Monday, May 9, 2011

When the Pain is Worth It

Over the weekend, we spent a day hiking the longest gorge in Europe, Samaria Gorge. Now, we are in great pain. Sixteen kilometers (10 miles), most of it over loose stones about half the size of our feet, meaning we used every muscle in our legs in order to keep balance and take each step. The first sign of trouble should have been when we passed the above actual sign very early in the trip. Prior signs would have been the paragraph in our guidebook that says not to try this hike in anything other than real deal hiking boots – I read that tidbit the day after we hiked it, me in my Keen river sandals. Oopsies. We signed up on a coach excursion which provided our transportation and a guide to make sure we all made it out of the gorge. Our guide spent the last 20 minutes of our drive repeating over and over how difficult the hike is and that there is no emergency service, so “if you twist you’re ankle or hurt your knee or anything else, you must complete the hike totally, totally alone.” We were also instructed to watch carefully our “feets,” and if we wish to have a look around, we were to “stop, have a look around, then continue onward while watching [our] feets very, very carefully.” Thomas the Guide is a very, very smart man.

As Nathan and I snickered about these warnings and glanced around our bus of 40 other hikers, most at least 25 years older than us (and also wearing river sandals or tennis shoes), we thought we would sail through this little excursion and spend hours lounging on the beach at the end of the gorge while awaiting all the slow pokes. Much to my chagrin, we finished almost dead last among our group, beating only a near crippled lady who used her walking stick as a cane and leaned on her husband’s arm the entire hike. Yep, those are the only people we beat, and they almost passed us at the end. But, at least we finished. And I’m so glad we did the hike.

The Samaria Gorge is one of the most spectacular hikes either of us has ever done – for me, it even rivaled the Path of the Gods, our hike from about two weeks ago on the Amalfi Coast. We started among a shady forest as we descended into the gorge, then at the bottom, for the first half, we hiked along a flowing stream with lots of little waterfalls and water so clear we could make out every single rock in it. After the stream disappeared, we began hiking in the old riverbed itself. The hiking until then had been on tough ground, but hiking the riverbed was sheer agony coupled with breathtaking beauty. Near the end, we passed through the most famous area of the Samaria Gorge, and one of the most photographed places in all of Crete, the Gates, where the cliffs come together, narrowing to about 9 feet apart. And finally, the end, a gorgeous, clear, sparkling, Libyan Sea.
As we came upon this rest area, Nathan, who knows me very well, took one look at this scene before us and one look at my face, then said, "So this is where the unicorns live."
The blessed end

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I commented, but now it's gone. I just said you gave me a good belly laugh, again.