Into the Clouds

Friday, January 1, 2016

I think a regret for both Peter and I was never managing to scale Psiloritis while we were living on Crete together. When my Dad was a kid staying in our Horio in the 70s, they'd make the trek straight from the village- hiking down into the lush, wooded valley, then climbing up the mountain from the South face, guided by a neighbor who knew the place like the back of his weathered palm. He's well over 90 now, Kyrio Stelios, and he doesn't go up there any more, though he's one of a handful of people who still regularly go to the Horio and spend time out there in the mountains.

So obviously, we weren't going to get married on Crete without getting ourselves up there.

We called it a bachelor/ette party of sorts. Figured that was one good way to convince our family and friends that this idea wasn't actually crazy and might work. We left from Rethymnon in 3 cars with some vague idea that we needed to drive South. A few wrong turns and some directions from a goatherd in exchange for a few cigarettes landed us at a sort of base camp. Within a half hour of walking the air had become thick with clouds and icy wind.

We found what we were searching for, in the end (that is, after getting lost on the next peak over. This post is a little more of a what-not-to-do one, if you catch my meaning.) A tiny chapel, built of slate and stones, is nestled at the peak of Psiloritis. Services are held only once a year, at a summer Panagyri. It's not accessible in the winter, when snow blankets the mountain trail.

We huddled together inside and said the prayer for marriage, had a shot of raki, and enjoyed the fragments of view that we could catch between the clouds: mountains on mountains, and a few glimpses of the Libyan sea shimmering to the South.

We made it down alright in the end, but not without getting lost twice (whoops.) I wouldn't recommend doing it as we did: don't go to early in the summer (snow was still covering some of the trail;) don't go without good hiking boots, and for goodness' sake, bring a guide, or at least a map. It was worth it in the end, though- as we descended back out of the clouds the mountains opened up into stunning views of the valley below. It felt like we were in another world.

The hike is actually part of a trail that spans the length of Crete. One day, maybe, we can go back and do the whole day :)

Happy New Year, everyone. Wishing you all the very best in 2016!