Thursday, 21 July 2016

Thurs 21 Jul 2016. Around Shkoder - visit to Lake Komani

Thurs 21 Jul 2016. Around Shkoder - visit to Lake Komani
Up at 5am to have breakfast and pack backpacks for our bus and ferry trip today to Lake Komani. We read that t
he Komani ferry line is known for its breath-taking views of mountain gorges, unscheduled stops along the way for serving locals, and the peculiar atmosphere of both locals, foreigners, and animals being fitted on board up to full capacity (according to Bradt Travel guides, the journey is described as "one of the world's great boat trips" only comparable to the Scandinavian fjords).

Coaster bus picked us up from campgrounds then picked up more people around town - packed in four extra people in aisles on floor and fold-up stools (obviously done this before!) Even though they got an extra bus before leaving town it was still a tight fit for the 12 of us on a 1.5hr trip on the worst road we've been on this year. It must have been put in initially to construct the dam that made the lake, but was now less important for maintenance purposes as it was now used only for remote access. GirlRob was crammed into the corner so tightly she was frustrated at not being able to aim camera to take photos out window eg of women in traditional dress. 

Passengers were busting for a toilet stop and GirlRob’s knee was screaming by time we drove through dam tunnel into the melee of minibuses and ferries all arriving and trying to depart at same time on a tiny wharf. It was entertaining chaos though, shouting, arms waving, confusion about tickets, prices, who were going for day’s hike, who were on round trip with lunch at a farmhouse (us), who should be on which ferry... Wanderoos ended up on the "local clunker", all stops delivering people and goods. BoyRob reckoned they had cut the top off a bus and welded it to an open metal boat - the seats inside certainly looked like a coach.

Our boat-bus!

Once on board our boat-bus, we hung over the back rail – and finally the relaxing part of the day began. Brilliant sky, magnificent scenery, deep calm green water, the only sound the steady throb of the boat engine. We met Wim and Sophie from Brussels who were also going to lunch - beyond that neither couple knew what to expect. Passed statue of Madonna, high in grotto in rock wall. 

Marvelled at forces required to contort once-flat rock beds into fascinating patterns - undulating waves, pendulous teardrops, now exposed. Watched cormorants taking off as we approached, madly flapping wings beating up tufts of water marking their flight path. 

As we slowed for a landing Niko introduced himself, indicating Wanderoos and the Belgian couple should follow him. We were led uphill to a house with a long verandah covered in vines, hanging bunches of small grapes, and served small cups of strong Turkish coffee and home-made raki. Our hosts for lunch were Niko’s family who we soon learned had an overly-protective dog. The family had lived on this spot for 25 yrs - since the dam had been built and their previous home “drowned” – all that was left was the tip of their mountain, a small island which they now overlooked. 

New homestead - a gash on the mountain
View from new homestead, "island" (tip of old mountain) visible

The family disappeared leaving us to explore the "new" farm, now self-sufficient, chickens, goats, vegetable garden, orchard, aquaculture, carp in a pond. Lunch was dried fish, heavy thin cornbread, salad, olives and pickled vegetables. 

Next months lunch....

A pulley system to the family on the next mountain


Before the ferry boat returned Niko took us in the dinghy to their island for a (freezing cold!) swim – deliciously refreshing.

Approaching the dam wall
Taking some of the Lake home...

Said farewell to the seriously impressive Komani Gorge. For the trip back to Shkoder, we exchanged our previous passengers for high school kids, and added four extra men in our already overloaded van, tourist workers and an older local getting a lift into town. The company obviously knew it was not only a breach of safety regulations but also of the law because those not on seats leaned down below window sash height when coming to a corner manned by a policeman!! This was to great delight of teenagers (whose teacher had gone back in the first bus) from our campsite. We fell out with the kids in the seat behind us when GirlRob turned round and asked them to turn down the French rap music they were playing at top decibels to beat out the Albanian music playing over the bus radio. Stunned silence greeted her request, so she gestured lowering and repeated "down please". A Smart Alec one said "I don't speak English" (in English!), at which BoyRob turned and told him to turn it down NOW (which he did). They spent the next hour swearing and laughing at fart (and worse) jokes. The older Albanian men crossed themselves as we passed a Catholic Church; pious-ness aside, one of them kept overtly leering at the pretty girls next to him, who between them giggled or acted uncomfortable. Wanderoos kept out a protective eye on the girls, altogether an unpleasant trip back. 

Paid our bill to owner Linda, she asked for feedback and advice, listening keenly for ideas to attract passing trade. Did two loads of washing, and one big load in the dryer - felt ready to hit the road again.

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