Bjeshkėt e Nemuna
(North-Albanian Alps)

Albania
19-23 of August, 2012

This mountain is shared by Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. The two latter called the mountains "Prokletije". The Albanian name means "the accursed mountains" and they are famous not only for their nice landscape, but also for their isolated villages with blood feuds. The villages here are catholic, since the Ottomans never bothered to convert the small populations in the remotest valleys.

The highest of the entire Dinaric Alps (Maja e Jezercės, 2694 m) is found here on the Albanian side. We hiked in and around the Valbona, Theth and Nderlysa valleys, with a sidetrip up to Buni i Groapet meadow below Maja e Jezercės.

Though the area is spectacular and the nature unspoilt, there are a lot of villages here, and many locals offer both food and accommodation. Some have even built small bars in the middle of nowhere, making this somewhat similar to a Nepalese tea house trek. It is therefore suitable that Benjamin & Eva joined us on this hike, since we met them on the Annapurna trek in Nepal :)


Day 1: Getting from Shkodėr to Valbona valley

Just getting to Valvona valley takes a whole day.
First you have to take a bus from Shkoder to the Komani damm.
From there awaits a 3-4 hour long boat journey, which guidebooks
say is one of the nicest in the world, comparable to a ride in the
Norwegian fjords. And the journey was indeed spectacular.
A cool aspect except for the impressive mountains, is that the
boat drops off locals in the middle of seemingly nowhere. But as they
start to hike up a small path you can spot a little house high up
on a very isolated spot. Incredible that people live in such locations!

 

Boat on the Komani lake

 
 

The trip passes through several impressive canyons.

 
 

After the boat ride a small minibus takes you to the town Bajram Curri.
There we had lunch, before getting into another minivan (photo above).
This minivan was very cramped, carrying 23 people!

 
 

It was a bumpy but scenic drive through the amazingly beautiful Valbona valley. I definitely want to return to do some more hiking up to the peaks and sidevalleys of Valbona. There are plenty of restaurants and homestays here as well.

 
 

At the end of the road we reached Fusha e Gjės restaurant.
After a meal here, we walked some 15 minutes towards the Valbona pass and pitched our tent on a nice meadow.

 
 

Day 2: Valbona - Theth

 
 

Sunrise

 
 

 

 
 

A boy came riding on the path.
The pass in the background straight above the kid is the Valbona pass.
That's where we are heading! Looks hard from here... (but turned out to be quite easy)

 
 

The picturesque village of Rragam.

 
 

As we ascended we suddenly, in the middle of the forest, stumbled upon this charming bar! It was run by two brothers who just finished building it. It was named "Simoni Kafe" after their grandfather who had lived in a house on that site many years ago.

 
 

They served us ice-coffee (with cold water from a spring) that was superb!

 
 

 

 
 

Shortly after the Simoni Kafe we left the forest and entered the alpine zone.

 
 

Benjamin with the Valbona valley behind.

 
 

The path shortly before the pass

 
 

At the Valbona pass

 
 

View from the Valbona pass into the Valbona valley

 
 

There are so many nice peaks here... and lush forests rich in wildlife... paradise!

 
 

On the other side of the pass we found.... ANOTHER BAR! :)

 
 

Who can resist a break here? :)

 
 

We bought coffee and cold soda.
The owner gave us some herbs (for tea) that he had picked in the mountains.

 
 

The first houses we reached in the Thethi valley.
In one of these houses we had a nice meal and stayed the night.
Good food, comfy beds and hot shower. Luxury!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Day 3: Theth - Buni i Gropaet

 
 

The last houses in Theth valley (the "neigborhood" known as Okol)

 
 

This was in an old mill.
Or maybe it's where Albanians learn to drive? That would explain the traffic... :)

 
 

Impressive mountains at the end of Thethi valley

 
 

The route up to the Cafa e Pejes pass.
The peak on the left called Arapit, and the
vertical part of it is nearly 1000 meters high!

 
 

Halfway up to the pass was this rock overhang, with a little bit of shadow that protected us from the scorching sun.

 
 

View from Cafa e Pejes towards Montenegro.
The sharp ridge in the far distance is the Karanfili ridge.

 
 

Benjamin on the rocks

 
 

Shortly before Buni i Gropaet

 
 

The Buni i Gropaet meadow with shepherd's houses in the foreground.

 
 
 
 
 

Making cheese.

 
 

We continued to the upper meadow and pitched our tents.

 
 
 
 
 

We climbed up to a ridge for nice views.
Two of the small dots on the meadow (bottom left) are our tents.

 
 

Day 4: Buni i Gropaet - Theth

 
 

Chasing the warm sun on a cold morning.

 
 

Last view of Buni i Gropaet before returning to Theth.

 
 
 
 
 

View down to Thethi valley

 
 

In Thethi we followed a small "Bar" sign across the river.
It was definitely worth the detour. What a charming place!

 
 

Water from a spring + soap & towel for washing your hands before dinner :)

 
 

Sitting next to the garden where they grow the vegetables they use in the salad.

 
 

In the center of Theth we stayed at this guest house.

 
 

Day 5: Theth - Syri i Kalter - Theth

 
 

The church in downtown Theth

 
 

The tower is "Kulla e ngujimit" where young men could
be safe when being targeted during blood feuds

 
 

Old house on a rock, today an ethnic museum.

 
 

Another nice house in Theth

 
 

We headed south towards Nderlysa

 
 

A bridge over a small gorge.
The was a bar both at the entrance and exit of the gorge :)

 
 

First view of the Syri i Kalter pool

 
 

Paradise!

 
 

The water was very cold, but we just had to swim in it anyway :)

 
 

Surreal colour

 
 

Walking back to Nderlysa

 
 

It was so hot. Sara dipped her head in the cold water and
all of us wet our hats to keep our heads from overheating.

 
 

Just before reaching the Grunas waterfall we found... ANOTHER BAR! :)

 
 

Grunas waterfall

 
 

Benjamin, Eva, Sara, Mats

 
 

 

 
 

 

 
 

We returned to our guesthouse in Theth and stayed the night.
The next morning we took a furgon (minibus) to Shkoder.
It was a bumpy ride over the mountains to Boge village, but after
that the road was OK. We made a short stop at some bar
so that the driver could get drunk :)