TREK TO THE ZAGORIA REGION, GREECE
to 29 May 2007
It's extremely difficult to describe a trek. There is a constant flood
of emotions and sensations: sometimes putting one foot in front of
another is easy, other times you have to drag it into place, the sweat
pouring down your face, the tiredness and unexpected elation. It
ordinarily enough - 10 people and guide meeting at the airport, some I
knew from previous treks, others complete strangers. A sense of relief
that they all seemed friendly and more or less the same age. The ride
there was tedious, broken by stops at a beautiful bridge and the
Canal, started originally in 67CE by Nero and finally finished in 1893.
We arrived at a beautiful pension in the quaint village of
found that Greek slouvakia is most probably better in Israel!
The following morning all fired up we started our climb up. The weather
was warm but the valleys below were covered in cloud for a long time.
Walking past rocks, trees, and alpine meadows made for a strenuous but
most enjoyable climb even though it was mostly up.
From Beloy we looked at the stunning Vikosmktza Canyon. I must admit
that already my thought was "Beautiful! But how are we going to climb
down it the following day?"
Climbing down that day was great - we went down an ancient donkey trail
with 1100 shallows steps and 29 curves. It rained in the afternoon,
making the stone bridge look mistical (sic!). We so liked our rooms at
Tesepolovo that we returned to sleep there another night. Greek
slouvakia still was dry, but the olives and salads were delicious.
Great day - and I didn't get any blisters..
I woke up the next morning tired. We started the day with a short visit
to the monastery Monodendri that is perched above Vikos Canyon.
From there we had a steep climb down to the Vikos Canyon
Ofer our guide told us that the descent was described as :"without
mercy/relentless." That finished me. It was a difficult climb down, but
I kept on waiting for the terrible section to come, stepping carefully
so I wouldn't work off my toenails, as I usually do. Eventually we
reached the river only to find that because of big boulders in the
river bed we would be walking on a path totally covered by trees that
was next to the river, that went up and down and up and... I did
not enjoy it. In fact I decided that I was too old, not fit enough,
wasn't enjoying it and this would certainly be my last trek. Moreover,
the following day we had a steep climb up and it was not clear whether
the horse ordered would indeed arrive. No horse, no Doreen, I
judiciously decided. I'll stay with the driver. But after lunch my
energy flowed in and I flew along the next part, loving the scenery -
the trees had opened up and there were glorious views of the canyon
walls soaring above. Even the hour+ walk up to end the day was a
That night we all had an exercise in "What do you really need for an
overnight in a Refuge at 1900m." A sleeping bag, full change of
fleece, cosmetics and food for the second day would go on the (poor)
horse. We would as usual carry 3 liters (3k) water, full rain gear,
torch and food for that day. We arrived at Micro Papingo but the
Albanian horse didn't. Now we really had an exercise as to what was
essential. Suddenly blankets, most probably smelly, provided by
Refuge were a godsend. Who needed to change their hiking pants? I
didn't, but did need to take clean underwater and a T-shirt. I even
left the fleece behind figuring that with a scarf and raingear, I could
make do After a visit at the local shrine - I'm sure everybody prayed
for strength and endurance - we started the climb up the
can one understand the workings of the body. The climb down on the
second day was awful because of the 'merciless' label and now suddenly
horseless, having to climb steadily uphill for 3 1/2 hours was a piece
of cake. Actually, a rest was indeed welcome after that upclimb! (See picture)
It was with a real feeling of achievement that I arrived in good
spirits at the Refuge. I, who insist on sleeping in a room alone,
told that wasn't possible; the three women would be sharing a room with
5 men. Notice I didn't say sleep with - as all the men snored, sleep
was a sparse commodity that night.
Most of us went on an afternoon 'stroll' by and through snow fields to
see the Ioas River far below. In the partial group picture what you
don't see is that just behind our guide Ofer on the left and Tami to
the right is a drop-off hundreds of meters down to the Ioas River
below. Then to end the day, another 'stroll' back to the Refuge -
if you look at the saddle of the mountain you can just make out the
Refuge in front of the clouds.
The fourth day was a relentless climb down. It started in an alpine
meadow with flowers and grass where we had to scramble over boulders
and cross waterfalls and streams. A large part of the descent was on
wet leaves covered by overhanging trees on an extremely steep slopes. I
was so thankful that I knew how to ski and used the 'climbing down a
slope technique' to get me safely down. Afraid? Panicky? No, the
was varied and interesting and we all thanked the heavens for not
pouring down on us as it had done the other days.
I kept on wondering how were we going to make it down to the river so
far below, but we did eventually reach the monastery and even the
Most of the group was ahead of me and I saw them talking to some people
sitting by the river. "Must be Israeli," I thought to myself. Yes, not
only were they Israeli, but among them were Nomi and Yair Peled. We
first met Nomi on our Round The World Trip when we toured the Red
Centre in Australia, and we have seen her (and fellow traveller
Ariella) on a few occasions
We spent our
last night in Conitsa where we finally had a really good meal.
On the last day as we made our way back to Athens. We visited Metaora,
region with many high pillars on which are dramatically perched a
series of monasteries.
But what really interested the group on that last day was
picking wild mulberries.
Athens was a real delight. I must be honest - perhaps the fact that I
wasn't walking around with a haversack on my back added to Athens
being flat coloured my delight. It was clean and the people were
friendly. I walked in to a boutique hotel in my smelly hiking clothes
and boots feeling I had to apologize for my state. But when I looked at
the bed with its 200 pumped pillows I sighed with delight!
Most of the group by the Refuge, courtesy of Doron Baumer
It was a great and challenging trek and of course I'll do another one
if I have the chance!
POSTSCRIPT: 20 years ago Doreen
went mountain hiking in Wales with Fern and Moran, and wrote To the Peak which described her
efforts, feelings, frustrations and sense of achievement. The
piece appeared in her cookbook, and is reprinted here: To the Peak.