DAY 6- Valbone to Shkoder

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June 16th 2023
Published: June 16th 2023
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DAY 6 – Valbone to Shkoder
I wake up when my alarm goes off from a dream where someone had gone mad with a broken bottle threatening to kill people in the staff bathroom of Tesco. Obviously there was something in that wine. I have left it literally until 8 to get up so I jump up and go out in my pyjamas. It is pouring down and there is a power cut. I head to the breakfast building and breakfast is laid out, Bread, butter, jam, cheese and a plate of tomatoes and Cucumber. I still feel a bit sick and can’t face cheese and salad for breakfast so I have bread, jam and butter. She comes in with an omelette and a turkey sausage and asks if I want coffee or tea. I go for black coffee and eat my turkey sausage. The coffee is strong and I have two jam sandwiches. I see the American girls have made butties for lunch so I do the same. They say the bus picks us up at ten thirty from a hotel but I was told it was from here. When the girl comes in we ask her, it is the hotel but she’s going to see if her brother or husband will drive us because of the rain. We are incredibly grateful. The rain seems to get heavier. The couple who are doing the pass today are undecided, the girl wants to push it to tomorrow where the forecast looks clear but the guy wants to go. I think the hike would be miserable in this and I’m not sure if this was my option if I’d have gone.

I go back to my room and lie down for half an hour then at 930 I get dressed. My trousers are still wet which is no fun but needs must. I’m really glad I dried my socks. With my bags packed and my hiking boots back on I head to the dining room where I settle my bill giving them a £5 tip because lack of signs aside they’ve been wonderful and their Dad is driving us to the bus pickup, saving us a 20 minute walk in the rain. We wish the Dutch and German couples good luck and head into Dad’s truck which has a front and back seat up front. The Americans and I get in the back; the polish/ Latvian couple up front. The girl says that the Polish/ Latvian couple and myself are on one bus and the Americans on another as they booked on the Internet and we booked locally but we will all be on the same ferry. Ten minute drive later we are dropped off and our bus is waiting for us. Its a more like a mini coach than a minibus with comfy seats and carpet. We hop on and say goodbye to the Americans. A few more pickups reveals that we were definitely at least an hour if not more, closer to the trail head than other guest houses which I take as a win. Valbone is much more spread out than Theth but there are some really big hotels popping up and like with Theth you feel that in 3 years it will be unrecognisable from what it is now. We pick up my Norwegian Angels and the Indian couple from yesterday and we chat quite amicably with them, my polish/latvian friends and an American girl for the first hour or so of the drive. The road is paved and follows a beautiful green, blue river. I also think the clouds are getting higher and the rain clearing so I have hope for the ferry. The road leaves the river and heads through farmland with some very sheer drops. We arrive at the ferry terminal and I use the bathroom then take some pictures.

The Lake is stunning, emerald green water with a mist just hovering slightly above it and mountains towering on every side. The ferry pulls in and I take a lot of photos as the hundreds of people pile off this flimsy looking open plan ferry. It reminds me a lot of the ferries in Indonesia. I am one of the first on and get a seat upstairs where the best view is. The rest of the people from my bus join us and the Latvian/Poland couple save seats for the American Mum and daughter. The wait for departure seems to take forever but eventually the last group, a group of teenagers are on board and we head off at 5 to 1. I take a lot of pictures. Its is like the fjords in New Zealand. The teenagers do a bout of happy birthday which is cute but it is then followed by song after song sang badly and loudly and it starts to piss me off. As we are heading into a narrow passage the boat slows and turns. We are thinking that it is slowing to go through the passage but instead it turns around and we are going back the way we came. We have only been going an hour of the three. Just as we are dispair of ever getting to Shkoder the ferry heads towards the bank and they put the gangway down on the side of a road. Up high in the hills I can see a motorbike so we establish that we are picking up additional passengers.

What follows next is like something from a carry on film. One of the guys who works on the boat races up the side of the mountain as if its nothing. Meanwhile the guy on the bike has gone the wrong way and is performing a hundred point turn on the tiny mountain path he was going down. Finally he turns around and goes the right way then the second bike follows him down driven by the man from the boat. Its rider is helping a third bike that seems to be stuck and then walks down behind them. I am watching with the two Americans and an Irish guy and we’ve so far cheered all three bikes and the extra rider onto the boat but now another guy who works on the boat is climbing up the side of the mountain and we notice even higher that there looks like a car and more bikes. 4 people pile out of the car and start walking down and the guy from the boat brings one of the bikes followed by another two riders. Lastly the final rider who lost his nerve seems old and is struggling with the walk so the third guy from the boat gets into their car, drives up to collect him, performs a 20 point turn then drives him back to the boat. Its incredible how out of their way these Albanians are willing to go to help. Everyone could take a lesson from their generosity.

