back to Albania site    back to hikes and climbs   back to Locations and Travel

Wolves, Snakes and Hospitality on Mali i Rencitblue Hike

Summary: Mali i Rencit has been on our mind for a while, mainly as a low-altitude bad-weather escape. Rencit is the long ridge stretching along the Adriatic coast between Shengjin in the southeast and Velipoja in the northwest. There are actually two parallel ridges, with Rencit being higher with rather steep cliffs at the seafront, and Mali i Jushit more inland to the east. Between them runs the old road from Tirana to Shkodra via Torovice.

With seemingly endless rains, we spotted a dry and hopefully sunny window in late April and decided to go for it. We were rewarded with glorious weather, great views, and stories to tell. It proved that adventures can be had almost anywhere in Albania.The hike, while technically not difficult, requires commitment. With more than 15 kilometer it is rather long. Long stretches in the middle of the hike are without a visible trail and require mild bushwhacking. The area was once home to several isolated houses and their families, but almost all are now abandoned. Vegetation and wild animals have begun to take over. Check your stamina before crossing the point of no return at waypoint 5, which is the last inhabited homestead when coming from the south along this route.

At the homestead we were first greeted by fierce dogs, and then by the ladies of the house. One of them produced, in that order, the skin of a wolf she shot in last January. Holding it high over her head, the skin still touched the ground. She then produced her uncle, a gentleman of reputedly 104 years of age who proceeded to play on the lute, a one-string violin of sorts that used to be common in northern Albania. Out came the family photoalbum and refreshments. While we were admiring the pictures, she went and returned in the traditional dress. We could not leave without firmly declining to take packets of sweets and cookies that were offered as provisions for our journey ahead.

We were shown the way out of the homestead through overgrown paths, the place where the wolf was killed (and a trap had been placed) and cautioned to watch out for snakes.

The summit of Mali i Rencit is Maja e Zezë. It is not very prominent as you approach from the east. After enjoying the views from the summit – which is a lightly wooded area with steep drops towards the sea – we continued without a visible trail. Brushes and trees are growing rapidly, and we suspect that within a few years it will be difficult to do this trip unless a trail is maintained.

At some point we met a horseman in the company of two men, one of whom had been bitten by a snake an hour earlier. They waited for us in the hope of some first aid, which we were able to provide in the form of some anti-allergic and cortisone. It is good to carry a medical kit, if only to help others.

At the northern end of Rencit mountain is the Velipioja lagoon. It can be crossed via a rickety wooden boardwalk, with the last bit to be covered by a pontoon that can be pulled across the channel.

The Hike:

Maximum altitude: 546 meter
Minimum altitude: 9  meter
Cumulative height: 572  meter
Cumulative length: 15.4  kilometer
Difficulty moderate
Time: 6.5 hours
Date of this record April 2014
Download GPS info: Rencit Hike

To the trailhead: From the turn off from the main road in Shengjin, it is about one kilometer to the trailhead. If you depend on public transport, you may have to add this to the hike. On google maps, it looks like there is a more straightforward road, but it is blocked by military installations. Sorry.

Maximum altitude: 69 meter
Minimum altitude: 16  meter
Cumulative height: 88  meter
Cumulative length: 1.1  kilometer
Difficulty easy
Time: 15 minutes
Date of this record April 2014
Download GPS info: drive rencit trailhead

General location and approach: This is a one-way hike and logistics arrangements should be done to place one vehicle at the end of the trail near Velipoja, while begiining the hike in Shengjin.

Other Information: A more visible trail is probably available to the east of our hike, though you will miss the ocean views and the summit, both of which are reasons to do this hike

Mali i Rencit is, strictly speaking, the name for only a part of the mountain. Other parts have other names, too complicated to remember.

GPS and trailmaps: The map and trailinformation is generated by wikiloc, based on GPS information collected from the actual hike. Waypoints can be downloaded to a GPS device from Wikiloc. If necessary, use GPSBabel to convert GPS data to different formats. For more hike descriptions by Palmtreetreeproduction, browse this website or visit Wikiloc and search for "Palmtreeproduction". You may also find nearby trails from other authors.

Google Earth: You may also view the trail in 3D when viewing it in Google Earth, which you need to have installed on your computer. The 3D perspective allows a good preview of gradients, steepness, possible views and is generally helpful when planning a trip.