Jeff's Blog - Saturday, October 1, 2016 - Lousios Gorge

I had a great day in the mountains of the Peloponnesus of Greece today. My main stop was a hike through Lousios Gorge from the Ancient Gortys to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. The best part is that it was only a 20-minute drive from my hotel, and to be honest with you, I'm afraid to drive for the first time since since my first time driving on a freeway back when I was 16 years old. On the way, the fog in the valley below the town of Elliniko, where I'm staying, was ethereal.

The hike started out at the site of an ancient healing center called Gortys, then proceeded for about 3 miles round trip through a gorge carved out by a very fast-flowing river, on gravel paths along the edges of the canyon walls. The first 1/2 mile was up-and-down, but relatively flat overall, then I crossed the river on a footbridge (be careful where you step!)

After the footbridge it was an all-uphill climb of about 700 feet on somewhere around 100 switchbacks to the monastery, which was built around the mid-1600s into the sheer rock face of the gorge.

I could peek into a few rooms, including about the smallest and darkest chapel I've ever seen. The hike back down was in the much hotter midday sun, but still much easier than going up!

After a quick lunch I couldn't help but be stupid and drive the winding mountain road back to the Temple of Apollo at Bassae which I was unable to visit yesterday. I should explain that these mountain roads have no shoulder at all, just a narrow lane each direction, and usually have no guardrail at all. I cannot prove any of this with photos since on such a road there is noplace to stop and take a photo. Any road photos you see will show space to stop and probably a guardrail because the Greeks are very clever in their attempt to discredit a tourist's claims regarding unsafe roads. In fact, I suspect that many people who have taken photos of the roads with no shoulders or guardrails have driven off the edge of the mountain and therefore never had their photographs published. In any case, it is quite scary driving these roads and I was quite stupid to drive for an hour each way on these roads to see this temple, but hey, it's an ancient Greek temple built at the very top of a very tall mountain, so like a magnet it pulled me toward it even though I know it's inside a protective tent while being restored and stabilized.

A flock (?) of goats blocked the road back down for a while as they went back home for the night. The shepherd who was guiding them had an actual biblical staff with a shepherd's hook, but I didn't get a picture of him. Look! There's a guardrail there at the goat crossing! Those clever Greeks!

I drove back to Elliniko without incident, having accomplished the incredible feat of 2-1/2 hours of driving today without any problem, but admittedly leaning forward over the steering wheel like an old man, watching for potholes, and trying very hard to avoid falling off the edge of the Greek mountains.

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