Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mount Olympus 1- Epineas Path

Well here goes my adventures...

I took the Overnight train from Athens to Litochoro. It left around 11pm and got into town around 5:30.
People who complain about the rennaisance should check out this train. I was in a cabin with 8 assigned seats and only two benches facing one another. Now that's uncomfortable. No pillows, no blankets, luckily there were only five of us travelling in it that night, I couldn't imagine if there were 8! I don't think any of us got much sleep. I was paranoid about missing my stop, like I did in Italy two years ago. The conductors were good though, they would walk down the halls just as I was falling asleep and in a LOUD voice sing out the upcoming stops. When we finally arrived, I found an unmanned station with what I believe was a space for lease sign in the window. To top it all off, the station is 9km out of town. It was dark, no busses, no cabs, zip. One other passenger got off the train in Litochoro with me. He was in the army and suppsed to report to the base in 5 min. He was on his cell, trying to get a taxi. He looked at me and said, "There are no taxis in this town!" After, he found out there were some, they just didn't start working until after 7am. I decided to hike up to the overpass and walk up to the city/town. On the other side of the overpass, I was surprised by about six barking dogs. I stopped, hoping they weren't a renegade band of chiken thieves and turned my flashlight towards them. I realised that this might antagonise them more so I turned it off. As they got closer I noticed the tails wagging and felt somewhat relieved.
They ended up being very friendly, and from what I understood from the night watchman of some local plant, they were strays who hung around and helped protect it with him. They were quite the mix. One looked like Benji, another like a chocolate Lab, one reminded me a lot of Tanner only he had a darker coat, more like a Lassie dog. The night watchman was very nice, he pointed me towards the bus stop and told me that another one would be along shortly, and take me into town. He used to be a seaman and had travelled all over the world. His English was excellent.
When I got into town on the bus, the sun was up and I got a good view of the mountains. Mt Olympus isn't just one peak, it's a range of many peaks, the tallest being Mitikas at 2919m. Canada's tallest, Mt Robson is over 3900m. (For those who like comparisons). I found a place to store my bag and started to check out the town. Being the first real town I visited since arriving in Greece, I was pleasantly surprised with the narrow streets and the architecture. It's not as square as that of Athens. I did a little roundabout, bought a cheese pie (lisa, they are awesome! I've been eating a lot of cheese pies. And the pastries/sweets are devine. Everytime I'm in a shop I try something new and have yet to find something I dislike) I had to buy a bottle of water because I had forgotten mine on the train. I poked around the Epineas river bed at the bottom of the mountain. It's dry until the spring months when the snow on the mountains thaws. There were tons of birds who nest in the caves, names of which I don't know. I started my journey from there and followed a little path with desciptive signs on the local flora, fauna and history.
At the end of the path, I cme upon this clearing and was blown away. I can't say there was anything spectacular about the clearing, but at that moment it took my breath away. In the middle there was an outcropping that looked as if it had been built long ago and now was overgrown with mint. One huge tree grew out of it and offered me a perfect perch from which i could observe the beauty of the moment. I cried. I looked up in the sky and a falcon flew overhead. A bridge crossed the river, which at the moment was nothing more than a trickling stream. I listened to the bees in the mint, the leaves russling in the wind, and the birds chirping. I meditated on the limbs of the tree, and as I was about to continue my journey, I heard bells. I stayed where I was and as they got closer I noticed a bunch of goats crossing the bridge in an orderly fashion. A dog led them up and over the hill to my left. Not one of the animals seemed to know I was there, and if they knew they ignored me. the clanging of the bellechoed away and more came from the right. The gaggle of goats crossed the bridge, and a flock of sheep followed, not so patient or orderly. They went over the bank, accross the river from all directions and made their own way over the hill. The bell chimes reminded me of Monks in a solemn procession. Finally, I got down and tried to find my way to the path to the Gorge entrance.
I took one way and ended up at a dirt road, which I followed, all the time being watched by a sheep dog, ready to pounce in case of a threat. I figured I had read the map wrong so I went back and tried another way. Well you can imagine I danced in cicles for who knows how long, finally, however I found my way passed a mill, down a road the the Park entrance.