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ROADTRIP SUMMER 2023, GREECE & NORTH-MACEDONIA (3)

Plataria

We have arrived on Greek soil and decide to explore the coast first. We drive a bit south and end up in Plataria. A lovely seaside resort that is not yet overrun with tourists. There is a small camper place, but we don’t fit here. So, we drive a little further to park-up ‘wild’ in a bay.

The next day is a good old fashioned beach day, bring books, rent beds at a trendy beach bar and drink cold Desperado’s in the sun. And of course lots of swimming with Scotty in the bay. Relaxing all day and a fantastic diner at the terrace of a fish restaurant at night.

The Pindos Mountains

After our fun at the beach we long for the peace and quit of the mountains again. We drive to the North and arrive at lake Aoos. A completely deserted reservoir. The road around the lake almost no longer exists and the bushes and trees grow through the asphalt. Lots of potholes and sinkholes, we really need to pay attention where we drive. We find a beautiful spot on the edge of the lake and fully enjoy the beautiful weather, the tranquility and the cooling lake.

We pull the Mountain Bikes from the bike rack and go on beautiful tours in the area, Scotty in the backpack. The Cobb BBQ is lit every evening and it is almost impossible to get Scotty out of the lake. No wonder with a temperature of around 37 degrees C.

We continue further into the Pindos Mountains and drive a long off-road route. It is bone dry, so there is no need to engage 4WD. The dirt roads are often very narrow with tight hairpins, where we sometimes have to cross four times. We only encounter sheep and cows and enjoy the breathtaking views. How beautiful is it here!

Unfortunately we reach a part on the dirt road that is washed away. We can make it with the font tires, but not with the backside as it is in a slow curve with a rock wall on the other side. We get out of the truck and measure the width but the risk of the back dropping in the abyss is just too big. There is no other option than driving backwards for a couple of hundred meters and turn around.

When we return to asphalt roads we drive a little further and pick up the route where we had to return. We find a nice spot for the night with fantastic views on the surrounding mountains. We decide to have a BBQ dinner on our rooftop terrace until the sun sinks behind the mountains.

We continue via dirt roads and end up in the Greek ski-area of Anilio. Completely deserted and we find a nice flat spot on a plateau. We make a long walk through the ski-area and enjoy watching the wildlife, sheep and cows that surround us. We meet a shepherd who wants to see our Mountain Yacht. We have a drink and give him a wooden shoes keychain that we carry around for purposes like this. And of course a little bottle of Dutch Jenever. When we see him passing by the next day, we see the wooden shoes hanging from his rear view mirror. We have curious cows around our Mountain Yacht and some use our front fender as a scrubbing device. At night we hear howling wolves and barking dogs to keep them away from the sheep.

Vikos Canyon

We continue via the off-road mountain roads and Arrive at the Vikos canyon. As the road is rather narrow and not much parking space we are lucky that there are not many tourists around. We find a spot for our truck and walk towards the info bulletin. According to the Guiness Book of Records, this is the deepest canyon in the world! We walk towards the edge of the canyon and it is indeed very deep. What wild nature, very impressive.

We have been off the grid for almost two weeks and it is time to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables again. We drive to the village of Kalpaki for our groceries. We also find a small butcher where we buy some beef and hamburgers for our BBQ. We decide it is time for a meal at a restaurant but it turnes out that the two restaurants are closed, so we have a Gyros meal at the local snackbar.

We head back into the mountains and via fantastic dirt roads we arrive in the hamlet of Nestorio. Surrounded by the mountains in the middle of nowhere. Here we hit the 40 degrees C. for the first time, so happy with the airconditioning in both truck and living unit! There is no shortage of power as the solar panels can easily keep up with the power that the airconditioning uses. We only fall below 100% battery capacity during the night, but after a few hours of sun in the morning, they are fully charged again. The official roads are poorly maintained and very narrow. Fortunately we encounter little traffic, except for a few locals.

