Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Onwards to Macedonia and Albania

Sunset Lake Ohrid

Another border crossing & we are now starting to get quite a few stamps in our passports. We passed through the village of Struga managing to avoid getting stuck in its skinny streets & drove on to Ohrid where we thought we had a choice of possible camp grounds. Not to be! We found 2 that appeared to be closed & upon stopping to decide what to do, we spotted what looked like a campervan parked on a cliff top. We ventured onwards and found a German couple & an English/Israeli couple camped there - all who had similar problems to us in finding a camping ground. We decided that the cliff top was a fantastic spot and chose a possie amongst the wild flowers, with a wonderful view over 3 million year old Lake Ohrid.

Jen, Marg, Leigh, Ryan & Noam
Jen & Noam (our English/Israeli couple) were travelling in their Land Rover overland heading to Russia & onto China & further afield. We had a great time in their company & it was really good to chat in English. Ryan, a Canadian travelling on his cycle, also joined our free-camping community, as well as an older Dutch couple, who despite having very little English were able to communicate with us. We were privileged to receive a gift of a bracelet each that our Dutch neighbour had made out of beads - really sweet of her. We gave her a Kiwi key ring in return. One night we walked into the local village of Pestani where we had an awesome meal with Jen, Noam & Ryan. Local raki from our host (sure killed any stomach bugs Marg had), good food, beer, & wonderful company made for a fantastic night.

View of campsite from Museum

Local fishermen painting boat
Pestani is a fishing village full of the friendliest people and in the middle of the village there is a tap to a natural spring which we used to refill some of our depleted water supplies. We also visited the local Museum of the Sea that showed a recreated village from the time of XIV to VII BC and lots of artefacts recovered from the lake – very interesting.

Leigh & friends!
We spent 4 nights free-camping on our special site. One night we had a visit from a herd of cows – their bells provided a musical relief but their unwillingness to move on was comical! We even washed some of our laundry in the lake (using bio-degradable washing liquid) as it was lovely fresh and fantastically clean water. The colour of the sky was often reflected in the lake & looked spectacular, as were the sunsets!

A local hotel provided free internet and enabled us to charge up our computers as we cannot do that when not plugged into a power supply – a downside of free-camping. We also explored Ohrid which is a beautiful old city that has a very convenient supermarket with helpful staff & a good supply of the right kind of coffee – a life saver – and a very cute village called St Naum which has a delightful old church.


Albanian bunker
We then decided to drive right around Lake Ohrid which shares a border with Albania. We crossed over the border back into Albania & straight back into bumpy roads & lots of bunkers around the lake & in the hills – in fact almost everywhere in Albania there is a reminder of war! We found Pogradec to be a flourishing lakeside resort with some nice beaches. Heading north it became much less affluent & we saw lots of roadside stall selling fish of all shapes & sizes. We declined to buy! Further up the lake we hit a ‘real road’ with a wonderful surface to drive on & Vanni really didn’t know how to cope! It does show that Albania is making some progress with its roads – thank goodness!! We drove back into Macedonia & back to our cliff-top campsite to find our friends still there which was great.

We sadly said farewell to our camping buddies the next day & headed north to Skopje, the capital & again that elusive camping ground. In the end we found a convenient university car park which had a fence around it so felt quite secure. Unfortunately the nearby intersection was very noisy along with the trains & local soccer supporters – Macedonia was playing Ireland that night! Maybe we were lucky Ireland won otherwise the noise might have been worse. The local security guard looked at us but must have decided we were harmless as he then ignored us from then on; but we felt happy he was around.

Prelip rock formations
We didn’t find great heaps of things to keep us in Skopje so we decided to keep going south & look at towns & sights on the way down to Bitola. The scenery was spectacular with amazing, strange rock formations at Prilep, but unfortunately the towns weren’t so we made the decision to drive on & see if we could cross into Greece & reach Ioannina. After crossing yet another border & several smaller towns we hit the big motorway - we have tried to avoid these because we want to see small towns and villages, but this time we had a destination to reach before it got too late & dark. This road is a major piece of engineering as it crossed the mountains through at least 25 tunnels of varying lengths. We finally reached the small winding and picturesque streets of Ioannina & the only campsite in town - right on the lake.

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