The Hostel Mostel in Sofia is one the best we have had on tour. The service is second to none and you get free beer, free internet, free breakfast, free dinner, free map, free advice and if you buy some expensive steaks the hostel guy will even boil them for you for free. Chewy.

Today is the day that Greg and I go our separate ways. He is a good friend and has been an excellent travel companion. He has to be in NZ two weeks before me so he is flying ahead to India to enjoy some sun before heading home. I am going to get back to my backpacker roots and do it overland by myself.

There are going to have to be some changes now that Greg is gone.

The best thing about having Greg on tour is that he is, in his own words, ‘a smoo magnet’. This has had many unexpected benefits as smoo rarely travel alone. On the occasions that we have come across a single smoo I have sometimes wished I had bought a book. There are quite a few young girls with broken hearts throughout this part of the world that will be looking for a place to say in London soon. Greg with his usual generosity has offered to give them one.

The other big change is that I will have to start paying a lot more attention. Greg does well over half the organising on tour and when he is in charge I usually go onto remote control let my mind wander. Sometimes I am so far away he will talk to me and I wont even hear the question.

Left Kiwi backpacker parents and Greg at the hostel. Quite a touching goodbye. Greg gave me one of those Hamilton hugs where you do a handshake first and then hug the other bloke whilst keeping his hands firmly clasped in between you so nobody in the room thinks you are poofters.

First solo travel effort went well. Well well enough. The bus to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, was one on which you would expect to find chicken coops. The seating was done by everyone grabbing any seat they could and then the people who come later trying to get the people in their numbered seats to move. Chaos ensued.

The border crossing was one the most thorough I have ever experienced. Everyone was ordered off the bus and every bag was searched. Was told they were looking for people smuggling stuff like clothes. Eh? I thought I was stuffed for sure as my pack is loaded with ‘clothes’. Managed to get through the inspection somehow. Rather comically the when we reboarded the bus the woman in front of me collected bags and bags of ‘clothes’ from several people who had them stashed with their own gear. Anyway I think I found out who the ‘clothes’ smuggler was.

The guy next to me offered me some of his beer and I almost didn’t take it because I have met other backpackers who have been drugged and robbed in this part of the world. It’s sad when being overly cautious about a few crooks almost causes you miss the genuine hospitality of a country.

For dinner followed the Runty recipe for social tourism and went to the Irish pub. Going to have to get used to going to the pub by myself.

Oh yeah and why does no one ever use the ‘comment’ facility on the blog?