Macedonia – Mavrovo National Park and Ohrid

27 Apr

Now up in Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia. Held on to a truck for the best part of an hour to get up here. 600m ascent over around 15km.

The truck driver kept a little away from the cliff edges and rocks for me, towing at around 16km/hr. The aches in my forearm and the snowy mountainsides reminded me of a ski pulley. He pulled away near the top on a slight downhill and we waved to each other. He beeped his horn and I shook some blood back into my numb handlebar hand.

At the top and by the snow by a fire eating pies now and it’s started raining. Looks like I’ll be here for a while. The timing could have been worse had it not been for the truck.

Gostivar was a good day’s ride from Skopje, made more memorable by the the late night Rakia hangover. To avoid the trundling lorries I mainly rode on the rocky path by the autobahn that comes to dead ends or swerves away and around each bridge over the autobahn, and is bisected by streams of melted snow from the mountains to the West. Running between these two roads is a wire fence, and crossing back and forth the bike got snagged and trapped. Lifting the bike is becoming more difficult. Twice I had to lift everything above chest height, which is barely managable. I must go through the bags and jettison some of the crap I’m carrying.

When I arrived in Gostivar last night I tried blagging a cheap room (10euros) or some alternative solution in the town’s 3 hotels (min price 35euros). No chance. The manager/owner is in Switzerland/Turkey/Germany. No, can’t phone him. Try outside of town.

I bought some sausage sandwiches and a guy recommended I put up my tent in Gostivar centre, the equivalent of pitching a tent in Witney Market Square.

I tried another hotel 5km down the road. There was a half acre of grass stretching down from the hotel to the river. It was fast becoming dark now, about 7.30pm. I asked for another 75% discount on a room. The same story. No way. I told him I wanted to camp on the grass. He shrugged, hands and palms and shoulders raised, and smiled.

This guy and the other hotel receptionists seem to be more terrified of losing their jobs, more anxious about what the boss might say, than anyone I met in Africa.

The next hotel I walked into was bigger, but with no back lawn for camping. I walked in and asked for a 75% disount on a room, and was given the same answer. I said that there isn’t a single manager or owner in Macedonia. They are all in Turkey. I asked about camping somewhere nearby. This man – Helmet – seemed a bit frustrated with his situation too.

“I am only calling him to ask more Coke, more Fanta. He says ‘what do you want? Don’t call me unless serious problem.” We stood outside and he pointed to a tent sized patch of grass next to a lamp and the main road. “You camp there. No problem.”

I thanked him and got the tent up pronto. Looking around it was pitch black, and I was relieved not to be out in the woods. I had another sausage sandwich and a fruit juice that I’d bought earlier. Later when I was inside the hotel drinking beer and using the wifi Helmet gave me a beer on the house. Cheers Helmet.

It’s still raining up here, I reckon it’s too cold to cycle in the rain. I can see ski slopes and lifts through the mist across the lake.


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