We arrive in Astoria, a small town on a beautiful lake. We find a mini parking lot at the lake and decide to set up camp here. Of course, swimming again with Scotty and some Mountain Bike rides through the area. A little further along the lake is a small restaurant where we eat delicious fish. It is bursting with stray cats that are brutal as can be. We have to tie Scotty to the table so she doesn’t go ‘hunting’. We come across quite a few turtles along the way and we bring them safely to the side of the road, so they are not run over by cars. We decide to do some laundry again, after all, we do have a washing machine in our Mountain Yacht. As it is still around 40 degrees C. the laundry dries in no time.

Lake Presna

We continue to Lake Presna and there we find a perfect wild camping spot along the lake. When we are settled, a local comes by on his moped, but he only wants to see the truck and wishes us a pleasant stay. We take a long swim with Scotty and walk to a near village for dinner. In the restaurant is also a gathering of the Greek motorcycle association and we have great fun with the bikers and the president. We fully enjoy the company, the local dishes, red wine and see the sun sink into the lake.

Lake Prespa

Next stop is Lake Prespa and there we are actually at a three country point: Greece, North-Macedonia and Albania border the lake. We find a dirt road to the lake and are warned that it will become very deep and difficult further on. Hey, hey, finally a real challenge for our MAN. The shepherd also warns that there are bears, so be careful with food and Scotty. The last part towards the lake indeed consist of extremely deep sand and the path runs down to the lake, which promises something for the way back. We find a nice spot along a small river that flows into the lake.

Lake Prespa has the largest colony of Dalmatian Pelicans in the world, we are truly amazed at the sight of these wonderful creatures. We do find a few Bear paw prints, so the sheperd didn’t just have an exiting story. To be on the safe side we decide to throw the giant shrimps on the BBQ on our rooftop terrace and have a fantastic view over the lake. Unfortunately  we do not see any bears but we hear them splashing in the little river next to us during the night.

When we leave, we indeed have a challenge to get back to the road again. The tires are still at 8 bar, but we try it with low gear, 4WD and differential lockers back and front. We just can’t get up the incline and start digging in instead of moving forward. We lower the tire pressure to 2,5 bar. After this it is a walk in the park and the MAN happily moves towards the paved road.

North-Macedonia

We drive across the border with North Macedonia and decide to visit civilisation again. Take your time to cross the border, queues and every car is checked, every passport scanned. They will also ask you what your purpose of the visit is, even when it is pretty obvious in our case. But the border guards are very polite and just want to see our Mountain Yacht. In our experience this is the case all over the Balkans.

The first stop is at Lake Ohrid, we are in the need for swimming as it is 42 degrees C. It is a very touristy destination in high summer. Lots of hotels, restaurants, bars and campsites, packed with people. Wild camping is not possible around the packed lake and the campsites are totally overcrowded. We have a trendy ‘vanlife’ campsite in mind, but it requires a lot of steering to get there. The cars are parked criss-cross on the acces road and sometimes it really takes inches to get past them. When we arrive at the campsite there is actually no place, but the owner is so delighted with our Mountain Yacht that he manages to create a spot somewhere.

We have to get used to the holiday crowds, but the buzz feels actually good. We enjoy the lake, the boulevard and have a nice meal in a village further on. In the mean time hundreds of photos are taken of our Mountain Yacht. We are used to that now, just like the many ‘thumbs up’ along the way. The lake and surrounding villages are just magical, especially by night.

Aftermath

Greece was the biggest surprise for us. We only knew the beautiful and busy coastal villages and some of the islands. The Pindos Mountains are just fantastic when you are looking for some peace and quiet, beautiful mountains and lots of opportunities to venture off road and wild camping. The locals are very nice, genuinely interested and happy that you are there. Food is really cheap and the weather is perfect in a hot summer. Temperatures in the mountains are much lower (especially at night) and often there is a relative cool breeze. We hope to come back here one day and explore more of the interior of Greece!

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