Day five of my Peaks of the Balkans trek was supposed to be a rest day, but I may forever remember it as the day I lost my patience. Or the day I started to get sick. Definitely not a rest day.
Mentor (my guide) had told me to be at the guesthouse down the hill at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast and that we would leave at 9:00 to spend the morning exploring Theth. But when I got to the guesthouse, after bringing me tea, the waiter completely ignored me in favor of the dozen or so Albanian guests. Mentor finally came down just before 9:00 and acted surprised that I was there. He asked if I had eaten breakfast and I said no, and then he explained that I was actually supposed to have breakfast up the hill at the guesthouse where I slept. How was I supposed to know this?? So then he went back and forth, asking where I wanted to eat at, to which I just kept replying I really didn’t care, but if the woman at the other place had already prepared breakfast for me, then I should go back there. This went on for like five minutes until finally we agreed to go back up the hill.
It was minor in the overall scheme of things, but after a similar back and forth the previous night about which guesthouse to stay at, my frustration with Mentor was just boiling over. I was also annoyed that we were starting so much later than planned as it was already quite hot out and this was supposed to be a rest day.
As it was, we ended up leaving just before 10:00 to visit an old tower in the center of Theth and then hike to a waterfall. Mentor told me it would be an easy walk and that I wouldn’t need my hiking poles. The tower we visited was once a “lock-in” tower, where men would be locked in during a feud until their families figured out how to settle it.
From there, the hike to the waterfall was definitely more challenging than Mentor made it out to be – steep, rocky and narrow! And it felt like Mentor was making everything more difficult than it needed to be, always choosing the harder path for us to take. My legs were already like jelly from the first four days and I really needed the rest, not another difficult hike!
All that said, the waterfall was pretty cool.
After the waterfall, though, things went downhill. The descent was pretty easy (which left me wondering why we didn’t go up that way!) but then we started off down a dirt road that just went on and on and on – all under the hot, glaring sun. Our destination was an area called Nderlysaj, where there were supposed to be cool rock formations with water swirling around them. Unfortunately, it was so dry that there really wasn’t much water flowing through anything. And by the time we got there, I was so overheated, I felt like passing out. I wanted nothing more than to catch a ride back to the guesthouse in Theth and I wished that Mentor had asked me if I really wanted to hike for more than an hour to get there, because I would have said no (I initially thought we were just taking a different route back to Theth until I realized we were going in the opposite direction and by that point, it was too late to turn back).
We did manage to catch a ride back, but it was still after 2:00 p.m. when we arrived in Theth – nearly four hours of hiking on a so-called rest day! I got lunch and an ice cold Coke and then took a nap for nearly three hours. When I emerged from my nap, I encountered an adorable (and quite friendly) white cat outside. I also met Anna, the daughter of the owner of the guesthouse, who informed me I would be having dinner there at 7:30 p.m. – which once again contradicted what Mentor had told me (he had told me to go down the hill to the other guesthouse). And as I sat outside writing and enjoying my solitude with the cat, along came Mentor to sit down with me. I couldn’t help but feel annoyed because I was so tired and really just wanted to be alone!
Dinner ended up being great – far more food than I could ever hope to eat, including meat, a yummy potato dish with peppers, an herby yogurt and french fries, as well as two glasses of red wine! I headed to bed right after dinner to rest up for what I was sure would be a tough day six of the trek. Stay tuned!