I’ve slowly become addicted to long distance walking. It started years ago, when I walked the Pennine Way. Later on, I completed the South West Coastal Path, though it took me five years or more, off and on. Then in 2012 I hiked the Lycian Way in Turkey, with my friend Lani. As soon as I got home, I was thinking “Where next?” and making plans…
So here’s some of the reasons why we set out on this crazy adventure, our Great Greek Hike, and what I loved most about it.
- The excitement of not knowing what the next day will bring, where we would sleep or who we would meet – the thrill of the unexpected.
- Having time to think. As you plod along, all the froth cluttering up your mind blows away, and life looks clear and simple. There’s time to contemplate the big questions. How do I really want to spend the rest of my life?
- The people. We met all sorts, but they had one thing in common: their hospitality and friendliness to strangers. They popped out of their houses to invite us for a coffee, they gave us fruit, flowers and home-made cheese, and they went out of their way to check we didn’t get lost. Thank you to them all.
- Getting to know Greece again. I’d spent a lot of time in Greece when I was younger, and I wanted to find out how things had changed, what they thought of the economic crisis and whether they were affected by climate change.
- The scenery. As the country unfolds, with peaks rising behind and before, you feel like Bilbo Baggins on some dragon quest, braving forests and snow-capped mountains,
rivers and alpine pastures. You get a sense of the slowly changing landscape, from the beech woods and bean fields of the north down to the olive groves of the south.
- No longer puffing up the hills. Before we went, I had a vision of myself finally floating effortlessly up and down mountains, no longer red in the face with exertion. Well, I did get a bit fitter, but I still puff.
- Losing weight. Like getting fitter, I didn’t quite meet this aspiration. I blame the home-made chips fried in olive oil.
- Travelling light. We carried no more than 5 kilos each of clothes and possessions. I didn’t miss having a wardrobe of clothes or shelves of books (well, we did each have a kindle) and it was liberating to find out how little we needed.
- Remembering my parents, who both died thirty years before. That’s one reason it was so nice to have my sister with us for some of the time. By the time she reached my age, my mother was already in the first stages of early Alzheimers. I guess I was partly celebrating that so far I’m OK. And my father would have loved a walk like this. Only a couple of months before he died, he told me that he still felt inside as if he could walk twenty miles.
- The flowers, especially the wild profusion of early summer.