Sunday, June 13, 2010
A wilted rose
Yikes! The weather here has been steamy - 90's to 100's for the past several days. As I sit and write this, sweat is flowing from every pore...
Yesterday to escape the heat, I took a combi ride up to visit a friend in Debar. Combis are a mainstay of transportation from the hubs to the smaller villages and towns, and this combi was like many others. The driver pretty much knew everyone but me, knew their schedules, and where they were going. There were about 15 of us, and at the beginning, I wasn't certain it was an auspicious day to travel. The early bus to Ohrid came in from Skopje listing heavily to one side. I was certain it had a flat, but when it left, it was still listing. It took the bus heading to Skopje 3 tries to get it into reverse gear - it just didn't want to go. These are very used buses. But ours started up and headed out. Right as we got out of Gostivar, the driver got a call. Someone had missed the bus, so we pulled over to the side and waited until her son drove her out to us and she climbed in. People in combis don't open windows - breezes are thought to be bad and cause all sorts of illnesses, so the inside was like a sauna with fully clothed people. The driver did open his window to smoke, thank heavens, but when he was done he closed it.
The ride up to Debar is one of my favorites through the Mavrovo National Park, and I've written about it before. It follows the crystalline Radika River through a canyon past two lakes. It's a spectacular ride. What captured my attention this time, however, was less the scenery than the people and critters along the way. They embodied the agricultural economy here. First we passed a man on a horse with the homemade wooden saddles they have here. The man was riding and strapped to the side was a chain saw - it's wood gathering season. They so symbolized the mixture here between the modern and the ancient. There and back, we passed many people carrying or using scythes to harvest the hay - men and women cutting, raking, stacking and tying off hay stacks, all by hand in 90+ degree heat, the women dressed in long skirts with aprons, long sleeved blouses and head scarves. We passed by many of my favorite places - Mavrovo village, Rostyshe, Jance, all places I have been to and/or know people. At one point, 4 horses ran free across the road. One had a bell around its neck to help the farmer find them when he needs them. Farther on we had to stop for a farmer herding his cows up the road - with the river on one side and canyon walls on the other, there just wasn't room for all of us. The combi driver carefully picked his way through the herd. Later on we passed a flock of sheep being driven to high pastures up on the mountains. Everywhere people were working, reclaiming wood from the many slides that had happened during the spring, tending their gardens, getting ready now in this heat what they need for the cold winter to come. It was a hot, sweaty but magical ride, and I had a delightful visit with my friend watching her 'sister' play in the little kiddie pool - the delight of the young is hard to beat.
Posted by Candice Wiggum at 3:03 AM