Day 10 - Demir Hasar to Strugga (100km)
A piano teacher in Skopje, on vacation to visit his grandparents, Milan offered to ride with us to a fish farm just about 1km off the road. It seemed like a great moment for a diversion and we gladly accepted. The farm was quiet, but lively, with an elaborate system of pools for fish and a whole range of small farm animals - chickens, geese, a dog, a deer, a pig, and so on.
After chatting about Macedonia and bikes and life, Milan helped us to plan a route for the day. We planned to end in Debar, a small town just near the border with Albania. Milan told us about a convent there, where a good friend of his now lived and which offered accommodation to the public.
It was intriguing enough to tempt us (but, let's be honest, we are easily tempted).
The route included an unusual stretch that would probably take us off road and over a mountain - the legend on my shitty map gave insufficient detail to be helpful and neither Milan nor anyone at the farm had ever been down that road. But they all agreed that it would be hilly and rough. Given the uncertainty about the road ahead, we decided to keep moving to ensure that we would make it there before dark.
Some hours later, when we arrived at the turnoff for the offroad stretch to Debar, we took stock of our food and water supply. It wasn't promising. There were no places in reasonable distance to restock. Adding complication to the situation, there were some very dark clouds in the sky and it was closing in on 4:30pm.
We spoke briefly with a police officer, who advised us against taking the road - though it was not technically closed. Were I alone, I am fairly certain that I would have taken the decision to push through it - and I have a feeling that Carrie would have done the same. It was only 32kms and there was a good 4 hours of light remaining in the day, afterall (and I say this in an exaggerated way, because I know that 32km can be eternity in the rain, in the dark, on an empty stomach, in a foreign country).
But, there is some sort of strange decision chemistry that occurs when in the company of another. It's like there is a certain amount of suffering that we are willing (sometimes eager) to place upon ourselves, but which we are absolutely unprepared to place upon to another human being.
We rerouted south toward Strugga, a resort town in the Lake district of Macedonia and near the Albanian border. This sets us almost a day back (though the riding was spectacular today), which is a bit frustrating, but I think that we made a good decision.