For my last month in Europe, I decided I didn’t want to work on farms, rather just go traveling. I had one more farm lined up in Bulgaria, but I headed to Macedonia instead, and thank goodness I did. My trip would be severely lacking if not for discovering this country. (But I already carried on about all of this yesterday.)
I spent a few days in the capital city, Skopje, before heading to Ohrid for a while, and I decided to come back to Skopje to do some hiking and rock climbing around Matka Lake. I ended up hiking for two days because the group I was going to climb with never bothered getting back to me after making initial plans to climb today. (Thanks for nothing, Planina Adventure Travel Agency.) Still, I enjoyed every second of both days at Matka Lake.
Yesterday, I didn’t actually make it to the lake. When the bus dropped me off, I was standing in front of the kayak competition center along the river. I decided that, not wanting to deal with people, I should balance beam across the kayak division to the other side of the river and take a walk. I didn’t actually make it to the lake, but I had a wonderful little hike along the river. It was obvious that no one had been on that path for a while by the grass growing all over. I saw no one the whole time I was there, and I was very happy.
Today, I decided to battle what I thought would be the crowded side of the trails, along the lake, and I only saw two groups of people. The first part of the trail was very well maintained and even had a guardrail. I can’t say I’m a fan of trails with guardrails–I kind of like to think I know what I’m doing when it comes to hiking–but I was taken by surprise by how quickly the trail quality deteriorated when the guardrail ended. There was one portion where I actually questioned whether I should be walking there, and when I got to a spot that required me to jump over a washed-out portion of trail, I decided to turn around. Had any of my hiking friends been with me, I probably would’ve done it, but being somewhere along Matka Lake on a solo hiking mission make the risk not worth taking. Still, what I saw was beautiful, and day two ended with me still very happy.
It was easy to get to Matka Lake, just a 40-minute bus ride from the main station. Getting back was a different story. I had to take a mini bus from the lake (not from the point where the big bus dropped me off, despite the bus driver telling me so) to a suburb of Skopje, then take another bus into the city. I was told I had the option of bus 2 or 5 to get back to the city center and the bus station. Either of those locations were good for me, but bus 2 took me to neither. Yesterday, I realized pretty quickly that the bus was heading out of town, so I got off at the next stop, sorted out where I was and walked back to the hostel. Today, I took bus 2 again because it was the first to come, but I was smarter about getting off at an earlier stop, which gave me a nice chance to bid a walking farewell to this city that I’ve come to like so much.
I have two weeks and one day left in my trip, and I’m excited about more hiking–and I hope some climbing, too–in Bulgaria and Romania.