Woke early to watch dawn staining cloud fingers pink, fondling the mountains opposite – and this is one of the reasons why I love this travelling lark – incandescent beauty.
There’s a dog barking this morning as I set off towards Ohrid – probably the one in the goat pen who was sound-o last night. I pass a donkey on the road a little while later – as you do. He shied away from me initially, but when I offered him some bread, he accepted with alacrity, taking it from my hand very nicely. Last night I passed three ponies wandering around loose too, grazing from the verges, and it makes me wonder what the casualty rate is…
I stop at a couple of view points and note – there’s SO much rubbish. Can you imagine? Drivers coming along and they stop to admire the view – and, “oh yes, while we’re at it, let’s lob a couple of bin bags full of garbage over the edge – no one can see it!” I’ve WATCHED them do it! I haven’t seen any rats, but then, I haven’t looked too closely either. I’ve spoken about the fly tipping to some of the local guys I’ve met and some of them have said that’s it’s just that there’s too many OTHER things to worry about. I’ve noticed that local people work hard to keep their own territories clean. They just don’t bother about the communal environment – about their earth.
Because of my early start, by late morning I’m over half way to Ohrid – so I’ll definitely make it today. I’m just about to move away from the river that’s been my shining companion all day. I might well meet up with her again later (I do – about 3 miles from Struga). There have been lots of wading birds around – big and small herons, egrets etc.
First impressions of Macedonia feel less friendly than Albania – though basing one’s impression of an entire country on a first contact is unfair. I know my language skills are zero, but I’ve been muddling through so far, using sign language and my point it book. The first restaurant I go in, after a brief attempt at communicating, the waiter just ignores me – I asked for the menu (as I can then point) but it doesn’t happen. After half an hour I decided to leave because I just can’t be bothered to be assertive or bolshy. A young stray dog (looking a lot like a Jack Russell) with a badly docked tail which hasn’t healed and a cute face follows me out of the car park, so I have to cycle extra fast and am doubly sad. Resolve to try and ignore all cute stray dogs from now on– though I know this will be quite impossible as they’ve ALL got cute faces.
I finally got an expresso at a hotel near Sruga. Thankyou waiter lady for speaking enough English to sort me out! And thankyou for forgiving my lack of Macedonian!
I didn’t stop at Struga but went straight on to Ohrid – scrumping small plums from roadside trees as I went. There were orchards full of large juicy looking purple plums – but the small, cherry, orange and purple coloured ones by the roadside were fine. I reached Ohrid early in the afternoon – it was cool and breezy cycling, and all flat after the hills of yesterday. My first glance of the ancient Lake Ohrid was exiting – a great expanse of blue, the Lake is one of the most ancient in the world – millennia old – with Ohrid itself being a pretty old settlement – the original town clinging to the cliffs anyway.
I made straight for a juice bar in Ohrid and ordered a smoothie – the owner didn’t mind me plugging in this computer either. I checked out the local hostels online – and opted for the City Hostel which was just around the corner. It didn’t have much atmosphere – but was fairly new, clean and very close to the town centre and reasonably cheap.
Directly opposite the hostel was a small crafts leather work and book binding workshop. The guy running it, Dragan, was really very friendly and his good very reasonable – so I bought something for Steve I thought he might actually use – all handstitched – to send back with the socks I was given. Dragan offered to box everything up and label it for me – so I said I would come back Monday morning to collect it.
Then I went down to the Lake front and strolled around Old Town with many many other tourists. I finally went to a restaurant on the water side, and ordered ‘chicken curry’ – thinking, mmm spices, rice, mango chutney. No: it was like the filling from a chicken and mushroom pie with a scant spoonful of curry powder mixed in. No rice or traditional curry accompaniments – broccoli and baby carrots (which were very pleasant) and the usual basket of bread.
I’m sharing my 4 bedded dorm with two Russian guys: Hope they didn’t mind me snoring. The poor blokes looked a bit abashed to be sharing their room with granny, but there are curtains on the bed which can be pulled and I was sound asleep by the time they got back in.