Albania
The Accursed Mountains
A remote and challenging Balkan alpine adventure
Magnificent, isolated Thethi National Park...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 2 www.walksworldwide.com
Introduction
Inspired by the likes of Robert Carver’s book “The Ac...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 3 www.walksworldwide.com
thrives amongst wild and remote mountain scenery and is in search ...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 4 www.walksworldwide.com
Day 1
Rendezvous at Tirana International Airport
(See Joining Arra...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 5 www.walksworldwide.com
learn about life in northern Albania. Our
walking time today will ...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 6 www.walksworldwide.com
Day 4
Clearly (once you’ve discovered Thethi for
yourself), it wou...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 7 www.walksworldwide.com
mountainside to the village of Rrogam
(700m)*.
There are in fact o...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 8 www.walksworldwide.com
weather we may head a little higher to a
remote pass which forms t...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 9 www.walksworldwide.com
centrally located and just a few minutes walk
from Skanderbeg Squa...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 10 www.walksworldwide.com
International Travel
The nearest International Airport is Tirana-...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 11 www.walksworldwide.com
Food
Meals included in the Land Only trip price are
indicated in ...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 12 www.walksworldwide.com
included during the trekking element, you
shouldn’t need to carry...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains Printed on 7/2/2012
At least one set of casual / non-walking clothes will be useful for wea...
Albania-The Accursed Mountains 14 www.walksworldwide.com
The following items should also considered as being useful on a w...
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A remote and challenging Balkan alpine adventure Magnificent, isolated Thethi National Park Albanian Highlander hospitality 8 days, from £585

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A remote and challenging Balkan alpine adventure Magnificent, isolated Thethi National Park Albanian Highlander hospitality 8 days, from £585

  1. 1. Albania The Accursed Mountains A remote and challenging Balkan alpine adventure Magnificent, isolated Thethi National Park Albanian Highlander hospitality Guided Group Departures Tour Grade – C Tour Code - TALB For dates and prices visit: www.walksworldwide.com Group Size: - Min 4 Max 10
  2. 2. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 2 www.walksworldwide.com Introduction Inspired by the likes of Robert Carver’s book “The Accursed Mountains”, Edith Durham’s “High Albania”, Edward Lear’s “Journeys of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans”, and even the exploits of Lord Byron, Mark Knowles from Walks Worldwide and a handful of intrepid, adventurous trekkers explored the isolated Accursed Mountains of northern Albania in early June 2010. The general conclusion was that this rarely visited, wonderful yet remote area is not anything like Europe as you would know it. Many a comparison was drawn to more far-flung, exotic destinations including life in the lesser-trekked regions of the Himalayas and the Atlas. In fact during the entire course of our research trek, not a single other trekker was encountered on the rugged, mountainous trails we followed. The scenery is certainly dramatic with rugged peaks rising sharply to over 2600m from low valley floors. However, the everlasting memory will be of meeting the exceptionally friendly and hospitable Albanian Highlanders themselves. The Accursed Mountains of the north of Albania are both truly spectacular and virtually impenetrable except primarily for a series of high passes that link the small number of farmsteads and homes in the valleys below to the outside world during the summer months. This is a truly special European trekking adventure and well off the beaten track. Ideal for the discerning traveller in search of new cultural experiences and refreshingly different from anywhere else in Europe, this committed trek leads you into the heart of an unspoiled region where very few tourists venture. From historic Shkodra you travel into the Boga Valley and leave the 21 st Century behind to then trek over the “Diagonal Pass” and into the valleys of the Accursed Mountains. Moving onwards you head for magnificent Thethi, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Surrounded by high peaks and dominated by the immense vertical rock wall of mesmerising Mt. Arapit (the Matterhorn of Albania), traditional wooden-roofed farmsteads are scattered throughout the valley and there’s even a working water powered corn mill and “blood feud” tower too. The crux of the trek is next with the challenging crossing of the Valbona Pass into the stunningly beautiful valley of the same name. After following a shepherds trail to high mountain meadows and descending to tiny Dunisha, your journey through the fascinating north of Albania is completed by taking a passenger boat on the fjord-like Lake