In five years I'm travelling hitchhiking, I've never felt like I was in a bad situation, and I've always, and I still, have considered it a safe technique. But just because of a matter of statistic, we eventually run into an incredible series of bad events, while in the Albanian Alps we were trying to go from Thethi to Shkodër, that we remember so far as our worst experience ever hitchhiking.
(Note: This post, rather than an immediate report, is a memory of events happened in June 2014)
While the story might look long, after visiting Thethi the next day, it was still morning time when we finished exploring the lock-in-tower, and we decided to leave Thethi to go back to Shkodër the easy way, having had enough adrenaline the previous day.
Easy way meaning going on the road where the bus was coming and trying to hitchhike only until the first bus would arrive. And so we did and a furgon soon arrived. We couldn't communicate in English but asking for Shkodër the driver made a sign to jump in.
After reaching destination we eventually realized that obviously we weren't in Shkodër, and we were actually in kind of a dead end on an alternative route where there were no vehicles whatsoever. It was just the beginning of our bad experience.
For hours we tried to communicate with locals, and the only proposal we received was a private car at taxy rate that we had to refuse.
Eventually when we were about to take a minibus back to Thethi a new offer arrived: if we were waiting a little bit longer a local men would have gone all the way to Shkodër and we could have joined for free.
We accepted and we started to wait hopefully, thinking to escape this frustrating situation.
The guy eventually arrived with his pick up truck and another person. We sat and arranged our luggage, but we weren't feeling comfortable, since the driver looked tipsy and was constantly holding a beer in one hand. And the road wasn't one of the easiest one to be driven with one hand only, being a mountain road passing next to steep ravines: only a few days before a Czech guy passed away after falling down with his motorbike.
After a short time we had a first surprise: the driver told us that he had to go and take his cousin up the hill, and to just wait at the junction where he would come back in no time. A little bit confused we went down the truck not thinking that our luggage was still inside.
The waiting time multiplied and we were fearing the worst when he eventually came back with a new passenger, but without the previous one.
We started again our journey and reached and passed Thethi before stopping in a bar where the driver bought some more beers and where another guy joined the drinking party in the truck.
We were feeling extremely uncomfortable and unsafe, but it was getting dark, we had no place where to stop, and we feared that if we were asking to be dropped there, they would have got angry: a quite bad situation to escape from.
So we kept going with the drunken truck through dangerous windy roads going up to a mountain pass before starting our way down to Shkodër.
But other 2 unexpected events happened: we first stopped in the middle of nowhere at dark, where another truck, apparently abandoned and empty, was parked.
The truck suddenly turned alive and a person approached our driver to collect a package before disappearing in the darkness: everything lasted just a few seconds. At that point we thought we assisted at some kind of exchange of drugs or illicit goods, but we had no clue of what was inside the package.
The adrenaline rush was still not over, when on the completely deserted road, we eventually meet another vehicle, a small tank-car.
We felt a little bit relieved, thinking that they could help us in case of any problem.
But we were actually really wrong since they turned out to be friends of our tipsy driver. The two vehicle started to race in crazy mountainous roads until the two stopped to great each other. As a sign of friendship the passenger of the tank-car extracted a gun from his belt and pointed it at our driver's head as to joke and simulate an homicide.
It was really too much, we were in company of 5 males, drunk and armed, in the middle of nowhere at dark and without an exit strategy, and all of this because of a wrong bus we took.
We had to keep going until an occasion would appear: and so it happened. We eventually reached a small cluster of houses with some eateries where they stopped to go to the toilet.
So claiming that we were really tired and we wanted to sleep there for the night, we asked to be dropped off and eventually managed to escape the never-ending nightmare.
We begged hospitality to the restaurant owner that accepted to let us sleep in the garden and prepared a special vegetarian meal for us.
Beat tired and still shocked by the whole experience we went to sleep in what felt like a luxurious and safe castle rather than an unprotected camping tent.
The funny thing is that next morning while we were packing our things, we saw the driver going back towards Thethi, and he happily waved at us carrying this time a cow and an old woman on the back. That meant he also made it safely to Shkodër.
Later in the morning we got 2 nice and friendly rides that brought us all the way till Shkodër. We eventually made it, but we won't forget easily what was probably our worst experience ever hitchhiking.