Day 3 – The road to Valbona

22 Sep

Survived last night without any ill effects, and made it to breakfast in plenty time.  Sausages again.

Popped out briefly for some postcards and water. Back with a couple of minutes to spare,  but the group were all about to leave – keen as anything! Obviously looking forward to the estimated 8 hour drive today.

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We back tracked for about 100km to join the “Road of the Nations” – a  recently completed road linking Kosovo and therefore Serbia to the Albanian coastal ports including Durres. It was smooth, mostly dual carriageway with the odd tunnel and bridge – but almost completely empty!

We passed lots of mining activity and several rivers that looked like their stone beds were being dug up by JCBs for building materials.

The mountains are certainly getting bigger here – the start of this section of the Alps. Quite barren looking, but some agriculture on a family level with lots of strips of different crops being cultivated.

Should also mention that the reason we are taking a road to Kosovo to get to the north of Albania is because the only other road that goes there would take 10 hours to travel even though it is more direct. The road was originally built by King Zog in the 1920s and 30s. Helped by Mussolini, I presume not personally. The road has not been looked after and is apparently full of potholes.

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We stopped briefly at a petrol station and had the opportunity for a toilet break.  The ladies felt completely under dressed as the sign suggested they should be wearing high heels and a dress.

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I also managed to stock up on some more Albanian alcohol – this time an orange flavoured and coloured brandy – Ponç. Endrit let it be known that this was usually only for the ladies.  No change there then.

Crossing the border into Kosovo was pretty straight forward and only delayed us 10 minutes. I realised that I was the only person that didn’t have an Albanian entry stamp in my passport already.  Potentially due to the dozy officer at the airport, or perhaps because I’d joined the Albanians only queue. Thankfully this didn’t cause a problem though.

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We continued to the town of Gjakova where an entire school seemed to have emptied into the street at once. We had lunch in a nondescript park trying to remember to pay in Euros this time.  Plenty good food still available for much cheapness.

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Continuing on, we crossed back into Albania – 3 hours and 40 minutes after leaving it. The Albanians seemed most disinterested in our return and of the four border staff sitting doing nothing, the youngest chap seemed to draw the short straw but dealt with us at least as efficiently as the Kosovans. This time I did get an Albanian stamp.

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We moved quickly through Endrit’s home town of Bajram Curri and entered the Valbona valley. Stopping at a bridge over the bluest water you could ever imagine was a fantastic sight, topped only by the steep slopes of the mountains in the background.

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Continuing through the valley we reached our guesthouse for the next two nights.  The family were all there to welcome us and we entered a tall building with three rooms on each floor.  Shoes off at the door, seemed to be the local rule, although I passed on the replacement crocs offered.

With free time before our included evening meal it was suggested to have a gentle walk around the area. I ended up doing 2km – half of it on rough track through a forest, past a small cemetery with three recent graves and also a small wooden shack –  and the other half on the tarmac road back again.

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We then took the bus back to the place I had been, for dinner. Chicken not fish.

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We then headed back to the residences and I cracked open the sweet orange spirit on my extensive balcony under a starry sky,  just visible over the mountains – with three others. Only managed to do half the bottle between us. Always tomorrow!

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2 Responses to “Day 3 – The road to Valbona”

  1. Gail September 28, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    why am I not surprised that you managed to find the Kosovan equivalent of Blue Wicked lol

    • tonymochan September 28, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      Albanian, but it was only £4 for a 75cl bottle. And it lasted two days!

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