We fight our way through Albanian traffic again and take the only northbound highway Albania has to offer. Our destination is the northern mountains, Koman Lake, Valbona Valley and Kosovo. But the highway is completely congested again and I decide to try my luck through the villages. There was hardly any traffic there, but also hardly any asphalt, but instead holes in which you can sink small cars.
The slopes took forever to weave and the villages were of little interest. After a few hours we decide to return to the highway. A driver behind me honked his horn and signaled, but apparently didn’t want to pass me.
When I stop, he gestures at the piece of plastic hanging from the underbody. I thank and fix it again for the moment. The Albanians are very attentive.
The freeway is free again. However, the term “motorway” is misleading, because the road is only one lane. In Shkodra, on the one hand, it branches to Montenegro, from where we will return later, and to the east – into the mountains. The route is not very exciting, but when we reach the mountains in the light of dusk we have a breathtaking scenery in front of us.
It’s already sunset and the valley of Koman is bathed in golden light. This orange is a natural complementary contrast to the turquoise of the long lake deep in the valley. The air is pleasantly warm. The scree road meanders far into many valleys that branch off from the main valley until we reach a small campsite not far from the ferry dock in the evening. There we set up our tents and end the evening with a whiskey. It’s supposed to be the calm before the storm.
The night is good and we set off early. There are others at the campsite who want to take the ferry. Some leave more than an hour earlier to reach the jetty, which is only two kilometers away. Shortly after we leave, I learn the reason for this. To reach the pier you have to go through a narrow and unlit tunnel. In our case, this tunnel is lit, but only because of all the cars, buses and trucks. Motorbikes also meander past the edge. Uwe and Chris leave the car to get an idea of the situation while I hold the fort in the tunnel. And they didn’t come back for a long, long time.
A man with a list and a serious look comes up to me and asks about a reservation and the name of the ferry we are taking, as there are two.
In a fit of presence of mind I asked Rovena in Tirana to make a reservation for us over the phone. I don’t know the name of the ferry and after some persuasion the guy is satisfied that I can’t show a slip of paper.
I am waved to the side and the vehicles in front of and behind me also start to move. Two headlights emerge from the darkness in front of me; a car has to go in the opposite direction out of the tunnel. The sheer madness, since everything is tight here. With precision work, folded rear-view mirrors and the secure feeling of having taken out fully comprehensive insurance, the vehicle passes undamaged.
Since nothing is moving, I get out and want to see the whole thing for myself. The tunnel full of cars makes another bend and then ends at the pier, where the incarnation of a logistical nightmare prevails. The whole pier is full of vehicles heading towards the two boats. At the same time, cars want to get off these boats and through the tunnel to freedom. There is no space, only water or mountain.
One of the serious-looking guys with a pad shakes his head and agrees that the situation is insane. It also confirms my question as to whether the situation is like this every day – which makes me wonder why one does not learn from the situation and improve something. For example, by blocking the tunnel as long as the boats are still loaded…
The serious block guys are seasoned and while it seems like those knots can never be untied, it must have worked every day before. They push and wave to create a corridor for those exiting. At the same time, however, a few Albanians are using this corridor to cheat their way forward.
This makes me angry and I know I’ve learned enough from the Albanians on the street not to be left behind. So I pull my car out of the line provided, weave my way past a few puzzled tourists straight to the front line, and lo and behold, no one complains. After some pushing, I manage to clear the field from behind and come onto the boat in second place. I sit back and relax on the ship’s upper deck to watch the chaos unravel for another hour.
The last car, a Mercedes of course, must be particularly important. Because even though the boat is full, you let it drive onto the ferry’s flap, which is raised before departure… I was spellbound the entire trip to see if a wave would ensure that the Benz was tested for its amphibious capabilities.
The lake is dammed here, has an intense turquoise color and is bordered by steep mountains. If it weren’t so hot you might think you were in the fjords of Scandinavia. We get to know some nice Kosovar Albanians who are on their way home. In addition, the passengers include many backpackers, enduro motorcyclists and other hobby adventurers, where word of the trip on the Koman ferry had gotten around.
It’s uncool to see Albanians simply throwing cans off the boat into the turquoise idyll.
On the shore we keep seeing stone houses with plantations. According to our Kosovar Albanian buddies, this is a very lucrative cannabis growing area.
Unloading after the three-hour journey is much faster at the arrival point where there are no barriers.
Happy about the freedom and the empty road, we rush off towards the fairytale Valbona Valley