Jan 14, 2015

Jan 10: Ohrid to Resen

Although my goal is to reach Jerusalem in time to celebrate Pascha there, I discovered I had a deep reluctance to leave Ohrid. ‎I was packed and ready to go by 8:00, but then I shared a "Turkish" coffee with my host. (He is Turkish. Native Macedonians refer to it as "Macedonian" coffee, in Greece it is "kafe Hellenikos," and my sojourn in Lebanon acquainted me with "ahweh.")

As usual, I consulted my Via Egnatia guidebook on the section that I'd be covering that day, and as usual, I decided to stick to the road. The trail led up through the mountains of Gracinica National Park, with warnings to carry spare batteries for the GPS unit and enough supplies to make it through, as well as information about the danger of getting lost and the possibility of helicopter rescue. And these warnings were written with fair weather hikers in mind, not a solo winter pilgrim!

It was a long climb up from the plain surrounding Lake Ohrid‎. The road led around the cluster of peaks that reached over 1600 m elevation, and so instead of a 24 km hike straight up through the mountains I took the 36 km detour around them. (I may be crazy, but I ain't stoopid.) By the time the road had reached 1000 m altitude, I was looking for a dry and level patch to stretch out for a powernap. I had a chocolate bar instead. By the time I hit an elevation of 1100 m, I was looking for a hotel, motel, guesthouse, hunter's shack -- anywhere I could find shelter for the night. It was almost 4:00 PM when I finally reached the top of the pass at 1200 m, and I was delighted to see a cluster of cars parked near a small building with smoke coming out of the chimney. I was surprised to see a café this far from anywhere, but I wasn't about to question it. As I got closer, though, I noted the graffiti on the walls and the lack of any signs. Still, I heard music and voices, so in I went.

The two men sitting at the table in the middle of the small room looked up at me, surprised but not upset. A quick glance around the room showed me that whatever this was, it was most certainly not a café. The bed in the corner was the most obvious clue. I apologised and explained myself as best I could to the men who didn't understand English. They offered me a Macedonian coffee and a seat, and I gratefully accepted. After resting for a bit, I pulled my headlamp out and affixed it to my hat and prepared myself for the last 13 kms. Mercifully, this was all downhill on a relatively untravelled road.

As I approached the outskirts of Resen, I noticed a hotel‎ on the opposite side of the road. The signs were on, but everything else was dark so I continued on towards the centre of town where I knew there was at least one hotel. When I arrived, I discovered there were, in fact, two hotels. One was closed, and the other was fully booked. I misunderstood the directions I was given to the "Holiday Inn," and walked about a kilometre before I stopped someone on the street and asked about the hotel. When he directed me back to the hotel I'd passed by an hour before, I flagged a cab and tossed my pack in the back seat. For the price of a cup of coffee, the English speaking cabbie took me around to the side entrance of the hotel, rang the bell, and translated for me. It wasn't a particularly nice room (in fact, it was the third worst place I've encountered so far), but there was heat and a bed.  No WiFi of course, but at that point I was simply glad to be off the road. It had been a long walk, and I never did hit my stride -- walking was an effort the whole day. I said my prayers, and resolved to get an early start in the morning.

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