I went walking today, in the Amari Valley in central Crete. I’ve been here many times, often on my own for several weeks, to read, write and wander the mountain tracks from village to village. It’s one of my favourite places on earth: rugged, unspoiled and primal.
This time, I’m here with Hedda and a few stalwart friends but chose to walk solo, partly to reacquaint myself with old haunts and partly to re-calibrate my level of fitness after a long winter plagued by aching joints and minor injuries. According to the FitBit on my wrist, I walked for 5 hours 19 minutes; took 34,976 steps; went 26.13 kilometers; climbed the equivalent of 196 flights of stairs; and burned 5,279 calories. Not too shabby!
Once I’d got my second wind it was a delight to swoop up and down the valley-sides, though it was pretty hard going in places. In particular, I’d forgotten just how steep the final stretch was, cross-country from Vryses to Amari. I ended the day back at our lodgings, tired but with renewed confidence in my body.
More importantly, walking in that mythic landscape also reawakened my sense of wonder. At the mundane level of the everyday world, not much happened: I was startled by a dog; buzzed by bees; saw an aeroplane above Psiloritis; was greeted by a young woman; and given some cherries preserved in honey when I stopped for lunch. But the old gods are legion here if we open our eyes and ears.
Cerberus leapt snarling from Hades,
chained to a stake by the roadside.
Someday you will be welcome here,
he seemed to say, but not today!
Good old Hermes swarmed around
and buzzed me back onto the path.
In Meronas I met a mountain nymph
who fed me fat smiles and oranges
as Icarus soared over the mountain,
streaming contrails from his wings.
Aphrodite sat me down for lunch:
an immortal’s portion of ambrosia.
Friendly Sisyphus took the strain
as the road climbed up and ever up
from the depths of the last valley
to the welcoming arms of Hestia.
As I said before, not much happened on my walk today.