I had lots of ideas of what this Camino would be like. Some were spot on, but I was also to be thwarted with discouragement.
I had not been looking forward to this last challenge of the trek. And it lived up to its reputation, with myriad switchbacks and trails that were so narrow that faster hikers could not easily pass me.
Because of the steep valley walls, it was difficult to build one fortress to encompass each village, so individual defense towers (called “koshki” by locals) were built within villages.
The next thing we knew, we were climbing straight up. This was, by far, the steepest climb of the whole trip, with tiny hand- and toeholds. The trail was sketchy at best…
…the reservations I had made crumbled one by one. Country borders that had shyly opened slammed shut, making a multi-country train voyage impossible.
Becca and I were getting hiking weary. The steep daily ups and downs were taking their toll on our knees and feet.
We started out walking uphill on the road out of Milishevc. Then we had to climb a steep hill with no real trail—just using our GPS to get us up to the main trail. Even then, the trail was non-existent in places, and we had to rely on GPS and the occasional Peaks of the Balkans trail markers.
This was the longest stage so far….We enjoyed long easy walks up and down along ridges and over some low passes from one valley to another.
Rebecca and I created our own progressive supper in the Kadikoy neighborhood of Istanbul….We spent well over three hours eating and drinking.
Today, as we had expected, was easier overall. There was an easy uphill until about the halfway point. Then we had lovely rolling hills and ridges to traverse for the rest of the day. There were no real hurdles.
It was not without some trepidation that we started out on our Peaks of the Balkans circuit … We knew that our choice to go over the Prolipsit and Borit passes would test our strength—almost 20 kilometers with an elevation gain of 1422 meters.
We decided to start our journey in the small town of Valbona, then hike counter-clockwise (anti-clockwise for my British friends) around the trail circuit ending in Theth.
This training culminated last week as we did a three-day test trek in the Zagoria Valley near Permet in Southern Albania
While you are meant to linger over dinner in most countries, in Turkey, it is not uncommon to see people nibble on their breakfast feast for a couple hours.
I could have flown (ugh!); I could have taken the overnight bus (double UGH!). But instead, I created an itinerary that, in a small way is reminiscent of the way people traveled 100 years ago.
When chance encounters waylay your travel plans, staying open to the possibilities may mean that you experience something much more valuable.
Eliff led me to the bath chamber where hot water was run into large basins. We could temper the water with a cold tap if we wanted to. But you want to use it as hot as you can stand.
Varlaam was indeed a fascinating place. The museum there provided an excellent opportunity to learn not only the history of the Meteora Monasteries, but also to learn about the way of life
While researching a different trip … I came across some articles about the monasteries of Meteora in Central Greece. Not only do they have a fascinating history, but being precariously perched on the tops and sides of cliffs, they compel visitors to examine them more closely.
I am writing this in the Athens airport waiting to take a short flight to Istanbul. I have never been to Turkey and now I will have over a month to get a taste of this country.