Within just a few minutes of hiking the next morning we entered Albania. The trail has us go through a very small section passing through a town called Vermosh, before heading right back into Montenegro. The trail from the lake was nice, guiding us into a forest, through tall trees and some muddy trail. You couldn’t even see the lake from here, it was covered by a thick sheet of fog just stuck within the mountains over the water. The trail into Vermosh turned into our consistent trail, gravel road. It passed by some really beautiful houses. Albania so far is just epically beautiful. The mountains are breathtaking. We stopped for a quick drink at Cafe Nyetra, which was on our maps as a waypoint, known for their bar treehouse. It was a nice chill spot and we even collected some apples from their apple tree! I love love love all of the fresh fruit we have gotten to forage on this trail. Soon we found ourselves back in MNE, heading towards Gusinje. Passed the border patrol where we got our stamps which is always so exciting to me! I can’t wait until my passport is just full of them! We got into town, both of us with just 1-2 bars left in our packs. It was lunch time, and everything was closed. It was a Muslim holiday. Markets and restaurants were all closed. We got nervous and luckily came across a cafe that was open and asked some locals about a place to get food. A nice younger guy named Dumir ended up offering us a ride to a restaurant in the National Park. Sat with us as we ate, drove us to his house, where he made us dinner to go. Homemade Burek, apples, candy, bread, pate. Then dropped us off to begin walking again. So so grateful! Literally asked for nothing. And he had such a beautiful soul. The way he talked about life and the importance of quality time with family and friends was really special. He even stopped while driving and passing a friend and they got out and hugged and chatted for a bit. It’s so cute, I love it! We got to pass a waterfall dropping into a cave as we headed into the mountains for our second to last day. The vastness of the mountains is epic. The lake we planned to camp at was totally dried up forcing us to walk a few extra miles. On the way up the pass we crossed a donkey. It’s keeper running up to it a bit back from us. When we were at the top of the pass we heard the guy yelling and turned around and saw him throwing big rocks at the donkey….then with a big stick smashing it against the donkeys back. What did the donkey do? We didn’t get it. It made our stomachs hurt and I so badly wanted to run back and take the stick out of his hands and hit him with it. But I know better than that and wasn’t looking to put myself into danger. So we eagerly just hiked faster over the pass to get as far away as possible. I still hear the sound of that stick smacking in my head as I try to go to bed. We found a nice campsite with literally views of mountains all around us. It was cold
Though, and for the first time on trail I am going to bed wearing every piece of gear I have. Even my gloves.
Then the last day of the trail. I can honestly say the trail left the best for last. I couldn’t have imagined better views for the ending of a crazy journey. We hiked first on a long rocky downhill into Theth, passing many pack horses and their owners. Into town we walked along a large dried up river bed where the rocks had been shuffled around to make a road. From Theth we tried a couple routes from MapsMe both of which failed us and made us have to keep turning around and restarting. Finally on trail we went up. We have to go up and over Valbona pass. This area is very popular for hiking and it shows. I saw more hikers this day than I have seen then entire trail, like more than 10x that amount. There were people everywhere. Either making their way down or up the pass. Moving quite slow if I must say so. The uphill was easy and fun. And the top provided the best views I may have ever seen. Albania has officially won my heart. On this descent I met Victor, from DC, but he has lived in Europe for about 5 years now. Germany and Poland. Super super cool guy. We talked about hiking, life, blogging, marketing, traveling, etc. it was so nice to get to be able to chat with someone about things I love. He hung with us as we breaked at Cafe Simoni. It was loaded with hikers, and seeing packs lined up all against the fence brought back some nice memories of the PCT. Vic hiked with us all the way down into Valbona, before we said goodbye at his guesthouse. Definitely blessed to have met this rad guy, and stoked to continue following him on his special journey. The pass is so funny, known for hiking it has built and developed cafes along the mountain. You’re just walking and randomly you’re at a small cafe/guesthouse. We stayed at Quku I Valbones Farmhouse. A great place that let us camp in the lawn, it’s super cute and it was great to interact with the others at the hostel. Met some people from Germany and New Zealand. I do miss this about traveling and staying in hostels. They were all such kind beautiful people. The breakfast has made this place the best ever. Homemade bread, cookies, jam, yogurt, granola, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, coffee, mountain tea!!!! All for only 4E and it was a buffet. And we enjoyed it. I sat and ate pretty much the entirety of the buffet. I have never eaten so much yogurt and granola it was just so dang tasty! Anyways, the trail is over. We finished it before dinner at the Rilindja Restaurant. The random stopping point of the trail. I am not sure how I feel yet, or what I think about it ending. The PCT was so emotional and I felt so confident and accomplished. But so far I just kind of shrug about it when I think about what I did. Is it because I have already experienced such accomplishment with my first thru hike? Or is it because the trail was so much shorter? It seemed tougher in many ways, but it was still only less than 2 months, in comparison to over 5.
I’m not sure, I’m still trying to process things. And I will be writing a follow up post on the experience, but plan to read through my journal to remind myself of the hard times, and the lessons I learned along the way. The things the trail taught me about life and myself that I can carry with me as my soul goes through this human experience. Overall, I know I am blessed for this trip. To have had a rad bad-ass partner, Megan, with me along the way. Blessed for her even finding this trail and letting me join in on it. Blessed for finishing it safely without any big mishaps or injuries. And it is pretty freakin cool to be able to say we are the first American women to ever complete this journey, and to be able to say I did a continuous footstep thru-hike!!