Koman, which must surely rank as one of the world’s great lake journeys before driving to Tirana, the fast becoming trendy capital city. Note from Mark Knowles at the Walks Worldwide office – I read “The Accursed Mountains” by Robert Carver many years ago and became captivated with the idea of trekking in northern Albania. I think it must be the wild, remote and isolated nature of northern Albania that appealed and reminded me of travelling in the Karakoram of northern Pakistan back in the days when I had hair. Certainly at the time the book was written (and I do recommend you read it) it would have been unwise and perhaps even disastrous to even consider trying to operate a commercial trek in the “wild and feudal” north of Albania. Thankfully after waiting for nearly 15 years I managed to discover the Accursed Mountains for myself. Of course the world changes and now more and more people are visiting Albania as tourists although mostly to the beaches of the south. The north and the Accursed Mountains I’m delighted to say have thankfully yet to bow to the changes usually demanded by tourists, although no doubt that will happen in time. Until then a visit here will remain quite a revelation and wherever possible, we will continue to support the local families in the valleys whom have converted their farmsteads to provide simple, yet comfortable accommodation for visitors. Indeed I would say it was a major highlight (as well as exceptionally humbling) to be welcomed as a friend by these families and to enjoy food that was not only prepared by them but also grown and farmed by them too. Given that these families can earn almost the equivalent of a months income from our brief visits, it may be that this form of sympathetic tourism could actually save the traditional way of life in the valleys as more and more people are giving up the constant struggle and heading for the towns and cities instead. For those living in the Accursed Mountains the nearest shop is at the least a perilous (summer only) 5 hour drive away. This is a part of the world that would rank very high for hospitality, but very low for infrastructure and perhaps this is one of the last bastions for a true European trekking adventure. The Accursed Mountains by and large remain the realm of the Albanian mountain shepherd and a smattering of adventurous travellers. The trip is definitely not suitable for anyone who cannot deal with the notion that it just might not go according to plan, as well as expecting comfortable overland travel and western European standards. However, for the discerning trekker with a true spirit of adventure travel,
  3. 3. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 3 www.walksworldwide.com thrives amongst wild and remote mountain scenery and is in search of new and very different cultural experiences, I believe The Accursed Mountains provides just that. The Holiday Routine You’ll be walking between 5-8 hours each day in the most dramatic mountain ranges of the remote, far north of Albania and close to the border with Montenegro. During the walking day you will carry only your usual daypack. Main baggage will be transported either by vehicle or mule. Breakfasts and dinners will usually be taken at your overnight accommodation. Lunches will usually be picnic style, which will you will carry with you in your daypack and picnic halts will usually be in a suitable, scenic location. On a couple of occasions the group has to lave it’s overnight accommodation in the early morning and on these days a packed breakfast will be provided. It’s desirable to make early morning to starts to avoid ascending in the heat of the day. Walking conditions You’ll be mostly walking on mountain trails with varying conditions underfoot. Each day you will be walking between 5-8 hours. The walks are mostly quite challenging in mountainous terrain and involve both ascent and descent, which at times will be steep and fairly sustained. A couple of mountain streams along the way will require fording. Encountering late lying snow in shaded gullies and on higher slopes is always possible. For details of each walk please see the itinerary later in this trip dossier. This is definitely not a trip for beginners to mountain walking. A full explanation of the trip grading can be found online at www.walksworldwide.com. You should ensure you are comfortable walking at this level of grading and are physically prepared for the trip. Walking Staff An English-speaking Albanian Mountain guide, will accompany the group. On other occasions you will have muleteers and a driver as indicated in the detailed daily description. What you need to provide Your personal equipment as detailed in the clothing and equipment list later in this trip dossier. Itinerary IMPORTANT-Due to the specialist nature of our holidays, day to day itineraries should be taken as a guide only, and as statements of intent and not contractual obligations. We regularly update our trip dossiers to take into account changes to trekking routes, accommodation, local transport etc. Such changes are a factor of this type of holiday and when made are out of necessity. Other factors such as adverse weather, unforeseen circumstances and other matters entirely out of our control etc can also lead to enforced changes during the course of the holiday. It is not possible to guarantee that any of our holidays will operate exactly as per the anticipated itinerary. The most current trip dossier will be made available on our website. We will also send you the most up to date trip dossier with your “Final Joining Instructions” approx. 