Tales from the wilds of Pelion, Greece

I went to Argalasti, market day, for a mini shop and to get the cats a giant sack of kibble. The market felt hectic and lots of people. Town on Saturday morning felt like somewhere to go into and get out of fairly promptly! Perhaps the step up from solitude was just a little large for me today…. I feel a tug to explore instead Promyri, a mysterious mountain village just round the corner.

So I jump in the car, a spiral spanicopita hanging from the corner of my mouth and flaky pastry flying everywhere and take to the winding road…

Following the road straight on for Promyri rather than turning off to the familiar curves of Kastri and Platania, I feel a little thrill run through me.

Adventures afoot. I had imagined a frappe in a pretty square and a little reading. That kind of low key adventure. I feel however, something bigger in store. Curious, excited.

I quickly reach a choice point Promyri centre or follow the road to Katagiorgis and Liri. I head straight on to check out the centre of the village. Wow…. the village itself is nestled in the most picturesque drama of a hillside I’ve seen in a long time, looking out over a catlike winding valley sloping gently to the sea. I whimper for a camera.

The ancient villas hang like ripe terracotta topped fruits, jutting in places like the jagged yellow cuts of a crumbling roadside rock face, in others curving around to fit the valley sides snugly like a sleeping toddler under a parent’s arm. The edges of the village are plumed in the most celebratory manner by clutches of regal poplars, feathering the skyline and punctuating the topography of the settlement.

I drive into town and enter the wild west. Shutters down, dogs eyeing me defiantly from the middle of the road, a solitary human does a double take and peers into my windscreen from under his flat cap as I pass, chewing on a cigarette. Promyri is closed for winter, unsurprisingly. Life is going on here, deeper inside the village, a little out from the centre, where the hearth fires burn and pots simmer and knitting goes on. Underground.

So I turn around slowly, gasping now and again at glimpses of the view and trying to keep my eyes forward. I return to the crossroads – glance left and right, and take the high road…

Straight away we are going up, up more than I expected, up more than feels quite comfortable, up suddenly and slowly and circuitously like a rollercoaster building for a big drop… Rounding the first corner I’m blinded to a halt by the view, a short distance has brought a large leap in altitude and an expansion of aspect and …SWEET BABY JESUS WEPT. The road winds on almost out of my hands like a snake wriggling out of its skin. The coils are tight and the views are overwhelming. The edges of the tarmac crumble into sheer, giddying drops on the right hand side… and this is Greece, we drive on the right handside… and I say F*CK a lot, really a lot, on every bend.

As I climb higher and higher and the view just doesn’t stop pushing at my edges, driving me on to take in more and more of the wild forested waves cascading to the ocean. I feel myself on the edge, inside and out… I pull over for a moment to the side of the road and say F*CK a lot more and breathe.

This is a Grade A original wild ride, this is a wild road… am I up to it? Ok yes, I am up to it, it might get wilder but I’m in, I’m game. Just need to really watch the road and not let myself get too enraptured by the view or it’ll be me and this elderly Passat cascading down the valley…

So I’m headed for Katagiorgis and I have a faint memory of that place. It’s sea level, a little port, so we must be going down at some point, this is not a rollercoaster ride to the very heavens though it feels like it could be. I know that there is a gentle, comparitively tedious, lazy loopy road that will take me back along the coast. Just get there safely and with my mental faculties intact in the face of ocular overload… and it’s a nice easy ride home.

I breathe and settle into the rhythm of the winding wild ride, adrenaline surges steadying to a gentle pulse and it’s just wow, wow, oh my goodness, wow… then around a sweeping bend we are on the other side, inland vistas, forests for miles. Tiny hidden farmhouses just peeking out here and there. Maybe 3 or 4 in view at most. Then I descend gradually through olive groves into civilisation, the little village of Lyri – a road with some houses, a small digger on the back of a lorry is doing a wheely in the middle of the road- something about a tree…. a tumbledown cottage full of goats- one massive conker brown goat standing half out the window… people standing talking… big rubbish bins…

A few more bends and I reach Katagiorgis. A tiny little cove with two tavernas and an icecream shop right on the beach. It’s a chocolate box beach. Of course it is winter, no frappes my friend….There are about 9 or 10 people milling around, perhaps because the Veg Man is in town with his wares and his wife displayed proudly in the back of a pick up and their loud haler blaring music from the radio and announcing their specialities.

