Weekend away

Trip Start Jul 23, 2007
Trip End Aug 23, 2007

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Flag of Albania  ,
Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Friday, we set off at the hottest part of the day (11am) for a day hike into the mountains. Flora's family own a lake up near the top, so we headed there. It was a very hard climb- scrambling on hands and knees in places and very rocky, but the views were amazing, and the sense of acomplishment fantastic! We got alongside the teenagers over the weekend, and got to know some of them really well- especially the girls. Half way up there was a mountain stream (close to the source) so we all filled up our waterbottles and had a water fight, before climbing a bit further and seeing cows drinking further upstream... nice. Lucy, Jamie and I were at the front for a lot of the journey, so waited for the others in what we thought was a field. Couldn't understand where the swarms of flies around my ankles and horseflies biting away were coming from until later we realised it was a swamp. Figures.

3 hours later, we arrived at the lake! It was incredible to think the family just owned it, being so far away from civilisation... but it was all ours and we made the most of it, with all the hardy English people swimming (and washing) in it! It was surrounded by the mountains, but a lot of the slopes had suffered from severe deforestation. Can't remember if it was before or after the fall of communism, but either way, huge amounts of trees had been cut down to export, with little consideration for the environment. We lit a bonfire after coming out of the lake to dry off (there were no trees left to catch fire) and then set off on the walk back down. We followed the road most of the way down, which took longer but was probably safer. Lucy and I just wanted to get back asap (others kept stopping for breaks- why do you need them on the way down??!) so we went ahead, answering the call of 'Are you sure you know where you're going?' with 'Theres only one way-down!' Needless to say, 20 minutes later, Ilorna comes running after us, and we backtrack up the mountain for another 10 mins to catch up with the others... and go the right way.

Lazza had killed a lamb for dinner (more of that tomorrow) but to make it go as far as possible, they just hack it up, bone, fat, gristle and all, boil it, then fry it. Would be fine (was used to that in Uganda) except by the time we ate, it was dark- and its really the kind of thing you could do with some light while you're eating!

Saturday was a day of rest after our mountain climb the day before. We started with a game of volleyball- Albania v. England (its almost a national sport here). We nearly won... they just beat us 21-25! I've noticed how competitive they can get- and how easily they'll shout at each other! Apparently when they shout its not that serious, its just what they do. Still, we tend to go around saying 'calm down, calm down!'

It was then time to prepare dinner- a lamb we named Billy. The 3 boys and Lazza went up the mountain and held a leg each carrying the doomed animal back to the house. Jamie tried to kill it, but found it a bit hard (literally- he tried his hardest!) so Lazza took over, slit the throat then broke the neck. He was well practiced I think. As with the chicken in Uganda, the lamb had big spasms, and made lovely noises as the air escaped from it's lungs. Didnt really affect me though, so maybe I am just cold hearted. Having said that, the Albanian girls weren't phased at all- I had to keep looking away, but they just acted like it was an every day occurance, which I suppose isn't that far from the truth. They hung the carcass up by the leg from 2 nails on the wall, then skinned and gutted. It took less than 15 minutes for it to go from a free lamb in the field to something you'd see in a butchers shop. They kept all the 'bits'- apprarently they use everything.

Was slightly horrified when Lazza removed the pancreas, and proceeded to take a big bite out of it, before giving a toothy bloody grin. Jamie and Matt decided to join him in this. Apparently it tasted like rare steak. After yanking the tranchea out, Lazza blew into it to fill the lungs with air and show us how they worked- again, Jamie and Matt followed suit! I looked on with mild disgust. After all was said and done, there was surprisingly little meat on the lamb, and considering it was feeding 20 or so people, I could see why they just hacked it up. I got some good bits for dinner though, guess it's just luck!

We walked to the 'village' (i.e. 3 shops and a few scattered houses) for an afternoon drink  but it was very muggy and I felt really tired. Felt a lot better after a few hours sleep though. We had our last devotion that eve, which went well, but some of the boys were playing up. I wasn't particularly bothered/surprised, probably because I've heard about the garagers etc. But other team members got really angry that they never said 'thank you' or listened properly etc. Apparently a fight broke out after I'd gone to bed between two of the teenage boys, but I think it was settled relatively peacefully.
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