  






Getting dusk – not too far from Theth, though by the time we arrived in Theth it was well and truly dark.





This photo was taken the next morning from the balcony of the guest house we stayed in.  At the same time as we arrived in Theth a young Polish couple who had been travelling the same route, but in the opposite direction to us, also arrived.  Their Landcruiser is shown in the photo. 





The guesthouse and surroundings



This place is very popular with 4wd clubs / events, as revealed by the stickers on the door.




Francesco, the 14 year old son of the family who run the guesthouse.  All of our dealings were with Francesco and this was a common theme during our time in Albania – the older generation don’t speak English, whereas the children are much more likely to.  Therefore children/grandchildren often do all the dealings with foreign tourists like us.  As it turned out Francesco loves 4wd’s and he managed to talk his way into short drives of both my Mitsubishi and the Toyota.

The guest house was a nice experience.  It got cold after dark given the altitude we were at, which marked quite a change from the over 20 degree temperatures we enjoyed on the way into the mountains while the sun was shining.  The guesthouse had a small lounge with a roaring log fire, which was very cosy after dark.











We had dinner and breakfast at the guesthouse, served to us in a small dining room pictured here.  The family is very self sufficient – the butter and cheese are home made using milk from the family’s cows and sheep.  The honey is from local beehives.






That morning we wished to hike to a place known as the ‘Blue Eye’ and fortunately for us the Polish couple were heading there and they knew where to find it, so we gladly accepted their invitation to follow them.  You can’t drive all the way to the Blue Eye, so a bit of a hike was required too.

 







Looking down on the Blue Eye

 The 'easy' way to the Blue Eye


After visiting the Blue Eye we returned to the car and drove a short distance to a nice spot by the river we had noted the day before on our way into the mountains.

Refilling the water tank in the car with the pure water that flows here.

Slowly completing our loop. Taking the track back past Theth.





Climbing out of the alpine valley in the other direction from which we entered.


Nearly at the pass


And at the top of the pass on this side of the mountains the track is met by a brand new sealed road.  Tyres reinflated, back to 2WD and the rest of the route was an easy run back to Shkoder.

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