Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Day 4 - Mechanical Issues, Roman Ruins & the Road to Skopje

29/08/24 - Stobi, Central Macedonia to Skopje

STOBI

I thought it best to close my kitchen saddle bag after hearing a lot of scuttling and nibbling during the night, seems it was a good idea! 
I found mouse poop all over my bags...


That morning I carried out some very necessary maintenance, wheel straightening, complaining how filthy my mechanics are etc... I tried to tune my front de-railer, but the feckn front sprocket is bent! (the big cogs with the pedals attached)  No wonder it was making so much noise! I need to replace the entire thing... there is no way I can afford it... Just going to limp on with my smaller gears! 




What a pleasant surprise! I camped beside a very significant national heritage site. Great opportunity to take a break from the cycling! 






This site is probably the most valuable historic site in what is now modern Macedonia, so much so that the rather fabulous mosaics are printed on Macedonia's currency. 


Macedonian 10 Denar Note - 0.16 or £0.13

For more information of the significance of Stobi check the Wikipedia page. Also, have a look at the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire to learn more about the extent of the Roman empire. Its a rather fantastic resource for any history lovers and map nerds (that's me!) out there! 


THE ROAD TO SKOPJE






Some photos from the day

An ID of this spider would be appreciated!


Not a crop of Pineapples!
Hitch hikers from Poland, would have picked them up if I could... They had just spent the last 2 weeks hitch hiking around Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and Albania!



SKOPJE!
This is the real main road into Skopje, Goran here was more than helpful. I first saw him cycling along with no hands eating an ice cream. He guided me into the city, treated me to a coffee at his friends brand new coffee shop and helped me find my accommodation! I learnt so much about Macedonia in such a short cycle, I'm very grateful.

My hosts, the Kula Collective, fed me rakia and took me along to a metal gig in the middle of Skopje, which is not at all what I expected. Even the open air consort in such a seemingly grand river front felt quite strange. There is a very stark contrast between what I had seen in the rest of Macedonia and it's capital.



Every possible place in the city centre has a sculpture squeezed into it, sculptures everywhere, so much so its as ketsch as Disney Land!


SLEEP

88.2 km
Survive the roads to Macedonia's Capital City, done!

Click to enlarge


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Day 3 - Grapes, Stills and Stoners


28/08/2014 - Southern Macedonia to Stobi, Central Macedonia

Ahh, sun rise. The morning view from my hammock


Camp did look a bit different in daylight

My curious neighbor

I was in luck, grape vines, and the area was full of them! Breakfast sorted!

The motorway didn't exactly improve for cycling, despite not feeling too safe on my thin paint strip of a cycle lane I pushed on through tunnels and country roads, got lost and pushed on some more.



Lost, I stumbled upon festival in a small village very publicly selling distillation equipment!!! 

Vendor selling distillation equipment for making Rakia!


Totally took a card

Gypse music, these guys were great (unfortunately the video doesn't do them any favors)


A pub rock band seemed to be the main entertainment at the festival, really good too. With the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) having been an independent country for only 23 years (since 1991), I wonder what the more traditional entertainment might be...



Loaded with supplies I'm back on the road.




Racing locals up hills



To Skopje!

A just reward:
video

Stoners on a Bridge


So, I'll admit this was a bit of a ego trip. These guys asked me from the bridge where I am from and where I'm going, the usual stuff. Having spent most of the day cycling I decide to go up and meet these guys. It was difficult to communicate, but from their perspective I believe it went a bit like this:

You're on a bridge with your friends chilling out with the sunset and some random guy on a bike (carrying a lot stuff) cycles in and after a brief interaction comes up for a chat. He's scruffy, dirty, salt crusted on his shoulders, wearing camo shorts with a gay little high visibility jacket. He talks way too fast to understand... but you know he is cycling from Thessaloniki to Budapest on the far, far side of Macedonia. He takes a selfy with you and your friends, you decide to add him on Facebook... This is what you see:


First thing on his wall (I gestured to my camera):


Thoroughly impressed they ask to take pictures with me. It was quite an odd scenario, but it made me laugh. What kind of thrill seeking adventurer have I become?


Fucking love sunsets!

I managed to find a place to camp under a bridge of the motorway and set about getting fed!

