Good evening fellow travellers,
I have just arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria yesterday evening and i would have to say this leg of the journey has probably been one of slowest yet. I have a love hate relationship with Macedonia because it’s just been so difficult hitching in the country, but i can’t say it hasn’t been interesting.
So from the border of Albania, me and Mike, the jazz musician got a ride pretty quickly to Ohrid, a giant lake shared between Albania and Macedonia. The guy was pretty educated and he told us about the history of Macedonia and the relationship between Macedonians and Greeks and i find Macedonia incredibly interesting in terms of international politics.
We got to Ohrid and we checked into this hostel called ‘sunny lake’ and it was a blast. It was funny because half the people staying there were people we partied with in Tirana so it was like a continuation of the party.
I spent two nights there and i would definitely love to just bring a bunch of people with me and stay there for a week!
I went out with the Manchester people and some Australians to the beach where we played card games where the loser always has to jump into the lake. I was totally getting my ass kicked because i had to jump in the most compared to everyone else! haha. It was nice though because unlike swimming in the sea, it felt like swimming in a pool because it was freshwater and really clean. You don’t get stinging eyes, drying nose and that salty taste in your mouth (which i just found out i hate) but i don’t know guys, i think i need to take swimming lessons or something because swimming just tires me out really fast. Maybe one of you guys can help me with that haha.
I went out with some the hostelers for both nights and had a ball of a time. The thing with Macedonia is, unlike the other Balkan countries, the people in Macedonia speaks english very well so you can just talk to girls or even kids quite easily (plus they are very friendly!).
From Ohrid, i just had a choice to go down to Thessaloniki from Bitola or go to Skopje then Bulgaria and i decided to take the latter because I’m pretty sure i can easily find someone to travel Greece with me in the future. I don’t think I’ll have a reason to go to Bulgaria in the future so why not?
I got a ride with this Macedonian Polish guy all the way to Skopje and he actually knows a friend who owns a hostel so he dropped me off at the door and the owner gave me a warm welcome. But she saw my hitch hiking sign and decided she had to have it and now its hanging above the television in the hostel in Skopje, haha.
I try to bring all my signs with me but it was a huge styrofoam sign so i had to ditch it somewhere anyway. What can i say about Skopje? statues man. Statues everywhere! and like not just boring statues but amazing giant ones! I was totally awe inspired by the giant statue of Alexander the great in the city square! I found the puking lions really funny though.
I almost got scammed as well by one of those games where you find the ball under the box and the just move them around. I thought it was legit cos a lot of people were playing but it turns out they were all in on the scam and they were just pretending to play.
I still loved the city nonetheless but i decided i had to leave so i took a bus to the outskirt of the city and waited at a gas station.
This was when things started going awry for my travels.
Some guy picked me up and i thought he was a nice guy but then he decided to ask me for money saying he was a taxi even though he wasn’t. Then i told him i had no money so he told me ‘banka banka card’ and i knew i had to get out of the car. I told him i had no money on my card and that the reason im hitch hiking is cos im on a tiny budget then he laughed and when he believed me he started saying ‘telephone?’
nah, i really needed to get out of the car now so i told him “okay lets go to the bank, I’ll show you”. I brought my bags out of the car and that pissed him off and at the ATM i just used my empty Brunei mastercard. He realised i had no money on me and told me to get back in the car and i just told him to fuck off. I was pretty sure he wanted me to give him my phone or he was going to rob me because when i checked on my GPS, we weren’t even going in the direction he said he was going to bring me.
So i was in the middle of nowhere, was tired as fuck and i didn’t know how to get back to the highway so i went and talked to some people and this Albanian family decided to drive me back to the highway. It was kind of uncomfortable though because they were extremely opinionated because when i said “do you speak english?” the dad was like “HA, fuck english, fuck america, fuck russia, fuck Israel!”.
I told them i was Malaysian and they were like “ahh muslim? Ramadhan?” and i was like yeah yeah but i told them i was a musafir and they started bashing the store across the street because it was run by christians.
The rest of the ride was just me vaguely agreeing with everything they said and i ended up back where i started at the gas station. It was late already so i just camped in a meadow close by.
Morning after i woke up quite early and met patrick, this chinese-german hitch hiker at the gas station going to Sofia as well. I did not like the idea of competition at first haha. But i managed to get a ride soon enough and i called patrick to join me.
We ended up at this town called Kumanovo halfway between Sofia and the border and things just went shitty from here on out. We could not get a ride whatsoever. We asked every driver but no one was driving in the direction. We ended up walking to a better spot where everyone who wanted to go to Bulgaria had to take but there was literally no traffic. About a car every two minutes!
we managed to get a couple of short rides and we ended up at Palanka the last town to the border but it was getting a bit too late so we decided to just ask people if we could crash on their floor. The people were nice there and we ended up talking to this guy who owns a factory. He told us we can sleep there so we joined them and when we got in we were so surprised because it was this huge toy factory making balls. And they gave us proper dinner before giving us a place to sleep on the floor. It was definitely a needed break to the pretty depressing day.
We woke up pretty early, shared a coffee with our host and walk to the edge of the city. we walked past a pool and decided to check it out. You needed to pay to swim but the i think the drunk head lifeguard was coming on to patrick and he bought us drinks and let us swim for free. We met a couple more hitch hikers but because there was zero traffic, we decided to share a tiny cab to the border. It was so uncomfortable because the boot didn’t open and it was four of us with four huge bags crammed into the passenger and back seat.
At the border, things didn’t get much better. With me being Bruneian and everything, it took me forever to cross the Macedonian border and we lost a ride to Sofia. Then at the Bulgarian border it was much worst. They brought me into a room and started examining my passport under UV light and shit, then asked me if i had credit cards with me and kept me in the room for half an hour. In the end they made me sign this document saying i consented to the inspection and that i have enough funds to travel in Bulgaria. I’m used to having to wait a while at borders because of where I’m from but this must’ve been the worst border experience I’ve had yet as though i was an actual terrorist or something.
Macedonia, what can i say, in some ways i loved being inside you, swimming in your lake and walking around your beautiful capital, but there’s so much baggage with hitch hiking in you that i don’t know how i feel anymore. I think we have to say our goodbyes.