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Published: January 12th 2010
...STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION...
"The first step will be exciting, and the last one should be pretty exciting too".
"Hopefully there will be some exciting steps in between"...
In fact, the second step rivalled the first!
They've all been exciting.
Walking from Athens to Korinthos was our first major milestone. It was about 100 km and we got a taste of what we are up against! Hiking through Athens city centre was incredible, we pretty much found our own way out of the city, only asking directions a couple of times. On the edge of the city we asked a local family if we could fill our water bottles from their tap and got some last minute advice on which route to take.. Once we were out of the city we had to hike on the edge af a busy highway for a short time before randomly finding a trail through the bush and up a mountain. the hike through the wilds of Greece just outside of Athens was a welcomed walk, and the vantage point we had near the summit was perfect. We managed to see a trail that went all the way to Elefsina. Or so we thought!?
It was a great trail though, and by nightfall we found an abandoned gravel-pit/quarry and set up camp under the stars.. It was a full moon, and combined with the haze of the city lights, we could almost read without our headlamps...
The next morning we trekked around the perimeter fence of an army base. It was totally fenced in and quite the detour, but it was either that or a busy motorway! We then continued 3 miles in the wrong direction! The town we thought was Elefsina, was in fact Aspropirgus..! It was a local who told us this and from this moment on we had christened the town 'Asparagus'... We back tracked to the military facility then headed through a maze of oil refineries and storage tanks trying to find Elefsina.. It was an Aussie guy at the Gas station that gave us directions (as well as free coffee) he told us not to go to Thiva, but to take the old coast road to the Korinth.. It all worked out very well.
It seemed to take forever to find our way through the refineries, but eventually after a day or so we ended up following a beautiful stretch of coastline with sea cliffs and mountains, beaches and quaint villages. Most of the road was either super-quiet or abandoned, so walking was great! We did find a nice beach to clean our selves up a bit and some nice caming spots, ran from some wild dogs and drank some horrid water!
We ate at a pretty seafood restaurant over-looking the Med and had lunch with a bunch of illegal immigrants from Pakistan, which was an awesome experience. We also met Bjorn from Norway, who is cycling from Oslo (Norway) to Capetown (South Africa) to collect as many signed football shirts as he can and sew them all together to make the world's biggest football shirt... Then, incredibly, we met another Norwegian, Sam, who is hitchhiking around Europe for one year without spending any cash... He is relying on the kindness of strangers to transport, house and feed him..
A fairly ugly stretch of highway led us into Korinthos! We were walking next to a 10 foot high concrete wall with coils of barbed wire along the top, with speeding trucks whizzing by! It wasn't for long though so we just kept on pushing those feet of ours to cover the ground quickly.. We arrived in Korinthos just as the sun was setting, we found a nice hotel and haggled for a good price.. And we struck gold!
We had a rest day in Korinthos and dealt with a few logistical issues that had popped up.
A rest day that actually involved us walking miles around the city to get our chores done.
Our feet were well rested after a full day off in Korinthos, but then we hit the road again.
We continued to pull into roadside service stations, Cafes, churchyards or a pretty beach to fix our feet as we hiked onwards. Popping blisters with a safety pin and cleaning them up with anti-septic wipes, applying anti-fungal creams, and moleskin will constantly be a part of our daily routine, a bit like a formula one driver pulling into a pit-stop...?
For two full days we trekked through many coastal villages and resort towns that are dotted along the shore of the Gulf of Corinth. It was a nice couple of days as the sun beamed down on us, allowing us to take refreshing dips in the sea to cool off.
A nice forested trail took us to the pretty village of Xilokastro where we managed to meet an English man, who ended up buying our stove from us (we hadn't used it and it was extra weight and bulk). We then met a nice lady who was chasing her dog around a garden, she gave us some oranges and chocolate, needless to say they were devoured almost instantly!
In Derveni we treated ourselves to a hot meal in a restaurant with the 20 Euros from the stove! We then had issues finding a place to camp as the directions we were given were horrendously poor! (We don't ask for directions that often as we have learnt that most of the locals - a generalisation of course - have a vanishingly scant sense of distance and direction)! 'Two hundred metres on the left, next to the bridge', could actually mean '4km on the right, near the sea' or it could mean it's nowhere at all? Anyway we ended up camping behind a dump truck on a construction site. No one bothered us...
The next night we camped next to some beehives after pounding along the side of a fairly busy highway all day! Our slow pace of travel is certainly juxtaposed against the relentless speeding traffic. However, there was enough of a shoulder for us to walk on. In Egio, a lady from New York city approached us and asked if we needed anything? She was generous and gave us some supplies, even though it did weigh us down notably, it was worth it for our gourmet supper of apple, feta and salami salad on a beach where we camped!
The sky was black the following morning! We managed to break camp before the rain but then the heavens emptied. It rained and hailed all day, that would also be the day where we had to cross the four towered, 3 km long suspension bridge! It was windy and rainy with no shelter! We took refuge in the first service station we saw, and warmed and dried up a wee bit! The highlight for me was using the hot air hand dryer in the W/C! Usually i just wave my hands around to dry them to save paper and time, but this was awesome! Warm air!!!
It was still raining when we left the services so we just put our heads down and pounded up and over a mountain pass, where it hailed hard on us! The road's shoulder disappeared, so we had to climb the barrier everytime a big truck charged down the hill. Not much fun! We camped on the side of a mountain on a small trail we found, the rain stopped for 20 minutes so we quickly set up camp. We still had a spare set of dry clothes and dry sleeping bags so we were good once we were set up..
A 28 km haul to Messolonghi was our next day. It didnt rain, but putting on cold wet clothes from the previous day was not overly enjoyable!
A guy we met prior to arriving in Messolonghi said that "Messolonghi is a mysterious place"? It certainly feels different? It's a walled city and very attractive, but both Andrew and I noticed that there was an odd vibe in the air. We both felt really comfortable and at home here! We decided to stay an extra night...
I am sorry that there are no pictures, but my camera equipment is all from North America and does not seem to be compatible with the European computers? But then I am not too computer literate - if any one has any suggestions??
For more details and updates, follow our blog for the hike.. This blog does not allow for links to be published so you will have to copy and paste the link below....
We are taking steps in the right direction...
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