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All sorts of things have been said about them, with the majority of these claims spreading at fast speed across all the continents.
The Osum River flows out of Albania’s Korcha highlands and hooks north to sluice through a 16-mile-long gorge called the Osum Canyon, one of Europe’s most spectacular whitewater runs.
” asks the guy in front, a muscular security guard named Endri Xhafka.“Oregon,” I say. ” interjects a bigger guy beside him, an aspiring raft guide named Alban Vila.“Do Americans know Albania? I’m about to mention the Belushi brothers, whose Albanian father grew up in the Korcha highlands, but just then our lead guide, Gent Mati, a lean 37-year-old with meaty forearms, interrupts us.“ poorly and drift portside into a dogleg wall. We all attempt to scramble up the raft’s tipping edge, but the river is too strong. I backstroke toward the one upright raft, where Zafir Shumanov, a 33-year-old guide from Macedonia, hauls me in. During his 40-year rule, following World War II, Hoxha (pronounced -jah) grew so severe in his ideology that he cut his country off from the rest of the world. To deter both invasions and revolts, Hoxha built some 700,000 machine-gun nests around a nation smaller than Maryland.
Bill Clinton was moved to tears by an Albanian waiter at a New York City restaurant who credited the former president with saving his life.
Our strokes are mismatched, and we keep clanging our paddles, but we’re having a blast digging through holes and bouncing over wave trains. The Osum becomes a burst of blue paddles and flushed heads in bright orange helmets. ”For a few awful moments, nobody answers that call. Positioned between Greece and the shards of Yugoslavia on the Adriatic Sea, Albania is slowly recovering from some very rough decades.
Then the river flattens and we spin lazily in the current.“Where you from? A drybag breaks loose and floats by with ,000 in camera gear inside. Suddenly, Andi Qyqja, a 26-year-old former professional soccer goalie, pops up from an undercut wall.“Holy shit! For much of the 20th century, the nation, which is predominantly Muslim, wheezed under the jackboots of a Marxist dictator named Enver Hoxha, who forged Albania into one of history’s most extreme Communist states.
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A steady rain has riled the river into a Class III fury that’s now hurtling us through a particularly beautiful section.