Greece cast its magic spell as Manas and Anu ride through its heartland- and the incredible spectacle of its natural beauty
Water so blue that the sky pales in comparison. Flowers that were red, blue, yellow, white and colours that were yet to be named. Green so delicate that sunrays filtered through each leaf. And the white line of the road slithered its way endlessly through the mountains and the black tarmac. Today was a ride through heaven. Greece, your heartland is virgin, pristine- unexplored by tourists or locals who throng your beaches and islands. Thank you for keeping your treasures so well hidden- thank you for sharing them with us so bountifully. Today we had an overdose of extraordinary beauty for over 9 hours during our ride from Preveza till Lamia through the mountainous regions of Inachos.
It started harmlessly enough- instead of taking the route through Ioanna and Kalapaka, we decided to go for the longer one that ran through the heartland over the Kampos mountains. The result was a journey which has left us heady and drunk with beauty- a ride so breathtaking that every turn, every single moment left us spellbound.
The last couple of days we had stayed at the apartment that belonged to Theo, Our host at Preveza. Kind, self effacing and amazingly gentle, Theo introduced us to his sister and his family- and we spent last evening with them: discussing about our loves, our worlds and realizing all the more that though we come from different backgrounds and geographies, our aspirations as well as dilemmas remain the same. “Perhaps that is what defines us as humans” Theo commented- and perhaps he was right at that. We were discussing about his relocation to Greece after 40 years in Germany- and how the need to bond as friends is a nascent human instinct. This morning he arrived at the appointed hour 11am sharp to see us off. And in that sense he was more German than Greek- especially his sense of punctuality, meticulousness and subtlety.
The easier option was the route that led us through the Ioninna city, a scenic route that led through Kalapaka city with its mysterious rock columns and the Meteora monasteries- but that is a route we had, only a couple of days back, travelled. And so we went for the longer and unexplored circuit along route 42, past the vast Amyrakykos lake, its jungles of pine and fir, over mount Kampos, past the blue waters of Lake Kastrakiou, across the Lake Kremaston, crossing the river Agrafiotis and a few other smaller rivers and lakes along the way. We then followed the route E592 until Karpenisi. After Karpenisi, we picked our way through the country roads till finally, we reached Lamia, our destination for the night. In this ride of 300 plus kilometres, we must have easily navigated over 500 hairpins- and the road, truly was a spectacular one. Steep climbs, deep descents and narrow roads added to the adventure- as the countryside of Greece revealed its magic to us. We were stunned. Never in all these weeks and months of crossing incredible terrains, had we witnessed panoramas that were so breathtaking. We were helpless- the scenery at each turn was so dramatic and so extraordinary that we were compelled to make more stops than we could even keep track of. We succumbed to it willingly- and sometimes just paused beside the road- sometimes parked at a welcome shoulder- and simply soaked-in the vista, in silence. The sun was a hot ball of fire- but we felt nothing except the hypnotic appeal of the beauty surrounding us. Occasionally this landscape would be interrupted by a small village or two- marked by a scattering of houses- and then the magic would resume again.
We travelled thus for nine hours- and when (well past darkness) we pulled over at the house of Deppy, we felt a tug in our hearts that this dream ride had come to a close. I must admit that in all my years, I have never travelled across another more fascinating landscape or had a more engaging ride, than this particular experience of today.
What added to the charm was the completely unspoilt and raw nature of the route. It was rare to find any vehicle, there were no tourists we encountered throughout the day- and the village folk also were conspicuous by their lack of interest / presence in these country roads. It felt as if nature had prepared this very rare and special treat exclusively for us.
In the evening after a warm shower and dinner, Anu and me sat together. “Was it real or did we imagine this ride?” she asked. I was at that time downloading the pictures of the day: “Thank goodness that we have the pictures to prove we were not hallucinating” I said… and we fell into a quiet silence, thinking back to the most marvellous ride of our lives and thanking our stars that we lived to witness such a divine spectacle throughout the day, here in the heartland of Greece.