Tortoises and Killer Flies
Ohrid is fast becoming our second home. I first went there in 2004 and it still mesmerises me every time. I enjoy the chaotic roads of Ohrid. Few people indicate, drivers stop and park randomly in the street, shopkeepers are friendly and almost everyone greets you with a “Zdravo.”
There’s the lake, the castle, the bustling fruit market, the Turkish district which is good for a kebab or a haircut and if that’s all too frantic you can retreat to one of the smaller villages along the lake or in our case, the tranquil haven that is the Oaza Inn, where we work our way through Macedonia’s beer and wine supply while swimming.
Ever since we set foot in the Oaza Inn in 2014, we have felt at home. The gardens are kept in wonderful condition: the swimming pool is large, having our own kitchen enables us to cook up our favourite meals and eat far too much cheese and then there is the menagerie of dogs, the two German Sheperd Dogs – Aaron and Zana and two new additions, the puppy Bruno and an old, blind and deaf Spaniel – Lea. Our children love it and in all our travels, we’ve never found a more comfortable place to stay.
The first year we made a point of doing a lot of sightseeing, the second year we spent a bit more time around the pool but visited a combination of old favourites and new places such as Bitola and Lake Prespa. This year we’d seen quite a lot of sights and driven a long way so we spent the first few days relaxing.
Petrino Mountains, Ohrid
There was something I’d wanted to do for a while though and that was to hike the impressive mountains that looked down over Ohrid. I’d looked at them from the swimming pool with a beer in hand. There are no evident signposts from Ohrid but Wikiloc showed a couple of trails, so armed with the app and a fully charged phone, I set out at 7.30am in the morning and parked up on the road leading to Velestovo.
I had not given much thought to the trip and was planning to play it by ear. In retrospect, it might have been better off starting from Ramne or Velestovo instead, the first 30 minutes hike took me to Ramne. Initially, I took the wrong path and somehow made it to what seemed to be an unofficial dumping ground but once I was on my way I came across a Hermann’s tortoise. They are common in this part of the world. This little critter popped his/her head straight in when it saw me.
I filled up on ice cold water in Ramne, and said, “Zdravo” to a few locals and continued the climb up the hill. The path was a small dirt track with a groove in it, possibly from erosion. It looked as though some electric pylons had recently been put in and though the view of the lake was good, it was difficult to take a picture without the wires spoiling it.
Already quite content with meeting a tortoise, I heard a rustling to the left of me and saw a startled looking creature that I believe to have been a pine marten. I did my best to capture it on camera.
This path eventually became minor and lead to a more heavy duty dirt track which I walked on for a short while before following markings for the red path. The markings and the route on Wikiloc did not quite match up, so I trusted the markings that eventually lead to a spring that was marked on the map. From this point onwards, the route became a lot more scenic and I finally felt as though I was doing some proper hiking.
Throughout the trip, there was not a person in sight. The path twisted through trees, the leaves on the ground rustled with birds and lizards before flattening out on to what was a sort of plateau just below the main peaks.
The picturesque field with knee-high, wheat-like grass had a magnitude of crickets that jumped in either direction as I walked through it. It was only just possible to make out the path and it was clear that almost no one came here.
From the plateau, the path winds its way up the hill from here to the peak of Letnica, an extra 40 minutes walk. It was already about 10am and I thought it was best to return, leaving the ascent to the peak for another day. I’d left Sylwia and the kids without a fully stocked fridge at home and thought I might be in for it if I did not return soon.
Views of Lake Ohrid
It is possible to walk on from Vsoki Vrv to Letnica but I chose to run down the mountain until I got to the tree line at which point their interest seemed to ease up and I eventually lost them totally by the time I got to the crossroads with the sign to Tri Mazhi.
to mesmerise – to fascinate
bustling – energetic, busy
frantic – mad
tranquil – calm
to set foot in – enter
menagerie – a diverse group
to be armed with something – to carry, to have
to play something by ear – act spontaneously
rustling – a soft crackling noise, such as when animals move in leaves
startled – scared, surprised
fully stocked – fully equipped
wafted – wave with a hand or object
swarm – a group of flies
bothersome – troublesome, annoying
tackle – challenge, attempt
doused – soaked, covered
peak bagging – an activity when hikers try to climb as many peaks as possible