Who would’ve ever known that Northern Albania had such beautiful Alps?? Forty-eight hours before the trek, i had NO IDEA, or even heard of Theth.  The only reason i found out about this place was from a backpacker i met in Tirana, Albania a couple prior.  To the Swiss girl i met in Tirana hostel, THANK YOU!

I arrived in Skhroder and checked into Bulldog Hostel in the late afternoon.  They had options and packages that included the hiking trip, transportation, and guesthouses laid out at reception.  For those who prefer traveling on their time through Northern Albania, you also have the option of just picking a shuttle and a guest house.

The next morning, a local shuttle picked me up from the hostel and drove 3.5 hours through some of the most beautiful landscapes.  Throughout the bus ride, the driver would pick up random strangers from the side of the road, stop at various corner stores off the country gravel, socialize with other random people and hand out miscellaneous items like fruits and cigarettes.  The driver also blared traditional Balkan music as the passengers he picked up danced in the van.  It was definitely an interesting atmosphere while the shuttle was moving on a single lane loose gravel road approximately 1500 meters up.  The only things between us and the bottom of the mountains were few trees and rocks.

The driver dropped me off at a guesthouse in Theth, a village between the mountains, around noon and had a traditional Turkish style coffee while soaking in the view.  I picked up a day bag and started my light jog toward the Blue Eye in the Grunas Canyon of Theth.  This place was known as one of Albania’s many pearls! Throughout this whole time, the offline maps app called “maps.me” assisted me on my journey across the Balkans.  It’s very useful app for downloadable terrain maps to be used when there is limited or no data in the area.

Throughout my jog/hike, i was easily able to navigate through the trails without any guide or assistance.  Anyways, couple hours later, i made it to another small village and at this time i was at least 1.5 hours away from the Blue Eye.  An elderly lady by the name of Maria waved me into her property and offered me fresh water from the hose along with coffee and Rakija!  We didn’t speak each other’s language but still communicated like we did (more so Charades style)!  So 10 minutes later, i probably had about 3-4 generous shots of Rakija and had to get back on the trail.  Walking into the Canyon was so rejuvenating because it was 5 degrees cooler and plus the path was softer to run on!

I jogged through river beds, up and down steep switchbacks and finally made it to he Blue eye!  The beauty was definitely in the Eye.  Just imagine being surrounded by rock walls except a single opening crack where the mountains fill up the open space with bright blue liquid!  After 3 hours of jogging under the sun, i jumped into the 5 degrees Celsius water.  It was probably one of the more refreshing yet painful experience.  So painful that i jumped in about 4 more times!

I began to jog/hike back through the canyon and cross through the village again.  I ran into a mother(Angelika) and a daughter(Alina) from Munich, Germany and noticed that the daughter was wearing sandals the whole time!  She told me that her boots broke the day prior and they actually hiked from Valbona (7 hours trek) to Theth earlier that day.  I immediately made a comment and applaud her for roughing out the trails in sandals!  We decided to trek together toward Theth and held great conversations with both of them.  Angelika was a doctor and expressed her love for the outdoors.  She is the hybrid epitome of a cross country athlete and a world traveler!

We walked up to one of the waterfalls on the way back, spent 30-40 minutes there re-fueling our water containers and hanging out under the remaining light of day.

Around 7pm, we walked back to Theth and i made my way toward my guesthouse.  I sat with the residents in the house and had few more shots of Rakija followed by endless rolls of cigarettes. There was also an Albanian family there on vacation, and we all mingled while waiting for dinner.  A traditional Albanian party broke out immediately after dinner and let’s say..it was a long day and a VERY LONG NIGHT.  I also had to wake up the next morning for the 7 hour trek to Valbona…….to be continued in Part 2!

IMG_0908.JPG