Day 4 was the most dramatic day of the Great Balkan Ride 2017.
Photo by Theodore Marković
After a relaxed evening the previous night, the journey ahead on day 4 of the Great Balkan Ride promised to be memorable. And boy it delivered. We were heading to Thethi, Albania’s mountain paradise, and teams were offered too possible routes: the easy way, or the tough way. No prizes for guessing which most of our adventurous bunch chose.
As ever, Tony and Beryl began the day with detailed study of the route. This was important, as the “interesting” route was barely a road at all, rather a series of dirt tracks up a former river valley. It was also crucial to stock up on energy for the trip, and everybody made use of the hotel’s generous breakfast.
The “boring” route
The organising team had to arrive early to sort out accommodation, so had no choice but to take the easier route. However, this was not short of spectacular scenery. And while the first two-thirds of the road were smooth, the last hour was a tough drive, with twisting and turning down gravel paths, into Thethi valley.
For some, the difficult route wasn’t tricky at all. Rob, pictured above crossing one of the many streams on the way, had the time of his life. Arriving at Thethi (in astonishingly quick time) he revealed it had been one of the best day’s driving of his life. He and Amy even found time for a swim half-way!
Some were not so lucky, however. News quickly spread that several teams were having trouble. Tony’s car looked stuck, as pictured above, until a team effort (with the help of several passing Albanians) managed to pull it out. The Danish team, however, had a even worse problem: their wheel was irreparably damaged, and so they had to leave their beloved “Rola”, parked by the side of the road, in the middle of a forest, as they hitched a ride with another team.
Thethi: Not Bad
For those who had arrived at Thethi, an idyllic scene awaited them. Our accommodation offered stunning views of the surrounding green valley, sheltered between mountains. Some teams understandably chose to relax, while others opted to go sightseeing, despite the searing heat.
Movie Star Barman
After a picturesque walk to visit an old water mill, it was time for the sightseeing group to seek ought refreshments, and we found the perfect place. Right across the road from one of the villages historic “lock-in” towers, was a wooden-shack, operating as a bar. Perched on a cliff edge, it offered breath-taking views, and we were impressed by the movie star looks of our charming barman, above.
Feast and Fun
It would be remiss to tell the story of our trip to Thethi, however, without mentioning what was undoubtedly the best meal of the entire Great Balkan Ride (some said of their entire year). A selection of fresh meats and local vegetarian specialties, the best sign of its quality is that is managed to momentarily distract us from the impressive view. Later on, when everyone had arrived, teams sat up recounting stories of their exciting day, while sipping (or shotting) locally-distilled raki. The final word, though, must go to tour organizer Huba, who — upon hearing of the Danish’s teams wheel troubles — drove all the way to Shkodër and back (in the dark!) to find them a replacement. Heroic.