Over the last couple of days our tour leader Peter has been telling us about a waterfall near Berat that he went to a couple of weeks ago. He said the water is really really cold, about 7 degrees, but due to the relentless heat on this trip I was unable to imagine how cold that could be. He said a couple of people in his group were brave/stupid enough to go in last time, so I decided that as long as someone had gone before and survived then I was going to go in too.
We took a local bus with a local guide and some other tousists from the hotel; two Italians and two Germans. They all spoke perfect English of course.
We trekked for about half an hour, crossing the river a couple of times, scrabbling up rocks and over fallen trees, until we came to the waterfall glistening in the sun.
I changed into my ‘swimmers’ (an Aussie term I picked up) and went charging into the water. Within 2 seconds the sheer pain of the cold hit me and I jumped back out shouting AAARRGGGGHHHH and grabbing my feet. I couldn’t believe how cold it was. I went back in thinking it wouldn’t be so bad a second time, but shot back out in agony again. How is it possible to swim in this thing if I can’t go further than my ankles? I looked at Peter in horror, and he said “I did warn you”. There are two sections to the pool, the one I am standing in when I took the above picture, and the main one with the waterfall that you can see in the distance. I decided to get back in and run as fast as I could to the dividing rocks between the two. Once again I had to grab my feet in order to warm them up. I can’t adequately describe the pain or the cold. Two guys in the group jumped into the main pool and quickly got back out. “Your turn” they said. “Does it make you feel like you want to die?” I asked, genuinely concerned. Before I knew it, they counted “1! …2!”… shit….. “3!” I jumped, emerged, shrieked and scrabbled back out as quickly as I could. Shocking is the correct word I think. I don’t really remember much.
I ended up jumping in quite a few times, and swimming to the waterfall and back as quickly as possible, trying to film it on my GoPro to prove I actually did it. The shock never subsided but it became refreshing and quite addictive, and I was a lovely temperature for the trek to the restaurant.
At the restaurant I ate goat for the first time in my life and really enjoyed it, then we headed back to the hotel to shower before heading out to wine tasting in the countryside.
Albania isn’t really geared up for tourists so if you’re thinking we might be learning about the different flavours that are created by different processes, or what the colour of the wine signifies, or how to spot a quality wine, think again. Wine tasting in Albania is more like just trying all the wines on offer which we were more than happy with. A lovely family showed us around their winery and then sat us in their garden, brought out bread, olives and cheese, and poured us about 6 different wines. It was a warm evening, clear skies and really relaxed.
Someone in the group bought a bottle of wine which the family opened for us, and a bottle of Raki – spiced and Christmassy and not at all like last night’s rocket fuel. The taxi ride home was hilarious. We signified to the driver that we really liked the music that was on the radio, so he turned it up loud and we had a full on rave in the back of his car, with whooping and hand waving out of the windows. The other half of the group were in a taxi behind us with a moody driver, but as soon as our rave started their driver cheered right up and laughed all the way home. Apparently this kind of thing doesn’t happen here so we’ll be the talk of the town for a long time to come. This makes me very happy.
The night ended in the gardens of the hotel where we drank more wine and laughed until late. Berat has been an absolute joy.