I park up and go sit on the terrace of a slumbering taverna, feet on the beach, leaning against a pillar of the porch. I close my eyes and listen to the sea. I open them and look at the sea, softly swaying at the shore.

My whole body is vibrating from the adrenaline of my gallop through the hills. Or perhaps from the subtleties of my suspension. Whichever, it’s a real physical buzz resonating all through my body with particular intensity in my lower body.

I close my eyes again and feel the eyes of the locals on me. I know my strangeness, and I don’t care much. I have smiled and said hello. I don’t wish to interrupt, I don’t need to be hosted, juist to slip in amongst them a moment and take it all in.

Then a lovely boy with amber eyes comes over to greet me. He takes in my scent, lays his head in my lap, and I massage his neck and shoulders and stroke between his eyes. He wags his tail. What if we humans greeted each other this way. Such ease and initmacy, touch is such a sweet way to connect. We hang out for a little while and I appeciate his warmth against my leg as he sits down and accompanies me in my stillness.

Then it’s time to go, aware of my four-legged friends at home.I thank him and say goodbye and walk back to the car, smiling and noddng at the occasional curious human as I go. I set off and see soon after the turn off for the easy road home…. I see it and I turn my eyes forward to the wild road ahead. I wanna do it again!!

Adventure day today – started in the usual way with a trip to Argalasti to pick up 30kg of meaty biscuits to keep the furries happy and various simple treats for myself like cheese and tahini and a packet of prosciutto (didn’t make it home- straight down the hatch!).

On the way I pick up my first hitchhiker – an older Greek lady, delighted that I had stopped. We chat in different languages – she is going to Argalasti to meet a friend, it is cold, I am a good driver, she is happy. We arrive to our destination and she takes both my hands and kisses them and beams at me and thanks me and off she goes. Super sweet.

On the way back I follow an inkling down a windy, bouncy dirt road signed for Mikro- I’ve heard something about a taverna there and I fancy a frappe by the sea as the sun is coming out again, celebrate!

The road winds through wild woods full of long-haired goats and dogs that chase the car and for miles on both sides are the rippling green curves of wooded coastline.

Saturdays are a funny day for driving as these wilderness roads are fairly empty, until you round a corner and encounter quite alarmingly a pickup truck with 3 guys holding rifles sat in the back. Hunting day.

Hunters aside there’s not a soul about. I wind down a slalem of cliff edged hairpin roads and vast ocean views open up in front as I descend. Mikro beach is weeny, as its name suggests. A sweet strand of pebble-spotted sand with a gaggle of softly rounded rocks lounging together at one end. One massive rock stands alone in the sand. It is taller than me and I lean into it for a hug and rest my head on it, gazing out to sea, feels so restful.

There are about 10 little guesthouses, homes and cafes lined up at the other end of the beach. I’ve seen a cat, two youngsters running on the sand, and an old guy sitting out on the terrace of a shut up taverna reading. None of them are remotely concerned by my presence, or my rock snuggling or the way I crouch on the edge and stare at the water dancing over the pebbled seabed. I love the way everyone just gets on with life here and leaves each other in peace. Friendly, but unobtrusive folk.

When I get home it’s action stations. Freddie is dancing with his happy ears out horizontal, ready for a walk, and the cats are assembling in the kitchen, bickering and posturing to be first at the biscuits. The evening cool is setting in, there’s wood to be fetched and my tummy rumbles- prosciutto for lunch, albeit a whole pack, is not a proper meal!

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