Days: 513 (20 November 2015)
Total distance travelled: 131,293.8 kilometres (81,548.95 miles)
The day had a touch of humidity to it and as the beautiful morning sunshine was gradually lost to us as a thin veil of cloud made its way across the Albanian sky.
A cool breeze had enough bite, that were we not exerting ourselves as we wandered away from the main road, our footsteps crunching the loose gravel beneath us, we’d probably be finding its touch a little unpleasant.
We’d abandoned the main road as mentioned, somewhere between Sarandë and Gjirokastër and now simply hoped we were headed in the right direction.
By the road there had been a sign, so we were at least confident we’d abandoned our transport at the correct location, the sight of an equally confused looking Asian lad suggesting we’d have company for the walk ahead.
A small watercourse, somewhere between a river and a stream guided our way, the crushed white stone of the road we strode seemingly running adjacent.
Climbing a small rose, the road branched in two directions.
To the right, it appeared to hug the base of a hill, and left, where the road took us across a dam which allowed waters to trickle into the stream/river at a gentle pace.
There was no signage, however a small empty hut stood nearby, its glass windows displaying lists of the required entry fees.
We took this as a sign that to the left stood our goal, so left it was, but with nobody to collect, there was no entrance fee paid.
I should explain a little more about why we were here.
We’d come to see Syri i kaltër, more commonly known as The Blue Eye.
This natural spot, I won’t call it a phenomenon, is a natural spring, over fifty metres deep (nobody knows how deep, but that is apparently as far as any divers have managed to descend), amazing in colour (at least based on the photos we’d seen), and feeder for the Bistricë River, the small course of water we’d been following up until this point.
As expected, the dam we’d crossed, logically meant there was a sizeable lake to our right, and the undulating road we followed soon meant our Asian friend, now puffing and panting, was left far behind.
There was little to no traffic, and we did begin to wonder if perhaps we’d either missed a sign, or made the wrong call back at that fork in the road, but we persevered.
The hillside rose to our left, dry and scrubby whilst to our left, our views of the water were blocked by a wall of reeds and the odd tree.
Finally, as the road dipped into something of a dell, we were there.
Well, almost there.
Turns out we’d reached the presently closed cafe and parking area, but at least we could now follow the water, and what stunning water it was!
A most beautiful colour, and so incredibly clear.
We followed the path, even crossing a small bridge before we got to a pool and could walk no further.
This was the birthplace of the Bistricë River, this was Syri i kaltër.
A small plaque illustrated the descent down to that aforementioned fifty metres.
On the opposite side of the pool, at the very end of the narrow path stood a rusted metal platform.
It was elevated somewhat, the perfect place to get a view of the spring and indeed the location from where the first photos I’d seen of the place were taken.
It’s also an incredibly popular diving platform when the weather permits, but today, with the cloud now above and the wind adding a touch of bite, we’d long ago abandoned any thoughts of taking a dip.
The truth was, we didn’t even have to peer over the edge of the platform to take a peek at the Blue Eye, such was the number of holes rusted through the platform on which we stood (there were enough rusted jagged edges to make you thankful you’d had a tetanus shot, or if you hadn’t, wish you had).
By now a few other tourists arrived, like most of the few we’d encountered through the Balkans in late Autumn, Asian, likely Chinese from the few words I caught.
We abandoned the platform, still wondering what this amazing place might be like with clearer skies and brighter sunlight.
I tried my luck from a different vantage point, a fallen tree, not yet rotted by the waters in which it sat, where I balanced precariously trying to get a few final shots of Syri i kaltër.
I imagine it being the most stunning of Summer swimming holes, but with the heat and the season would come a greater number of people.
True, most would likely be local, but it was nice, even for a brief time to have had this little gem of a place to ourselves.
We wandered our way back to the main road, where there was little to do but wait for the next furgon to ferry us on to Gjirokastër (where aboard we got totally screwed on the price, but hey, we’d had a good day and I’m sure the local Albanians needed it more than we).
* Our trip from Sarandë to Syri i kaltër (the Blue Eye) cost us 200.00 Lek each, then the onwards Syri i kaltër to Gjirokastër another 300.00 Lek each (Sure we probably got screwed, but it’s still bugger all anyway).
* I think the entrance fees usually start from 50.00 Lek per person, however for us, entrance was FREE.