Tracey, who is excellent at networking, has made connections with a business called Outdoor Albania. Last week, she e-mailed her friend, Gent, to ask about river rafting trips. Gent happened to have a Sunday river rafting day lined up with an Austrian group (Tracey used to play Frisbee with one of the Austrians). Before you could say, "The hills are alive," Tracey and I were signed up to go on this trip and even had transportation with two Austrians from the embassy, Martin and Sabine. I love how things just work out. Our river destination was an hour and a half past Berat (see November post) located in the breathtaking Osumi canyon. These pictures all all from Tracey's camera... I can't take any credit!
Here is a picture from the van window. Once we arrived in Corovoda, the 14 of us were given wet suits, life jackets, splash jackets and helmets. We split up into two vehicles and drove another 1/2 hour to our launching point. This trip, itself, was hilariously fun. The van's driver- side door had to be tied shut with a rope. The driver spoke no English, but he had a mascot who rode on the dashboard. Two Austrians had their two dogs, one that had his own adventure. And there was a very real possibility that we could run out of gas.
This is Foxie. Our driver didn't seem to be worried that his dog was sliding all around the dashboard. Tracey asked him, using her charade skills, if the dog ever fell. We got our answer. One sudden stop and I ended up catching Foxie as she flew through the air. Her claws are sharp! She barked every time we past a horse, donkey, cow, or sheep....like she could take 'em on. Foxie really freaked out when she heard barks coming from the back of the van. Flex, a dalmatian owned by an Austrian couple, was invading Foxie's territory. Foxie went crazy!
We stopped for a quick break. Flex's owners decided to let him run behind the van. Bad idea. Flex came to a sheep herd and started running up the hill. Where there are sheep, there are sheep dogs. One sheep dog came running and chased poor Flex down the hill, across the road, and then down another hill filled with cattle. Meanwhile, the driver stopped the van and practically threw Tracey and me out the passenger's door (he couldn't get out of his door because as I mentioned before, his door was tied up) and went chasing after Flex. I ended up holding Foxie, laughing my head off. Really, it could have been a tragic situation.
Here's our launching point. The other raft (as shown above) was larger than ours and had room for about 10 people. This is a picture of the Bulgarian and his water wings (he gave his life jacket to his wife). Our raft held six people, including Ilir, our Albanian hippy/mountain man/river guide.
This was our first stop. We hiked up to the bridge for an amazing view of the canyon. The rapids were just right. (This trip is only available during the month of May, because the water level is too low after this month). The rocks were the most frightening part of the trip. At one point Ilir pulled me into the center of the boat, by my life jacket, as the raft suddenly swung into the side of the canyon. My hero. There were waterfalls running off of the sides of the rocks. Martin said that the rocks were limestone. Vines hung down tempting me to swing like Jane. Trees stubbornly grew up from sides of cliffs. If anyone wants to film an independent adventure flick, this is the place to come!
This was our second docking point. The day before, Gent and Ilir had had another rafting trip, but were stopped just before this point. They were forced to wait for a number of hours until the water level of a waterfall decreased. We were able to float past the waterfall safely. After docking, we walked towards it for a closer look.
Oh waterfall, how I do love thee. I think I had this expression on my face the entire afternoon. Every bend in the river brought another wonder. I do so love Albania.
And here is the cause of my joy!
Tracey in front of the waterfall.
Sabine in front of the waterfall. Oh, a word about Sabine's job.... I think I've found another career path to take after another 10-15 years in the classroom. Sabine is a math/art teacher. Now she works under the umbrella of the Austrian embassy. She travels around Albania improving education. Projects include hygiene training, teacher benefits, and curriculum. Does this job say Holly? Yes, I'm afraid it does.
Another Albanian adventure comes to a close... I loved meeting new friends and participating in a wonderful rafting trip. Really and truly, if you are thinking about visiting Albania next year, come in May. We'll get a group together and raft!