It’s my birthday and we just took a shower in an ice cold waterfall. We feel highly motivated. We’re on our way to the home village of Rovenas, but we’re not in such a hurry as we were yesterday. Rovena and Gaby realized that there is much more to experience along the way with us.
Rovena also has the next idea where we are going. However, she unintentionally gives herself into riddles. When we ask her where to go, she points ahead and says, “Right! No, left. Wait, straight!” She does not want to be moved to provide more information and we are happy to be surprised.
Nothing can shock me anymore in Albania. The cars suddenly drive on a small road in three lanes and push oncoming traffic into the forest. One-way street signs are just decoration and only the rules that get you ahead the fastest apply. You always have to be prepared for everything, so no one gets upset when suddenly a large truck wants to turn around in the middle of the freeway, a Mercedes is speeding towards you on a one-way street, or the streets are flooded, gone, full of potholes, goats or children. It’s like zen. You become calm. Nothing scares you more. It makes you happy when something new happens. The German road traffic later seems boring to me and not even the traffic in Russia or Iran can hold a candle to Albania.
We bounce through a large-scale construction site and just assume that we can drive through it. Nobody tries to stop us. We come to the gravel bank of a broad but shallow river, the Osum.
I can’t wait to dip my t-shirt in the water and put it back on. It’s midday and the sun has brought the country’s operating temperature back up to 40°C.
We follow Rovena’s command again, pack only a few things and these waterproof. Then we follow it in the direction where the river narrows. Other Albanians are here enjoying themselves by the water.
A child comes up to me and asks me in perfect English whether I don’t want to follow him. The boy leads me to his family sitting in the shade of a tree. The mother gives her son a request and the boy puts some plums in my hand. “Here, for you. Nice that you are here”. Heart leaps with happiness at this incredibly heartfelt gesture. I thank you and say goodbye in Albanian, which makes the family very happy and also enthusiastically wishes me all the best.
A young man also notices us and asks where we come from. He is happy that we come from Germany and visit his country and insists on taking a selfie together.
Then we finally enter the gorge. In the shade of the high walls it is much more pleasant and a refreshing and herb-scented wind blows through this swath of the landscape.
We have to cross the river again and again or even wade completely along its course. The water feels wonderful.
We penetrate deeper and deeper into the canyon. In a small crevice we find a small black and gray patterned snake. We take a few selfies with her without being asked and at a reasonable distance and try not to wake her up.
We climb over rock formations and cross the mud of the river, in which our shoes keep getting stuck.
Eventually there is no way to avoid the deep water and I wonder why we didn’t swim directly before. The gorge has narrowed so much that it is dark and the water is deep. This adventure releases adrenaline in equal measure with dopamine.
We hike for hours and finally come to a bed of dry gravel and the realization of how late it is. So we start our way back, which is no less pleasant than the way there. I want to jump for joy, I feel so good.
I urge that we find accommodation immediately as my perfect way to end this perfect birthday is to have a nice sunset red wine with my friends. For this we need to be in a shelter.
Thanks to Rovena we find a suitable place not far from the gorge and I immediately use the shower. When I come out again, I find that everyone else has disappeared except for Chris. He now has to entertain me and swallow my anger that I made my wish clear. At least we have enough red wine and sweet, juicy peaches. I didn’t know this combination and I’ve rarely tried anything better on a warm summer evening. In Albania it is so common.
After an hour, the others finally come. It’s dark now and I had to enjoy my sunset alone with Chris, but they come with a big cake with my name and birthday wishes on it.
I just can’t be mad at them and I’m trying to find out how on earth they found a pastry chef in this little town in the middle of nowhere who would tailor a cake for them so quickly. You haven’t revealed it to this day.
The night will be long, very long. There’s a massive menu for dinner and soon your stomach hurts from gluttony. First, new bottles of wine magically appear, then later Rakya. Hard metal tones ring out through the innocent Albanian mountains until the morning and Gaby initiates us into the drinking game of taking a sip with every “Thunder” from the ACDC song “Thunderstruck”. A very, very evil drinking game. None of us can tell when we’ll finally fall into bed.v
Uwe sleeps on the balcony again that night. Huge trucks with some boulders drive by below – but Uwe just keeps snoring.