After spending our first day exploring the city of Skopje we jumped on a bus and headed to Matka Canyon to kick off day 2. Jess and the majority of the group headed out on a boat and went on a guided tour of Vrelo Cave whilst Tomi and I went on a hike around the walls of the canyon. The cave system is pretty intense, it is currently being explored by cave divers and geologists with speculation that it is the deepest underwater cave in the world. The hiking was pretty also interesting, there are no full time rangers employed so not much maintenance is done on the tracks, a few rockslides and washouts made sure that it was an interesting hike.
After surviving the hike we headed out for a quick kayak in the canyon, it was really nice out on the water and very scenic but the definite highlight of the kayaking was Jess’s failed attempt at taking a selfie which can be enjoyed in the video below. Please take into account that this fail was achieved using the exact same model of mobile as hers!
After our time at the canyon we headed into the city and up onto Mount Vodno via the cable cars pictured below. The panoramic views from the top of the mountain were spectacular, as was the Millennium Cross, a 66m steel cross situated on the peak of the 1100m mountain. The highlight of our time here was drinking an ice cold frappe and watching Ewe’s drone in action, he had it up to 25m in the air taking photos and movies as well as getting some great shots of our group. There was one moment where the drone got knocked about in the cross breeze and needed to be rescued from a tree, despite this it was great fun and the drone came out unscathed. We had a great group dinner my meal consisted of pork and veg served in a cognac sauce (return of the pork), a couple of pints of local beer, a giant apple strudel and a double Martel cognac all for under $20au… got to love that exchange rate.
Our last stop in Macedonia was at a small village called Bitola on the edge of Pellister National Park, very close to the Greek Border. Our accommodation for the night was Vila Dihovo, a locally owned guesthouse run by Petar, a former professional Yugolslavian footballer and his family. The motto for Vila Dihovo was “come as guests, leave as friends” and this was evident in how welcomed we were by the entire family. After a light lunch of Macedonian salad we set of on a hike to conquer Pelister’s Baba Mountain which has a peak 2601m above sea level. Thankfully for us we didn’t have to start from the bottom and could commence our climb from a ski resort quite high up. In the winter the area has some great ski runs and in summer it is home to some fairly intense mountain bike action, on our walk to the summit we encounters a couple of ski lifts and bike trails. It was an amazing climb with wildflowers, unique wildlife as well as an underground river. We made it to the top after a couple of hours and were able to relax and take in the view, smash out few selfies and enjoy Tomi’s catering once again before racing back down in time for dinner.
It was a big night at Dihovo as it was our host Petar’s name day. This meant family and friends were visiting as well as some local musicians and everyone was settling in for a big night when we arrived. First up we were given a tour of the wine cellars built by Petar’s grandfather before sampling home made wines and cheeses, I think the Pinot Noir was definitely the crowd pleaser. We knocked over a few carafes of wine with dinner before dancing the night away with Petar’s family to traditional Macedonian music. A special mention needs to be given to the grandmother of the family who didn’t speak much English but definitely took a shine to our group and wouldn’t let us escape the dance floor. Footage of this definitely exists somewhere within our group so if it turns up I will post it so you can check it out. Bitola was such a great place, with Vila Dihovo rated by lonely planet as one of Europe’s top 10 hidden gems, if you are ever in southern Macedonia I highly recommend checking it out
That was it for Macedonia, the next stop is Ioannina in Greece. We are currently on Lefkada Island in Greece and tomorrow head into Athens for our last day with our Intrepid group, I’ll put up a post soon covering our first 5 days in Greece and the conclusion of the tour.
Thanks for reading!!