After leaving our hosts in Macedonia feeling bright and refreshed we headed onto the motorway that I had read was fine for cycling on. As it happens it was. We shot down the slip-road, still unsure of what exactly to expect, braced ourselves for the gushing wind of passing lorries and onslaught of car horns and then, nothing… the three lane road, complete with a deep shoulder, was silent. A car would pass, sitting in the middle lane, followed by a lorry in the far lane, a good 7 or 8 meters away from us and so we pushed on. We carved a line straight south through the heart of Macedonia. The beautifully maintained road took us through the mountains and down into huge dry plains, the scenery was spectacular and we made very good progress. Occasionally there would be a water fountain at the side of the road. Once when we stopped to fill our bottles a Swedish couple in a camper-van ran over and shoved
two hot hotdogs, complete with mustard and colourful napkin, and two peaches into our hands. They asked us a little about our trip and drove off. The cliché continues; the people you meet travelling really are generally friendly, hospitable and generous. That day my faith in humanity was strong and well founded.
After the Macedonian shaped blur we camped in a primary school and the strangest thing happened; It was something I vaguely remember happening before, the noise and the smell were both familiar; water began to fall from the sky. I saw a flash that illuminated previously undetected clouds, then another followed by a ‘plop’ and a ‘pat’ and then I realised. It was raining. We hadn’t used the outer of the tent for ages and I was half concerned I’d forgotten how to apply it but then I remembered. I remembered that this phenomenon was a part of my heritage, I knew rain well, we had done battle before on many occasions. I was from England. Not only that but I’d also had extensive battles with rain all the way from England to just south of the Alps in Slovenia. I knew what to do, how could I have forgotten s o quickly.
The night was spent in deep and peaceful sleep just like every other. My tent, ‘the fortress’, has never let so much as a drop of rain in. Ellie and I both have great ground mats and anyone that does exercise, has a good diet and is generally calm and happy will tell you that sleep comes easy in those circumstances. At the school we were only about a 5 minute ride from Greece so we packed up our camp, grabbed some cheap Macedonian food shopping and cycled back into the Eurozone.
Greece had a different feel after Macedonia; more developed, busier and very expensive. Greece has actually turned out to be the most expensive country so far, perhaps due to their semi-failed economy, bailouts and high taxes (or so I’m told). We’ve had very mediocre coffee with prices as high as £2.30!? compared with the excellent Bosnian brews that came with a block of Turkish delight for around 60p. As always though the best things in life really are free and camping on the beaches and finding lots of fruit growing everywhere makes up for the otherwise high cost of travelling here. To date we’ve eaten, for free, figs and pears in abundance, some blackberries, apples, two types of tasty plums, a watermelon that was given to us, a handful of unripe kiwis and although we’ve seen loads of grapes we haven’t picked any just yet. This fruit isn’t just agricultural stuff, it grows anywhere, just wild at the sides of roads in the middle of nowhere…. mostly. I think It would be rude not to take a bite.