Perot Serbia to Predejane 90km
To Gjilian Kosovo 99km
Cycle touring in winter certainly plays with the mind. One minute you're up, the next you're down.
Cycling out of Perot, it was cold, it was foggy, but it wasn't nearly as dismal as the previous day. Perhaps because the traffic wasn't as heavy, and it wasn't long before I climbed out of the dense fog, and the sun started to break through, creating some amazing colours. The pretty little villages helped. And the descents into frosty valleys and gorges were pretty cool as well, with some of the streams frozen solid, and the road icey. For 60km it was "quality" winter cycle touring. I was loving it.
Then today, more freezing fog, on a busy narrow road, being buzzed by big trucks, travelling far too fast for the conditions, and far too close to this unprotected cyclist, who is being sprayed by freezing road debris as they pass. I can definitely say "I was not in my happy space". Thirty minutes later, and I'm on the sunny side of the valley. It's dry, warm, the fog has disappeared, the trucks are on the motorway, and life is good..... until the very scarey tunnel, and emerging back into more fog....
I hid in a cafe for an hour to warmup. A couple of local policemen came in. They were big burly chaps, very intimidating. They sat at the table next to me for their free coffee and food, and one started chatting to me, in good English. Turns out his intimidating looks are a charade. He reminded me very much of my mate Doobie. A lovely nature, interesting conversation, great smile and sense of humour, I just found it difficult to see past the big gun in his holster on his hip, remembering that it has been less than twenty years, since the people in this part of the world were slaughtering each other, neighbour vs neighbour. As I cycled through the valleys, it was very apparent that some houses, and some whole villages, were abandoned, deserted, and unlived in. I tried to read up about the problems here, but the history and the story is very very complicated. Albanians vs Serbians, with religion thrown in, a slump in economy, wars in surrounding countries, the break up of Yugoslavia, the fall of the Iron Curtain...... all leading to some scarey, very recent, conflict. Just a little unnerving.
So today, I passed into Kosovo. The border was quite busy, but I filtered up past the 50 or so cars waiting to cross, and slipped into the queue just before the passport check. All very easy, until the Kosovo guard asked for my "vehicle papers". What? For a bicycle? He hadn't registered, because he was at a low desk, that I was cycling. He though I was on a motorbike. Whew. There were heaps of Swiss cars in the queue. I'm sure they weren't too happy with my "filtering". But the car with French plates happily waved me in front of them. I'm really feeling "Europe" now, as I spot so many different countries number plates.
There are lot of locals cycling in this part of the world, on old rusty single speeds, and modern expensive mountainbikes. But they all have one thing in common. The slightest hint on an uphill, and they're off the bike pushing. Makes me feel great as I spin past young fellas, walking their bikes up a pimple.
The traffic in the cities, that unexpectely pop up, as they don't necessarily register on my map app, is chaotic. The streets are narrow. Many are cobblestoned. Many are really rough cobblestone. Therefore, the traffic is really slow, so banks up. Vehicles keep joining and leaving the queues unexpectedly. No indication, no warnings...... just a swerve in or out.... with no regard for cyclists. Pedestrians have no consideration for cyclists filtering through traffic either. They continuously walk out in front of me, not even looking. I need to be totally awake and aware at all times. It feels so much like some of the Asian cities.... chaotic traffic.
The festive season continues. It's 30th December, and as I cycled into the central square of Gjilian I can see four Santa's. They are being photographed with kids on their knees, as are the very good looking "Santa helpers", they are waving to traffic, with "Hohoho's", and dancing to very unxmaslike music. There are still Xmas trees and decorations being sold as well. Perhaps it will stop tomorrow. As for me...... I'm heading towards Macedonia. I'm sure it will be cold, probably foggy, with some warm sunny spots. That's if it doesn't snow. Back on the Roundabout......