One of the exciting things about road trips is the unknown. The surprises along the way. Usually these surprises go in the plus column. Sometimes they land squarely in the yuck category. Still other times its a combination of the two. My recent camping experience in the Republic of Macedonia was a little of both the good and the bad. More good than bad for sure, but we also picked up a few helpful hints for camping in Mavrovo National Park.
A buddy and I were going westward across the country in fits and starts. We found it hard to make a beeline when there was so much to see and do along the way. We had plans to spend time in the Mavrovo National Park, but we didn’t have plans to arrive late. And we definitely didn’t plan for illness.
Going up into the park in the dark my buddy had a terrible migraine come on all of the sudden. He went from wild camping maven to incapacitated companion in about 30 minutes. We looked around for spots near the roadside for a camping spot. We knew there wouldn’t be any hiking to a more isolated spot this night.
Upon finding a spot suitable about 20 meters from a side road, we began to make camp double time. Mid process he wandered away to deal with overwhelming nausea while I finished setting up a hurried camp. When he returned I asked him about food, he waved me off and collapsed inside the tent.
I made myself some gourmet tuna and couscous and took in the stars. Halfway through the preparation process some headlights overpowered the stars. The police paid us a visit to see what was going on. I explained our situation. They graciously chatted for a bit telling me more about the area and wished us well. After they left I sat with my dinner and soaked in the stars and the sound of rushing water close by. Though we couldn’t see much, the surroundings still provided a spot of rest in nature.
The next day my friend was much better and we explored a good bit before heading on. We saw gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, and a beautiful lake.
Some tips for camping in Mavrovo
Heading into some of the less visited areas with daylight (when healthy) would provide some ideal spots for wild camping. Next time I would seek to climb a bit toward one of Mount Bistra’s peaks to find a more remote and a more wild spot to camp.
Getting away from the road provides a more nature-filled setting and reduces the likelihood that you’ll have a conversation with the police. Though they are nice (at least the ones I talked with were) it can be a bit alarming to have the police visiting your campsite. Further removed from the road you may still have a conversation with the park rangers. We had a chat with these guys also during the day. They were incredibly friendly and informative.
Plan to go without fire in the park. While this issue didn’t come up, the police could see that we had a portable camp stove for cooking and that we wouldn’t be gathering wood or trying to start a fire on the ground.
At present Mavrovo does not have any official camp sites. If you are looking for a campground in the area, try Lake Ohrid or Lake Prespa. They both have campground(s) where you can pitch your tent. But the adventure of wild camping in the mountainous terrain of Mavrovo is super inviting.