April 28, 2016: Driving Home

Today is our driving day.  No plans but to get in the car and go. We assume that we cannot make it all of the way back to Baita in a single shot but we are going to just hit the road and see how far we are able to get today.  It is going to be a very long day.

We got up at around nine and went up to breakfast at the Hotel Super 8 in Skopje, Macedonia.  There were a lot of people having breakfast this morning.  The place was nearly full.  We ate and then returned to the room to shower and get packed up.

While we were packing up we saw the news that Freedom House had reclassified Macedonia from “partially free” to “non-free” last night, basically meaning that the country had officially turned into a dictatorship while we were here!  A very interesting situation to have gotten to witness first hand but it also meant that it was definitely time to be getting onto the road.

We packed up the car and manoeuvred it out of the crazy parking lot requiring me to drive backwards through a maze of poorly and irregularly parked cars and having to wait for some to move as well.  Navigating Skopje is a bit challenging, the city has a lot of traffic problems and the recent maps do not show the existing roads at all.

We did well and in no time we were off into the beautiful countryside east of Skopje with its low, rolling hill and quaint little villages.  The roads were good and we made very good time up to the Serbian border.

At the Serbian border we had a long line of traffic to wait for; our guess was that a lot of people had decided that it was time to leave Macedonia for a while as it was nearly all non-Macedonian vehicles making the exit this morning.  We had no issues getting back into Serbia and were on our way.

We decided to take the big, main roads right up to Belgrade.  This looked like the roads would move faster and be less twists and turns to make Dominica sick.

It was a lovely, bright day without heavy traffic.  Perfect for driving the entire way across Serbia and much of Romania.  These are big countries when you have to drive all of the way through them.

The nice thing about the route from Skopje to Belgrade is that it crosses most of Serbia while basically not hitting anything that we have driven previously, so we got a massive survey of what Serbia is like having now driven it north south as well as east west.

The drive today went well and there is very little to tell.  Drivers are crazy, the sun was agreeable, we had to stop for petrol only once before getting to Romania.  No getting lost, nothing went wrong.  It was an efficient and easy drive.

We skipped meals today completely.  We ate breakfast at the hotel, of course, and other than that it was just snacks in the car.  We stocked up on snacks each time that we got fuel.

In Belgrade we turned east and took the route from Belgrade to Timisoara, Romania that we had taken two weeks earlier in the opposite direction.  At Belgrade there was just a tiny bit of that “feeling of home” as we turned onto familiar roads and saw familiar sights.

It was getting dark out as we approached the Romanian frontier.  We crossed the border, again without any issues, and were back in Romania!  Everyone was excited, this was the last big step before home – although it is six and a half hours from the border to Baita, Mures County.

We pushed on crossing past the hotel that we stayed at on our first night, fifteen days ago, and marked our time – nine thirty.  If we push hard we will get to Baita just one hour or less later than we decided to give up on our first night – and we only stopped then because we did not want to attempt the first Balkan border crossing in the middle of the night, especially for a non-EU country.

We did better navigating Timisoara this time.  We have gotten smarter and no Google GPS is being turned on to mislead us this time.  We zipped through and grabbed the new A1 highway and were on our way east at 130kph in no time.

It was along the A1 here that we took a bathroom break at a rest stop and then hit a gas station for our second and final fueling of the day, loaded up on chilled Illy coffee drinks, bags of chips and prepared to make our final run for home.  No more stops after this.

We took the big route to Deva, up to Targu Mures to Reghin and on to Baita.  It all went smoothly and we moved so much faster and more safely than going the way that Google had tried to send us two weeks ago.

It was four in the morning when we pulled into Baita.  We were so glad to be home.  We loved our two week whirlwind trip around the Balkans and are so glad that we took the time to do it.

Dominica was exhausted and went straight to bed.  The girls, who had been asleep in the car, were wide away and demanded to play The Lego Movie on Steam for an hour and a half before I made them go to bed.

So it was at five thirty this morning, with the sun coming up, that I finally managed to get to bed myself.  Going to be asleep until very late tomorrow.