2 weeks before departure and you should carefully check this for any changes that may affect your plans. Before booking you should read our “Types of Trip” and “Essential and Useful information” sections on www.walksworldwide.com including our ‘Important Warning’.. B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner. Outline Itinerary Day Your 'at-a-glance' Itinerary Overnight Accn. Meal plan 1 Rendezvous at Tirana Airport and transfer to Shkodra Shkodra Hotel D 2 Transfer to Boga. Trek to Nderlysa via the Diagonal Pass Nderlysa Village Guesthouse BLD 3 A short, easy trek to Thethi Thethi Village Guesthouse BLD 4 Into the heart of the Accursed Mountains to the Peja Pass Thethi Village Guesthouse BLD 5 Across the Valbona Pass to Rrogam Rrogam Village Guesthouse BLD 6 Shepherds trail through the eastern Albanian Alps Rrogam Village Guesthouse BLD 7 Boat from Fierza over Lake Koman. Drive Tirana Tirana Hotel BL 8 Depart Tirana B
  4. 4. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 4 www.walksworldwide.com Day 1 Rendezvous at Tirana International Airport (See Joining Arrangements and Transfers section later in this trip dossier). A single, timed group transfer will be provided from Tirana International Airport to the group hotel at Shkodra, which is around 90 minutes drive by road. Before arriving at your overnight accommodation a short visit may be paid to the ruins of Rozafa Castle, which is perched strategically on top of a hill just outside of Shkodra. From the castle there are fine views across the large lake here, as well as across Shkodra city and to the mountains beyond. After a traditional Albanian dinner at the hotel your guide may take you on a stroll around laid-back Shkodra and through the pedestrianised area where the locals enjoy a bit of promenading. Hotel, Shkodra Day 2 We need to make an early start, so breakfast will be taken “on the go” to reach the start of our trek where the winding, metalled single track road ends and turns into rough jeep track in the stunning Boga valley. The jagged peaks above us are part of the Dinaric Alps, a mountain chain that stretches through Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia becoming the famed Julian Alps at their northernmost point in Slovenia. Here your main baggage will be loaded onto mules. We say goodbye to our bus that has transported us so far with which we won’t be reunited until we get off the boat that takes us across Lake Koman. The trek into the wild and almost inaccessible mountains of northern Albania begins as we initially trek along the “Path of the Sheep” a traditional shepherds route between the Boga and Thethi valleys systems. At first we follow the rough jeep track that goes to Thethi and pass the last homes until we reach our overnight halt. Heading upwards we then follow a stony and quite steep mountain trail to reach the “Diagonal Pass” (1676m). We should now be able to enjoy far reaching views of this largely untamed wilderness area with many high peaks coming into view. Albania remains home to both wolf and bear, as well as the increasingly rare and elusive lynx and is not known as the “Land of the Eagle” for nothing. We’ll take a picnic lunch at the top of the pass in the spectacular Radohima Mountains and enjoy the tranquility and magnificence of our surroundings before a long descent mostly through woodland leads us into the Kaprea valley, which lies far below in the distance. We’ll take a look at the “Blue Eye” spring along the way and try it’s limestone filtered pure water before reaching our overnight halt in a farmhouse at Nderlysa (500m). Our mules will have taken a different route to us, so we may arrive ahead of our main baggage. Here in Nderlysa we can look forward to an evening of traditional Albanian hospitality with a delightful family in an idyllic rural setting and begin to
  5. 5. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 5 www.walksworldwide.com learn about life in northern Albania. Our walking time today will be approx 5-7 hours. Village Guesthouse, Nderlysa Day 3 Today is a relatively straightforward and moderate trek, with no real ascent and descent of any great note. Gradients are hardly noticeable as we only gain around 250m in height today. Baggage will be transferred either by mule or by local vehicle. Nonetheless, today is a beautiful walk as we head for what is perhaps northern Albania’s most famous natural attraction, Thethi National Park which also contains one of the most characteristic and traditional villages of the region bearing the same name. With picturesque valleys of beech and pine, mountain streams and waterfalls, it is acknowledged that Thethi provided the inspiration for Edith Durham’s “High Albania”. Our route is on the rough jeep road above a spectacular river thundering below. Before reaching our accommodation in Thethi (750m), we’ll make a visit to the “Blood Feud Tower”, now restored and one of a few only remaining examples of a lock-in tower used by men for protection from blood feuds, as well as a tiny, still working, water-powered corn mill used by the villagers of Thethi. The afternoon is free to explore the Thethi valley and village at your leisure. The locals are very friendly, so don’t be surprised if you get invited into their homes for a glass of raki. If you fancy a beer in a fairly unique location then head upwards out of Thethi on a marked trail that follows the river upstream for about 30 mins. Here an enterprising local has ingeniously constructed a bar in the river itself on the opposite side of the river, with lighting powered by a waterwheel. A new bar has also been constructed on the near side of the river in competition, but lacks the rustic charm. Walking time approx 4 hours. Village Guesthouse, Thethi
