We didn’t stop except to drink water or take a quick photo. After about five hours of solid walking the gorge basin opened out. Our path moved into an open plain with small trees, shrubs, almost no shade and constant exposure to the searing sun now at its highest point above us. Within minutes our clothes were drenched in sweat and clinging to our bodies. The path started to climb gently at first and then more acutely to the base of the canyon wall where the steep climb to the top started. A meandering, relatively well maintained stone path hugging the canyon sides with the occasional rocky over hang to snatch a few brief moments of respite from the glaring sun. The heat and the steep constant incline rapidly sapped the strength from our legs and the moisture from our bodies. It became a major exercise to put one foot in front of the other, a constant mental/ physical battle played, “stop, go”, “I can’t go on”, “yes you can”, “just a bit more” etc. etc. And so the battle raged getting more and more desperate as our pace slowed to little more than a snail crawl. Finally we reached the top, crying with exhausted relief. We had made it!!! We stumbled onto and over the narrow tar road and collapsed onto the bench in the strategically placed open shelter (clearly placed there for the likes of us).
When normal body sensations and mental clarity returned I slipped off my wet clammy saturated shirt and duly wrung it out leaving pools of liquid on the floor. Water from the tap in the shelter ran until our thirsts were slated. Some more minutes of idle recuperation and then we walked the last hundred metres or so around a bend in the road to Vikos’s centre; two restaurant/cafes some bungalows and a look-out point. We flopped into a seat outside the nearest restaurant, ordered a large beer and another bottle of water, placed my shirt on some hot sun baked boulders to dry, phoned for our host to come and collect us, relaxed, and waited for our lift – content with our day’s accomplishment.
Our host, Dimitris, told us that six hours and a quarter (which we had taken) to complete the 13 km gorge walk was considered a good average time for fit young people, so we were well satisfied. Back in our lodgings in Monodendri we showered and changed and let the experience sink in. The first physical reactions were felt that evening when walking down the cobbled road to dinner. The uneven surface of the road seemed to accentuate the stiffness that was setting in from our physical exertions of the day and little twinges of just acceptable pain were being felt in all joints from the feet up and into the hips and trunk.
That night we slept solidly and soundly no doubt giving us strength for the day to come. We woke up with intense stiffness all over, no joint or muscle escaping. A hot power shower eased the bulk of the pain and stiffness. Then to breakfast, ”Oh My God”, a short flight of stairs down to the dinning room, pain and suffering, on the first step down both calf muscles seized up with cramp, up or down whichever calf took the weight the cramp intensified along with the pain and suffering. Standing still on tiptoe for an interminable length of time eased the pain enough to gently and very slowly with gritted teeth move down to the next step, wait, get my breath back and repeat the procedure one by one to the bottom.
On even ground the after glow of the cramp seizures were still very painfully but at least I could move without gritting my teeth. Throughout that day any small downward step triggered the cramp reaction in the calf muscles. For the next two days we rested and walked slowly around the village on the most level roads and paths we could find. It helped work out some of the stiffness and pain in the muscles. *****************