After a nice day-off in the valley of Doberdöl, we get back on track, walking towards Milishevc, Kosovo. The track follows a long impressive ridge marking the border with Albania.The sky is full of low fat clouds and a freezing wind is blowing on the crest. Today we’ll have to face a new challenge: the marks on this stage of Peaks of the Balkans are apparently not so reliable…
Peaks of the Balkans – Stage 4 : From Doberdöl to Milishevc
23km, 8-9h, Ascent 1440m, Descent 1500m
We are quite sad to live the village of Doberdöl behind, walking toward Kosovo. However, this fourth stage of Peaks of the Balkans will reward us with many wonderful panoramas on the way, despite the fact that the weather is quite grey and extremely cold today. We begin this stage by following the marshy valley floor of Doberdöl then climb a first slope on top of which we find the track back. Perfect start to warms us up! Fortunately we had an enourmous breakfast at the Bashkimi Guesthouse, enough to get us through the cold wind and heavy exercise! On the first summit we come across Deborah, a canadian girl who was staying with us at the guesthouse. She is 60 years old and has decided to walk the 192km of Peaks of the Balkans on her own. She walked up this peak like a rocket this morning then took the wrong way after the pass and had to make a U-turn. We double-check our two GPS to spot the right track then she resumes her fast walk in the right direction, soon disappearing behind another peak. “What a machine“, we muse.
A freezing wind constantly blows on the ridge we’ve been following for miles, pushing us around on one side or the other. We are walking at 2000m high, which explains why the late-June temperature is so low. This ridge is magnificent and the annoying wind doesn’t keep us from admiring the landscape. It’s starting to get very cold, though, and we didn’t think about bringing gloves with us on the trip… How unfortunate! Mariette has a clever solution: why not using our spare pairs of socks? We are sure looking a bit dumb with our socks on our hands but anyway, who is there to notice it? Maybe John and Alyson, a nice english couple, we met yesterday in Doberdöl, who is walking not far behind. Indeed, they soon overtake us. They are a bit faster than we are but this is no surprise: we are carrying a full camping equipment and our backpacks are quite heavy. We also stop every 5 minutes to take billions of pictures of this contrasted panorama…
This stage is not very hard despite the huge total elevation gain (which is gradual) and the fair distance of 23 km. The challenging part here is: trying not to get lost! Which seems to be quite impossible today. Our GPS is totally inaccurate and doesn’t manage to locate us properly on the map… Maybe because of the wind?? As a result we often get off-track. The route marks are no help as they are poorly made. Against all logic, all of the numerous paths in the area have been painted with the same colour code. How are we supposed to know which way to go at cross roads? Here is the shared border of three countries: Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. Therefore, there might be hundreds of trails criss-crossing this mountain, making it quite hard to pick the right way! Here you can also shorten your Peaks of the Balkans circuit by cutting the Kosovo part, directly joining with the Montenegro section.
Later we stop at another crossroad. A single signpost is pointing toward Roshkodol in the direction of the valley. It indicates an average of one hour and thirty minutes to reach this tiny village that we are supposed to cross. The problem is: our guidebook doesn’t state that we must walk down the valley. It doesn’t even talk about this crossroad! We are supposed to continue along the ridge and the GPS track says the same. “Damn, says Quentin. Why can’t they make proper markings? It shouldn’t be that hard, for f*** sake!” We scan the valley trail, looking for the tiny silouhettes of John and Alyson but we can’t see anybody. We take the decision to follow the ridge and our GPS track for more security. At least, we have flowers to admire. The fauna on this section of Peaks of the Balkans is particularly rich. What an amazing diversity!
After walking 3 more hours, we finally leave the ridge behind and arrive to Roshkodol, Kosovo. This little village lost in a forest is composed of cute modern woodhouses, drastically different from the Albanian villages. Is this a holiday village for rich kosovars? Or is the quality of life a lot better in Kosovo? We don’t now much about Kosovo but what we’ve heard on french TV during war time when we were kids. We are not too sure about life conditions in this country nowaday.
We follow a 4WD track across a thick forest for 2 long hours before reaching Milishevc. The last bit is fairly steep, not something you like to end your walking day with! Thankfully, it’s a lot warmer down in the valley. We ask for a room at Chalet Rusta. No flat place to pitch the tent tonight and the gathering clouds are now threatening. Better stay in a dry room for the night! The guesthouse is very comfy and quiet. How nice to drink a warm cup of tea next to the fireplace! And to take a hot shower! The atmosphere is really relaxing, softly lit by candel light. We share the place with John and Alyson, who tell us that they indeed took the valley track at the crossroad on the ridge earlier and that it was way faster and easier that way! Our host, a lovely lady and also an amazing cook, has prepared a hearty mountain diner that we wolf down in no time. Her husband was a geography teacher and try to exchange with us about local geopolitics. We are quite interested to know about his point of view but, as we don’t share the same language, we are not sure to understand everything… There are some days when it would really be useful to travel with a local guide!!
Here is another address that has been recommended to us: Guesthouse Lojza. Our canadian friend Deborah who also walked Peaks of the Balkans has spent the best evening of her trip with the lovely family who hosted her there.
M. & Mme Shoes
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