Macedonia is a land full of surprises and unexpected combinations. As we love discovering new types of cultures and having new backgrounds for cycling, this is ideal. Due to occupations and migrations through the ages and apart from the Slavic and Orthodox majority, it is not rare to find muslims Albaneses and Roms in some regions but also see some turkish influence.
We left Skopje behind, cycled 20 km and we can already appreciate the nature around us. We’re gaining elevation, the sun is gently kissing our faces as we admire this majestic landscape made of colourful trees covering the mountainsides. We’re now on a secondary road where there is almost no traffic, what else could we wish for…I am not sure!
Getting closer to the end of the afternoon, the idea of setting camp for some outdoor experience at night in the middle of October rose up. Well, the temperature is actually quite good for the season, we’re still aware the sun is a big factor but as soon as we turned that corner and saw the lake below it became obvious we’d give it a try. We just need to find a spot before the daylight is completely gone.
That’s it! The tent is set in a little pine tree forest near the lake. We’ve got some supplies from a restaurant, some wine to keep us warm! Indeed, since the sun is gone, the temperature dropped sharply and in order to enjoy the evening, we quickly improvised a campfire! This was a pretty cool moment, Yves kept the fire alive following the diner until we’d finish the wine and get comfy in our sleeping bags.
We left the next morning, made a stop in the scenic town of Veles, located on the Vardar river. Got something to eat and went back on our favourite road, the R1102! Again, there is almost no traffic, we start seeing some wine fields as we keep going south. Negotino is the next stop, we don’t know it yet but instead of having just a good meal, we will end up spending 3 nights there. After all it’s Friday, the weekend is starting!
Negotino is a small town on the Vardar river, mostly known for its wine. While having a late afternoon lunch, Niko (the owner of the restaurant we’re at) told us we should stay for the night and come back later as there will be live music in the evening. We were easy to convince, he also mentioned a cheap place we could stay at, a monastery close to town that offers rooms for 10 euros a night, great deal right? It is not big luxury but that will do. Niko showed us the way and when we arrived, there was a wedding celebration starting.
Well, it’s time for a nap in order to be in good shape for a long night. 2 hrs later we were good to go back to town. When we arrived at Niko’s restaurant we understand it is pretty packed and people seem to be in good mood. Some guys are sticking notes on the front head of the clarinetist, the local tradition. Niko is there as well busy but making sure we’d have everything we’d need like a good host. The rakija is flowing and the fun is just about to begin.
After the band packed up and most of the clients were gone, we asked for the bill but Niko was already gone. He left some instructions to his crew that there would be no bill for us. This was unexpected and greatly appreciated.
The day after was less fun, I got up with a sore throat probably due to the night spent in the tent. It is pretty annoying as it also brings violent coughing! That simply means I have to stay in bed and cure myself with a lot of vitamins in order to recover as quickly as possible. In the shared kitchen we got introduced to some workers and later on, met with Monika who’s an accountant at the second biggest Macedonian wine producer “Povardarie”! The factory is our neighbour and never sleeps these days. We are at that time of the year when trucks keep coming in with massive amount of grapes freshly picked. Monika is inviting us for diner in the canteen at the winery . Well, I am not in the best shape but food will probably do me good!
Right after diner I am going back to bed, Yves is in the mood of going out, taking his bike for a ride back to town, apparently there is another live music gig at Niko’s restaurant 🙂
Alright! I am feeling better but not to the point of hitting the road yet. My condition is still fragile, so better to stay an extra day. Yves came back last night with a flat tire. The first one on this trip. Let’s start the day fixing it!
Once we were done with the tire, we went to town for lunch at Niko’s, that’s for sure our headquarter in Negotino. We also bought some supplies in prevision of the coming days and before going back to the monastery we enjoyed doing some drifts on the main square. The surface was perfect for that 🙂
The sun is reminding us of the end of the afternoon, this is the moment to go and explore the nature around the monastery. Being sick the last days did not help but the region is truly beautiful. There is a path next to the spring which is located behind the lavatory unit, let’s follow it until we’d find a way to cross the bushes and get over the hill so we’d enjoy the scenery around.
On the way down we stopped at the Povardarie winery. We knew Monika and her friend Vlatko would be happy to show us all the steps of the wine process. We met at the entrance, dozens of trucks were queuing in order to drop the grapes in big containers. Some of the tanks can contain up to half million litres. At the end of the visit we got offered a collection of the local wines they make.
It didn’t take long until we opened the first bottle as we’ve met again in the kitchen with the workers. We shouldn’t go crazy though as tomorrow we plan on cycling 84 km to the edge of the country.
Back on the road
This morning we said goodbye to Negotino and the nice people we’ve met there at the monastery. I am now almost fully recovered from coughing. I just need to be careful not forcing too much today. The day will be mostly about following the river on our favourite road, the R1102 until it becomes a new road 🙂 the R1105 where some small hills look like the only challenge of the day until we get to Dojran lake at the border with Greece.
The first kilometres are very pleasant especially considering we didn’t cycle for 3 days. we just have to follow the river. After about 20 km we entered some sort of gorges. At that point it became a dirt road. We didn’t expect that and even though it brings more difficulties (some parts would be clearly muddy) it is still great though. The major inconvenient in this situation is being slowed down and we really want to reach Dojran today.
It is now clear we’ll have to cycle the last 25 km in the darkness and by the time we will arrive in Dojran it will be completely dark. We got there, the little town doesn’t seem to be out of interest but it just started raining and that doesn’t help. Anyway, at least it was easy to find accommodation and a cheap one. Overall it was a pretty good day and we can’t wait crossing the border tomorrow. After being for so long in the slavic countries, being exposed to a new language and a new culture will be fantastic.
Good morning! Greece is just there on the other side…Stay tuned