"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Kalathi Circuit - Greece - 25 December 2016
It was Christmas Day in Kalamata and while I was faffing around as usual deciding when and how to get up into the hills, Tarit inspired me to join him and just go for it, heading off in running kit with no particular plan apart from to run/walk and get ourselves up there. Kalathi is the mountain overlooking Kalamata and it's imposing ridge and face seemed to be in touching distance from our base at the Elite hotel.
I had a download from google maps on my phone and we both had a rough idea of where to go (having quizzed Pushkar about his run of earlier in the day) so we soon found ourselves heading along the coast road then jogging up the hill towards Vergas. The streets were quiet and the afternoon sun was warm - our route took us between houses silent (apart from a few vocal dogs) and the odd half-built tourist development before we landed on an open but little-used new ashphalt road that wound up the hill in a succession of hairpins. Soon after that we chanced on a painted red sign that was clearly for a footpath / trekking route and headed up the hill on that.
The path was paved - not in the modern way but with the rough-hewn stone blocks of a typical Peleponnese mule track. Soon there was no sounds apart from our feet slapping on the stone and the tinkling of the sheeps' bells. Occasionally a shepherd called out but there was otherwise a gorgeous silence. The trail crossed a road and we stayed on it, losing it a couple of times then picking it up again we were climbing the last few steps into the village of Upper Vergas. A quick sit down by the chapel in the cool air gave me a chance to check the route - we were at around 750 metres.
From the village we rejoined the road heading north along the skyline we could see from our hotel (not the actual summit just the ridge as it appears from the lowlands) ignoring the red marks that showed the path carrying on, perhaps towards the top at around 1300m. One for another day maybe?
We kept on climbing to a church where paragliders were preparing to hurl themselves off into the air above the bay - rather them than me! Later as we descended we could see them soaring down and it did look like quite a thrill. Beyond the church the road turned to a gravel jeep track and climbed to around 900m before we took a soft trail (again gravel and propably drivable in a jeep) down towards Kalamata. We passed the transmitter we could see from our base and got our bearings from that, then passed below a monastery and found the way down.
In total we were on our feet for 4 hours of climbing, rough terrain and finally the descent - by some distance the longest run/walk I've done in several years! No idea how much ground we covered but to have been running for a good 2 hours was really something for me after so many years of physical challenges stopping me from getting out there on foot. The sunset that greeted us when we returned to the hotel was spectacular and kind of summed up the feeling of the run.
For some days after my muscles were incredibly sore - I'd forgotten that feeling!
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