I studied my map as I took a break in a village. It was a small and quiet place. Cars passed me only once in a while. While I studied my maps, I realized, that I had no clue where I actually was and that this village wasn't on my map. And since there were no locals around, I couldn't ask anyone for directions. So, I decided to use my offline open street maps for the first time outside of the cities.
Approximate scribble of the route
I followed the directions that the app gave me and it was great. I went through scenic hilly landscapes and every now and then I came through smaller villages. The facades of many houses were in a rather poor condition and teenagers and young adults hung out in front of the very few stores.
Kids waved to me and asked: 'Hellooo! Where are you from?' as I entered another village. I waved back and answered: 'Hellooo! Germanyyy' as I passed them. I stopped to check the navigation app when I reached a crossroad. My options were to continue straight ahead or turn left. Straight ahead was a solid paved road and the road to the left was a gravel road but seemed okay to cycle. The app suggested to turn left. This route would be even 10 kilometers shorter than the other one. I hesitated because going straight seemed to be the better option although it was 10k longer. A young couple walked up the road with a bucket full of blackberries. Seeing them seemed like another hint that I should take the longer route. Villagers burned trash aside of the gravel road and lots of black smoke blow over the fields. I felt like I was in the middle of a fairy tale and had to make a decision. Straight ahead the nice, easy and sunny road and left the dark, unknown and mysterious path. I thought, Hey, why not turn left? It'll save me 10 kilometers. And this is what I did. Huge mistake!
The villagers looked at me kind of suspiciously as I rolled down the gravel road. I passed the big trash campfire and left the village. The road surface changed into sand at times which made it a bit harder to move on but it was still fine. However, first doubts came into my mind whether I had chosen the right road. The road led me through a hilly and forested area and it was incredible quiet around me. After a while it turned into a pebble road which made cycling very challenging. I had to get off the bike and push it. At this point I knew that I had chosen the wrong road but I felt like that I went too far to turn around. I made only very slow progress and at this point I was cursing a lot. So I checked the navigation app again to find out if there was a chance to get off this road soon. Just a few kilometers ahead of me there would be another road. The upcoming road must be better. There's no way that there are worse roads than that, went through my mind. So I kept pushing my bike. At times it wasn't too bad so I was even able cycle for a few hundred meters. I was very surprised to come through a small village along this road. Two elderly men looked at me like they had never seen someone on a bicycle before. And I honestly wouldn't wonder if it was true. Having a bike in this area is probably the dumbest and most useless thing to have.
The closer I got to the other road the more excited I got. I pushed my bike an uphill section. Now it wasn't even a pebble road anymore. It was only rocks. The rocks had a size of bowling balls and now I was even cursing more than before. It felt like forever to pass that section and the sun was also about to go down. I prayed: 'Please! Let the new road be better than this one'. I didnât want to be on such a road in the middle of nowhere at nights not to mention to camp somewhere around here.
'NOOOOO', was my first reaction when I reached the new road. Its surface was the same as the one that I just left. I was done, frustrated and ready to give up. I asked myself Why am I doing this? and wished to be at home right now. However, even if I want to give up, I still have to go at least to the next town. So I kept going and hiked my bike up a mountain through the dark forest.
It was already midnight when I reached the top of the mountain. I was on 1,100 meters altitude which was the highest peak of my journey so far. And again, I reached a crossroad. This time I had the option to turn left or right. Both roads were in the same horrible condition. I decided to turn left although it would be the longer route towards to border to Kosovo but since I "saved" 10 kilometers earlier I didn't want to make the same mistake of "saving" a few kilometers again. Also, the next villages would be closer on this route.
The moon and my bike lamp gave enough light to hike my bicycle down the rocky mountain road. I felt tired and frustrated. After a while I realized a white reflection on the road surface ahead of me. 'Is it really? ... No way ... It is! ... WOHOOO!' It was the median of a paved road. Such a relief! I jumped on my biked and rolled down the hill through the forest. It made me happy to see the lights of a parking car. A couple enjoyed some let's say their private time in their car and they were very surprised to see me bombing down the hill.
There was a tiny church in the small village Gazdare and since it was under construction it didn't have any doors and windows yet. I walked inside and placed my sleeping mat and sleeping bag on the ground in a corner. I layed down and fell immediately asleep.
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