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Helloooo!!!!!

It is us,  Venice (9 yo) and SWMBO.  We have an intresting story to tell you all.  We will be taking turns of writing this news for you, I shall start. (Venice)

It all started when we had a boat trip to a cave that was FULL of bats!  Anyway, S.W.M.B.O. Wanted us to go on a 12 km walk!

I know that we did something like this in Sapa, Vietnam. there it was cold, cold, cold! but this hike is going to be hot, hot, hot!!!   But when we were on the boat, She-who-must-be-obeyed said NO WAY!!!!!!  That hike is going to be way to dangerous! I will only go if we can find a guide!

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Our hike in Sapa, Vietnam

Our boat driver said, Oh no problem!  I can just call my cousin! He used to work in the army, but retired 8 years ago.  He now does hiking.  His name is Xhemal (Say Jamal).  I could call and ask him is you like?  Yes please!  said S.W.M.B.O. .  So he Called his cousin asking if he could guide us.  He will meet you just outside your building!  said our boat driver.

First we went on a gondola to the top of Mount Vodno Where the Millennium Cross is!

Gondola, Mount Vodno

Gondola, Mount Vodno

And that’s where it all began!  right!

SWMBO here to say that we walked up, down, around hill and dale (and mountain!).  It was HOT (33 degrees celsius) but for much of the walk we were in dappled shade.  The scenery was beautiful.  Lastborn had a breakdown early on (unusual for her) so we took a fairly long rest.  Then we each successively succumbed to our own breakdowns which led to more rests.

Millenium Cross, Mount Vodno

Millenium Cross, Mount Vodno (larger than the Statue of Liberty and the Jesus statue in Rio)

Our guide was excellent and we always felt that we were in good hands.  He was a pleasant companion to have with us.  When Lastborn didn’t want to wear her sun hat, he tied his tea towel on her head and proclaimed her, “Mother Teresa”.

We stop to visit an abandoned Yugoslav army bunker

We stop to visit an abandoned Yugoslav army bunker

This hike was very challenging and for those considering it, I would recommend hiring a guide unless you are an expert hiker with adequate equipment.  The trail is not well marked in places and there are many possible paths.  At points the trail is extremely narrow and there are thorny bushes on either side.   Hikers frequently suffer from heat exhaustion.  There is no place to get water for the first 8 kilometres or so and you are unlikely to see another soul on your walk.  The last few kilometres of the hike consist of a dangerously steep descent on chunky rocks that continually shift underfoot.  It was there that I slipped and sprained my ankle.

Beautiful mountain views

Beautiful mountain views

Lastborn had her breakdown early on and was a trooper the rest of the way.

Lastborn had her breakdown early on and was a trooper the rest of the way.

We left our apartment at noon and probably started the walk at 1 pm (after taking the gondola and visiting the cross).  We ended at nine pm!  The last hour, we hiked in the dark with a head lamp.  Oy vey!  What an adventure.  Why did it take so long?  Who knows?  Maybe: heat, breakdowns, difficult terrain, picnics, stops to admire the views and learn about the distant villages and peaks, bunker visits, exhaustion, water breaks, splashing cold mountain water on our heads.  Maybe the fact that we hiked a 14.5 kilometre route, not 12.

The sun is setting and we still have hours to go!

The sun was setting and we still had hours to go!

When we had finally worked our way down to the water’s edge, we got to hit a hammer on a gong to signal to the boatman on the other side of the lake to pick us up.  What a rag-tag bunch he found: sweaty, snotty, scratched, bloody, hobbling, tear-stained, covered in dust.  He ferried us across to the fancy restaurant and hotel on the other side.  From there we walked another 500 metres to the parking lot and got in a taxi to drive us back to Skopje.

Xhermal in the gondola

Xhemal in the gondola at the beginning of our adventure

Thank-you Xhemal for being so knowledgeable, patient, safety conscious, strong, fit, tolerant, and kind.  We honestly could not have done that walk without you!!

It was an unforgettable way to spend our 21st wedding anniversary!