Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mt Olympus 4 - Refuge A to the top and back down again

I started up the mountain around 10/11 am. Later than most of the others. The German fellow caught up to me and we talked and climbed together for a while. I was a little slow. He asked if I minded him heading off ahead. Of course not! The trees gradually thinned out and I got a great view of the Med and Litochoro. I did my usual pause and picture, as an excuse to breathe. It started to get colder and colder as I got closer to the top. I was stopping periodically to add another layer. Wow. I felt like I was back in Canada.
As the peaks got closer I started to get more excited. [I just kept thinking...its all downhill from here!] grass started to become more and more sparse until it was just rocks. I thought I saw a path. It looked easier, all big stones instead of the smaller ones which are easier to lose your footing on. I was walking, coming up to, what I thought was a small hill. Well I got to the top and jumped back real quick. It was the edge and there was a sheer drop down. I didn't stray off the path after that.
I finally reached the top of Skala, over 2800 meters above. Nice! I could see Mitikas sparkling in the distance, beconning me on... I stopped and caught my breath. It was really cold! I was wishing I had a toque and mittens. Imagine that! Greece in Sept, wanting a toque and mittens. I paused at the top of Skala and could see my german friend climbing the cliff of Mitikas with two others. Wow. It looked pretty steep. I talked with a couple I had bumped into a few times, in Litochoro and again at the refuge, they had just come back from Mitikas. They said it was pretty rough, to go alone might be a bit of a problem. I had been feeling under the weather for the past few days, my red pox were finally disapeering, but I was very congested. The whole climb I had a nasty cough, and constently spitting phlem from my sinus. I waited to see if any others were heading to Mitikas and when noone came I decided to go it alone. The "Kaka Scala" (evil staircase) route to Mitikas was as an American I met described it "pretty raunchy". It was steep, my sinus' were clogged and I don't know how much thinner the air is up there but I was having vertigo. So I stopped the ascent, knowing it would only get worse and I didn't want to risk it. I retraced my steps up to Skala and built another Inukshuk- bigger and in full view of Mitikas. I didn't stay up much longer... it was too bloody cold! I tell you I booted my ass down. The way down was a breeze! From the refuge to Prionia it took 2-2 1/2 hours. From Prionia I decided to walk the road instead of going back through the gorge. After a while I realised, this isn't much of a direct route and I wouldn't be in town for hours so I stuck out my thumb. 3 people in a little red car stopped for me. Their first question was if I was German. When I told them I was Canadian, they were pretty impressed. We chatted in English and they dropped me off in the middle of town.
I thought the climb to the mountain was hard, what I didn't realise is the toll that it took on me mentally as well. All I wanted when I got back was to have a hot shower and rest. I was also having a problem with monies owed to me by my former job. I was constently calling them, nagging to get my Vacation Pay. All I had was a prepaid VISA. The problem was I don't have a pin code for it and NOBODY in Litochoro took cards all cash! I found one hotel with the help of other tourists and the locals. I got there the machine was broken. When I finally found another one it was dark, when I went in it was full. I was upset and didn't know what to do.
Then I realised I was near the spot where I had come out from the first walk I did and got lost trying to get to the entrance to the Epineas Gorge! That was the reason I had gotten lost I thought, so I could get back to that place where I had felt so peaceful. Unbelievably I found my was to the bridge and the hilltop in the dark with a little flashlight. I set up my $30 tent for the first time, crawled in and cried. I was exhausted.
I slept until 6pm the next day. I had the craziest dreams that night and day. All the goats and sheep and dogs, bells ringing around me. Voices of men. At one point I dreamt someone had told me to clear out of there by 4:30. I was having trouble distinguishing reality from dreams. I was waking up in my dreams, thinking I was really awake. I dreamt about archaeological dig 4000 years from now finding our civilisation and being impressed that we were as advanced as we were. I dreamt about the past, influenced by Greek Mythology, with centaurs and gods. It was all so wierd I was completely disoriented when I woke up. I knew that the sun would be setting shortly so I went back to sleep only to awake early the next morning. Every night I asked my spirit guides, angels and ancestors to keep me safe and everytime I woke up I felt safe and secure.
I washed up in the river, sat in my tree and ate. No tuna though! I packed up and made my way back to Litochoro. I was never so happy to leave somewhere so beautiful, but in my mind it was a hell hole. I had to transfer funds from my US account to my Canadian account just to be able to take out 20 Euro and get on a bus that would finally take me out of there.
I took a bus to Larisa. I asked at the counter and was told that the next bus to Meteora wasn't leaving until 9am the next morning. When I asked how to get to the train station everyone told me to take a cab. My money was so scarse that I couldn't afford it. I asked about the city bus. No NO no city buses here. It's amazing how Greeks who live in a city/town there whole life really know nothing about it. The transportation system, where something specific is, like a certain shop somewhere that everyone should know-like citadel hill. I walked to the town centre, by road signs. I know better than to trust Greek directions! There I found a hotel and got a map and from there I went to a square and found out which city bus to take to get to the station. I asked the driver to let me off at the station. We got to the point where he turns around, he gets up asks where I was going. When I told him, he appologised for forgetting about me and dropped me off directly in front of the bus station on our return trip.
At the station, I wanted to use my credit card, but the counter attendant said no. I went to the info desk and talked to 3 men behind a desk. I showed them where in the guide that it said the Larrissa station accepts credit cards! It's amazing how quickly people are to say no when they either don't know it, or just don't want to do it. The train didn't leave until 415 am. The ticket, which I did eventually purchase by credit card was only 4 euro. Crazy I know, but I had to preserve every cent.
You weren't allowed to sleep in the station, so when the train finally came and I got on, I was dead. There were a bunch of other backpackers from Austria that were on the same train. I woke up to one of their voices saying we were in Kalambaka. I jumped up and sure enough we were stopped, for how long who knows. The conductors more than likely had some kind of pool going as to how long we would sleep, and if we would sleep long enough to be on the train when it left at 600 to go back to Larissa. They had smiles on their faces when we got off. I knew what was in their minds. Many times I wished I could have done the same thing!
I walked with the Austrians for a while, but I had packed so quick that things were falling out of my bag and my shoes were still untied. They went ahead and I eventually made it to the campground where the first person I met was Sylwek, making breakfast. After I set up my tent, I met David and Izabella and later on that night, Kostas. Little was I to know how special these four would become to me, and how much they would change my life!
So here I write from Meteora, 2 weeks later! Still haven't been in a monastery; however, I have 8 ascents to my name and I even led a pitch! For those who understand, chimney climbing is wicket! Love it!
Now that Iza and Sylwek left on Friday, I have hooked up with some Saxonians... (crazy climbers! But good climbers) They remind me a lot of Maritimers; they like their beer. I'll stay one more night, and tomorrpw is another day. Should I stay or go? I'll answer that tomorrow, today I have a new rock to climb!