Day 10 – To Cerem
6.44 miles / Total Ascent 534m / Total Descent 95m
Today’s walk was a simple transfer to Cerem, a village located high in a side valley off the main Valbona valley.
|Tahir's farm, Kukaj|
After breakfast, we packed and loaded the bags into a van for the short transfer to the main asphalt road. After a succession of bright mornings, it was a shame to find that even the early promise of nice weather had been circumvented, and we had stepped out into damp, overcast conditions from the off. First off, we were to be meeting our muleteer (Lumi) for the next few days and, after heading along the road for a short way, we found him – just not quite where we were expecting!
|Loading the mules, just not where we expected|
Never mind: a few minutes later we were loaded and underway, climbing a steep, narrow path through woodland to reach the car road to Cerem after about 15 minutes. Route finding was easy today, as was the walk: a simple case of following the road for six or seven kilometers to reach the village.
|Looking into the Valbona valley|
At first we paralleled the Valbona valley, then cut northwards through a steep-sided gorge that would eventually open out with the village surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains. That was the theory, anyway, but low cloud and increasingly heavy rain put paid to any real views, which was a shame.
|Following the car road towards Cerem|
The good thing about a short walk in the rain is that one’s destination can soon be reached, so we did just that and arrived at our next lodgings as early as late morning. As usual, we were made very welcome. Lunch was taken sitting round a sheltered table, our own picnics as well as a delicious Fli supplied by the family, plus tea, Turkish coffee and raki. While we ate, the stove was lit in the house so we could get warm and dry our wet belongings.
|Drying out in the room with the stove|
The afternoon was given over to free time. Everyone in the party got on well, and we all enjoyed the walking. Sometimes, though, it was nice to have a little time to ourselves: to read, to rest, to contact family, to write notes, or simply to warm through and think or do nothing.
|Looking round the village|
As the weather picked up a bit, we opted for a walk around the village. Not that there was much of it – a dozen houses at most, I reckon – but a quick potter by ourselves was just the job, and saved us being cooped up inside for a full afternoon and evening.
|Crossing the stream|
We walked down to a small bar we had seen on the way in, and ordered coffee and beers. At first we sat out on the terrace, but then heavy rain came so we dashed inside to take shelter with the proprietor as we didn’t want two sets of wet clothes to dry out. Conversation was understandably limited, but we did our best in a combination of simple place names and gestures, and I think he understood the basics of what we were up to and why we were there.
A little later, the village drunk popped in for a coffee and a quick raki: in an odd role-reversal, he hoped to counter our non-existant Albanian by repeating himself increasingly louder – a typically English approach, we thought!
|Beers at the local bar|
Anyway, a basic understanding was achieved, even though the proprietor had to step in and ask the drunk to quieten down a bit (we understood this quite clearly, despite the language barrier!). Still it was all very good natured, and helped pass the time until the rain abated.
|House at Cerem|
Back at the guesthouse, the remainder of the afternoon was spent idling and relaxing. This stop was much more of a homestay again, and it was fascinating to get an insight into the family and their way of life. The head of the family worked as a border guard near Bajram Curri, whilst the mother and wife attended to most of the chores around the house. They had only got into providing accommodation for guests relatively recently, and were keen to make a good impression.
|Watching the daily goings-on, kitchen in shed (centre right of picture)|
Interestingly, the “kitchen” was located in a small shed separate from the main house (something we had noticed but not fully taken on board at Kukaj, too). All afternoon, a quiet but constant activity of cooking and tea-making continued, so it was no surprise when a copious meal of bean soup, salads, grilled vegetables, cheese, stuffed peppers and fries greeted us at dinner.
|Our beds beneath the Albanian flag|
Our room was simple but clean, with proper beds and towels provided. It was a cool night, so the thick duvets were greatly appreciated and kept the chill at bay. We went to sleep cozy, watched over by the Albanian flag.