Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Art's family rented a guest house in the Lëpushë Valley in northern Albania this summer. We have visited and hiked twice in the last week. From our home to their temporary front door is about an hour and half. Traveling through some magical scenery of the Albanian Alps always makes my day. The views are ever changing with the seasons and the amount of photos we capture from this region takes up a fair amount of data.
The first hiking experience started along the side of a spring reaching a fenced section we encountered a local sheep shepherd and his herd. He offered to show us a path up to a mountain clearing of Maja e Berizhdalit. He was wearing a pair of house slippers and is 60 years old. He navigated and climbed the steep leaf littered path with the agility of a 10 year old on playground equipment. Admiration of this man's physical health and ability was off the charts. He has spent his entire life living in the valley sharing many tales as we climbed. Most of them I heard via third party since I was near the end of the pack but there is a stretch in the pass up the mountain where many Albanians were killed during the Communist era along the borderlands near Montenegro. He did mention a tale or two of fairies and their wild goats. When we reached the summit almost two hours later, it was a large clearing with a few abandoned structures, a spring cutting down the middle to lower pastures and 360° view of the mountains and valley below.
After consuming some much needed calories we descended a new path coming across a family homestead who summers with their sheep on the ridge. Interesting fact, at one point there were nearly 50 homesteads that would summer on or near this ridge now there are less than five. We did cross a few springs on the way down refilling our water and eating the wild strawberries on the the trails. Waterfalls could be heard from the trail but not easily seen, Art managed to capture a few photos of one on the way down.
Our second day hike started with a beautiful waterfall near the guesthouse, followed by a winding path through a thick forest. We paused in an open valley to take a breather and take some footage with the drone. We passed a few springs along the way with a built in water spout for refilling water bottles. We exited the forest into a large valley with an occupied homestead near the forest. Rising over the first rolling hill we heard before we saw several cows and a heard of sheep in a dip with an abandoned stone structure. We followed the red and white painted markers to Maja e Vajushes. Crossing the rolling valley to the far ridge we past a few more springs and even a waterfall. My nephew and husband chose the straight up path. Interesting fact number two, I learned my very tall nephew has a small fear of heights. The ridge at the top dropped pretty sharply on either side so I can understand the fear.
My niece and I took the marked path up to the point marked with the Albanian Flag. The switch back path took us to a ridge over looking the Accursed Mountains and a distant city in Montenegro. We crossed path with a few goats, sheep and cows but otherwise no people the whole valley and mountains to ourselves. It was surreal and magical to be standing on top of a mountain. The amount of photos and video we took after resting at the top will never do it the justice it deserves. Albania is simply wild, raw, beautiful and home.
Uploaded a new video to our YouTube channel Homestead Albania: