We crossed over from Bulgaria into Macedonia and headed to Skopje the capital, not sure of whether to go and visit or not. Along the way we stopped to fill up our water tank at a bus stop which had a water tap. The old man there was very friendly and although he didn’t speak any English, we certainly didn’t speak any Macedonian, with some sign language we got along fine. By the time we finished filling up our tank the crowd swelled to 5 and the last person to arrive spoke a bit of English so there was some limited interpreting. They were all a friendly bunch and we left feeling our first contact was a positive one.
A Heat Wave
We drove to Skopje and found a park near to the swimming centre not far from a bike path leading to the centre. It was over 37 degrees and the bike path was in full sun the whole way, after driving all day we weren’t that bothered about visiting the city for the main attraction of a bridge. It wasn’t hard to guess that we decided to give Skopje a miss and continue on. Looking at the map the border to Kosovo was not far away and it looked like we were heading up into the mountains which hopefully would also be cooler.
We reached the border and the guard was really friendly. He pointed out that our green card was not valid in Kosovo and we needed to buy insurance in a little hut about 30 metres away. While I was doing that Jenny continued to chat to the guard and pick his brains about the region and a good route to follow. He told us that in his opinion Kosovo was the best place in the world to live but he expected us to think Australia was and that was good. He went on to say it was safe to park anywhere and service stations had big parking areas where you could stop overnight.
The insurance cost us 15 euros and lasted for two weeks. Our passports checked and we were now in Kosovo. In Kosovo they use Euros of which we had some with us and we were familiar with the exchange rate to the Aussie dollar.
As the country is not a big place we had a look at the map and decided to turn west shortly after the border and drive along a scenic route up into the mountains. This was for two reasons, to see the sights and get up as high as we could as it was very hot in the plains. We drove up and at about 4.30 p.m. we saw a parking area near to a waterfall which would make an ideal overnight spot. Unfortunately it was already taken by locals out for the day, also finding a cool place to hang out, so we pulled in to a nearby layby thinking that these people were only here for a picnic and would move shortly, then we would make our move and take over the site.
While we waited Jenny relaxed and read a book while I went to take some photos of the waterfall. The lads who were occupying the site invited me to have a beer with them, I thought about it for a micro second and joined them on their rug. One of the group spoke good English and we chatted while drinking beer. They said that they would be going in about an hour as I explained our plans to take over the site for the night. I said my farewells as Jenny was probably wondering where I had got to they gave me a plate of barbequed chicken and sausages. Very friendly and hospitable people.
We moved into our position for the night and the first thing we did was give the site a clean-up. We used the campfire they had and burnt as much rubbish as we could find. The site and the waterfall were superb but was spoilt by the rubbish of picnickers who have been using the place. I can’t say that the place was quiet as the waterfall was a bit noisy, but we slept solidly all the same.
In the morning we drove down the mountain and on to the plains where we drove through some towns and villages. The towns were very busy and reminded us of Albania with many markets on the sides of the road. Mid-morning, we stopped at a service station which had a café/restaurant attached to it, these were very popular and they all had wifi. The waiters were all dressed neatly with ties and waist coats, very helpful, friendly and the coffee was cheap and good. We sat slowly drinking the coffee as we sucked up their internet.
We drove into Pristina, it was very busy and the roads and footpaths were crowded with cafés and parked cars. We drove around unable to find anywhere easy to park, and had to settle for a drive through and not a walk around. The place is not noted for being a beautiful place and as we also didn’t find it very attractive we headed back the way we came on the motorway. It was now lunch time and we drove out of town and again parked next to a service station with a restaurant, the young waiter spoke good English, which he told us was from watching movies with his brothers, Rambo and Terminator he said. The food was excellent as we ordered a pizza and a Greek salad, as well as a beer and an iced tea, all for 8 euros. A free soup was also included.
When I asked the waiter if I could have a beer at lunch and still drive, he replied “you can drink as long as you don’t get drunk”. The police won’t be a problem he said. I stopped at one small beer and we continued after lunch to the town of Pec.
On the way to Pec we saw a supermarket and decided to stock up. Along with some groceries we also had to try the local wine and purchased a few bottles. Next door to the supermarket there was also a restaurant complete with waiters in suits and bow ties, what you would expect in a 5 star restaurant and not a café next to a supermarket. In the next building was a hardware store even though there was no signage to tell you what it was. I went in with a list of 4 items and was successful with three. Silicone sealant, light globes [bulbs] for the bathroom light and a tube of superglue, all for 3 euros.
We arrived at Pec late in the afternoon and on the way in had seen plenty of car wash places. I thought I would spoil the “Bunyip” and have it cleaned. Near to the town we pulled in and asked how much to give the “Bunyip” a wash, 3 euros they said. It didn’t take me long to give the go ahead and three teenage lads got started and washed the outside, wheels and windows [outside and inside] They did a great job and each received a 50 cent tip [last of the big spenders] when it was finished.
While they were doing this we started walking in the town but as it was hot and dusty decided drinking beer in the bar next the car wash was a better option. The bar was populated by local men having a great time and table next to us were friendly and the young lad spoke excellent English as he explained to us he was attending the American University in Pristina. His father who looked like he enjoyed a beer or two bought me a beer and tried to buy me more but I thought even though the laws were a bit lax I didn’t want to press the point. Refreshed and with a clean camper we headed off out of town to the border. A very short visit to a country we didn’t know much about before.
No Man’s Land
We reached the border crossing out of Kosovo and drove for about 5 kms when we saw a place in the forest behind some trees, out of site. We were out of Kosovo but not yet into Montenegro, in a sort of no-man’s land. The road was quiet and it was only in the morning when we were woken by a bell. A cow was wearing one followed by a herd of her friends, we assumed she was the ring leader. They came very close to the “Bunyip” and circled us for a while until they eventually mooved on. Haha, I’ve still got it!!
Our 2 day visit to Kosovo was short but interesting, and after breakfast we finally got to the border of Montenegro. It was the longest gaps between borders that we had experienced.
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