The hike to the Olympia mountains were anticipated and was soon materialised. Or not? The evening was spend wandering narrow streets and window shopping. The next day was a big day. Already ordered a taxi recommended to me by the receptionist, a nice and helpful chap. It was supposed to be a very early start. the cab was ordered for 5am, early enough to secure myself enough time to safely cover the distance to the summit and back. Things did not go exactly as envisaged. The Greek driver, obviously experienced enough, directed me to the best spot I would start my gruelling trek. Time calculations also failed me as at 6am it was still very dark to safely wade through mountain foresty hills. But that was not the worse part. On that very day, the fire broke out in some sections of my route.
We were pulled over by the local mountain rescue patrol and strongly advised to retreat. How unfrotunate! Time was running out and decisions had to be made. Either I should abandon the idea of exploring Greek mountains or choose a different, unspecified route. I had just one day and postponing it to the next day was not an option. The Greek cab driver had some propositions at hand as, undoubtedly, he knew this area very well.
His idea proved sensible. I should approach the mountain from the other, longer side but offering better views and more resting points. There was no time to study a map. Equipped with mobile phone with GPS I felt fully at ease. Anyway, I mostly relied on instinct and signs. The routes were conveniently marked. The next six hours were nothing but steady brisk walk with moments of respite to replenish energy, hydrate and take a few photo shots. The aim was to reach section Prionia – Spilios Agapitos refuge. The last permanent cottage before setting off for an ultimate hike to Olympia summit. I got there just after 1pm. Already exhaused, I had to reconsider my next move as time was of the essence. I had just 5 hours to get back to the hotel. I had to catch the evening train to Kalabaka.
The 6 hours trek I had already made proved to be a real feat. It was more like gruelling army excercise testing my stamina and determination rather casual hike others with more time would normally have. I was definitely pressed for time. As much as satisfied I had been with my accomplishment, I had to take into consideration the possible reroute. Ascending the summit had to be called off for that day. There were other attractions in waiting.
After a short celebration with the delicious mug of coffee and a ham sandwich I hiked back to Litochoro. The climb took its toll, though. I suffered serious blisters and nearly twisted my ankle. I applied – can do attitude- and by 4pm I was already back in the village sipping chilled coca cola with a traditional greek hut I purchased at the local souvenir shop. 15 minutes later I was throwing my rucksack in the bonnet of the cab.
Time to head south, well almost. Katabaka was 170km away or 5h on a direct train. The train cars were packed with Greek folks and many international tourists, successfully preventing me from a sitting position. Standing by the window and staring pointlessly at passing objects in far distance, I tried to gather positive thoughts. Thoughts that pictured me in my Kalabaka lovely hotel room lying on my bed and sipping a properly chilled can of beer. That very thought kept me going until The train pulled up at the desired station, Kalabaka.
A quick phone call to the hotel to confirm I was just the corner and there I was, dragging my recked body up the street for another 2 miles. I passed by colossal rock formations, which happened to be boulders of some kind. Huge lamps directed at them added special effect to their enormous size and closeness with town houses. I quickly checked in and was escorted to my room by a lovely the hotel owner. It was a family run guest house, actually. I loved it. My train dream had come true. 30 minutes later I was resting my bruised body on a comfy bed with a cold drink in my hand, watching some blockbuste movie with Greek subtitles.
I regained my energy and decided to have a short walk to nearby shop to replenish my provisions. A shop assistant was a charming elderly lady so keen to chat every customer. She talked me into buying some local delicatessen. I liked a chocolate bar a lot. Yummi stuff. Ok, it was about time to let my legs recover and get some decent sleep. The next morning I was to explore one of the most outstanding monasteries that have ever existed in Europe.
Olympus, the highest Greek mountain which is believed to be the residence of the twelve ancient gods, was the first area which was declared as a National Park.