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Monthly Archives: September 2011

 

The times I have ridden in a private car in Albania are few and far between. In another life, one in which I live in Albania and have unlimited resources, I am the owner of a Toyota Landcruiser. Or a Land Rover Defender or a Mitsubishi Pajero. All of these have enough gears to get me where I want to go.

In this alternate reality, I have the horse power to journey to the ends of roads, to villages that are beyond the furgon-able reaches. Though I have loved exploring this country’s mountains by foot, there’s something to be said for arriving in a place without feeling like you’d rather be collapsed in your bed at home after a hot shower. I know it would take the conquest out of Albania’s far reaches, but I’d be able to go back to places like Lura at my leisure. Life in Albania with a car would be a different life indeed.

Earlier this week I had the chance to go along with Adam and his colleague Hamit on a Diber region tourism development fact-finding excursion. We went out to Radomire, the series of villages just west of the tallest mountain in Albania, Mount Korabi. Adam and Hamit talked with a few locals about setting up small guest houses and we explored the newly marked (thanks to a Polish mountaineering club) trail that leads to the summit on our way to a small mountain lake. Contrary to Lura just across the Drini river valley, this area has not suffered heavy deforestation and has beautiful mature evergreen forests. I enjoyed the conversation, the coffee and the chance to visit a local sheep’s milk cheese factory (yes, sheep’s milk). It was a great day and a wonderful way to see a new corner of Albania – and be home for a late lunch.

All made possible by Hamit and his Landcruiser.

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Following months of sun and heat and humidity and NO rain since July, a front finally swept through to clean everything off. I awoke this morning to cool, clean air and the clarity of vision that must be experienced by those who renew their glasses prescription. Albania is, for now, a dust-free wonderland!

Now, if only the work on my power lines would be finished and we could get the lights turned back on….

These photos are views from a recent trip to Lura, an area in the central part of Northern Albania that is the most inaccessible place I have traveled to in the country so far. We hiked for two days and over 36 km. Our route was a loop – started out following a canal along a cliff face through a narrow rocky valley, then climbed up through the old, roadless village of Gur Lurë. After camping and talking with some shepherds we climbed the steep forested ridge behind Gur Lurë to the plateau and the 7 lakes (ponds) above. This area is a national park, but unfortunately has experienced rampant recent deforestation due to lack of monitoring. We followed the line of the plateau, saw all the lakes and picked wild raspberries and blueberries along the way, ending a long day in a field just up the hill from the village of Fushë Lurë. The next morning we drank coffee with villagers, talked about tourism development, then paid one of them to take us the 2.5 hours on the worst road I’ve seen in Albania back to Peshkopi.

The trail along the cliff face follows a canal that travels through short, occasional tunnels. Ramps prevent rockslides from clogging the canal. This is the first trail I’ve seen here with built in hand hold ropes.

The first week of September it has, just like last year, cooled off a little. Finally. However, it’s still supposed to be around 90 degrees for the weekend. I’m ready for Fall! I have to keep reminding myself, though, that the Fall I know and love in Virginia is nothing like Fall here. There are no trees that shed their leaves in Lezhe, and it rains regularly. But, at this point I’m excited to sleep with a blanket again.

The past few months have been a blur, but a good one. Now that it’s September things will settle down a bit as Albania returns to work. I’m getting back into a routine. But, things are still changing. In between all the adventuring and projects I’ve taken on over the summer it’s become official that I am the only PCV in my site. Jen, my partner-in-crime and friend/supporter/surrogate sister/co-chef and winter snuggle buddy here in Lezhe is back in California permanently with an awesome job following a medical evacuation in June. She’s fine, just not coming back to be my neighbor in Albania 😦

Most of what I am working on these days seems to be tourism related – both in Lezhe and Shengjin. However, school will start up again next week and I’ll hopefully continue with a project Jen and I had going on with the professional high school here. I’m also really excited about the reusable grocery bag project I have been working on all summer with three girls from our Outdoor Ambassadors group. I received a generous donation from Baggu bags of 100 reusable bags (it pays to write letters to companies!) that my parents brought over from the states in May. I’ve helped the girls design a project to disseminate them through a few shop owners that they know at a low price that will help produce additional bags at a local seamstress shop. I was proud of the girls for being really adamant about the fact that the project needed to be bigger than the 100 bags we had in hand. Right now we’ve negotiated a price to produce more bags, but are waiting for the original ones to sell/catch on so we can start production. It’s exciting to see shop owners really “get” the project and want to promote the bags. If any of you have any ideas for how to best promote/produce a reusable bag or have completed a reusable bag campaign, I’d love to hear your thoughts!