The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Climbing Mount Olympus

Hi again:

I spent the night last Thursday at Gonca's apartment on the Asian side of Istanbul. My plans were to get up very early and beat the rush hour traffic across Istanbul. Jessica and Renaud were going to leave Istanbul early too, but on a bus.

I went down to the garage at 7 a.m., all ready to leave, and look ---- Odysseus is parked in. Can you see him there, looking all forlorn back in the back?.

It's Ramadan, and people stay up late, late. They eat breakfast at around 3 or 4 a.m., so they simply stay up for that event, and then go to bed. I sat on my motorcycle down in the garage and waited --- I thought surely people would start leaving for work soon --- 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 9:30. Finally, coming on 10 a.m. the man who owns the black Audi came down, one of the first to do so, and left. I hurried to get out of there before someone else took his place.

Do you know about lane splitting? Motorcyclists do it all through Europe, but it is illegal in almost all the states back home. It means you drive between the cars and always move up to the front at stop lights. It is a little scary at first, but after awhile you get used to it. Cars and trucks move over to give you a little space, so it is okay, but I think back home in America car drivers would get mad at motorcycles jumping ahead of them in line.

So, with a great deal of lane splitting, and some long stretches of driving on the shoulder, I got through Istanbul rush hour traffic and out into the open country on the European side of Turkey. Then came the border----

What a long wait that was out in the hot sun, and on both the Turkey side to get out and the Greek side to get in. Later, Jessica and Renaud told me that they saw me there on their bus from Istanbul. They were just pulling into customs as I was leaving. So, despite my late start, I beat them to our night's stop at the hotel in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Next morning, we all head down to Mt. Olympus, about 100 miles south, they in a rental car and me on Odysseus. We are ready and anxious to climb that thing. Do you think we might see some gods?

Let's go, guys. I have been waiting a long time for this day.

Maybe this trail is going to be more exciting than I thought. I don't know though, because I am not able to make a whole lot of sense from this warning sign.

We didn't see any gods, but we did see these mules several times as we hiked along. There was never a human with them. Apparently, people load them up with supplies, point them up the trail, and give them a smack on the rump to get them moving along. Once they get to the refuge, they are unloaded, turned around and pointed down the trail, and moved along again. It seems to work, because nobody seemed at all worried about he mules.

Boy were we stepping along at first.

But the trail got steeper, the air got thinner, and this old man (me) started dragging.

I think all three of us were happy when we got to the refuge, half way up the mountain.

Some beer, some salad, a little pasta -- then it is time to relax a little before lights out at 10 p.m.

You have to get up early when you plan to conquer a mountain. After a quick breakfast at the refuge, we are on our way. One last look back through the fog. Bye refuge, see you this evening on our way down.

The trail is really getting steep now. Breathing is difficult. The mountain is not as high as some in, say, Colorado, but it starts at sea level while the Colorado mountains start at 6,000 feet.

Puff --- gasp --- puff. Just kidding. Jessica did great.

Upward --- into the clouds. "The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on".

Did I say the trail got steep? It was nothing back there. Suddenly, it goes vertical. We are climbing with hands and feet. I think everyone on the trail was wishing they could be roped up. The "trail" was markings on the rocks.

The vertical part lasted a long time and went up a long way. Now I started seeing the sense in the warning sign at the trail head "Falling rocks, quickly swipe" meaning, I think, that they quickly swipe you in the head and knock you off the mountain. You have to watch out that other climbers don't knock off a rock. I noticed that some climbers on the trail had helmets.

But hey! Look at us! We made it.

Now we have to figure out how to get down. If anything, down-climbing is harder than up-going..

It took us a long time to finally get down off the vertical part. It was really difficult.

I think we were each happy when we finally reached a real trail. I know that I was.

Look at what eagle eyed Jessica spotted way up above us on a cliff. They are Chamois.

By this time, my skinny legs were developing a mind of their own. No matter how many times I told them to go faster, they kept on slowing down more and more. I guess it is because I have done nothing but sit on a motorcycle for the last six weeks and have done absolutely no exercise. I would prefer to think it is that, and not that I am 70 years old.

I was thrilled to finally see the refuge again -- this time in the sunshine.

We are half-way down. Hooray! Only a few more hours to go. I hope my lactic acid filled legs will hold up under me.

But finally, we are back to the rental car. This adventure is over.

I was happy to find that Odysseus was okay down in the village where I left him overnight. I was also happy to secure what must have been the last hotel room left for the night down there. A nice late supper, some beer, and Renaud and Jessica left to return their rental car in Thessaloniki. Tomorrow, they head for the Greek Isles. I will see them again in Athens in a couple of weeks.

That was yesterday. Today I woke up with my legs aching, especially when I come down a flight of stairs. But, time keeps moving on, and so do Odysseus and I. Tonight we are in Delphi. We got here after riding through some beautiful mountain roads. Greece is a really rugged place.

I think I will find the Delphi oracle tomorrow and ask her how soon the lactic acid soreness will get out of my legs. Ha.