(written by Nancy)
We only heard a bit of thumping music from the wedding party crowd last night – I think we were both so tired it didn’t really matter how loud it was. I know I didn’t get too many pages read in my book before turning off the light.
We had a great breakfast this morning, which took a little bit of sting out of the price of the hotel. We walked into a decent buffet spread, similar to the Turkish breakfasts we came to love while in Turkey, though with the addition of some nice ham slices. Then, as we sat there the kitchen folks brought in hot fried eggs, so up jumped Dave to grab a couple so we could make a semi-bacon and egg roll. As we ate those the kitchen folks then brought out hot, freshly made French toast! Up jumped Dave again to grab a few slices. We were both pretty full by the time we walked away from the table. We should have grabbed a few more slices of the French toast for morning tea but we’ve gotten out of the habit of those buffet breakfasts.
Under clear blue skies we left town just after 8 and climbed up over a hill to get us out of town and into the next valley. The valley was full of vineyards and other fruit trees, including some big patches of cherry trees that were covered with red fruit. They were a bit too far off the road for us to sneak a handful, unfortunately.
We then had a very long climb that took much of the morning – it was at least 30k of uphill, snaking up through a gorge and then up over a mountain range. The gradient wasn’t too steep though, topping out at 7% towards the top. Lots of great views as we made our way up and while we could see some snow up on the mountaintops it was pretty hot climbing in the sun – temps were up close to 30C. We finally crested the top and actually had a summit sign for Petvar summit at 998m.
We had a pretty good downhill to our lunch break at the town of Prilep. We’ve found a brand of petrol station (LukOil) that usually has decent facilities, even a café that sells good coffee and we found one just at the outskirts of town. After fueling ourselves with a couple of sandwiches, a big container of juice and some coffees we hit the road again, sloshing with all that liquid. Just after hitting the road we hit the slug-a-bug jackpot, passing by a car yard that was full of VW bugs. Dave thought he won but I was calling them out as well so we had a bit of an impasse on awarding points (9 white, 4 red, 7 blue, including one with stars and moons on it). Without a third party referee we don’t have any way to determine the ultimate winner so we had to leave it un-awarded. (junior editor’s note: I won, fair and square – I always win slug-o-bug)
We pulled into Bitola about 2:30 and have ended up at the Villa Diamond Hotel, close to the centre of town. Bitola is the second-largest city in Macedonia and is only 14k from the Greek border to the south. The city sits at 615m and is near a national park with a well-known ski area. The town changed hands many times in its history between Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and the former Yugoslavia. There is a strong Muslim presence here, with three historic mosques that we hope to see tomorrow.
We walked around a bit this afternoon and ended up at a restaurant that served decent Italian food so we indulged in some good pasta and salad. Dave had a nice glass of Macedonian red, Alexandria, from Tivkes Winery, which is the biggest wine producer in Macedonia. It was actually pretty good.
We are taking a day off here tomorrow after 7 days of riding. The bikes need a good cleaning (so Dave says) and we need a bit of a rest. We’ll try to get out and explore the town a bit more tomorrow.