Thursday, 31 July 2014

Peaks Of The Balkans: Albania, Montenegro & Kosovo - Day 7

Day 7 – Thethi, Nderlysa & The Blue Eye

14.00 miles / Total Ascent 700m / Total Descent 700m

The skies were still overcast this morning as we set out on a “gentle” circuit of some of the highlights of the valley. Rain threatened, but so did blue skies: a mixed set of messages that would remain ambiguous throughout the day.

Overcast start

There is no doubt that things have moved on since our last visit here, as a trundle through the village showed. Many of the houses are looking tidier and in better condition, and the old, rickety wooden road bridge has been replaced by a new, stronger concrete one. In many ways it has lost a little of its “last outpost” romance, but life here is tough, and anything that connects the village better and more safely to the outside world has to be a boon for the locals.

New church, rebuilt in 2006

Our first stop was the Catholic Church, originally constructed around 120 years ago but re-built in 2006. Unfortunately it was locked, so we couldn't go in.

Blood Feud Tower

Then we moved on to the Kulla, or Blood feud Tower – a famous landmark in the valley. As before we were shown round, and the history of the place was explained by Endrit, who also shared some personal family stories about the Kulla, notions of family honour and blood feud, and the influence of the centuries-old oral code of over 1,200 articles of conduct and law – the Kanun of Lek Dukagjini. This ruled on all aspects of life – land, marriage, the role of women, crime and, especially, honour – including murder, which gave rise to the notorious blood feuds in which tit-for-tat killings of males from each family could continue until there are no surviving men. Although these were heavily discouraged during the communist regime, there are still thought to be some 150 blood feuds in existence today.

Walking beside the irrigation channel

After reflecting on these tales of honour and revenge, we moved on, taking care not to incur the wrath of any locals. We followed a rising path alongside an irrigation channel, as we made our way towards the Grunasi Waterfall.

Grunasi Waterfall

Next, we followed a snaky path down to the river on our way to Nderlysa. Not snaky in a sinuous, zig-zaggy way, you understand: all paths round here are like that. No, snaky in the sense of an abundance of slithery, bitey reptiles. Rather unnerving! In the end, though, we only saw one snake (tiny) and one slow worm (dead).

Beautiful mountain torrent

Anyway, we made it unscathed to the river, and crossed by the main road bridge. Just then we bumped into the Polish motorcyclists we’d seen a couple of days previously in Vermosh. Their trip was over: the roads had taken their toll on the bikes, and they were being evacuated to Shkodra for repairs.

We, on the other hand, carried on into the village, to pass the guesthouse where we had stayed three years previously. Endrit got talking to the chap, and once he realized we had been before we were immediately invited in for caj and raki. We ate plums from the orchard, got talking to a Dutch couple who were staying there, and spent a convivial hour chatting about this and that. Meeting the family again was an unexpected treat, and one which made our day.   

Guesthouse from July 2011

Moving on, we took the path into the Kapreja valley heading for another Blue Eye – a beautiful, cold pool and waterfall. Last time, we had swum here: this time, with a much lower air temperature, it was just too cold. It was, quite literally, breathtaking. Matt had a brief swim, and declared the water to be fairly freezing. Or at least it sounded something like that. I just sat in the water this time, up to my nethers in the icy waters – which, to be honest, was enough.

Blue Eye #2 (Albania)

For the return to Thethi, we re-traced our steps back to Nderlysa, then followed the car road on the west side of the valley, crossing into the village over the new concrete bridge. 

New concrete bridge

In truth, we were quite tired, for although not a tough walk, it was long enough. There was time for a quick beer and showers before dinner – bean soup and salads, plus a lamb and potato dish, with watermelon for afters. Then we all sat round the campfire for beers and conversation – a great way to end the day.


  1. The Grunasi Waterfall and blue pool looked fresh!

  2. There is a documentary that visit the family in Nderlysa, it's in German but provides vivid impressions of their lifestyle: