Day 16 – Mountain Climbing

Slept like a baby through the night and ended up waking up about 11:00. I was surprised to see all the guys I’d been drinking with on the night before were all still there, which was good because we’d arranged to all go to lake Matka together.

The hostel provided free breakfast, which was the usual French toast and Oatmeal that seems to be served in every hostel that provides breakfast.

After breakfast Kata, Pablo (Chile), Pablo (German) and I all went to find the bus we needed to take to the lake. We used our best Macedonian sign language to try and ask the locals which bus we were getting and when it was. We found out we had to get the number 60 which was supposedly in about 5 minutes, it was about 20 minutes late in the end. However the bus ride itself was a good way to see the sights of Skopje, we saw the multitude of statues all around the city, most of which had been paint bombed by the locals in protest against the fact that they spend more on statues of the poor than actually helping them. About half way into the bus ride the heavens opened, leaving us with a decision on whether or not this trip was a good idea. Undeterred we decided we weren’t going to let the weather ruin our trip and despite none of us bringing anything remotely waterproof we soldiered on.

On arrival we were dropped off next to the river and we saw a kayak run that would’ve been great fun if we’d come prepared for it. In the bottom of the Rapids we spotted a water snake, sadly don’t have photos as my iPhone seemed incapable of focusing on it. We scrambled across the river by walking across a thin piece of concrete that was used to flow the water into the manmade kayak run. 

The ‘pathway’ on the other side led up the mountain, we aimed to make it to the top where there was a crucifix and we’d heard there were stunning views over the city. It turned out our path of choice went up the wrong mountain, a beginning of many fails of the day. On realisation that we were going completely the wrong way we decided to continue on and try and find a way back towards the river further along our path. Eventually we came to a path which led down towards the river, we followed it to a rather rusty unloved bridge clinging to a cliff. 

We edged across it one by one onto  a path skirting the edge of the cliff, once round the corner we realised why the bridge was so unloved, the pathway was completely gone leaving a 50ft drop ahead of us into the river.

 

Funnily enough instead of swimming we decided to turn back in search of a more suitable pathway. We skirted back up the mountain for about 10 minutes before finding the other pathway. The other pathway lead us to a gate, which was open so we simply went straight through not realising that this gate was actually leading us on top of the dam itself till we reached the edge. Once we realised, we had the choice of either turn back despite being soaked to the bone or to simply go across and jump over the gate at the opposite side. We chose the simpler option of going across the dam, we reached about halfway across before we we’re approached by a security guard who didn’t speak much English. The guard told us to delete all our photos from atop the dam, we deleted one each, then basically escorted us off the property.

Once we’d been taken away from the dam and the lake where we actually wanted to go in the first place, we decided we had to find a place to dry off and warm up. Only problem being the only restaurant/bar within walking distance happened to be back by the lake. We walked back up where we’d just been escorted off of sneaking past the security desk trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. We got by without problem and made it to the lakeside restaurant. The restaurant itself, although looking very posh and way over our budget we were quite happy to discover it wasn’t, due to the face that Macedonia in general is a very cheap country to visit.

We initially went in with the idea of simply grabbing a few hot drinks and warming up, however whilst we were inside the rain began to get heavier and heavier so we decided very quickly to grab a few beers, some Raki and to chill there for an hour or so. We quickly noticed a trend in the music being played in the bar. It seemed to be coming from a playlist that can only be called ‘Now that’s what I call depressed’. After a while we could no longer stand the mood kill of the music, there’s only so long you can joke about the depressing music before it actually begins to shit on your mood, so we left as soon as the rain ‘died down’. We were aiming to make it to a cave that we were going to shelter in and take some pictures. We walked along the lakeside for about an hour before realising we were going to have to turn back if we were going to stand any chance of catching the last bus back into Skopje. Along our walk we spotted a Salamander in the pathway, which was awesome to see as I’ve never seen one before and this one seemed quite docile and simply slowly walked to  the side of the path as we approached, meaning we could get plenty of photos.

Towards the end of our return trip we realised we weren’t quite going to make it back in time if we didn’t up the pace, me and Pablo (German) ran ahead with the intention of making the bus wait for Pablo and Kata who were lagging behind slightly. This was all in vain however as the bus proved to be once again unreliable, being 50 minutes late we spent 50 minutes stood waiting at the bus stop getting wetter by the minute as the heavens seemed to truly open from the moment we reached the bus stop. 

A positive we found here was that absolutely noone pays for the bus services here and absolutely noone seems to care about it at all. We followed suit with all the locals and just got on the bus, would’ve been way too much effort to try to translate ourselves to the bus driver anyway.

Once we arrived back in the centre we went to the supermarket and grabbed some cheap pasta, sauce and a few vegetables to fill it out slightly. Kata cooked for us all back at the hostel and we once again bought plenty beer for the evening so we had a few drinks whilst we cooked and joked around in the hostel common room for a few hours. Everyone seemed to find it rather funny how much currency I was carrying in my wallet because after a few countries you get left with a lot of useless notes that are near worthless to exchange. Hence this photo was made.

 At midnight Pablo and Kata left to try and get a bus to Sofia left in order to go to Sofia in Bulgaria, thanks for a great day guys and I hope the rest of your trip goes smoothly. Shortly after this Pablo and I discussed our travel plans for the following day, he told me that he was going down to lake Ohrid and asked me to come along, being drunk, I ofcourse accepted straight away without hesitation or thought of my initial plan to head up to Belgrade and move away from the Balkans. We booked a hostel and all was set, I was going to Ohrid tomorrow.

 

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