Today I cried my way up one of the highest mountain peaks in Greece.
Yesterday we hiked from Papingo, where we’re living, up to the Astraka Refuge, about 2 ½ hours basically all uphill. After pausing for 10 minutes, Devin and I hiked to the Dragon Lakes, about an hour each way, both uphill and downhill. My heel and ankle started bothering me on the first hike, and I was questioning whether or not I wanted to take the strenuous trek up to Astraka, also known as “the peak,” the next day. But when I woke up after a night at the refuge, I knew I would regret if I didn’t. 5 apprentices and 5 company members left the mountain hut around 10:30am, with already sore legs and already sunburned backs.
I felt my heel within the first 10 minutes.
I felt my ankle 20 minutes after that.
When we started ascending the peak itself, a shooting pain went up the side of my knee. But there I was, climbing this enormous mountain, and I was going to make it to the peak, even if I had to leave my whole leg behind.
We had been hiking for about 3 hours. The afternoon sun was hitting the mountain hard. There’s no real trail on the way up to Astraka. It’s a mixture of rocks, grass, sandy dirt and the spikiest flowers on earth.
It’s also a deceiving mountain. You can’t see the top from the bottom because the hills are constantly rolling upward, so when you think you’ve hit the top, you haven’t.
It’s the mountain gods having fun with the mortals.
The 10 of us were going at different paces. I was in the middle of the pack. There was a good hour when I couldn’t see anyone in front of me and I couldn’t see anyone behind me. When I stopped to catch my breath at a flat rock, I broke down in sobs. I felt alone, and in pain, and so, so small. I looked out over the mountains and remembered a phrase one of my yoga teachers would tell us during class as a reminder to listen to our bodies: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” And I thought to myself:
I’m doing this because I can.
I am so blessed to be here in Greece doing the thing I love most in the world. I am so fortunate that I have the ability to climb a mountain, multiple mountains at that (16 hours of hiking in 2 days, but who’s counting?). I am so grateful for this body that can do anything as long as my mind is willing.
I made it to the peak. And I cried even more when I got there because it was so hard and because it was so beautiful.