We stayed in Valbone for a couple of days, at a guest house that sat in the shadow of the Accursed mountain range (more on the name later). The people who hosted us were lovely, giving us a taste of the locally grown and sourced food and setting us up by the fire with a glass of Raki, Albania’s local (and immensely strong) liquor. Valbone is built along an underground river that emerges halfway down the valley from a scree riverbed of white stone, which we walked around. Full of new guest houses and old communist architecture which was unfinished or in disrepair, it’s an interesting and naturally beautiful part of the country. We hiked to a local waterfall, walking the slopes of the mountain while autumnal leaves carpeted the ground and fell placidly from the trees, stopping to have a cup of mountain tea at the local coffee shop.
Driving to Theth is no small undertaking. Particularly not when you’re already a bit delayed and so it’s dark, and foggy, and the road is a 4WD track across an 1800m high mountain with no guard-rails and limited visibility. Luckily, neither Sarah or I was driving; instead, our guide Marko managed to get us up the mountain and down into Theth with characteristic good humour. We also had a bit of a sing-along in the car as it got dark – the benefits of travelling with enthusiastic musicians! When we drove out of Theth a few days later, we could see the road we’d travelled in the frosty, foggy dark, and were very glad we hadn’t been able to see it the first time!