It all started with a few drinks the night before (as most good stories start), and now it’s nine the morning and I’m sailing up the Drin River in Albania trying to take photos as my hands freeze around the camera. It’s stunningly beautiful.

We’re on our way to a jazz protest concert deep in the Accursed Mountains of Albania. The government wants to dam up this remote region so that Albania can sell electricity to other countries. The locals are understandably not happy about damming up their beautiful valley and are hosting a protest in Valbonë.

Curtis from Boston mentioned that he was going, and because we were three beers into dinner, nearly everyone from the hostel is going along with him. We’ve left our bags back in Shkodar with the plan that spend the day travelling to Valbone, catch some jazz, and then take a long hike the next morning to a neighboring village.

The boat is not a tourist trip, but it is one of the most effective ways to get up into the mountains. There’s another ferry offloading cows while we wait. The cow seems as happy as I am to be up this early.

The river trip is simply incredible as we wind our way deep into Albania. We occasionally pull over onto a deserted shoreline and an Albanian will just disembark into the wilderness.

On the next bus, I meet a local kid who points out one of the delightful villages we’re driving through is mentioned in the Liam Neeson movie Taken. “It’s where all the murderers come from in the movie. It’s really nice to see how they show Albania in the movies.” Then he proceeded to rob me.

The owner of the hostel set us up with a local family to stay at in Valbone. We cross a small wooden bridge over the bluest stream I’ve ever seen in my life into this absolutely stunning mountain meadow. The mother of the family asks if I like fish. I tell her yes and the father heads over to the stream to catch us dinner.

Mos Ma Prek Valbonën

After a late lunch/early dinner, our seven person crew is off to the concert. Soon enough we’re in the crowd singing along to a freeform version of the protest phrase “mos ma prek Valbonën,which I’m told roughly translates to “don’t touch Valbonë. I’m not here to cover the festival as a photographer, but who am I kidding? I end up taking a bunch of pictures anyway.

After spending two days in this region, I can’t stress enough how important it is to preserve the majestic beauty of these Albanian Alps. This is a one of a kind treasure that I’ve never seen in my travels and I hope the government recognizes this area as an asset and not a place to be exploited. Mos Ma Prek Valbonën!

Next up: We take an unintentionally long hike into the heart of the Albanian Alps.