  6. 6. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 6 www.walksworldwide.com Day 4 Clearly (once you’ve discovered Thethi for yourself), it would be completely potty to leave such a stunning, inaccessible location so soon. So, we won’t! We’ll remain in the Thethi National Park and follow a trail to make the challenging 1000m ascent to the Peja Pass (1800m). This brings us right into the heart of The Accursed Mountains of Albania. From Thethi the trail rises steadily as we head up into the valley passing scattered homesteads and farmland along the way. Ahead of us, and on both sides are impressive, jagged peaks. Soon, the most impressive (but not the highest) Mt. Arapit comes into view. This is Albania’s “Matterhorn”, with a sheer rock wall that rises almost 1000m vertically to its summit from the valley floor. As we get closer to the head of the valley it seems impossible that there would be a trail beyond the rock walls that lie ahead. However, the trail now begins to rise as you head up through pine forests and emerges above the tree line as it then begins to climb sharply away from the valley floor. The trail you are following is in actual fact an old trade route to Peja in Montenegro used by the locals and their mules. After the stiff climb to the pass we may choose to have a competition to see if we can think of other suitable names for these tough, almost impenetrable mountains! From the pass there are fine views across the entire Thethi valley as well as to the peaks that lie within Montenegro. We’ll take a picnic lunch at a shepherds summer pasture looking over to the steep slopes of Albania’s highest peak, Jezercë. We’ll spend as much time as possible at this scenic location for further exploration before descending back to Thethi. For those not wishing to partake in today’s walk and perhaps rest their legs in anticipation of tomorrows crossing of the Valbona Pass, there’s the option of doing some local exploration in Thethi by yourself or in the company of one of the locals ( for a small fee and arranged in advance with your main trip guide) Walking time approx. 8 hours. Village Guesthouse, Thethi Day 5 Leaving Thethi behind we must first load our main baggage onto mules as we are heading over the Valbona Pass (Qafe e Valbonës). The pass lies at 1960m and will be the highest point of our trek. As Thethi lies at 750m we have an arduous ascent of 1200m to reach the pass itself. We’ll be following a rough and rocky mountain trail, which is the only connection to the Valbona valley where we are heading. From the pass we can look forward to fantastic views of the Radohima Mountains and once again impressive views of Jezercë. Now deep in the Alps of Albania and very high up we have a long descent as the trail initially traverses it’s way across a steeply angled scree slope before winding it’s way down the
  7. 7. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 7 www.walksworldwide.com mountainside to the village of Rrogam (700m)*. There are in fact only two families living all year round in Rrogam, although a few more arrive in the summer. After a tough walking day of around 8-9 hours you’ll probably want to walk no further than here, so we’ll be spending the night in Rrogam. *Under certain unfavourable weather conditions the crossing of the Valbona Pass may not always be possible. As the safety of the group and the mules carrying the baggage is paramount, the guide’s decision on this will be final. In the event that a crossing of the Valbona Pass is not possible, it will be necessary to drive from Thethi to Rrogam (journey time approx 8 hrs). Pension or Village Guesthouse, Rrogam Day 6 We walks from Rrogam and head across the broad valley floor to then ascend steadily to the remote, authentically traditional hamlet of Kukaj, which essentially consists of around 4 homes (900m). We’ll then follow a shepherd’s trail high up and into the very remote landscapes of Albania’s eastern Alps. It’s a beautiful walk as the trail winds it’s way up through wild flower meadow and woodland, with wonderful views across to the mountains on the opposite side of the Valbona Valley. Ascending up to the 1600m mark, we stop at a shepherd’s stone built summer hut for a picnic lunch. Dependent upon our progress and the
