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When camping in rural North Macedonia, I keep my food and some toiletries in a dry bag more than 30m from my tent, to avoid any hungry bears coming into my tent. I put the dry bag into a drably colored duffle bag (so it is less of an eyesore/attracts less attention) and hang it on a tree just high enough to avoid any foxes getting it.

This morning I was disappointed to find the bag still hanging in the same place, but with some items outside the dry bag and in the duffle bag. Inside the dry bag, which had been opened but not damaged (I don't think an animal could open it without damaging it because I fold it over several times before clipping it shut), a cup of yogurt was punctured in two places, and everything was covered in yogurt. There was an additional spoon in the dry bag which wasn't there before. 150g of meat toppings in a sealed packet were gone. 150g of tinned tuna was gone. Toothpaste and a small bar of soap (which I'd received from a landlady in Sripska) was gone. Two bottles of suncream were gone. Some items (eg 500g bread, cheese in sealed packets, toothbrush) were untouched, and I was not disturbed in my tent.

It seems obvious to me that somebody nearby is not happy with me camping next to this gravel track. I only noticed one car driving past yesterday evening and this morning (going out and returning), so maybe that's who is not happy with me. My tent is not visible to any houses or parked cars round about. A dog was barking at me from perhaps 30m away when I was using my torch to help me set up the tent, but stopped barking when I switched all lights off. The nearest house is up to 100m away but completely obscured by trees, and the dog can't see me during the day. It doesn't look like I am in the personal space of any house here, but of course the land probably belongs to somebody.

What is now the correct course of action? Should I go to the nearest house and ask if they opened my bag, and if so to return my meat, tuna, toothpaste, suncream, and soap please? Should I call the police? Or should I move on?

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    That's a shitty experience. Could it be that someone encountered the bag, not realising you were camping nearby?
    – MastaBaba
    Aug 16, 2023 at 11:56
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    Just having to ask: Is the value of what you are missing worth spending much effort over? Chances are very high that whatever you do, it will be just a waste of time and not bring your stuff back. Aug 16, 2023 at 11:59
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    Given that wild camping appears to be illegal in Macedonia according to wild camping - Europe you might want to avoid complaining to the police. And perhaps rethink your accommodation plans
    – Traveller
    Aug 16, 2023 at 12:23
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    @novice You need to stop with the unfounded accusations. From what you have described you have zero evidence of any particular person committing this crime, and zero ability to actually find any evidence. Yes, I understand you are annoyed/upset, but you need to move on.
    – Peter M
    Aug 16, 2023 at 13:17
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    @novice . (Or if not, that the police are at least on my side) Stop dreaming. The police will be on your side whenever something serious happens. Otherwise you are just a small annoyance to them (I mean, 20$ stolen? pfff who cares). If something serious that happens, you will not care who you can count and who you cannot, you will be just glad to be out as soon as possible (assuming you are conscious). You are on your own, embrace the situation ... but please remember that being right is usually of no help. Being nice, on the other hand, can move mountains for you...
    – EarlGrey
    Aug 16, 2023 at 21:19

4 Answers 4

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Just write your stuff off and move on.

I've never been to North Macedonia, but if the police there is anything like what I know from the EU, they won't be too eager to go after whoever stole your meat and spilled your yoghurt. They're typically busy enough with other stuff that's more pressing than €20 worth of damage. So if you go to the police, expect that they will likely see you as a bit of an annoyance, write up your report and promptly file it at the very bottom of their ever-growing pile.

As for your other options, remember that you're a victim of one of the following:

  • a random jerk passing by, who wants to entertain themselves by vandalizing your stuff
  • somebody local (neighbours, owner of the land, …) trying to send a message that you're not welcome

It is clear that playing detective (or going on a revenge mission) isn't going to help you either way. If the neighbours took your stuff, chances that they will return it if you just ask nicely are minimal. Worst case, you might end up in trouble for harassing them.

It would probably be best to move your camp someplace else. Just 100 metres from the nearest house feels uncomfortably close to me. I would assume "rural North Macedonia" is populated sparsely enough that it should be feasible to camp a kilometre or so from the nearest houses.

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Should I go to the nearest house and ask if they opened my bag, and if so to return my meat, tuna, toothpaste, suncream, and soap please?

Even assuming you manage they perfectly understand you (you speak 100% correctly the language, you speak clearly and slowly, no background noises, they take the time to listen to you) your question will be understood as an accusation of them stealing from you.

This can be extremely offensive and they may react to your question emotionally and irrationally.

In the benign case outcome, they may simply laugh at you, saying "no no no" ... while then starting pouring your sunscreen even if it is raining on them (or on you, local comical standards may apply).

In the malign case outcome, they are not thieves, but they are still rude people used to solve the perceived insults to their persons by beating (or even worse) the offending person.

Do not behave like righteous people behave. Or at least be consistent: go to the police and denounce yourself, because wild camping in NM is tolerated, but not allowed.

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Someone was more hungry and dirty than you, and actually quite considerate... a common thief, or most people really, would have just taken the whole bag and left you nothing.

Make peace.

Replenish your supplies, package a gift of those things they needed (meat/protein and basic health/cleanliness sundriis) and make it obvious that the package is a free gift from you to them. If you feel the need, within the bag, make a self-evident seperation of "this stuff I am willing to share", "this stuff I would prefer not to share".

Your offer to work together may enable some healthy trading of resources. You might even find a friend. You will certainly feel better about the whole incident.

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If you think you can have an intelligible conversation with the locals, you could go to the nearby houses, not to complain or accuse or anything like that, but rather to ask if you are on their land and if they are OK with you camping there.

Worst case they tell you no they don’t want you here, and it’s time to move. Best case they welcome you with open arms. Then you can lament what happened to you (again, not accusing them, “someone” took your stuff), especially any stuff you are really missing. They may “find” it.

More likely it was either a passer-by or somebody more in need than you, though the combination of what they took, didn’t take, and left behind (!) is a bit weird.

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