Video: Ice Cold Waterfall in Albania

At the moment I’m editing my GoPro footage from Croatia, Albania and Greece but while I wait for a little video clip from a fellow traveller I decided to cut a video of the waterfall I wrote about while I was away.

Here are a couple of abstract stills…

Abstract Underwater 1Abstract Underwater 2
 And the video… 

 

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Albanian Adventure Day 11: Saranda

Last night after dinner I went to a bar in Saranda with a couple of the guys from the tour. I ordered a medium beer and was given what I know to be a large glass (in every other restaurant or bar in Albania). Pat asked for large and ended up with an absolute beast of a beer which I found amusing.

Beer in Saranda, AlbaniaIt was in this bar that we got to experience more of the Albanian hospitality we’ve come to know and love. We asked the bar guys if we could take a photo of them, and instantly it was all smiles, then they brought out the shot glasses and poured us shots saying “gratis, gratis!” while knocking shots back themselves. The bar owner invited us over to the best seats in the house and pretty much forced us to have some of his food, a traditional potato eggy type thing like a Spanish omelette I suppose. He was offering round pizzas and getting drinks for us. It was fantastic! I danced for a bit with Lee to the Euro-house they were playing but we were literally the only ones dancing so looking back we probaby looked like absolute idiots. The rum and cokes we moved onto were eye-wateringly strong, I reckon about 95% rum v 5% coke.

Today was a pretty leisurely free day so me and a few of the girls went for a walk down the promenade in the morning, sat for a cold drink and chatted for an extraordinarily long time, then meandered back to the hotel for a bit. I had a swim in the pool (the first pool of the trip and a welcome sight!) and sunbathed a bit, which left me with an unfortunate red stripe down the side of my left arm.

Saranda SeaIn the late afternoon we went down to a secluded bar and had a beer and a dip in the sea to cool off again.

Saranda Beach BarOn a practical note, Saranda is the first place on this trip where we haven’t been able to drink the tap water. Here if they’re low on water they pump sea water into the system so the tap water here is often salty. Being able to drink the tap water everywhere else has been marvellous though. Onto Corfu tomorrow, just a short boat ride away.

 

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Albanian Adventure Day 10: Blue Eye Spring and Butrint

Vita and her husband waved us off as we left Gjirokaster in our coach. We were heading to our last stop in Albania; a place on the coast called Saranda. On the way we took a mini detour to visit Syri i kaltër (The Blue Eye Spring); a deep natural spring bubbling up from below.

blue eye spring albaniaDuring the trip we have seen countless concrete bunkers dotted around the countryside. Albania is famous for them; built between 1950 and 1985 for an invasion that never came, there are around 800,000 in the country. They are too expensive to remove so remain in place and are sometimes used as a loveshack for teenagers.

Bunkers in AlbaniaAfter arriving in Saranda at our hotel we dropped off our bags and got straight back on the coach to go to Butrint. Butrint is an ancient site (and another UNESCO World Heritage Site) with flavours of Greek, Roman and Ottoman history built next to the picturesque lakes of Butrint.

Lakes of ButrintWith the rise of the Roman Empire, Butrint expanded to become a flourishing Mediterranean city, with public and private buildings of every kind built – temples, fountains, baths and monuments. Having been to many sites like this in Greece and Italy Butrint struck me as being quite special – it wasn’t overrun with tourists, and you could explore almost all of it without restrictions. Some small areas were cordoned off but hardly any and on some sites you could even walk on the ancient mosaics or climb over walls to see what lay beyond.

Butrint

 

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Albanian Adventure Day 9: Greek Villages

Today we took an optional trip to some nearby Greek villages. We’re not far from Greece now so there are a few villages where it’s hard to remember which country you’re actually in.

Greek Church in AlbaniaWe visited a Greek Orthodox church mid-service, wandered around at our typical laid back holiday pace and walked through the countryside. A lovely lady opened up another church for us which was quite small and towering inside, full of religious art, candles and trinkets.

Inside Greek ChurchOn the way back someone spotted a huge fig tree so we stopped and our driver climbed up a tree to retrieve all the best ones for us. I think I’m a bit figged out now, we’ve had fresh figs almost every day and my body isn’t used to it!

When we arrived back at the guesthouse Vita was there ready and waiting to make us tea and coffee as always. It’s a really lovely place here and if you ever find yourself in Gjirokaster go straight to the Kotoni B&B up the hill and you’ll be welcomed as if it’s your own home. The rest of the day was free so me and a few others went to a different restaurant to the night before. The waiter we had was a young lad and the only one who spoke English. He was incredibly friendly and polite and really wanted us to be happy, and we were.

 

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Albanian Adventure Day 8: Berat to Gjirokaster

The local bus to Gjirokaster was a mini van jam packed full of the 8 of us plus 5 or 6 locals and heaps of luggage. There were two drivers; one I presume was the driver for the return journey as it was going all the way to Saranda and back, at least six or seven hours each way. There was no seat for driver number two so he whipped out a plastic stool and sat in the aisle sandwiched between me and another woman. With a large bag crushing my legs and driver number two squashed against my right side it was a cosy journey. The door of the bus was open for the entire five hour ride because once again there were no openable windows and definitely no air con.

One thing I haven’t mentioned about Albania, and it’s a sad thing, is that there is rubbish (mainly plastic) dumped absolutely everywhere: by the side of the road, in fields and in rivers. They don’t have the infrastructure to dispose of it properly so it’s just piled up all over the place. During the bus journey I drank a can of coke, and when I finished with it I crushed it and reached for my bag to keep it there until I found a bin. Driver number two reached over and took it from me, so I thought he must have a bin on board but no… as we crossed a bridge he leaned forward and threw it as hard as he could out of the open door and into the river below.

When we arrived in Gjirokaster we were met by a very angry taxi driver who gave us the ride of our lives – shouting into his phone and accelerating towards oncoming traffic whilst simultaneously throwing sweets at us. Bizarre! As we screeched around corners and ploughed towards pedestrians, onlookers saw our startled faces and began laughing. This taxi driver must be well known around here.

GjirokasterThe Kotoni Bed & Breakfast was a welcome slice of calm, with a view of the castle, town, mountains and valley. We were welcomed in by the host Vita and her husband who gave us cold juice and helped us in with our bags. It was another hot day so we had a rest for an hour or two and then headed up the hill to the old fortress.

american spy plane albania
Thought to be an American spy plane

Once again it was a leisurely stroll around the castle whose walls date back to the 3rd Century AD. Gjirokaster, like Berat, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town” and all of this was clearly visible from the panoramic views from the castle walls. 

In the evening we went to a restaurant with incredible views then headed back to the guesthouse. It was far too hot to sleep so I stayed up chatting and laughing with my roommate into the early hours.

 

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Albanian Adventure Day 7: Bogove Waterfalls and Wine

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.

Trek to the WaterfallWe 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.

Icy Waterfall Near BeratI 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.

Wine Tasting, AlbaniaAlbania 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.

Me at Wine Tasting in AlbaniaSomeone 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.

 

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