(written by Nancy)
Well, I couldn’t convince Dave to stay another day in Ohrid even though it would have been a nice sunny day to sit outside on our deck and relax. Even the tourist brochures couldn’t convince him to stay – this one was particularly enticing – “Tourists from all around the world visit Ohrid because the moments spent there are always transformed into most impressive segment of the short human lifetime.” So, somewhat sadly we rode out this morning and on to our last full day in Macedonia.
From Ohrid we rode around the lake just a bit to a town called Struga and headed north from there. Somewhat surprisingly we headed down river through a gorge. We had expected to be going up the river we saw on the map, assuming that the river drained into Lake Ohrid. It turned out, however, that the Crni Drim river was going the other way and with two dams along the way it created two additional lakes up through the gorge.
After we made our way out of the suburbs of Struga there was very little traffic on the road. We passed a few little villages on the way but the river and the lakes were surprisingly empty despite what looked like some great spots for boating and fishing. It was all quite scenic – I suspect that there isn’t a lot of excess cash for holiday homes in this country otherwise I am sure there would have been lots of cabins lining the river and the lakes.
It didn’t seem to take long for us to reach Debar, the last town in Macedonia before the border crossing with Albania. We debated a bit about going on as it was barely noon, but according to our maps the first real town in Albania wasn’t for another 75k, which was a bit too far. So, we stopped to get some lunch and see what our accommodation options were. Many people walking by said hello to us in English as we stopped to take a look around and one fellow pointed out to us where a hotel was just down the street. We had some great byrek (flaky pastry with cheese and meat) at a little shop and then headed down to the hotel.
The hotel is apparently quite new – or at least newly renovated – and while the room looked nice they were asking a pretty steep rate for it, relative to Macedonian standards, though it does include breakfast. It didn’t even have any wi-fi installed yet. We debated about trying to go on ahead and camp, but with the border only about 7k away we weren’t sure what we would find. Dave went on a bit of a walkabout to see if this really was the only hotel in town and came back with the news that it seemed to be. So, we bit the bullet and decided that we would stay as it would make the entry into Albania easier tomorrow.
We walked around town a bit after cleaning up, stopping to pick up a few things in the grocery store and enjoying a chocolate milkshake at a little café. Dave braved a Macedonian barber and got his hair cut. It was quite funny, as it was a relatively young fellow who cut his hair, and he really did not want to use the clippers all the way, instead “styling” it with scissors. Dave really doesn’t have enough hair to be “styled” but it turned out okay, if a bit longer than he usually has it cut. We found a change office and after saving some MKD to pay for dinner we changed out the last bit of our MKD into Albanian lek (or ALL as they call it). So at least we will have a bit of cash when we enter the country tomorrow.
The guys cutting hair were quite proud of Debar. They made specific reference to “famous” people and lots of history. They mentioned George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, a 14th century leader who was famous for over 20 years of fighting off the advance of the Ottomans. People here have long memories. Imagine a 20-something person in any country quoting history from over 600 years ago when asked “what’s the story with your town.”
So, tomorrow we head for our 14th country. Our route through Albania is only 2-3 days as we work our way over to Montenegro – these countries are relatively small so it’s hard to spend a lot of time in them unless you start doing circles! We will see what the options are for a sim when we get to the town of Burrel, which is the planned stop for the day. We are not sure what hotel options are available – it may end up being a free camping night. So, you may only see a Spot message for the next day or two – check the map to see our progress (for those on our spot distribution).