Back to Albania: An update

As many of you will have seen from my social media posts, me and Mike have now moved from Prizren, Kosovo, to Bajram Curri (pictured!) in Albania.

Bajram Curri is in Tropoja, the most remote and undeveloped area of Albania, and perhaps the most beautiful (according to Jordi). I had ran through here at the start of March, totally oblivious to what was about to happen with COVID-19! Here I stayed with Catherine and Jordi, and wrote about their and the community’s insanely important, shocking and motivating fight against the corrupt and destructive hydro power developments in Valbona National Park, the ‘mystical heart of Albania’. It’s a massively important story, and you can read about it HERE

Stupidly, despite taking an unplanned rest day at Catherine’s house as they were just so nice and welcoming and I was SO tired, I didn’t go into Valbona itself. Why?! What was I thinking?!! I have been annoyed at myself ever since, so when we got stuck in lockdown and I realised that by the time we got un-locked, all the snow would have melted in the mountains, I started tentatively thinking of backtracking and restarting from that point, adding in an extra loop in the amazing National Park, to some of the 2600m+ peaks. Mike also wanted to visit, after I went on and on about it, and Catherine was also being great by emailing with an open invitation to return for as long as we wanted.

On route to Bajram Curri

So, we decided to go… at some point. Then, last week we made a very quick snap decision to go IMMEDIATELY as we realised a second surge of the virus was pretty much underway, and borders, which had only just reopened, might close again. So now here we are – after some passport drama as we managed to swap, leaving me waiting for Mike on his bike for 3.5 hours at the border crossing (I went by bus, but had to leap out, wait and then hitch the rest of the way) with no water or snacks. Phew. It was sad to leave our great hosts and friends Ardi and Ishmail, and the 3 cats and 3 kittens so suddenly, but I hope hope HOPE we see them again before we leave.

We still can’t re-start the journey – we want to wait a week or so to see what happens with the second surge (currently the governments don’t seem to care, but it could change fast). My planned route also goes through North Macedonia which is still closed to foreigners – and the only other option is through Greece which would add at least 6 weeks running to my trip! We are also waiting for some bits of post, which are having a total nightmare – no thanks to Royal Mail. I have a problem with my heel so can’t run just yet anyway – which is frustrating but I suppose it is the best part of the trip to be injured if I really have to be! I can still walk, and I’ll be going on a wee training hike this weekend, and then hopefully a week long loop in high mountains if that all goes well! By the time that’s all done, who knows what will have happened? 2020 is quite a year. 

A beautiful walk on unmapped trails
One of the many Hermann’s tortoises

Being in full or part lockdown with no clear idea of the future, and global issues of all kinds being pushed into full view again and again, maybe isn’t an obviously motivating experience. BUT during my journey, one of the questions I often ask people is ‘what keeps you motivated?’. Almost always the answer is based around the fact that they are directly acting on things they care about. That is empowering, they say. The alternative is to feel the opposite – vaguely worry but not do or change anything, and half heartedly stick our heads in the sand. That’s rubbish. 

There’s plenty of things to care about and sort out in the world, so plenty of opportunities to get motivated about something. Hopefully this can all be a wake up call, forcing us out of our comfort zones, and motivated to actually act on things that we’ve previously shrugged off, or turned a blind eye, or not bothered to really think about something properly, before. That’s definitely been the case for me with trying to start learning about racism properly (which I really thought I knew, but really was wrong – see this Blog). That’s one small example – but this needs to be on a massive level, e.g. whole companies changing.

So anyway – we are waiting a little longer before physically getting going, again (it seems to be an ever present ‘maybe in 2 weeks’ thought). But, we are staying motivated from the New Story point of view, with lots of important writing, Skypes, and stories brewing… in between helping to look after 4 dogs, 11 puppies, a cat, a kitten and 2 horses!

Mike being tickled by Gerald

Again, if you never read the Blog about Catherine and Valbona National Park, PLEASE have a look here.

Also, the previous Blog before this was described as “one of the most promising articles in explaining a future worth living in and fighting for”! High praise indeed – you can read that one here.

Albanian lunch at the workers cafe

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