  8. 8. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 8 www.walksworldwide.com weather we may head a little higher to a remote pass which forms the border with Montenegro. We’ll then descend back to our Guest House in Rrogam.. As we cross the river valley floor (and although we’ll have seen a few of these before), the sight of the disused machine gun bunkers strewn across the river banks, as well as those that have since collapsed makes for a rather curious scene against the stunning backdrop of the peaks that soar above. There were in fact almost 500,000 of these machine gun concrete bunkers throughout Albania at one time to let the outside world know that Albania was a “fortress”. The ruins of a former communist hotel further down the valley is also in stark contrast to this beautiful location, but a reminder all the same of the regime in Albania’s recent history. Our trek into the Alps of Albania and exploration of the Accursed Mountains is now complete and perhaps as an initial celebration (we still have a little more of Albania to see) we can indulge in some homemade raki (a fiery plum brandy). Walking time around 8 hours Village Guesthouse, Rrogam Day 7 Although it probably doesn’t look too far distance wise on a map, it will take most of the day to reach Tirana. So, we must leave very early in the morning (perhaps regretting the raki) to catch the ferry boat service from Fierze which leaves around 0600hrs. A local mini-bus will drive us to Fierze and we’ll take a packed breakfast with us. The boat itself is a bit basic, as it’s primarily a necessary service link for the local people, who may look a bit bemused when a group of trekkers get on. However, there are toilets (of a sort) and some chilled refreshments on sale. The journey along Lake Koman itself is absolutely stunning though. The boat trip takes around 2 and a half hours, and as Lake Koman is narrow and surrounded by steep sided mountains, the journey is akin to travelling through a spectacular fjord like canyon. We’ll stop for lunch along the way and reach Tirana by way of a bumpy mountainous road before reaching the main highway to arrive late afternoon. Tirana is fast becoming one of the most dynamic cities in the Balkans and a bit of “party town” too. The group hotel in Tirana is
  9. 9. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 9 www.walksworldwide.com centrally located and just a few minutes walk from Skanderbeg Square. We’ve intentionally not included dinner in the trip price for this evening in order that each individual group member can choose what they would like to eat according to their tastes and budget. Tirana itself has many reasonably priced restaurants and pizzerias to choose from. Whilst it is not mandatory to dine together this evening as a group, we wholeheartedly recommend that you do so and your guide will be delighted to recommend somewhere suitable for the group to dine. Your guide will also be equally delighted if you invite him along too, and it’s a nice touch if the group were to take care of the guides dining costs tonight equally amongst each other. There are a multitude of late night bars in Tirana too, including some very trendy ones in the area known as “The Block”, which is where the elite of Hoxha’s regime once lived and now the haunt of the “beautiful people” of Tirana wishing to see and be seen. Hotel, Tirana Day 8 After breakfast in Tirana it’s time to depart unless you’re spending extra nights in Tirana or extending your time to see more of Albania. See Joining Arrangements and Transfers section later in this trip dossier. Whilst we don’t have any have any fixed itineraries for extensions in Tirana, we can arrange these upon request through our Albanian partners whom have been organising tours of Albania since as far back as the collapse of communism in 1992, and specialise in outdoor activities such as rafting and kayaking. They can also arrange day trips from Tirana to historic towns such as Kruja and Berat, or some time on the beach for a couple of days too. Our new friends, the family of the Farmhouse in Nderlysa also tell us that they will be offering reduced price accommodation to anyone who’d like to stay there and do a spot of helping out with various chores on the farm. For anyone who really fancies a spot of eco-tourism in an idyllic and spectacular location, let us know and we’ll try and arrange this for you. Certainly on our 2010 reccy trip, Nderlysa was everyone’s favourite overnight halt. Practical Information Joining Arrangements and Transfers You should join this trip on day 1 of the trip itinerary. The rendezvous point for joining will be the small arrivals hall of Tirana International Airport at 1545 hrs latest A single, timed, group transfer is provided from Tirana International Airport on day 1 to the group hotel in Shkodra. This transfer will depart from Tirana International Airport at 1600hrs. If your chosen flights do not coincide with this transfer time you will need to make your own private transfer arrangements to reach the group hotel in Shkodra. As Shkodra is at least a 90 minute drive by taxi from Tirana we recommend that it is imperative you ensure you are able to join this arrival transfer from Tirana International Airport to Shkodra. There is no transfer included at the end of the trip on day 8 from downtown Tirana to Tirana Airport, as it is anticipated that clients will be departing on various flights. There is an hourly bus service to the Airport from central Tirana, although we recommend taking a taxi (journey time approx 20 mins, cost approx £15).
