Entering Greece, exploring meteora and hiking Mount Olympus
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
With Boggy back on the road like a youngster and after having completed an online arrival form that would allow us to enter Greece, we took the ferry from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa. Besides another couple there was basically only one group of passengers which were recognizable by 3 compelling features: a pot belly (preferably hanging out underneath too short of a muscle top), a pair of slippers (originally made either for wearing inside a home or a pool area) and last but not least a man-bag (luxury designer brands only). Yes, you guessed correctly - we were on a ferry full of truckers, making Katharina part of a very tiny minority, gender wise. We were ready for some day drinking during the 8-hour ride when shortly after the departure we realized our mistake: for some reason the bar would close 30 minutes after we had left the harbor and only reopen 30 minutes before the arrival in Greece. That's when the truckers started to take out their beer palettes that would last them the entire trip. We stared at the sea.
When we arrived in Igoumenitsa we were randomly selected to getting tested for our first COVID-19 test on our travels. The set up was… interesting and after taking the sample we were released (and thankfully never heard back). We spent the first couple of nights at a camping spot nearby, surviving another 36 hours of heavy rainfall, this time with improved skills in waterproofing Bogdan which even included some drainage digging.
When the weather got better, we headed to the much recommended (thanks Thomas and Helga and Dieter and ...) Meteora monasteries located pretty much right in between the east and west coast of Greece’s mainland. Unlike 99% of the other tourists (of whom there were very few) taking the bus or car, we decided to hike between the different locations sitting on top of mystic looking rocks that seem to be popping out of nowhere. We only met a handful of other people and instead enjoyed the company of turtles. Turns out they are pretty fast hikers and have no interest in being photo models.
I’ll correct my language in the paragraph above and call the Meteora monasteries hike what it actually was in comparison what was to come: a slight and breezy stroll along the promenade of a pretty little French town somewhere at the sea. Little did we know that though on our way to the mountain of the gods - Mount Olympus.
We had researched various hiking options online and settled on a more relaxed route with an overnight stay. We parked Boggy at the parking place in Prionia early in the afternoon and hiked up the first 2,5 hours until we reached Spilios Agapitos, the hut where we would spend the night. Half way up, we got company from a street (trail?) dog who didn’t leave our side until shortly before the hut. Katharina may or may not have fed him half of our pretzel snack mix. We had mixed feelings about the cold mountain water shower that was expecting us but it turned out there was nothing to worry about: the shower didn’t work.
We spent the rest of the day playing Settlers of Catan and putting on more and more layers of clothes as it got colder. We slept in a dorm (COVID-19 adapted, 5 people in a room for 15) and got up just before sunrise. We were pretty much on our own when we started the ascent to the summit, accompanied only by an ice-cold wind once we reached the tree line. Fighting through the gusty wind we reached Skolio, the second highest peak of the mountain range. Making our way towards Mytikas, the highest peak, we realized step by step that this was going to be a tough ascent. We were climbing our way up over brittle rocks, absolutely unsecured on a trail that is only marked by occasional yellow paint. After having hiked up the Zugspitze a couple of weeks before with a via ferrata rating of A/B we were surprised we hadn’t read anything about the difficulty of this passage. It didn’t make things easier that we were carrying our backpacks with us - apparently the only ones stupid enough to not leave them at the hut and pick them up on our way back…! The view made up for all the hard work though - mountain ranges on one side and the ocean on the other, no wonder Zeus decided to build his crib right there! The descent taking us via the Muses Plateau seemed never ending, leading down steep, rocky trails and so we very pretty exhausted and happy to be reunited with Boggy at the parking lot after 8 hours of hiking.
We were ready for some beach time…