Mali i Cikes

ALBANIA
August 2012

A hike in the highest mountain along the Ionian coast of southern Albania, with the highest peak (Maja e Cikės) reaching 2045 meters right next to the sea! It's a surreal contrast to walk in a mountain wilderness (where you are unlikely to meet any other hikers) and see paradise beaches on the coast far below.

Water is scarce here, we carried 6 liters per person. It took 2½ days to reach the first and only spring of the whole hike! After the hike we went down to an amazing beach - the perfect end to a superb hike :)


Day 1:
Llogara pass - Maja e Qorres

 

A view of Maja e Cikes peak (2045 m) and beaches below,
about halfway between Llogara pass and Qorres peak.

 
 

Maja e Cikes peak, taken at the main ridge below Qorres peak.
Dhermi beach to the right. The grassy string to the far left is where we camped, near the small pool.

 
 

Campsite with Qorres peak in the background

 
 

Day 2: Maja e Qorres - Maja e Cikes - Valje e Bufet

 
 

We continued south along the ridge.

 
 

Qorres peak again

 
 

Plenty of nice plants, like these blue dry thorny flowers.
We also found a lot of mountain tea.

 
 

Climbing Maja e Cikes

 
 

View south from Maja e Cikes

 
 

Some shepherd with too much spare time built the path here :)

 
 

After a strenuous descent from Cikes the path became easier,
as it passed some old pine trees with very thick trunks.

 
 

Endrit talking to a shepherd

 
 

 

 
 

 

 
 

First view of Valje e Bufet meadow.

 
 

View towards Himara, one of the prime beach resorts in southern Albania.

 
 

Valje e Bufet and the sea. At the far right is the Greek island of Corfu.

 
 

The wonderful meadow of Valje e Bufet, with a couple of
shepherds' houses and sheep visible to the left.

 
 

The shepherds invited us for coffee

 
 

We also bought fresh cheese, three types: one fresh from today,
one from yesterday and one stored for a week. All tasted very different.

 
 

Eva and Benjamin enjoying the cheese

 
 

They also gave us vegetables, bread and an energy drink (probably the most fancy item for them). Endrit helped us to translate and convinced the shepherds to receive at least some money for all the food. It took a lot of persuasion! Albanian hospitality in a nutshell :)

 
 

Time for raki! Hence the sly smile :)
Very tasty! Probably the best raki of the trip.

 
 

The shepherds fixed us up with a cardboard floor to eat our dinner on.

 
 

Another shepherd. The shepherds are VERY talkative, and poor Endrit who was the only visitor who spoke Albanian had to listen to them for hours :)

 
 

Sunset over the sea

 
 

Day 3: Valje e Bufet - Vuno

 
 

Easy and beautiful walking on a nice path that traversed the side of the mountain.

 
 

Finally water! It took 2½ days to find it, water never seemed more precious!

 
 

We met some more shepherds here.
We decided to follow this guy, as he was going to walk a good trail to Himara.

 
 

Valje e Budinicės
Like an African savannah hidden in the mountains.

 
 

 

 
 

This is the approximate route we took.
The shepherd walked too fast for us, and he soon left us.
We managed to find a good path most of the way, but got lost in forest or bushes a few times. We finally managed to reach the bottom of a canyon where we could follow the dry river bed until we reached the road.

 
 

We hitch-hiked to Vuno village.
Here we had a cold beer and a salad at a local restaurant.
The owner gave us free coffee and raki, and when we bought vegetables from him, he threw in some extra for free. He also offered us free accommodation. Albanian hospitality again!

Endrit accepted the offer for free accommodation, but we could kill for a shower so we headed for a hostel in the village. A very cool and relaxed place where we camped under olive trees with the Ionian see visible in the far distance.

 
 

The hostel owner drove us down a small road, dropped us off and showed us where we could walk to a nice beach.

 
 

After 20 minutes of walking we found this amazing beach!

 
 

The beach was at the mouth of an impressive canyon

 
 

The canyon was very deep and the vertical rocks perfect for climbing in many places.
A future climber's paradise?