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Please refresh the page and retry. With the thermometer hovering around 40C F , we negotiated the mountain track to Hoshteva. The white stones reflected the noonday sun as we urged our horses round the last bends into the village. No prizes for guessing which we visited first. In such a remote spot, we hardly dared to hope for refrigeration as we tied our horses up under the trees.
Miracle of miracles, we found it. On this occasion, our group of British horsemen — a banker and his wife, an antiques dealer and a social worker — had the advantage over Lord Byron and his Cambridge friend, John Cam Hobhouse, pioneering long-riders in the mountains of southern Albania in This agenda was no hardship for the bisexual Byron: If the people are to be believed, it has been systematically land grabbed over the century of its existence by its neighbours, currently Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece.
What remains is a country with a population of around three million, 70 per cent Muslim, the rest Orthodox Christian and Catholic. It has the last barely touched Mediterranean beaches in Europe and a disproportionate number of car washes. The Stalinist dictator ruled with an iron fist from until his death in Five years later, Albania established the fragile democracy that exists today. Briskly Auron unloaded English-style saddles from his Land Cruiser, placed them on small, hairy backs and allocated steeds to riders.
Nelson, tiny, shiny and fiery, was reserved for Dom Mocchi, our effervescent Italian leader. Mandela or the Admiral? Riding holidays often settle into a routine, mornings and afternoons in the saddle, a picnic lunch, an evening campsite and dinner under the stars, but Albania is a land of the unexpected.
On day one, we rode down an avenue of cypress trees to the Bektashi monastery at Melan to meet our first dervish. Not the whirling kind of popular imagination, but a Sufi mystic who had embraced the Bektashi celibate life in at the age of Now a bearded adult dressed in silky white robes belted in green and gold, Myrteza lives with his mother in an outsize monastery overlooking the Drino river valley.