The Perils of Albanian (Dis-)information Centers!

This recent email from a lovely guest our ours was too good not to share, and represents a valuable cautionary tale!  It’s  also the latest news on the state of the pass to Theth – for all you happy hikers who’ve been writing to ask – this is how it was on-or-around-about the 29th of April.

[NB:  I was in bed with a bad case of Cholera, Black Death, Typhus or something (flu?) and Alfred et al. were guarding me loyally, which why I inadvertently let this happen!!!!] [PS:  All better now!]

Hey Catherine.

So we made it to Valbona. Just.
We found a really ‘helpful’ tourist
information in Shkoder who gave us
all the information we needed – or

so we thought.

She told us that the minibus to Theth
runs every morning at 7, but if

we ‘go now there is small chance
we may be able to pick one up’ at

lunchtime. And the information that
we really needed which was that

the pass between Theth and Valbona was clear and that we would be able to
cross alone (‘many people do it with their backpacks’), and that we
would be
able to spend the night camping near the summit as we had
planned.

We made our way to the minibus stop but we seemed to cause confusion
asking about an afternoon bus, we also half understood that the road
to Theth was blocked but we had no idea why. After an hour or so of
people helping us we managed to secure a ride with a local guy for 30
euros who was doing some construction up there, but he said it would
take 6 hours which was odd.

After a tour of Shkoder to collect building materials, bread etc, and
a trip to his family house for curd we set off. He was a great guy,
happy to stop for photos on the way. After a few hours i pointed to
the map to see where we were but he said something about the Boga road
being blocked and pointed to the southern road on the map. After a
quick read of the guidebook we understood why it would take 6 hours.

[They must have gone on the Nderlysa 4WD track?]
Anyway it was a beautiful journey and we weren’t really in a rush.

We arrived at the house he was working on outside Theth at about 5pm
where he unloaded the car. He pointed us to the waterfall and said we
had an hour, and just to reassure us he wasn’t going to drive off he
locked up the car and gave me the keys.

Eventually we arrived in Theth at about 7pm and headed for Harusha,
set up the tent and were fed an amazing dinner. In the morning we woke
up lazily as the plan was to spend a few hours in Theth, have lunch
and then set off after lunch to see how far we got before setting up
camp for the night. When we mentioned this to one of the children he
seemed shocked and said there was still snow. It also became clear why
the Boga road was shut. It had been closes all winter as there was
still a few meters of snow in the pass. We asked him about the snow
and he said we might make it through but just to be sure he checked
with his father. Unfortunately our fears were confirmed by the father,
there was snow in the pass to Valbona and nobody had come across since
last year.

We were now faced with the prospect of trying to make it back to
Shkoder the long way which made a mess of all our plans. Instead we
asked about a guide and if we could get through with one. He asked his
father and they managed to find someone from the village willing to
take us.

We set off at about 9.30 and all was well for a few hours. We hit the
snowline at about mid morning and kept going. I was ok but my
girlfriend was struggling. And then it got harder. And steeper. And
more dangerous. We finally made it to the pass, and then i realised we
had probably been completely mislead and a bit foolish. The mile
across the pass took us 2 hours. Coming down from the pass was
treacherous and my girlfriend got to the point where she couldn’t go
forward but we all didn’t want to go back. One part coming down from
the pass was particularly bad, so much so that it didn’t want to take
it with my bag on. The only option was to go through a gap in a
uprooted tree, i had to take my bag off and pass it through –
unfortunately it didn’t stop and i finally collected it about 300
meters down the hill, luckily at that point there was no edge in
sight.

Eventually we made it past the worst part and the guide dropped us
where the snow finished just about above Ragam. By now it was 5pm
and we were wet and tired, and the guide still had to get back to Theth.
We offered to pay for him to stay in Ragam but he seemed keen to set
off. We walked the final few miles to the bar at the start/end of the
ashphalt road, although we did lose the path and had to call Alfred
for directions and he kindly offered to collect us. We eventually sat
down for a beer at about 7pm.

It had been epic.

And just to round it off I managed to knock over the bag that had a
bottle of homegrown montengegran wine that had made it across the
pass, and the bottle broke.

Anyway, after that we had a lovely couple of days relaxing in Valbona,
and we have a good story to tell (its not the most stupid thing I’ve
done) and some nice photos.

If we can find the details we plan to contact the tourist information
in Shkoder to tell them to be more careful and to have up to date
information, if she had told us there was snow (as you had but from
the email i didn’t realise the Theth/Valbona pass still had snow)
then we wouldn’t have gone to Theth in the first place.

I thought i should let you know anyway as we had been in contact before.
I hope you are feeling better now, maybe we will be back one day –
but not until after the snow has cleared!

Thank you. Ulysses & Penelope.*

*Not their real names, unless of course in a super sneaky move, it IS their real names, and now you’ll never guess!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “The Perils of Albanian (Dis-)information Centers!”

  1. Stefan StuntzNo Gravatar says:

    Theth Crossing Update from 10 May, 2013

    The crossing is quite easy when the sun is shining and softens up the snow. You have to be comfy to hike/traverse steepish (30 degrees) snow fields. Snow starts in earnest at about 1400m altitude. Finding the correct way down on the Theth side is very(!) hard though. The path is completely buried until 1400m as well and there arent many visible waymarkings. I would consider it impossible to find without a highly accurate GPS and a good track to follow (or obviously a local guide).

    Pictures (and some german text) are here, feel free to copy some into your blog and link if you want: http://www.mtb-news.de/forum/showthread.php?p=10584894#post10584894

    Greetings from Shkoder and thanks again for two relaxing nights in Valbona.

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