For several years, I have fully believed in salt water as a cure-all. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed by tears, sweat, and/or the sea. Today I am adding the mountains to that list.
Climbing down, up, and all around the Vikos Gorge was like nothing I have experienced. There is no good comparison for it if one exists at all. I personally have not been out of the country before coming to Greece, and although I’ve traveled somewhat within the States, I have never before seen a force of nature so epically awesome as the mountains leading to Papingo. Legend has it the Titans are resting in them, so not only are they powerful and magnetic in their own right, but they’re, well, slightly terrifying as well.
But more than anything they are cleansing, inspiring, and magnificent. My feet were having a conversation and dancing with the earth beneath them. First, it was with stone, then dirt, followed by dried plants, white white white and off-grey rocks, sand, and endless greenery embedded in the dirt. Butterflies flew closer than I have ever seen, and beetles the size of my palm strutted along gaily.
These are all just vignettes. I hope that your imaginations will be able to fill in the glory that my simple words couldn’t possibly muster so soon after such an experience.
Funnily enough, I suppose I didn’t know what the definition of a “gorge” was, because when we reached the bottom, I was unaware we were there. What I saw were more endless stones, briefly interrupted with the clearest (and coldest) water I’ve ever witnessed. Tadpoles swam rampantly in the shallows. One after another, many of us hopped into the water. I forget who said it, but someone said it looked like we were being baptized. I suppose I thought a gorge was like where the Gorons live in the Zelda games, all red rock and no wildlife to speak of; turns out it’s actually the most wildly refreshing and alive places hidden deep between mountains. We were even visited by goats during our lunch by the water!
The second half of the hike, although technically shorter in distance, was much more grueling. We headed almost directly up the mountain, in far more direct sunlight and heat over the more rocky terrain. But still, I felt like a child of the mountains. They made me feel so small, yet confident but never too cocky; they’d remind you as soon as you were feeling powerful that although you are strong, they are the strongest. And they are. As well as stunning and supportive, and simply calling. They are superlative. And overwhelming.
I can’t fathom how many human feet have tread along the same path that ours followed, or how many centuries these mountains have tamed. I know I am blessed to call them my providers for the next month, and that they let me walk among them and take as much as I can be grateful for. I also know that (pardon my language here…) fourteen miles is a fucking large number, and each and every one of us completed that climb yesterday. We didn’t die. And best of all, the ache in our calves and quads and hamstrings reminds us that we are alive and full of life, and that we accomplished something as an ensemble that we have just started to create in and for this borrowed land.
So: the sea, sweat, tears, and the mountains. Yesterday, three of these things filled parts of me I did not know were empty. I am so glad that I now know how full I can be. Καληνύχτα.