The pace of life has slowed down quite dramatically since I arrived in Elbasan, which was well over a week ago now. I have welcomed the rest though, I really hadn't realised how tired I was and the first few days all I did was eat, sleep and relax. When ever I did try to do anything I groaned and hobbled like an old man much to everyone else's amusement.
It's the strangest thing being in one place, after so long on the road. Sometimes I miss the stars, and smell of an open fire. But the comfort of a soft bed, and the wonder of kettles and cookers more than makes up for it.
After a couple of days of being more or less horizontal I have now started to venture out a bit more and am enjoying getting to know a little more of Albanian culture, hanging out with my friends here, and making some new new ones too.
It was Tuesday morning when I wrote OHRID in big letters on the back of a pizza box, packed my bag and set out for Macedonia with my thumb at the ready. It had be quite some time since I had hitchhiked and it felt great to be back up to my old tricks. Even better when the road zig-zagged steeply up the side of the mountain and a smiled to myself very happy that I wasn't cycling. I arrived in Ohrid a few hours later after 3 lifts and a bit of a walk.
I stumbled apon this place last year when I was hitchhiking back from Turkey, a small town set on the side of a vast lake, surrounded by mountains. And so when my good friends Han and Dan told me they were going to be travelling through Macedonia on their 60 day trip from England to Kuwait, I suggested that we meet here.
I can't tell you how nice (and strange) it was to hear Hannah shouting down at me from the window of their hotel room. After so many months on the road and so often as a passing stranger, to see friends I have known and loved for years was priceless. Han and Dan had booked a hotel room just outside of the old town for two nights before they would continue on their folding bikes to Greece. The biggest shock for me was the size of their bags (they were tiny.) I really do need to learn the art of packing light. I thought to myself.
We walked about the old town, drank coffee as we sheltered from the storm. (Ok I had beer, and Han and Dan searched for hot chocolate and ended up with some strange hot strawberry milkshake, but the thought was the same) We chatted, and laughed and shared stories from our different trips, reminiced about old times and old friends. And the rain continued to hammer down arround us.
By lunchtime the next day the weather was back to it's normal heat and ironically we decided to go out on a bike ride arround the lake. I hired a bike and was excited to ride on two wheels and without a mans wait in luggage trailing behind me. It was so nice to race up the hills and wizz down them again. When I get home I'm getting a racer I thought to myself. We ended the day with a meal at a little resteraunt on the side of the lake watching the waves crashed on the beach and the wind picked up once again. I waved them goodbye the next morning as they peddled off on their way to Greece. 60miles and over the mountains... It felt very strange to be the one waiting behind rather than cycling away into the distance, but I was quite happy to hitch my way back to Albania this time. I'll leave the mountains for another day.
Today is Sunday and I am back in Elbasan sitting in the shade at my place in the Roma area. Wedding music fills the air and we've just shaked the last of the fruit off the trees to feed the kids tonight at church. On Tuesday my sister Charlie arrives and then starts two weeks of circus workshops, fire shows and many kinds of fun. Can't wait!