I have a champion, Lydia, in Athens who has been feeding me routes, enthusiasm and extraordinary confidence. I can tell that she has done all of them herself, by the wonderful details. “Up down up down up up up down down down, flat flat, warm warm (wish you were back in the mountains)” and so on! By the way, did you mean it when you said “a LITTLE bit up, out of the Neda gorge? !! 🙂 ha ha! Good job it was first thing….
Leaving Andritsena just before the sun came over the mountain was a great idea. Climbing in the delicious cool of early morning, yesterday, while the shrouds of mist drifted, concealing and then revealing the splendour and mystery of the vast vertiginous landscapes was such a peaceful way to start the day. As the sun rose, the tips of the distant mountains began to glow rose, as though from within, and shafts of light streamed over the edges and spilled down into the shady, impossibly inaccesible valleys. (A mirror perhaps of the radiant last few bars of the first movement of Beethoven’s last sonata in C minor; see program notes for Opus 111). The gradient was relatively gentle but my own build up of heat created complete misting over of my sun glasses! I didn’t NEED to stop, you understand, but I had to frequently wipe the lenses. So glad I kept that lovely fragrant chamois cloth instead of sending it home with that load of more unnecessary clutter!
The temple of Appollo was suddenly looming above me and although it is sheathed in protective huge canvas covers, it is a wonder to behold. Its remoteness makes it a true reward for all that endeavour and yet again the hairs on my arms were busy.
The next glorious wonder was after a chilly, refreshing descent into a tiny village, where I spotted a local Taverna. Cafe Idris.
Here, the elderly men sitting inside refused to let me pay for my coffee or meal. Nikolas with his merry twinkling eyes after a few wines simply forgot his great age and started to serenade me with hypnotic half tones which tipped and tilted in perfect collusion with his dizzy head; then at the end of his outstretched arms, his hands became castanets and he made his tongue into an upside down Ω and let out a piercing whistle of joy!!! “Po po po”! In came Zorz from hours of milking goats and looking like an earthy centaur. He and ‘Teddy Bear’ (Theodorus) staggered over to the huge refrigerator and tipped in 2 huge milk urns full… the Feta from this goes all over the Peloponnese. And then there’s ‘Teddy bear’ who is lucky to have any hands at all after a carpentry accident, who with his stumpy hands cooks delectably for everyone and who, among all the other men, was so prompt in offering a room to stay in… Like so many Greeks I have met, his command of history and myth are outstanding, and he was reeling this off as though 2000 years ago happened just yesterday!
I have been just so touched by Greek hospitality, everywhere I go. After a sleep on his shady grass verge I decided to move on, but the tug of the delightful company was tempting!
So today I have had a superbly stonking great ride. Starting just before 7am, from a beautiful remote Olive grove where I camped last night, high above an impossibly deep gorge, looking up at the vast wall of mountain hairpins that I then climbed slowly, puffing and steaming away. I do wonder if my heart has doubled in size these last few days?! Then it was down down down (all woolies on in the refreshing cold air) and speeding along the level at silly miles per hour on account of my heroic super-charged thighs, in the heat of the day all the way to Kalamata, where I have a lovely, inexpensive little room with my balcony overlooking the deep blue sea! 50 bloody unbelievable miles!!! Good grief!
It is hard to describe the roller coaster that has churned away these last 2 weeks. From “perhaps I should give in” to relishing the climbs and the sheer beauty of all before me.
One thing is for sure. Lydia, your passion for the delight of the rides, knowing their hard-won satisfaction and your companionship over these last days have been an enormous and very practical support. My heartfelt thanks.
Pics to follow, so do keep looking in! Thanks also for following. Another big source of support. Really! 🙂
They are. Top, early departure from Andretsina: roof tops of the village: local store: another generous coffee invitation: sunrise over Andretsina and on my way up up up: temple to Apollo, valley of valleys: irises with distant hairpins: ‘Teddy Bear’ and Zors: Zors, Nikolas (my singing admirer) and Thanassis: camping wild, high above the river Neda (the only river to be named after a woman): looking back to a village near Platania.