Goodbye Yugoslavia. Hello Greece

24 Oct

So I am in Gevgelija, about to cross into Greece this afternoon, ending my last few weeks in the former Yugoslavia (except for Albania). Since I left you the weather has been great (I hope it didn’t sound like I was moaning in the last post), aside from a grey morning everyday it has been clear skies and bright sunshine everyday.

I left you in Shkoder heading towards Kosovo. The next day I embarked on the stunning road to Kukes near the border to meet a Couchsurfer. The road was quite simply the best I have ridden, I think. Starting in a valley climbing high and dropping down to another river, repeat about 6 times, with the views of the mountains either side getting better each time and you get the idea. It was hard work but very rewarding.

I met Karl, a Peace Corps volunteer in Kukes, went out for dinner and then back to his while he had water pressure for a shower. The residents have to plan their days around when they have water, which must be very frustrating, as well as occasional power cuts. Karl was working with the local government in devlopment and his friend Scott a fellow volunteer (ex army) was teaching English; An evening of good conversation, beer and the clear moonshine esque grape Brandy ensued.

The next day after a quick tour of the town (with a dry mouth), the highlight being the abandoned hotel for Communist big wigs and trip to the market  (where I picked up a second hand woolen jumper to replace my fleece for only 70p, and it has a scorpion on it to remind me of my last tour when Andrew got stung!) I left on the road to Kosovo. Prizren, my first experience of Kosovo was very nice, a Balkan tourist hotspot with lots of families milling around the river banks that run through the center. I spent a while chatting to some local lads who were pretty funny and trying to get me to ogle the local ‘totty’.

I camped in the gorge and after a leisurely morning in which I took apart and cleaned my stove as it wasn’t working efficiently, I hit the slopes. I climbed the 1500m up to a new ski resort with it’s freshly varnish chalets and picnicking families, a very pleasant place to read and have a beer. I descended to the Vardar river (which I am still following) and set up camp. As there were already scorches on the ground and plenty of drift wood around I had a little fire which was a nice addition to the chilly evening.

The next day I crossed the border into Macedonia and it was surprisingly flat for once, which made a change. In fact the last few days have been decidedly level compared to the last few weeks which has been a nice respite.I have been taking it pretty easy too dropping my average from teh 80-100km mark to around 60-70kms.

I entered Skopje, after a quick tour I called Rubinco, my Couchsurfing host for the night but to no avail. Luckily the guy who’s phone I used was not busy, he gave me a little tour and a potted history of Macedonia and eventually as I was thinking of cycling back out of town Rubinco called back. I spent a slightly strange night in his brand new, unfinished flat and chatted over a James Bond film.

I left the next day and have been cruising through Macedonia since enjoying the sun and taking it easy. You may have guessed that I am not going to Bulgaria, it is on my route for the way back so I will save it for then. I am also toying with the idea of amending my flight to a bit earlier because I have made good time and am only 700kms away from Istanbul. It is booked for 22nd November but I paid a bit extra to make it amendable. This would mean I would have a bit longer in India as I have to be out by the 14th February. Watch this space.

Once again map and photos updated. Oh yeah and I got a shave in Shkoder too which felt pretty good. I was looking pretty grisly prior to that, with 7 weeks growth.  I left the hair on my head though, it might get colder!


3 Responses to “Goodbye Yugoslavia. Hello Greece”

  1. Mattbott October 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    The distances you have been covering are incredible. I cycled about 8 or 9 miles in the freezing wind at the weekend, which I was quite proud of – Then I remembered (after a hot shower and coffee) that you’re doing almost 10 times that daily, whilst carrying your house with you!

    I bet the impressive moustache spotting has been prevalent in the last week or so. Maybe you should join the club to blend in with the locals, especially as ‘Movember’ is about to start.

    Enjoy the last part of your European ride!

    P.s. How has the cheese situation been since Italy? I guess you’re moving in to feta and halloumi territory now, so you should be ok!

    • philb0412 November 2, 2012 at 11:01 am #

      Well I have slowed down over the last couple of weeks or so, I was averaging about 100kms a day before, so not quite 10 times.

      Yeah a few good taches, the beards on the Orthodox priests have been more impressive though. Are you growing a Mo this year again? I don’t plan on shaving until India so maybe I will sport on there to fit in.

      Yeah pleanty of feta, I havn’t had any halumi yet, might get some tonight. I think I should gorge before India where I won’t get much at all.

  2. Danneaux October 30, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    You’re doing wonderfully, Phil, and the “Thornies” and I are surely proud of you!

    How’s the food situation? Cooking your own, eating in restaurants, or a mix of the two each day? Bike running alright?

    Glad to hear you’ve headed for warmer climes and hope things continue to go well for you. All best wishes your way!


    Thorn Cycling Forums Administrator

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