Around 3pm, despite the rain forecast, I packed up. On my usual circuitous way out of town, I spotted a portrait artist. She’s excellent at what she does, but has to stay commercial. She said it was a shame I hadn’t made it up the mountain Pelister – named after a 5 leaved pine tree unique to the area called the Macedonian pine or Pinus Peuce. Pine trees normally have twin leaves (I knew none of this). She showed me these extraordinarily long cones she had in her shop. I wanted to eat – so she ordered me a meal at the café opposite – meaty, but good and cheap (at less than a couple of quid). Thanks Biljana (yes – another Biljana!).
So, after stuffing myself, I didn’t really get moving until gone 4pm. Despite threatening rain and feeling a few plops – it held off, and it was a fine, breezy late afternoon/evening for cycling.
I rode past fields of sunflowers – the first I’ve seen. They brought back memories of a Magic Bus ride from Athens Steve and I took with Chris Perrons back at the beginning of the 1980s (one of those epic journeys that put Steve off completely and had me longing for more!).
It was an easy ride to the Greek border - and then another 9miles or so when it started to get dark and thundery. I turned into a small village called Papagiannis (spelled differently depending on which sign you looked at) to look for somewhere to camp. I spotted a deserted house with an excellent looking garden – ideal. However, before I could sneak around the back – I was accosted by the gentleman next door, who was emerging from his gateway on a bicycle who asked if I needed help. I used my ‘point it’ book to point to the camping page. He didn’t speak English, so he fetched his granddaughter – who had only schoolgirl English herself. They (the daughter who was obviously visiting parents) decided I needed to follow their car back to Florina (big town I’d just ridden around). I stayed put and eventually they all went away and I snuck around the back of the house in the dusk (as I’d always intended) and put my tent up just in time to miss the huge thunderstorm. It rained heavily, but Rowenna was dry under the balcony at the back of the house, and I was dry and cosy as a dormouse tucked up in my sleeping bag.