Adventures in Meteora
13.05.2012 - 14.05.2012
I was standing deep in irony. Mel and I took a moments pause to keep calm, and try and get our bearings. We were in the forest of Meteora in the north of Greece, where ancient monks had once taken to the isolated mountain peaks and built glorious monasteries into them. Mel and I had spent the day exploring these with wonder and bewilderment, admiring the monks dedication in their quest for enlightenment. Assumingly feeling lost in the world, they had chose a life high in the clouds in order to be close to their god, in order to find answers, and in order to find the path to spiritual enlightenment. And in that moment, lost in the woods, all Mel and I wanted was to find the path to the road.
Wowed by pictures I had seen of Meteora, we took the five hour train ride from Athens to see the ancient wonders, and I will tell you now they didn’t disappoint.
After a bit of miscommunication, it turned out we had missed the bus to the mountain top, but luckily there was a hiking trail just outside our door. It took us about an hour or so, but Mel and I weaved and bobbed through the gorgeous rainforest and rocky terrain that covered the mountains. Alone only for the pulse of nature it did feel a more suitable way to travel, giving our destination.
Our first stop was the Monastery of the holy trinity. And it was incredible. Scaling the rock steps carved into the stones facades, we started to imagine the hardships faced by those who once inhabited it. Once we reached the top it did seem worth it though. Views stretched for miles around and we immediately felt that isolation, that disconnect from the world of earthly temptation.
With the sun out but this really cool mist coming up from the forest below, we spent the day strolling around the mountain tops to the several monasteries scattered on the peaks of enormous rock pinnacles. Every now and again there was a bus load of tourists, but quite often we were alone, which just gave the day a great feel. It was an amazing change of pace from the crazy cities we had been to prior.
By the time we hit the last monastery, after a day of walking, it started to drizzle rain slightly. This one was the original I believe, the Grand Meteoron monastery. Still in use today we discovered its kitchens, living areas, museums and churches that all hid within.
We even got to witness a miracle as one incredibly fat monk passed over a gorge on an old rickety looking cable car that threatened to snap at any second. This was truly a man of god.
Well, having spent the day just amazed by the natural beauty of the landscape, and the monks ability to integrate and be one with it, we decided to head home. The only problem was that we were far away from our village, there were no buses or taxis, and it was now pouring rain.
From the map we had, we made out a possible route through the forest below, that started with a short walk around the roads, easy enough, then a trek through the mountain floor to finally meet up with the hiking trail we took to ascend it at the start of the day. Well, it looked simple enough on the map.
We started off ok, followed the road, and found the start of the trail that led into the forest. Feeling adventurous and excited for some hiking we dove straight in and followed a make shift path that had seemed to have been walked before, but admittedly some time ago. It was really cool, stepping over rocks, sliding down little hills, passing underneath the green canopy that protected us almost completely from the rain above. The forest felt alive, buzzing with energy. Then things started to turn a little strange. Gradually the path was getting less defined, and the vagueness of the map meant that we didn’t have much to work with, apart from the force. Being the one of us with a sense of direction I made our way the best we could, but then parts of the trail seemed blocked, either by fallen trees or umm, a mountain. We eventually got to a point where we couldn’t go any further, it was impossible. Continuing on either involved turning into rock climbers and scaling a cliff face, or taking a never to return slide down a gorge. I had thought of praying for wings or to transform into a bird and fly out, but I remembered that the monks were still using the same stairs their predecessors had been using since the 11th century, and figured that they might've mentioned that one once or twice during their daily Skypes to God.
So we decided to turn back and just find the road and follow that. It would be getting dark soon, and it seemed like the sensible thing to do. The problem was, everything started looking the same. We retraced most of our steps, but then things turned less familiar. We tried to reassure ourselves by saying we recognised certain landmarks, but it wasn’t the case. All of a sudden it became clear that the forest was no longer buzzing and alive, in fact it was silent and cold. The further we went in, the further lost we got, and the more the fear set in. I wouldn't say we freaked out, actually we stayed really calm. We were even talking about how we would spend the night if we had to, but we really didn’t want to. I mean, we've watched Man vs Wild, so we knew what we needed to survive, and it was all down hill to the village, and there was a stream we could’ve followed to the river down below. But we just really wanted to find the road.
Well, after what seemed like hours we heard a truck passing, which meant the road was near. The only problem was cars don’t pass there too often, so we just had to remember the direction. We trekked until we came to what looked like a trail, but after a few steps we stopped. We looked down the path and saw what looked like some trash, or some evidence of human life, but we both had this really bad feeling about it. Mel didn’t want to go down there, and I could feel something bad had happened from that spot. We decided to try another route.
I decided to climb a rock through the canopy to get a view point, and ended up spotting the road. It wasn’t far away, but meant we would have to pass through that trail. Well this time, when we paused again at the foot of the trail, we picked up some rocks and a big stick for defense, and powered through it. The bad juju only heightened as we went in, but then appeared the road, so we saw salvation. I was never so happy to see black tar in all my life.
Well we were still miles from any sort of township, it was still raining, and there was nobody around, but somehow we felt we would be alright, even if it took us days to walk the road. As it turns out, a little red car passed down the road and pulled over at the sight of my outstretched thumb. Inside were a sweet old Mexican couple who invited us in and gave us a lift to our village. I cant remember their names, but will just call the man who was driving the most common Mexican name I know, Jesus. That way Meteora will always be for us a magical site of of natural beauty and spiritual wonderment, where we ourselves got lost, but were then saved when we found Jesus.
And just because it was so amazing, I'll leave you with a few more pics.