  10. 10. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 10 www.walksworldwide.com International Travel The nearest International Airport is Tirana- Rinas Airport (the joining point for this holiday) For total flexibility and choice, the price of our holidays often excludes flights. However, as an ATOL bonded agent we are able to arrange competitively priced tickets with the majority of international airlines. Where low cost airlines offer a better option, we are also able to arrange these, subject to a small booking fee. Only by arranging your flights with us can we offer you the peace of mind and 100% financial protection that booking with a licensed tour operator brings. Contact us to discuss your flight options for this holiday. If you would prefer to make your own International travel arrangements you can book this holiday as Land Only. You should book flights that allow you to join this trip and arrive Tirana Airport no later than 1545hrs on day 1 of the trip itinerary. Return flights should be booked to depart no sooner than day 8 of the trip itinerary. Please note if you are booking Land Only it is your sole responsibility to ensure you arrive at the joining point for the contracted arrangements in good time before these commence. No refunds will be provided in respect of any unused services contracted as a result. Similarly our contractual obligations cease at the end of your contracted arrangements. If your flights (whether booked through Walks Worldwide or Land Only) do not coincide with the transfer time you will need to make your own private transfer arrangements. IMPORTANT- MAKE SURE THIS HOLIDAY IS GUARANTEED TO RUN BEFORE YOU PURCHASE AIR TICKETS AND MAKING ANY OTHER TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS. Please contact the Walks Worldwide office to check the status of this holiday BEFORE purchasing your International Air ticket. You should not book your International flight tickets or other travel arrangements until your chosen holiday is guaranteed to run. If you are purchasing your own air ticket, you should be aware that most of the cheaper airline tickets available for sale on the Internet or from low cost carriers are non-refundable in the case of cancellation. For this reason we strongly advise you check the rules of the ticket when you make a flight booking, and check the limitations of any cancellation insurance policy you have. We cannot be held liable, for losses incurred relating to any flight bookings or subsequent travel arrangements you have made yourself. Passports and Visas British passport holders (and other EU passport holders) do not require a visa to visit Albania for stays up to three months (please ensure your passport has at least 6 months validity). Accommodation Accommodation will be reserved for you on a twin share basis unless you have already requested a single room for the two nights spent in hotels (Shkodra and Tirana). Hotel rooms on these two nights are en-suite. However, surely one of the major highlights and most memorable aspects of this adventure is staying with real Albanian Highlander families in their remote and isolated village guesthouses. These are essentially large, traditional farmhouses that have been part- converted to accommodate small groups of trekkers and intrepid travellers. Rooms are simple yet comfortable and vary in configuration from place to place, with up to 6 beds per room. Bed linen and blankets are provided. Beds will be allocated at each overnight halt upon arrival, according to availability and configuration although usually rooms will be on a same gender basis. The farmhouses usually have two modern bathrooms (thanks to grant aid), with showers, wash-hand basins and western European style toilets. All have some form of electricity (usually from a localised H.E.P. source) most of the time with variable output.
