Guided by fireflies/'Are you happy, Geri?'

We [our rafting TEAM, that is] had missed Albania dearly. That is why we returned to these stunning and untamed landscapes.
Osumi Canyon, Albania

Berat was left behind, with its white hill-terraced houses – and suburbs took us in. Aaaah, the soothing sounds of the countryside! Hands were shaken in the first darker echoes of the evening: ‘This is Petrit, the owner of Çobo Winery’. We entered, guided by fireflies – I had never seen such a spectacle or hoped to witness one.

[Still] smiling, we passed from one room to another, attentive at the stages explained by our host, at the mosaics on the ground and even curious at what the packaging room could offer to the eye.

Çobo Winery, Albania

And well, there was also time to indulge in the paintings depicting Berat and those same perfect white houses, together with small colourful remnants of the Communist times, now long behind. I recognised the same symbols used for this matter of the past, understanding yet again the basis for the strong connection that always draws me close to the amazingly kind Albanian people, a connection that is  shared.

The white houses of Berat, Albania

At the table we were, waiting to be amazed. The cheese was brought, the glasses were rinsed, and it was high time to try the White of Berat – a very drinkable wine, yet a lingering presence and taste [and I say that because, although I fancy red wines, this was and remained my favourite of the evening].

Kashmer’s deep taste followed, continuing with the mouth-filling Red of Berat. ‘Il vino si mangia’ – that is what we learned in between laughter, jokes, wine atlas reads and more serious talks about the history of Çobo Winery and the current state of tourism in Albania.

Something strong was needed to wrap things up – Raki me Arra, a delicious brandy with nuts that left us again in awe for everything that was tasted, felt, lived at Çobo, behind the white houses, and amidst the unforgettable and great outdoors.             


Rati -our very cute guide- [we're born on the same day, I simply can't fail to mention that!] kept asking his friend, now comfortably seated in front.

We had been the most popular team of the previous year ['Best Rafting Team 2015'] and we were back to claim our prize - a trip down the Osumi River. And to revisit our friends.

As our team had dropped one member over the last year, Andra and I needed some paddling force, given that Marcel would follow us again by kayak. This is where Rati's friends, Geri and Bani, stepped in.

Nothing seemed changed: the same glorious landscape, the same mountains ahead, the same songs and laughter along the 2-hour ride to our starting point.

The starting point of Osumi Rafting/Kayaking, Albania

We were finally there: a higher water level and some muddier rapids. However, where there are minuses, there are also pluses: the waterfalls -some barely perceivable a year prior- were rich and spectacular.

Osumi Rafting, Albania; Courtesy of Albania Rafting Group

The guys enjoyed them to the fullest; I was very happy that they experienced these joyous times and plunges under the cool drops of water during our descent. We had stops, panoramas, and a small picnic through the canyon, but we also had obstacles. A tree trunk brought in by the greater waters and stuck in the narrowest section of the canyon. It was documented, passed, and has been cut since.

Break on Osumi, Albania; Courtesy of Albania Rafting Group

As we remembered, we stumbled upon the birds, the rock-hewn statues, and the Argonath-like exit from the canyon. The river changes continuously, yet the steadier forms around it do not.
Marcel kayaking, Osumi River, Albania; Courtesy of Albania Rafting Group

I stood looking at Osumi after I changed into my dry clothes, envisioning our return to Castle Park Hotel and then to our mountainous home. What turns the most beautiful day of your trip (again!) into one of the most beautiful days of your life?

Nothing seemed changed, yet change was as present as the air itself and -although I embrace it and support it-, I did not understand its purpose, so I stopped seeking the answers altogether.

Inside Berat Castle, Albania

What I know is what I love. And what I love is Albania, its splendour, and its people. Although they say that sequels are not as jaw-dropping as the original, I still believe in timing and in new opportunities for falling in love. I will always believe.



/First published in May 2016 on the website of Yonderbound, which ceased to exist; not included in social media posts and the weekly newsletter/

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