Back going again we chat to the Irish guy for a bit from Wicklow and then he leaves and I take a lot more pictures. The Americans are playing cards which I find strange as the scenery is so beautiful and they have the best view. In the drama of the bikes the kids have basically taken all the seats and the polish guy has now lost his but at least the singing has stopped. We travel for another hour before the heavens open. At first I think I’ll stick it out but it is too heavy and our roof is giving no protection so I join the rest of the boat in the downstairs cabin. The kids are taking up all the space in the middle and refusing to move down until a woman who was seated stands up and visibly forces them further down the aisle. This allows the rest of us to move in. I get lucky and after around ten minutes of standing the mam seated beside me stands up so I take his seat. I read my book and even when the rain lifts I stay in my seat until I see people putting their backpacks on. I get up and head out. The port this side is beside a wall and whst looks like s dam and nowhere near as impressive as the other side.

Off the ferry buses are calling for Tirana, I brandish my ticket until a guy gets me and shows me to my Shkoder bus. It is a posh minibus with a shiny table seat and pretty soon all the same gang from my bus this morning are all back together. There is a skinny English guy on his own and the driver keeps making him wait and letting everyone else on instead of him. Finally when the bus is full he directs him to what looks like a box between the driver and passenger seat. Two more people try to get on and the driver says there will be another bus so a man from the back vacates a seat to get the other bus and the English guy moved lightning fast to get the seat. We joked for a bit about how the driver was determined to have him sit on the box. Then an Australian couple got on and he offered them another bus but they said they’d sit on the floor. She sat on the box and he sat on the floor. The way out was through a tunnel only big enough for one vehicle at a time so there was lots of honking as we made our way through.

The road is pretty terrible; unpaved and slow going along the side of a canyon. We overtake a few self drive camper vans struggling with it. The driver stops at a restaurant and allows people to use the bathroom. He also directs the Australian couple to a bus behind us. We continue on in relative silence. Everyone is tired and it’s been a long few days but the canyon is beautiful. The road is not great on my back though. The driver comes asking for tickets and I can’t find mine; it was in my hand as I got on the bus but its nowhere to be seen now. I’m panicking but the Norwegian girls say its not likely to matter. I have my boat ticket do he takes that off me and checks everyone’s tickets around me but never actually asks me for my bus ticket. After he had gone I find it on the floor but I’m not really sure how I got away with not paying again there. Once again we marvel at how trusting the Albanian way is. The next hour is pretty quiet and the scenery remains stunning. Then we stop at a restaurant and I jump down to stretch my legs but the driver ushers me back on and I see he’s collected the Australian couple from the other bus. We set off again with her sat on a box and him sat or stood in the door. Another 30 minutes and we are back in Shkoder. We say our goodbyes and I give the Norwegian girls another hug then I head to my hostel.

The stairs are a killer on my sore thighs but I make it up and speak to the camera and he says he’ll be there in a minute. I check my bag and my 7000lek I stashed is still there safely. The Australian couple arrive to collect their bags, they have booked somewhere nicer for tonight. The owner comes and I ask him about a bus to Prizren. He hasn’t heard of one but calls the number off the website on Rome to Rio but says the guy says he only works with companies not people. Just as im thinking ill have to go back to Tirana he asks me to give him a few minutes and makes a few calls then he tells me he has WhatsApped someone who runs a bus to Prizren and is waiting for a response. The response comes ten minutes later, there is a bus at 1030 for 10 euro. I expected to pay 15 so winner. The bus is picking up at a roundabout near the castle so about 40 minute walk away but he gives me all the details. I am in a different room from last time with the Canadian guy who tells me he snores but to kick the bed. FUN.

I head out for dinner and the hostel owner makes a suggestion; it’s the same place the American Mum and daughter suggested and it’s where I was already headed. Its a 5 minute walk and I get a table and order their special, a beer and a water. I had forgotten you can’t drink tap water here so am surprised when an actual water bottle comes. I miss the mountains with their drinkable tap water. Food is amazing. Rice, goulash, beans, steak and halloumi with salad. Its huge and I upload all my photos to Instagram as I eat. When I look up I realise almost everyone in the restaurant is from my bus or the boat today including the Americans. I pay my bill and thank them for the recommendation as I leave.

Back at the hostel I’ve been messaging my hostel owner for tomorrow and some of the messages are a bit borderline. I get a couple of second opinions but consensus is he’s being friendly and lost in translation. I catch up with Mum and Kerry and have a chat with Archie then I go for a shower, which is not warm and sort my bags for tomorrow. The Canadian guy is working on his laptop but I lie down and rest until I’m ready to sleep.

Turkey sausage, Two x bread and jam, Cheese
Half trail mix, Half banana bread
1x Cucumber tomato and jam sandwich
Dinner (see above)
2 beers, 2 waters
Money 7350lek

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