  11. 11. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 11 www.walksworldwide.com Food Meals included in the Land Only trip price are indicated in the trip itinerary. Albanian food has its influences in Greek, Turkish and Italian styles. In the north the emphasis will be on locally farmed and grown, fresh produce that will be in season. Expect lots of home-made bread, sheep cheese, other dairy specialities, freshly caught trout, lamb meat, ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and other fresh vegetables, pickles, bean soups and freshly picked salads from field to plate! Coffee is invariably Turkish style, as well as copious amounts of Chai (a herbal mountain tea). Most of the Farmhouses have a limited amount of beer and soft drinks available for purchase. It’s a good idea to bring along some trail snacks (cereal bars, chocolate) with you from the UK. Albania produces some rather decent wine and of course there’s the home-brewed hooch called raki. Vegetarians will certainly not starve in northern Albania, but will find their options very limited and very repetitive. Other special dietary requirements whilst in the north of Albania cannot be catered for. All the farmhouses have a readily available supply of fresh, mountain filtered water that is safe for drinking. Climate It is of course impossible to predict the precise weather conditions you will encounter during the course of your holiday. However, we do schedule our holidays to coincide with what should be the most suitable weather periods for walking. For this particular trip we can hopefully expect daytime temperatures between 18ºC-25ºC+ at lower altitudes. Mountains are notorious for creating their own, localised weather conditions, so you should always be prepared for inclement weather conditions. Thunderstorms can occur in the mountains, although these are usually brief with heavy downpours. For climate statistics visit www.worldweather.org Roughly speaking temperatures decrease by approx. 1ºC for every 200 metre increase in altitude. By early May the high passes are usually passable, although we may encounter patches of late lying snow in sheltered gullies and on the passes themselves at any time. Altitude The altitudes on this trip are reasonably moderate and you should not anticipate any problems. Local transport The group airport transfer to Shkodra and then to Boga the following day is by private mini- bus, which will only then meet the group again on day 7 at the arrival point of the Koman ferry boat for the transfer to Tirana.. A small, local mini-bus will transport the group on day 7 from Dunisha to Fierze. At Fierze the group will take the public ferry boat service for the journey along Lake Koman. Baggage Please make sure that your baggage is clearly marked with your name, inside as well as outside, in case the labels get detached. On the trekking days your main baggage will be transported mostly by mules with probably just one day where baggage will be transferred by local transport. SUITCASES MUST NOT BE USED for your main baggage and will be refused porterage. Please ensure your main baggage is packed in either a soft holdall style kitbag, or a large, unframed rucksack. Please limit the weight of your main baggage to between 12kg and 15kg. Contact us if you are unsure about the suitability of your main baggage. Vaccinations and medical precautions We always recommend visiting your doctor and dentist for a check up before travelling. Your doctor will also have access to the most up to date information on vaccinations and medical precautions for the country you are about to visit. In general, no vaccinations are necessary for Albania. A useful travel health online resource is www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk Please make sure that you obtain form EHIC either online www.dh.gov.uk or from your local post office – you will need to produce this if you have to see a doctor. First Aid You should always carry your own small, personal first aid kit. This should consist of the following: A general anti-biotic, throat lozenges, painkillers, plasters (band-aids), blister treatment, insect repellent (DEET), rehydration salts, antiseptic cream, diarrhoea treatment (e.g. Imodium). Currency. The Albanian currency is the Lek. Please refer to www.xe.com for up to date rates. You can change your travel money upon arrival at Tirana International Airport, or at an ATM in Shkodra. We would suggest that you change) the majority of your spending money upon arrival, or in Shkodra (via an ATM) at the very latest. There are no exchange facilities beyond Shkodra until you arrive in Tirana. There are innumerable ATM’s in Tirana. As all meals are
