Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Return From Macedonia

Our trip back from Macedonia was even more adventuresome than its predecessor. For starters, we decided to go to Skopia after lunch, and travel home from there. Some of the people in our group have relatives there. So, after lunch (around 2 pm) we board the mini-bus and our host leads us in his car to where we should be able to get the best road toward Skopia-or that's the plan anyway. Sadly, there are some protests going on somewhere further up the road, so now we need to drive 30 km out of the way to get another road to Skopia. Apparently we weren't the only vehicles who chose this detour. We took what was certainly designed to be a one lane road and one car usually had to half pull off the road to let another pass. This picture shows how close we were to a tractor trailer we passed. If I would have opened the window, I wouldn't have had to stick my whole hand out to touch the side.
We eventually made it to the outskirts of Skopia (after about 3 1/2 hours) and because the signs were unclear ended up making a wrong turn and heading back out of the city. It took awhile and some cell phone chatting before we once again found ourselves in the right place. The relatives of our friends told us where to stop, drove to where we were and led us to a mall where you had to pay to park. At the mall we were able to get soveniers, etc. When we went to leave, our driver couldn't find the parking stub, we turned his pockets and the minibus upside-down (well, not literally) but couldn't find it, so had to pay more.
Our return trip took us through Kosovo. It was night by now, and when we got to the border, there was a pit with disinfectant that you were supposed to drive through (I guess Macedonia has germs), our driver didn't know that and went around it. After being sent back through it by the border guards we had to wait at the passport area for awhile, not unusual. The customs official said that if we two Americans planned to go to Serbia, then he couldn't stamp our passports, as a Kosovo stamp would be a slap in the face to Serbia, so he stamped an offical paper of some sort instead (the other people didn't need a stamp anyway). Apparently at this particular border crossing, there was a separate customs stop after the passport control stop, and unknowingly we drove past this. We were sent back, and because we didn't stop and say we had nothing to declare, we all had to get out and run our luggage through the x-ray machine while a guard searched our bus. At least they didn't put us behind bars like this kitty in Bitola :)
Finally we're allowed to go, and so we make our way through Kosovo, Laura slept through most of it, but Steve stayed awake and said he could see it pretty well, even though it was nighttime.
To get to the Kosovo/Montenegro border, we drove up a twisty mountain road reminiscant of Lovćen. There was actually a considerable distance between the two border stations. I'm not sure if it was "no man's land" or what. Once we officially entered Montenegro we still had about 4 hours to go, including a rest stop at a gas station with only one working bathroom, minus seat on toilet, no TP, soap or towels (they don't seem to have intentionally designed rest stops in Europe). A word to the wise, always carry a port-a-pack of tissues and some hand sanitizer when travelling here! We passed through over thirty tunnels (they are named after their number, the first one I noticed was Tunnel 33 and it counted down). We made it to our apartment at 7am, and went to bed right away, even though we hadn't really eaten anything since lunch. We have no immediate travel plans :)

1 comment:

LynnyMama said...

ugh! sounds like a trip you don't want to have to make again any time soon. the rest stop sounded a little too familiar to me-- danny thinks I overdo it by bringing tp & sanitizer when we go outside the US... that is precisely why-- I practice my squatting muscles too :) hope you get to stay home a while now... by the way-- your becoming really good at the blogging, entertaining reading!