officer and when he realised their nationality the ticket was torn up. Just goes to show it is useful to have a Pole handy.
As for the cliché that all Albanians drive Mercedes, it is not quite true. Some drive Audis instead.
|Most of the road signs seemed to be full of bulletholes like this one at Boge|
|Or barely legible like this pointing to Thethi|
Just getting to the start point at Thethi is a challenge. However EU funding for a paved road will probably make it a lot easier in a year or so. I ended up relying on a ride on a minibus to negotiate the currently treacherous road, apparently made worse by bikers.
The driver insisted I get out at Jimmy Guri's place. Jimmy gave me his card stating that he was the Director/Manager of Theti Park. (see www.Thethipark.com) and introduced me to the local chief of police (he was more interested in telling me the superiority of Munchen Bayern over Manchester Utd). Jimmy has a broad American accent acquired from living in the Us after escapinbg from Albania during the breakdown of communism in Yugoslavia in 1989. Jimmy turned out be extremely helpful to the extent that he loaned me some money to pay for the jeep ride back to Boge as I missed the last minibus of the day. Nearly all my cash, in Euros, had been spent on getting a Green card at the border and had cost me a lot more than I expected.
From Jimmy's there was a good track down to the dry river bed below. Turn left at N42.41735 E19.75605 and cross the wide almost waterless river bed to a Hoxha bunker at N42.41962 E19.75834 (870m). From there the trail is waymarked and follows the river bed through pines to the foot of the vertical wall that surrounds the valley. There is a way up, obviously. It goes past a giant overhang which provides a perfect spot for a bivvy and then emerges on a flattish 'alp' called Qala e Paja N42.44265 E19.77027 (1668m). The painted waymarks are replaced by occasional small cairns. I continued along the ridge as far as N42.44146 E19.77900 and set up camp for the night. Whilst I was putting the tent up a passing shepherd indicated there was a much bigger area for camping further on and lower down. However, I had already had a look down there and spotted several herds of sheep each accompanied by Barling dogs. I had heard the reputation of these Albanian sheep dogs and did not fancy getting any nearer.
|Typical Hoxha bunker - at least this one is useful as a trail marker. Only 749999 to find.|
|Imagine this is a raging torrent and difficult to cross after snow melts.|
|There is a way up there.|
My descent route varied a bit when near the sheep, I collected my tent and made my way back to Jimmy's. When crossing the dried up river bed I missed the track and ended up walking through a large meadow into a garden, where a mother and daughter were stood. I must have been a strange sight, jabbering in a strange language about how to get to the unpaved road. Without hesitation, though, the daughter ran to a spring in the garden, filled a bottle with water and presented it me. A lovely gesture.
|Qala e Paja|
|Took me a while to remove enough stones for comfort|