The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, altered the plans of millions and delayed the fulfillment of wishes.
After participating in several hikes with Couloir over the past three years,
I had two planned for 2020: Turkey and Iceland. But the plans were cancelled because of an unknown disease that has hit the world, and the wishes were postponed indefinitely.
The year 2021 started out as uncertain, with a real vacation that I could only devote to myself coming in October. When I looked at the Couloir’s October hiking calendar, I was pleasantly surprised: just in time for my vacation there was a new program of hiking in Greece, which I had wanted to visit for a long time. But a hike with Couloir is more than just a visit to the country, it heralds the exploration of mountains, lakes and gorges.
The pre-hike hustle, backpacking, stocking up on extra paperwork to enter the country (no one cancelled the pandemic) and there you sit in the plane and soar over the emerald waters of the sea near Thessaloniki. The adventure begins.
The trek through Greece is unusual, living in private small cozy hotels, guesthouses, and mountain shelters.
But the trails take you to such sites with incredible views of deep gorges, mountain rivers and lakes, an amazing waterfall that dries up unless it rains, the top of Mount Olympus. One experience is succeeded by another and you do not get bored.
Our group was small – seven people and our guide, Natalia Mostovaya, who is the author of this project. About her I will tell separately.
What was unusual in our trek that I know the other two groups who went before us and after us did not experience, is that we visited all the seasons of the year. Yesterday we had summer, the next day while climbing Olympus, we had winter and snow falling that reached our ankles, then thaw, spring, dripping from spruce branches, and constantly we were in the golden colors of fall. The pictures with snow turned out like black and white, and they emphasized the contrast of mountains and snow.
Yes, we were constantly walking in the rain, and our favorite clothes were – wet boots, which did not have time to dry out, but it did not spoil a great mood and good impressions of what we saw.
The route unfolded gradually, at once we saw the grandeur of deep gorges, walked along the bed of a dried mountain river with large boulders, studied the arched bridges of fanciful shapes.
But the most interesting thing was waiting for us ahead, on the Astrak. We climbed there under thunderstorms, torrential downpours and strong gusts of wind that knocked us off our feet.
Yes, even before that, the day before, we had walked along the bottom of the gorge, which we had previously looked at from above without seeing its bottom. There in the riverbed the boulders were even larger, scattered by some unknown force. The grandeur of nature!
So, we climbed up the Astraka to the mountain shelter, and a stormy weather hit us, making it impossible to get out of it. The wind was howling so much that it felt like we were cut off from the world for a long time.
But the next day came, it cleared up a bit and we went to explore the surrounding area, which was hidden in the fog.
And there is a lot to see, a mountain lake near which a herd of wild horses graze, rocks hidden in the fog and the hope that the fog will clear. When we waited for this, the view was incredible: the dwarf trees on the opposite cliff revealed themselves, then suddenly a sharp cliff and a deep gorge loomed up, which made my head spin, then everything was hidden in the fog again. And so with bated breath a few runs. We were very impressed by the landslide of rocks not far away that thundered down from the mountains.
On the way back we visited the waterfall. If you look at it from the mountain shelter, it seems like a small mountain rushing stream. But coming to it, there is a stunning view of a gorgeous waterfall that cascades down. Our hike in the rains paid off, we enjoyed the sight of the waterfall, which is not there if they are not coming. The lake from which the water flows becomes shallow and dries up without replenishment.
The next day is also unforgettable. A steep descent downhill crossing a mountain stream, the gorge bend, the view from the cliff of the monastery and small settlement, visiting the monastery with an observation deck overlooking the cliffs, the gorge with a turbulent mountain river and a forested area.
And again settling into a private hotel with a nice view from the balcony.
Separate activities were visits to local restaurants and vegetable shops. Each restaurant had its own dishes with unforgettable recipes, which wanted to try: meat of young lamb, seasoned for 12 hours in a marinade, goat giblets, chocolate cake, which want to try more. And very nice and friendly owners of these places.
Meteora. Again in the fog, but the impressions are many. It is interesting that some people decided to live on the rocks and to facilitate their life, lifted with a winch necessary for housing, food and people. It’s all strange, but that’s what makes the world amazing, because it is diverse.
Olympus. I was struck by the mountain shelter, where many mountain lovers gathered. Noisy, friendly, interesting. A fireplace that is lit for a few hours where you sleep, and almost constantly where everyone gathers to eat and spend time in the company of like-minded people. The sunrise, which illuminates the cliffs gradually pink, the sun itself. The snowy tops of Mount Olympus against the green-gold colors of the trees.
A caravan of mules, which go along the steep mountain path and pulling bales of food for lovers of the mountains (the menu in the mountain shelter is amazing in its variety).
Well, that’s all the hike is over, it becomes sad that everything is behind. Only a photo album with pictures and videos refresh your memories and bring back fond memories.
As for the difficulties of the hike, you should always prepare for it. This I once again experienced for myself. But all is surmountable and achievable. The most important thing, that there is a desire to achieve something.
I want to say special thanks to Natalia Mostova. Without her my trip would have been less successful. Over time we became great friends. This person is not much of a talker, but his actions are noble.
And as always, thanks to Kuluar for giving me the opportunity to explore the world outside the box.