Saturday, 17 November 2007

Pilgrimage from Gur I Zi to Librazhd 14/11/07

I woke in the night to the soft “tap tap tap” of snow falling on my tent. Excitement rushes through me as I wait for the dawn to break, this is my first time camping in snow…slowly the “tap tap tap” gets harder and harder till my hopes of a pleasant morning were soon washed away, it started pissing down :(

My head is feeling all blocked up and my whole body is starting to ache. Secretly I am hoping for the rain to continue all day. I am happy snuggled up in my sleeping bag…

But alas, it wasn’t to be. Realizing the rain has stopped I break camp. Walking is the last thing I feel like doing at the moment, but without any food it needs to be done. At least the rain is being nice and staying away.

Farmhouses start appearing more and more frequently, there must be a restaurant around here somewhere!

I hear hurried footsteps behind me, someone calls out. I must have dropped something…

Turning around, I see an old guy rushing up the road. I wait and realize when he reaches me he just wants to walk with me and chat. He doesn’t speak a word of English but I’m happy for the company. Reaching his house, or half a house as it was, he invites me in for something to eat. What luck :)

Looking around I wonder if this is where he lives. It’s obviously still under construction, there are no doors, no windows, no lights…just a pile of straw in one corner, a pile pf rags in another and some cat food spread out on the floor…

Breakfast is hanging in a plastic bag attached to a hook in the wall, and turns out to be yesterdays half eaten lunch :)

Congo is acting the perfect host though and doing his best to make me feel comfortable. He motions to the rags on the floor, I take it this is the lounge sweet and take a seat.

I look uneasily at the meal presented to me in the plastic bag. Some grapes, a green pepper, a big block of butter, the end of a loaf of bread with all the middle eaten out leaving just the crust, and a half eaten block of white cheese that’s smeared over everything.

But…I’ve eaten worse so I dig in. It actually tastes great! Congo just watches, nodding encouragement as I go. If I pause too long without taking a bite I get a loud “Komplet, komplet”! I find out that this isn’t actually where he lives. He owns all the land around and he is trying to finish this house but has run out of money. A great guy, thanks mate!

Feeling much better after eating I head down the valley. The walk takes a lot longer than I expect but finally I hit the main road…I survived the mountains!!!

Just after emerging from lunch the rain starts. My goal is to reach Librazhd but it is still 12kms away. An hour later, cold, wet and miserable I stop for a cup of tea. I notice they serve spitted animal and can’t resist…anything to delay getting back out there ;) And it was delicious!

Donning my wet raingear, I think to myself “if only they had a hotel here as well”, I’m really not looking forward to getting back out there. But, once I get going it’s all good, I always find the thought of walking in the rain worse than actually doing it.

The road takes me up a river valley that would be stunning in the daytime…steep hills, narrow gorges and a raging torrent due to all the rain.

I walk and walk and walk but Librazhd just never appears. Thinking “where are the abandoned buildings when you need them?”, one suddenly appears. It must be a sign so I go to check it out.

I walk into a three-story mansion still under construction. The first floor looks perfect for me, but just before I set up camp a little voice calls out “go and check the other floors”…

The top floor is completely empty, I head for the basement. I find more empty rooms but then spot a bed! It could be my lucky day…should I or shouldn’t I? If it was any colder outside, or any later in the evening, but I think the person who’s bed it is would be in for a surprise if they came home tonight ;)

I don’t want to tempt fate so I was back to walking in the rain. It’s not long before Librazhd coming into view raises my spirits.

Walking into town a young guy starts walking next to me and invites me for a drink. This turns out to be a real blessing, he finds me a cheap hotel, takes me to an internet café, introduces me to a group of traditional Albanian folk dancers (who even give me a demonstration) and then we all go out for drinks :)

I get back to the hotel after a fun night exhausted, it’s time for bed…

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