Hi Teemu. We hoped that the road is opening but only half way is open. My husband is in Sköder and is waiting for you. Your trip will be from Shala area. It is longer but only this option is.
The bus schedules I had found online didn’t quite match the reality at Pristina bus station in Kosovo. I needed to get to Sköder in Albania by afternoon and found myself plodding the bus platform back and forth with a backpack full of gear trying to identify my ride.
Eventually, I found myself sitting on a bus headed towards the Albanian border. I watched mountains passing by while listening to the Nokia Tune playing in someone’s pocket in the back seat.
Before jumping on the bus, I learned the main road to my destination, Theth Valley, was still blocked by snow. It was mid-April. The only way to get there was a long detour on a bad road with a four-wheel drive. It all felt really remote.
My host family from the valley had sent the husband to pick me up from Sköder. It was a good 7 hour drive one way, and not very good for the car. I later learned, it was only the second time he was visiting town since last autumn.
There are about 25 families living in the valley, and over the winter, they are pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, being surrounded by snowy peaks on all sides.
As soon as I met mr Pashko at the bridge to Sköder, his phone started ringing. Apparently, the word was out that someone from Theth was visiting town, and the villagers started calling him for fresh supplies. We stopped in one shop after another picking up tomatoes, cucumber, and all sorts of fresh food that hadn’t been available in the valley for a while.
Once all the shopping was done, we made a couple of final stops to fill the backseat of the car with locals who were heading the same way with us. Some of them all the way to Theth.
Then we were finally off. I was really looking forward to seeing what was waiting for me in the other end of this journey.
The detour from Sköder to Theth was pretty much as bad as advertised. Bumpy most of the time ( reminded me of the “African massage” from the roads in Tanzania), and scary around the cliffs. It was already dark when we finally pulled the jeep to family Pashko´s front yard.
I ended up spending close to a week with the family, heading out to the surrounding mountains early in the mornings and returning before sunset. In the valley, the trees were blooming, but higher up the mountains, it was still a full-blown winter.
There are several hiking trails passing through the valley, the most well-known being the Peaks of the Balkans. It’s a lengthy 190km signposted (relative to the fact of it being located in the remote part of Balkans) trail circumventing the Accursed Mountains in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.
My initial plan was to cover the whole Peaks of the Balkans trail while in the area, but after a bit of research back home, I learned there’s way too much snow in the passes in mid-April to get through. Luckily, I ended up taking the easy way out by setting myself up in Theth and doing day trips to the surrounding passes.
Best part of visiting Theth Valley in April was the luxury of having the whole valley for myself. I was told there are more hikers passing through during the summer, but this time of the year, I barely saw anyone.
Plenty of excellent Albanian food, happy local people, springtime in the valley, and winter up the mountains – what more could you ask for a week of hiking!