I must admit, I was starting to wonder at this point, how my life came to sleeping under motorways. This kind of thing might go through you mind when you are sneaking around under motorways by twilight to find a camp... Am I now (or was I always) a traveling bum? 

SLEEP

50.2 Km
Southern Macedonia, complete!

Click to enlarge

Friday, 5 September 2014

Day 2 - Crossing the Boarder into Macedonia / Skopje

27/08/2014 - North Greece / Southern Macedonia

After hiding in some trees at the side of the road, I waited for the mystery man to pass me before setting up my trusty hammock with the red light on my head torch to void attracting any unwanted attention from passing traffic.

Breakfast
Fucking love stuffed vine leaves! Very Greek and very good!

Bananas and almonds. Yes!

Packed up and ready to push my bike back on to the road

What's this? Photography is forbidden?

Ah, a Greek military base

Crossing the boarder

video


There was duty free also. pretty much the same shit you find in any duty free.

First impressions. It might be worth noting that Greece and Macedonia are not the best of friends and this is the boarder they share...

Tourist Information, locked, someone is clearly sleeping in the doorway...

video

Another reason to come to Macedonia from Greece is the casinos on the boarder, tax free winnings! This may explain why there are so many rather untrustworthy looking people around. Its amazing how much everything changes when you cross a border. the language, the shape of peoples faces and of course the currency.  

You probably noticed that I'm repairing another puncture... This keeps happening! Either it is my cheap tires or I am just carrying far too much weight! If you are planning to do something like this pack light and get good tires or you are going to be repairing punctures the whole way. 


Macedonian Denars (MKD) 
€1 = 61 MKD, 500 MKD = €8
£1 = 77 MKD, 500 MKD =  £6.50
A loaf of bread is about 30MKD and a beer in a bar, ~150 MKD

The road

Motorway, luckily I had the hard shoulder all to myself. I sang most of the way.

Super cool old cars

A petrol station on the main motor way.
Its here I bought some Rakia from an old man selling figs. Its a 40 - 60% proof spirit made from grape skins... I like to think of it as Balkan Whiskey!
 
Skopje! Only 124 km to go!

As it started to get dark I Climbed down the side of the motor way, jumped through bushes and ran along dirt paths to find a camping spot by the river. At one point a tractor came behind me, my instant reaction was to dive into the bushes and hide! Nettles, thorns, I found it all... Finally, hammock set up and mosquito replant applied I went to sleep.

My tree had few of these little guys on it. Some kind of silver fish I suspect. Check out those eyes!

SLEEP




55.2 km 
Boarder between Greece and Macedonia crossed.

Click image to enlarge


Monday, 1 September 2014

The Starting Line - Day 1 - Delightful Graffiti, Motorways and Repairs

28/08/2014 - Thessaloniki

Finally after the 6-7 months I'm at the starting line!

video



Delightful graffiti spotted on my hunt for supplies

Favorite!



Thanks to the bastard grass, I had to use up my spare tubes and was in great need of a bike shop for some critical expedition equipment!

Got my supplies!

Spare tubes, bastard grass protection, puncture repair kit and some dry lube (hee hee)



It may surprise you but it is impossible to find a map of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, this is probably because of the mutual dislike they have for each other. Part of this is due to a dispute about the name Macedonia as it is historically a region of ancient Greece when the territorial borders where different. The Greeks call the modern country of Macedonia, Skopje after its capital city.

Anyway, to Macedonia/Skopje!

You wouldn't believe the trouble I had getting out of Thessaloniki, It was Motorway Madness! A little stressful I will admit but I kept going.

Working my way along the barrier to keep away from the traffic.

I get the feeling this was not intended to be a walk way, I had to take everything off my bike in order to squeeze though. After this I figured it was a waste of valuable time to be doing this and decided to hug the hard shoulder until I could get off the motorway.

Yup, you guessed it! Another puncture! If you are doing something like this in future, do not use cheap tires. It will cost you in the end. Lucky I only have one cheap tire on the front... its the one that keeps getting punctures, even with bastard grass protection.



Sunset on the motorway, sigh... I'm so totally gay for sunsets.
Power lines!

video


Not long after passing this sign I met a man walking at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in pitch black. Frustratingly we couldn't understand each other at all and I just had to keep going. He was asking for some kind of help but there was nothing I could do, he may have been a Turkish refugee. Scared me outa me skin!


CAMP