  12. 12. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 12 www.walksworldwide.com included during the trekking element, you shouldn’t need to carry a great deal of money with you as there isn’t a great deal to spend it on other than drinks and for tips. Please note that if you intend to use an ATM in Albania you should ensure it is linked to the international cirrus system and inform your card issuer that you are travelling to Albania. Language In Albania the language is Albanian. Although we’re accompanied by an English-speaking guide, we very much recommend you take along a phrase book and also try to learn some simple Albanian phrases and greetings. The local people (most of whom speak no English) will of course especially appreciate any attempt to speak their language and is all part of the fun. Tipping It is customary to give your Guide a tip if you have received good service. The amount is entirely at your discretion, although an amount of £15 (given to your guide in Albanian currency would be approx 2500 Lek) is reasonable. Muleeters and drivers will welcome a small tip, and we recommend 200 Lek (about £1.50) per group member is also reasonable. Maps and Books Huber Verlag publish a map entitled “Thethi and Kelmend” ISBN number: 9783940686183 on a 1:50,000 scale which covers the trekking area. This can usually be obtained by special order through specialist map suppliers like the Map Shop www.themapshop.co.uk and Stanfords www.stanfords.co.uk We highly recommend you purchase the Bradt Guide to Albania, which provides excellent all round information on the country. Travel Insurance It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance. It is your to responsibility to ensure you are covered for medical and personal accident risks for the part of the world you intend to travel and the activities involved. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue. It is also advisable to take out cancellation insurance as all deposits paid are non-refundable. You may arrange either single-trip or annual multi-trip travel insurance through Walks Worldwide. Please call us on 0845 301 4737 or e-mail us- sales@walksworldwide.com for a quotation. Inclusions  Meals as shown in the trip itinerary  All accommodation  Single, timed, group Airport transfer on day 1 as detailed in the Joining Arrangements and Transfers section  All trail, boat and overland transfers in the itinerary  Main baggage transfers by vehicle and mule  English-speaking Mountain Guide Exclusions  Drinks  Souvenirs and personal items  Insurance  Meals not indicated in the trip itinerary  International Flights  Entry fees where applicable  Airport transfers on day 8
  13. 13. Albania-The Accursed Mountains Printed on 7/2/2012 At least one set of casual / non-walking clothes will be useful for wearing in hotels on this holiday. Whilst walking you must not worry about how you look: comfort and protection against bad weather are of prime importance. Because mountain weather is so very variable, we recommend a number of thin layers rather than a few thick ones. The following list is our suggested guide to help you with your packing based upon our many years of travelling/walking. Using your own judgment for packing is of course important, especially with regard to casual clothing etc but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about packing for your holiday, or are uncertain as to the suitability of your clothing and equipment. CLOTHING  Walking boots and spare laces (3 season waterproof, sturdy and with good ankle support)  Trainers/approach shoes  Socks – 3+ pairs (Walking and Casual)  Underwear 3+  T-shirts 3+  Trekking Pants  Short trousers 1+  Light fleece 1+  Thick fleece 1+  Thermal Baselayer shirt 1+  Waterproof jacket with hood  Waterproof trousers  Warm Gloves  Sun Hat  Warm Hat EQUIPMENT  Daypack/rucksack (size approx. 35 litre capacity)  2 Large water bottles (1 litre each)  Towel (essential)  Torch (and spare bulb and batteries)  Camera & accessories  Binoculars (optional)  A variety of dry bag/plastic bags (kitbags are not waterproof)  Sunglasses  Trekking poles (highly recommended)  Reading material (optional)  Washing/Shaving kit  Insect Repellent  Small personal First Aid kit (see section above)  Anti-Bacterial Handwash  Water purifying tablets  Sun Cream & lip salve  Blister plasters – i.e. Compeed  Tickets/E tickets  Passport  Money Please ensure the weight of your main baggage is restricted to 12kg-15kg Clothing and Equipment Lists
  14. 14. Albania-The Accursed Mountains 14 www.walksworldwide.com The following items should also considered as being useful on a walking holiday  Penknife/small scissors (DO NOT PACK IN HAND LUGGAGE)  Moisturising cream  Baby wipes  Snacks/Energy bars  Safety pins (DO NOT PACK IN HAND LUGGAGE)  Padlock for your kitbag  Small sewing/repair kit (DO NOT PACK IN HAND LUGGAGE)  Small mirror  Nail clippers (DO NOT PACK IN HAND LUGGAGE)  Spare glasses/contact lenses  Earplugs (against snorers)  Cold water Travel Wash (preferably biodegradable)  Travel adaptor

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