Some people we meet in our life, they remain special and unforgettable especially if we meet them in the mountains. I want to share a story related to this.
This year I have decided to work as a tourist guide in the Peaks of the Balkans which is a 193km trail along the borderlands of three countries: Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. People are coming from different countries around the world just to hike in these wild trails to be close to the nature, beautiful mountains, tradition, culture and the history of the Balkans.
The mountains don’t give you only joy and freedom but also connects you with people, and this time I was lucky to hike with four Spaniards: Martha, Agatha, Fernando and Daniel. As I had to learn more about some parts of the trails, Adriatik the guide of this group, who for me is the best person to know about all the mountains, he invited me to join his group. I was ready for the experience and the journey!
On 28 April we all met in the city I was born, Peja.
Peja is surrounded by mountains and is very close to get to Rugova valley the national park where most of the hike starts. Everything was organized for the group by Balkan Natural Adventure, so by transport it took us 40mins from Peja to arrive to Reka e Allages, a village in Rugova.
Our starting point was at the guesthouse “Ariu” which means Bear that is owned and managed by a wonderful couple Mustafa and his wife, who prepared for us the lunch pocket and of course it was traditional Albanian food “laknor” or pita. You always enjoy the stay in this guesthouse, with their warmth and hospitality they make you feel like home!
The start of the hike from this guesthouse has steep slopes and you should enter to a beautiful forest, but most of the trees are fallen and its hard to know where you are going because theres no marking. You need some time until your body gets the message that you have started the hike in a steep terrain, so we were walking slowly until our heart beats were more calm, and the body started to feel more comfortable with the walk.
That day was sunny and warm but as we were walking through the giant trees we were feeling more fresh.
After two hours walking we arrived to the car road and the sign where the map with the trails is located. There is a wooden table and chairs so we decided to have a short break, to eat “laknor” in the beautiful surrounding with mountains covered with snow and the green fields.
after our short break, we passed the car road, another steep terrain was waiting for us. Slowly we were walking up and after few minutes we could see now the Hajla peak, it was closer and we decided to hike to the top.
Adriatik was the first leading the group while I was the last walking with Daniel a wonderful and peaceful person. We were talking about the little things in life, the time which is precious and we can’t turn it back and how some people forget to value moments in life. For a moment we stopped walking, we turned back and Daniel was looking at the view we had in front of us, a wonderful view of nature, he took a deep breath and said this is the moment we need to live and cherish.
On the top of Hajla (2403m) we could see down on the left side Rozhaja, Montenegro and in front of us the beautiful view of Shkodra pass the hike planned for the next day. After we did some pictures and wrote comments in the little book inside the metal box we started slowly to descent.
The next break was to the spring water just down to the Hajla peak. It was time to have a little break and eat something. After we finished the meal Martha said its time for “siesta”. I didn’t hear this word before, so I realized “siesta” is the meaning of “nap”. From that moment until the end of the journey “siesta” became part of me and Adriatik aswell.
After “siesta” we continued our hike down to another village called Drelaj, where Osman Uka was waiting for us to his guesthouse “Shqiponja” which means Eagle. Another great place to stay and to have traditional Albanian food. After the dinner was served on the table they put kos (yogurt) and Aghata asked: how and when should we drink kos, during the meal, or after? I was impressed how they were ready to eat just as we eat. They wanted to know more about our culture and the way of living. For Aghata kos (yogurt) becam her favourite drink.
The second day a long hike was waiting for us. Our starting point was Kuqishte another village in Rugove to end in Babino Polje in Montenegro. The trail got more interesting because it was different from the yesterday where we didn’t have any snow along the trail. After hiking the steep terrain we passed by the big and small lakes, totally green but the snow on their surrounding made them look magical.
Along our hike on our left we could see Hajla peak the one we reached from yesterday while on the right we could see Rusolia peak. From far away they were similar and we could hardly know their difference. So after this day all the peaks we have seen along the way got named Haja peak.
We had just a little bit more to reach the Shkodra pass. But of course before reaching the pass was time for siesta again.
It was a lot of wind in the pass so we quickly had to move and descent to the trail down.
After passing two small hills and the ridge we arrived close to the signs letting us know to turn on the right for Babibo Polje. We left the snow, now this part was all green. A beautiful village with little wooden houses. Completely in peace as still the season for hiking hasn’t started so we enjoyed the silence to the maximum. We could see the jeep waiting for us to a little bridge seen from up. After finished our hike we had another 40 min drive to Plav in Timm Restaurant our next station for food and sleep.
On the third day we had to change the itinerary because parts of the trail in this season were still covered with snow so the group decided to hike less that day. We decided to drive from Plav to Thora Pass and from there to hike all the way down to beautiful Theth, Albania. This is the place highly recommended to visit and I could see that Ferndando was the one who wanted to go there. And I realized that Fernando was the one interested more about Albanians culture and history because in the first day of the hiking he asked me where is Orosh located the place where people paid blood feud as described in the book “The Broken April” by Ismail Kadare.
Thora pass (Qafa e Thorës) was blocked from the snow, while walking by we have seen the employees who were working to open the road so people can have access to.
The trail to Theth was walking down across the forest.
After three hours we arrived to Theth, to the guesthouse “Pavlin Polia” located close to the old church built in 1892, with the magical view.
Our Spaniard friends without taking a break were ready to have a short walk to the waterfall which took us 30mins from Pavlin guesthouse. When we arrived to the waterfall they were amazed especially in this season the water is more powerful coming down making us wet and fresh.
On the fourth day we started walking from Theth to Valbona which is roughly 17km. The trail starts with the steep terrain across the forest and some valleys. More higher we were going more giant mountains we could see. Arriving to the Valbona pass you can have one of the most beautiful scenery.
The standart route to descent from Valbona pass was closed because of the snow. The best possible option was to descent to the closest couloir which was safe.
We all started to make a plan to descent. At this point we realised we became so close like a family, because in the mountains you always need safety and the trust. Adriatik already had the basic equipments and together with Fernando as he was more experienced in the mountains he was ready to help by keeping the rope to the rock for safety reasons. After this we started to use the phrase: We believe in Fernando. While I was going up and down to make the steps like ladders for the group to walk easy and safe.
We slowly arrived to Valbona where Bardhosh was waiting for us with his jeep to drive us back to Prishtina.
Four days of hiking passed so quick. We didn’t wanted this trip to end. In the end I would like to mention Martha who is a great example how you can face challenges with confidence and push your own limits, even that she was not feeling well. The power comes from mind she said. She became my best friend especially when there were snow passes and we together walked all of them, very close and safe to each other.
I was lucky to meet such people and share such experience with them. I still talk about our amazing trip. We know that borders exist in this world but wherever you come from either from Spain or Kosovo we are all humans and we are ready to have precious moments together.
Never stop walking in the mountains.