Whew! What a weekend! From rafting to off-roading, these past two days have been non-stop action, and I couldn’t be happier to be sharing new experiences with some of my favorite Peace Corps volunteers!
A couple months ago, my friend Jenn invited the A20 volunteers to her site for a rafting trip. Skrapar’s Osumi Canyon is said to be the best rafting location in the entire country, and though the price was a little steep, I wanted to give the experience a try.
Brianne and I convinced each other to take on the journey to Corovode, which sent us on a wild ride through Berat before we arrived in the Skrapar region, and I was so glad that we were able to rely on each other throughout the strange trip. And what a crazy, wonderful time it was!
SATURDAY RAFTING ADVENTURE
Skrapar’s Osumi Canyon is said to be the best rafting location in the entire country.
After our long Friday spent navigating around Albania, Brianne and I felt confident and prepared going into our morning’s journey. After all, we could speak Albanian, and we knew where we were headed. What could go wrong? I even went so far as to feel a little smug watching the confused tourists on the public bus to the regional bus station.
But sure enough, Albania found a way to show us who was truly in charge. As it turned out, our bus to the Skrapar region was the only one that didn’t leave from the main terminal, so we had to trek all the way across the city once again, cutting the timing very close for our rafting trip at 11:00am. After one wrong stop, we finally made it to the furgon stop, and breathing a sigh of relief, I practically collapsed into the comfortable seat when the bus finally arrived.
When we arrived, a guide gave us wet suits and instructed us to shimmy them on in a back room. After we’d finally donned our wet suits, we had a long wait for another group of tourists to arrive and prepare. Finally around 2:30pm or 3:00pm, the guides rounded us all up, herded us onto a furgon that felt like a sauna, and then bused us all out to the river’s entry point.
We were surrounded by huge stone walls hundreds of feet high and millions of years old.
Finally on our way with the water in sight, I felt my energy level spike with excitement. I was eager to get into the water and begin our trip, knowing that it would be a memorable and fun adventure. After our quick briefing, the guides led us over to the river, organized us by body weight to balance out the raft, and then gave us the go-ahead to set off! In addition to Jenn, Brianne, Eric, and me, our raft (and Bri insists the “best” raft) also held three Albanian tourists and our spirited guide.
The guide spoke in English the entire time, which I really appreciated even though I could understand his Albanian, as well, and he delighted in showing off and performing for his rafting group, doing a backflip into the water a few minutes into our trip.
We began our journey slowly, and as we entered into the canyon, I couldn’t help but get distracted from paddling. We were surrounded by huge stone walls hundreds of feet high and millions of years old. Their sheer size was imposing, and I was awed by their beauty and history. I craned my neck up as high as it could go, trying to soak in the details of the muted gray walls dotted with bright bursts of green foliage and commit the scene to memory.
As the trip continued, we experienced stretches of smooth sailing and more exciting rapids, which tested our teamwork and the Albanians’ English skills. I had a blast sailing through the rougher waters, laughing with delight through the bumps and curves in the river. I also enjoyed the quieter moments of contemplation, and I ran my fingers over the smooth, almost clay-like canyon walls whenever we were close enough to touch the stone.
Shivering but grinning from ear to ear, my friends and I darted in and out of the waterfall.
Along the way, our guide pointed out various landmarks, like a rock that looked like a crocodile and the canyon’s lone rocky island. We also passed many waterfalls, which was my favorite part of the trip! The first memorable waterfall was notable for its enormous height and the sheer volume of water flowing from the top of the canyon walls. Everyone was allowed to stop for a photo op, and when we landed on the shore, we immediately hopped out of our raft and ran through the waist-deep water, under the icy cold torrent, and into the shelter of the small alcove that formed behind the waterfall.
Shivering but grinning from ear to ear, Jenn, Brianne, Eric, and I darted in and out of the waterfall. Bri held out her hand to catch the drops as they fell, Eric and Jenn stood under the rushing water to experience a back massage, and I craned my head up and watched the waves pour over the side of the canyon like a burst of foam from a cresting wave. An official photographer interviewed us and took a great group photo at the waterfall before we all packed up into our raft and continued on with our journey.
Next we squeezed our way through a narrow pass in the canyon that was exactly the size of a raft. The passage was so small that all of the rafts piled up in a traffic jam. They finally squeezed each of our rafts through the pass by rocking the vessel from side to side with their legs. When we were freed, our guide turned to us and said that we had the option to swim if we wanted.
“I’m already wet, so why not?” Brianne replied without hesitation, and in seconds she was up out of her seat and into the water.
Eric and Jenn quickly followed her, and not wanting to be left out, I joined the group as well. Submerged in the freezing water, I was infinitely grateful for the wet suit that was keeping me moderately warm, and I enjoyed the rush of adrenaline. I half-floated, half-swam over to the river bank where the raft met us a few minutes later.
Back in the raft, we continued on past the champagne waterfall (named for its bubbly and frothy appearance) and the invisible waterfall (which dissipated into nothingness halfway down the canyon walls).
We also stopped in a small grotto with an unnamed waterfall. From the sides of the canyon walls, water droplets were falling so slowly that you could trace their entire path as they fell almost as if they were snowflakes, and Brianne tried to catch a few on her tongue. Looking up at the slow-moving shower was almost magical, like something out of a hidden and enchanted forest. Eric later mentioned that he felt like the canyon was almost like a jungle with its lush greenery and trees that grew out of the stone.
By the time we’d reached our final destination, I was amazed by the gorgeous scenery and so, so glad that I’d made the trip out to Corovode!
The rest of the trip passed by all too quickly. We raced other rafts, splashing water at each other and even exchanging some trash talk, and we encountered more rapids. But by the time we’d reached our final destination, I was happy with the adventure, amazed by the gorgeous scenery, and so, so glad that I’d made the trip out to Corovode for this special experience. Overall, once we began rafting, I was completely satisfied with the high quality of service and attention to detail that the Albania Rafting Group put into our trip.
Read the original article:https://uprootedabroad.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/rafting-in-corovode/