The Ferry Ride Along Lake Koman/Komani, North Albania
The ferry trip along narrow and twisting Lake Koman is considered an outstanding experience and likened to the Fjords of Norway. Lake Koman was created by the damming of the River Drini and the vertical cliffs on both sides are among Albania’s steepest mountains. For the first two hours of the trip, all that could be seen was solitary houses perched high in the rocky mountains of the canyon. Where the slopes were gentler, several houses clustered together…View image…terraced for corn and other crops….View image.
The boat ride itself was nothing spectacular. The scenery was beautiful and the lake a gorgeous turquoise blue…View image, but three hours of mountains and water is a little much. What made the entire ride worthwhile was the people. The ferry boat would suddenly veer from its straight path and head to one of the shores. There would be a nothing little spot with someone waiting to embark… or pick up their vegetables and other goods…View image… or disembark…View image… or load new goods onto the boat… while horses and donkeys waited patiently on the hill to carry the loads back to houses. Completely fascinating.
By the way, there is a toilet on the boat. Climb down the ladder and make your way into the small enclosed passenger cabin. Climb up a few steps, walk through the boiler room to a wooden, enclosed shack on deck with a hole was chopped in the floor. Better than nothing on a three-hour ride.
The ferry boat suddenly headed towards a very mountainous rockcropping with the most engrossing pick-up sight of the ride. I could barely make out a pile of white sacks and it wasn’t until the boat drew closer that I noticed two figures standing there…View image. How in the world did they manage to get down this implausible spot with all these heavy bags?
These sacks were filled with different wild herbs and flowers that only grow in the mountains of North Albania. They are dried and exported, primarily to America, to use in medicines. The ferry crew helped load on the ferry and then the woman jumped on for the ride to Fierze…View image. In Fierze, she’ll take the sacks to an exporter and sell them for perhaps $15 U.S. a kilo (2.2 pounds=1 kilo). These herb/flower gatherers have found an excellent way to support themselves in difficult terrain Especially if you stop to consider that the majority of the population in the Valbone Valley are lucky to make $25 U.S. a month. It is true sustenance living and if they didn’t grow their own food and keep flocks of sheep or goats, they would starve to death.
Lake Koman appeared pristine with green, high cliffs of limestone and clear water. And then we’d watch Albanian passengers take whatever trash they had in their hands, including soda cans, and throw them overboard. Oh well, Fierze was in sight…