Tuesday 21st June 2022
I was more than a little nervous about today’s hike. Not only would it be the most challenging I’ve done with Ed in Greece, but it was almost the end of June and very hot outside. From the rainy start in Kalamata on Sunday, temperatures have been rising fast and are due to be in the mid-30s today. On top of that, my rucksack is designed for camera gear, not hiking, so it lacks any external drink bottle holders, making carrying water a problem. On the plus side, Ed was enthusiastic, and we knew there would be a refuge rest stop just before halfway, so in my mind, if we made it that far and had to stop and turn back, so be it.
To combat the water issue with my rucksack, I removed all of my gear except the primary SLR camera, ripped out all of the velcro dividers and filled the resulting space with water: 1 x 1.5-litre bottle and 5 x 0.5-litre bottles, giving me a total of 4 litres. Not a massive amount for a 6-ish hour hike, but it was more than I had expected to be able to carry. It was pretty heavy with all that liquid, but no worse than with all my tech gear, and I keep pretty fit in the gym, so it wasn’t much of a concern.
A Late Start
Normally, on a hike like this, you’d set off at sunrise and aim to finish by midday. We like making a difficult task harder: breakfast is included at our accommodation, but it wasn’t available until 7:30, so instead of skipping it, we decided to wait around and eat before we left. As a result, we didn’t arrive at our starting point, Manganiari Spring, until just after 9, as it was about a 40-minute drive away.
The Hike Begins
As I stepped outside the car, the hot June sun beat down on me, making me sweat even before we started hiking. My rucksack, heavy with water bottles, felt like a burden on my shoulders. But Ed’s enthusiasm was infectious, and I couldn’t help but feel excitement as we set off on our most challenging hike yet.
I knew I was taking a risk by packing so much water in my rucksack. But it was a risk worth taking in the scorching heat of the Greek summer. As we started our hike, the cool, refreshing water was the only thing standing between me and a long, difficult day on the trail.
The first kilometre was quite steep, but it soon became more gradual. Better still, it was all under the shade of tall trees, giving us some welcome cover from the sun. The breeze was mild and intermittent, but it had a lovely cooling effect whenever it came.
As we trudged up the rocky trail, the scenery remained essentially unchanged. But my Garmin watch told me we had climbed 490m in just over an hour, and I couldn’t help but feel a surge of optimism. The shade covering most of the trail had helped us conserve water, and we felt strong and ready to push on to the refuge resting point.
The thought of reaching the summit, which had seemed like a distant dream just an hour ago, now seemed within reach. With renewed energy, we picked up the pace and pushed on, eager to see what lay ahead.
Things Get Tougher
As we left the cool, shady refuge behind, the going started to get tougher. The tall trees disappeared, exposing us to the hot sun, and the trail grew steeper, making it harder on our legs. But we pushed on, determined to reach the summit.
After an hour of gruelling ascent, we finally reached an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level, with only 500 meters left to climb. The terrain grew even more challenging, with loose rocks and steep, uneven slopes slowing our progress to a crawl. But we refused to give up, and after 1 hour and 36 minutes of hard climbing, we finally reached the summit.
My Garmin said we climbed 1,282 meters in 2 hours and 42 minutes. It was the most challenging hike I had ever done, but the view from the top was worth it. We could see the entire western coastline stretching out before us, and for a moment, all our struggles and hardships were forgotten.
Summit and Descent
Reaching the summit was a moment of pure triumph. I arrived a few minutes ahead of Ed and stood there, basking in the glory of our hard-won achievement. The views were breathtaking, and I felt deeply satisfied as I waited for Ed to catch up.
When he finally arrived, we took a stroll around the summit, taking in the remains of old buildings and low walls. But our moment of triumph was marred by swarms of flying insects, which buzzed and bit relentlessly. Still, we refused to let them ruin our moment and savoured every second of our hard-won victory.
As we started our descent, I realized that I had been so focused on reaching the summit that I hadn’t given much thought to the challenges of getting back down. The steep, rocky terrain was more brutal to navigate coming down than going up, and my knees ached from the strain of walking downhill. But we pushed on, determined to make it back to the refuge.
To my surprise, we made it back in nearly 20 minutes less time than it had taken us to climb. But my hips and knees were throbbing with pain, and I was starting to feel the effects of fatigue.
I was grateful for the soft dirt path and the shade provided by the trees on the final stretch back to the car, which took the strain off my legs. We returned to the car in just 52 minutes, shaving 15 minutes off our ascent time.
We covered 15.21 kilometres and climbed 1,282 metres (4,206 feet). It’s not a bad effort for a holiday hike!
After a gruelling hike, the cold spring water felt like a lifesaver as I dipped my feet in and let the icy numbness wash over me.
The drive back to our hotel was a welcome respite, with the air-conditioning blasting cool relief.
We arrived at the hotel around 4 p.m. and went straight to our rooms for a shower and rest. But I was too keyed up to sleep, so I lay on my bed, scrolling through the photos and videos from our hike.
At 7:30, I met up with Ed for dinner. He had been asleep for most of the afternoon, and he admitted that he had been a bit out of shape for the hike, which had taken its toll on him. We refuelled with some carbs by heading to a nearby pizza restaurant. I ordered the special, and Ed chose the vegetarian option. They weren’t the best pizzas we’d ever had, but after all the calories we had burned that day, they tasted like a feast.
We had planned to celebrate our victory with more wine and dessert, but we were exhausted and made the rare, sensible decision to call it an early night and rest up for our journey the next day.
Next stop: Monemvasia!