Saturday 19 October 2013

Albania: The Labëria Highlands & Ionian Coast – Day 6

Friday 27th September – Rreza e Kanalit, Llogora NP
Total Distance: 6.65 miles / Total Ascent: m / Total Descent: m
Today’s walk was a trundle along part of the Karaburuni Peninsula, a line of mountains whose western edge slips into the sea (technically, the Adriatic at this point). Starting from the top of the Llogora Pass, we would make our way over a few minor summits as far as the Deep Pass, then descend to the hotel for lunch.
After another early breakfast, we again made the short transfer to the top of the Llogora Pass, and were out on the trail by 8.00am.
Looking back to Mt Çika
Heading out over the area marked on the map as Rreza e Kanalit, a rough vehicle track led up from the Llogora Pass in a series of switchbacks that made for easy going and kept the gradient relatively moderate. The views improved as we gained height, especially those across to yesterday’s conquest, Mt Çikës, where the route could easily be picked out.
First summit with communication masts just visible
Topped by a cluster of communication masts, the first summit of the ridge was soon achieved, and we took a short break to regroup after the initial climb. The views were excellent, as expected: the clear blue skies interrupted only by a little cloud bubbling up on the seaward side of the ridge.
The twin summits and ridge of Mt Çika
Looking along the ridge
Beyond the masts, no obvious path existed on the ground – just open hillside covered in rock and grass. But we picked out an undulating route, roughly following the crest of the ridge, to reach another summit – this one topped by a good-sized cairn – where again we rested to regroup.
Resting by the cairn
Steeper ground required a careful descent into the notch of Deep Pass. Cattle were grazing the pastures, the clanking of cowbells filled the air, and the whole feel of the surroundings took on a decidedly Alpine feel.
Dropping into Deep Pass
Deep Pass
Maintaining the illusion, the last section of the walk followed a very Alpine-like path as it made a steady descent through the woods. I love this sort of path every bit as much as those over undulating ridges or to rocky mountain summits – a shady, sun-dappled earthy path, gently stepping down and down in the cool beneath the trees that eventually delivered us right back to the hotel. This last couple of miles of proper walking were an absolute joy – and a lovely way to mark the end of our trek.
Start of the descent

Walking through the woods
Back at the hotel, we had time for a quick wash and brush up before lunch – another great meal with beef in a bean soup as the centrepiece and two deserts to follow.
The afternoon was spent in transfer to Tirana: first to Vlorë, then the reverse of the outward journey via Fier and Durres. Traffic was busy as we approached the city, but there was still time to check in to our hotel and have a quick tidy up before our 7.00pm gathering.
Fuel stop on the way to Tirana. Sells unleaded, I should imagine.
The peculiar image is a drawing of Skanderbeg's helmet.
Although dedicated city-goers might find Tirana a little short on sightseeing, for the trekker in transit there is more than enough to see and do – with plenty of culture shock for those who have just arrived from the more remote corners of the country.
It’s a great place for a look round and an evening out, and is fast becoming one of the trendiest cities in the Balkans. The central area is not especially big, so it’s fairly easy to get around, and these days it has quite cosmopolitan feel about it with lots of good restaurants, great café culture and an increasingly “happening” nightlife centred round the area known as “The Block”.
Part of the Berlin wall: a gift to Albania from Germany

One of the thousands of mini bunkers built during the time of Enver Hoxha
We had a short walk round the centre on the way to the restaurant, taking in a few sights on the way: Skanderbeg Square, the old town walls, parks and monuments. Then it was time for our farewell meal: different departure times in the morning meaning this would be our last gathering as a complete group. After a week of superb, authentic, traditional cuisine, we opted for somewhere with a slightly more international menu. Pizza proved very popular.
Farewell dinner
After the meal, some with early starts made their way directly back to the hotel, but a few of us were keen to stretch the holiday a little further. We finished the night with a beer at Tirana Rock, then walked a roundabout route back to the hotel, finishing off with a late night ice cream on the way!    
Don't be fooled by the rocks we trot / We still, we still bevvy on The Block
(J Glo, Tom and Dan)

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