I stumbled upon the Vjosa story a few months ago by chance. I’d been waxing lyrical to a journalist about how and why we believe adventure tourism could be a force for good.
Indulging me, they mentioned a local rafting company in Albania that was fighting to block the construction of a dam on Europe’s last wild river in the hope of turning the whole river into a national park and grow adventure tourism along its banks.
The mission and the fact it was ‘Europe’s last wild river’ immediately struck a chord. I went back to the office, shared the story with the team and by the time the day was up, wheels were in motion with to create our first adventure in Albania and on the Vjosa River; Raft, Kayak and Hike Albania.
In March, I flew out with a brilliant entourage of Adventure Testers, leading journalists and a videographer to try out the adventure and shoot a mini-documentary about the story of the river and the fight to keep it wild.
Here’s some photos from the adventure.
Nabbed from Jon Collins. The sun dropped into the sea at exactly the same time as my GoPro did. Well, Pete’s GoPro. Sorry again, Pete.
Kayaking from Butrint to Ali Pasha Castle. If you find Pete’s GoPro floating upon its shores, give me a shout.
My favourite spot from the trip. This was taken from a road side overlooking the Nemërçka Mountains. It was from here we met and interviewed Olsi Noki, an environmental biologist, who introduced us to the damage the dams would have on this ecosystem.
Another highlight from this trip were the dogs, we left best friends with all of them. Must be something in the water…
This is Syri Kalter, or The Blue Eye. We learnt that divers have descended to fifty metres, but it is still unclear what the actual depth of the karst hole is. It is however the initial water source of the rather beautifully blue Bistricë river, which ends in the Ionian Sea.
Another nabbed from Jon. He took ages taking this photo of this bridge, I think to delay actually crossing it…
This is the home of Mero Baze. Mero is an Albanian journalist who set up his own newspaper in 1990. Fuelled by much Raki, Mero fed us an incredible homecooked meal and shared his amazing stories and poetry about growing up by the Vjosa. Another from Jon Collins.
This empty beach was our lunch spot after the hike around Krorez Bay led by the very impressive Fatian Pluku. He’s climbed 4 out of the 7 peaks, and is the first Albanian to scale Everest. Show off.
Another drone shot from Fatian. This is the wild and stunning Langarica Canyon near Permet.
This was an eye-opening moment. We all fell silent as we rafted through this dam site. Seeing it first hand from the perspective of the water really shows the scale of the dam plans and the clear impact it will will have on this environment. More on that here.
What do you do if your 4×4 gets stuck wheel-deep in sand with the tide crashing in? Light a ciggie. Call a man with a tractor.
The end of the hike; the empty and blue-as-can-be Kakome Bay.
Another drone shot nicked from Fatian. This is Butrint. One of the most important archaeological sites in Albania which dates back to the Bronze Age. It is now a national park with surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ionian Sea, which we (very inefficiently) kayaked.
Benja from above – a natural spa. These hot springs sit in incredible valley linked by an awesome Ottoman bridge. Well worth a plunge.
Our crew. I couldn’t have asked for better company on the trip. Our partners that showed us around are honestly some of the most passionate people I’ve met and have really raised the bar. I hope you can make it out and see it for yourself.
Loved seeing the vertigo sufferers stroll over canyon bridges made our of bits of old doors, bed parts and what looked very much like some of the war debris that we’d been shown by Kiare’s family the night before. Here’s Finlay trying to play it cool.