Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Valbona to Thethi - the Thethi Part

(This is Part III of our Accursed Mountain Summit Trek - check out Part I here and Part II here.)

We awoke our last day to crystal-clear blue skies and fluffy cumulus clouds dancing between the mountain peaks. Erin was able to convince us all to take the hike out to the Syri i Kalter - the "Blue Eye" - for which I am so grateful. As you'll see, it was spectacular.

The hike took us deeper into the Balkans, away from any passable road and into remote little farmsteads with beautiful old homes, lived in by generations of the same family for who knows how many hundreds of years.

Dan had his life flash before his eyes in the field above when he thought a dog was chasing him down...only to realize the dog wasn't interested in him, but the giant hare barely managing to outrun the both of them. #derp

At the end of the road (literally...there's no more road because there's nowhere for it to go), there are a few little stands with caj mali, turkish coffee, and sodas perched over the rocky falls. The water, whose source is the Blue Eye which we sought, was freezing. And beautiful. And blue.

Pajove represent! least three-fifths of us.

A further 45 minutes up a trail, we finally got peeks of radiant turquoise blue winking through all the green. As close as we were, we still had to climb down a bluff, cross the river, and then climb back up the other side to reach our destination.

Blue Eyes are natural water springs of truly breathtaking clarity and color. There are only two in Albania, one outside of Thethi, and one in the deep south.

You can see in the panoramic (below, on the left side), it took a series of frightfully tall handmade branch ladders to get to the Blue Eye. 

Chillin' with the "cafe" owner, who also happened to be quite proficient in iPhone photography.

We drank some more caj mali up in a tree house overhanging the Blue Eye - seriously. This place was magical.

On our return home, we watched a giant rainstorm roll in over the valley - right where we were headed. We attempted to barter a trip back to the village from a van driver at the road's end, but since we wouldn't pay the tourist price it was a no go, and we trucked off into the storm. After about 15 minutes, we heard a vehicle rumbling down the road and, lo and behold, up drove our stubborn friend! Apparently once the storm hit, he took pity on us, and so we got a teeth-rattling ride back to Theth.

The tower, above left, is an old blood-feud lock-in tower where families involved in blood feuds could flee to safety. There aren't many left standing, although after the fall of communism blood feuds began to take their toll on northern Albania once again. 

Upon our return, we packed up our gear, filled our water bottles, and piled in the lokale owner's van - in addition to forcing delicious traditional foods on travelers, the family also ran a furgon to Shkoder. We enjoyed a long ride that gave us time to adapt from the fierce, isolated beauty of undeveloped Thethi to the modern, tarmacked highway approach to the Italianate city of Shkoder, where our phenomenal trip drew to a close.

So beautiful. So majestic! I came across this poem by one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and I think she expressed it better than I ever hope to:

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
and all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
to crush! To life the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this; 
here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, - Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, - let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.


  1. What a beautiful place for a beautiful person. A place like this is reserved for good people doing good things

  2. That's too sweet, Uncle Rob - love you!

  3. Wow. That's breathtaking! Looks like professional photos!