I left Ioannina in the early afternoon with the goal of making it to Metsovo for the night. There wasn't really a good stop in between, and my map told me it was somewhere around 55 kilometers from Ioannina. This seemed manageable if I walked a little bit of it. It would be almost entirely uphill, along the "Katara Pass" to Kalambaka. "Katara" by the way, translates to "Cursed," and at 1,746 meters it is one of the highest in Greece.
I wasn't sure if there would be any stores in between, so I bought a roll of Oreos and a big bottle of water and decided to walk the first leg. I figured I could keep hydrated for a couple hours of walking, and then start running when I got to a reasonable distance. I walked for around two hours, and chipped 12 kilometers or so out of the run and all the Oreos out of the roll.
I ran straight for the next two hours or so along windy mountain roads. I had chosen the old road, by the way...the new one was more like a freeway and involved some serious several kilometer tunnels. There was nothing along this road, and as packets of cars slowly passed by in the oncoming lane and honked their horns, I could see the surprise in their faces. "What is this guy doing here?!" The road wound and wound, in mountains and valleys, miles from anything. If you get carsick, this road is like your worst nightmare.
Luckily there was a little village at the 40 km mark, and I stopped to get some Powerade before diving into the last hour or so of running. I was all excited to get into the last leg, but after only a couple steps my legs started feeling terrible. The road was a constant uphill, and after thirty minutes more I decided to stop and walk.
I walked, and walked, and walked. I walked until I got hungry. I hadn't eaten very much this day, and my stomach was starting to feel like it was eating itself. There was nothing between me and Metsovo except more kilometers, and the only way I would eat was if I got there. If I walked I would have to wait longer to eat, but my legs were too dead to run...and I was too hungry to run. I walked until I was about three kilometers away. When I could taste the town ahead, and then I started running.
Oh, I felt terrible...but there was bottles of chocolate milk waiting for me in Metsovo. After eating and drinking a little bit I felt human again and started wandering around the town with the hope of finding a place to sleep.
My mom gave me a call. It was her birthday. "Happy Birthday Mama! Yes, your son feels like death and has nowhere to sleep tonight, but Happy Birthday!" Haha, it wasn't quite like that, but I do feel sorry for making her worry!
Someone told me about a monastery that was down the hill, so I walked down there as it got dark to see if I could find some hospitality. It was a long walk on my tired legs, and when I got there an angry woman with a broom shooed me away. I didn't know angry women with brooms were allowed to live in monasteries. It was the evening time and tourists weren't allowed to come by after hours. As I tried to logic with her she started making barking sounds to tell me "I will send a dog on you." I didn't find a place to stay, and I had to make a huge hike back up the hill into town, but hearing an old woman make barking sounds while waving a straw broom made it all worth it.
I got some dinner at a kind of "fast food" Greek place, where I talked to the guy about what road I should take in the morning. He suggested the new road, because there wouldn't be wild dogs or bears and there would be people to help me. After resolving that speeding cars and several-kilometer-long tunnels were just as dangerous, we decided that I should take the old road. He suggested that I go to the police station to find a place to sleep, but I went to a bar instead.
There I got talking with the young bartender and some of his friends, and after much thinking we resolved that I would have to sleep in his car. He got me a sleeping bag and brought me out to the lot where it was parked. It was a tiny car, and when I saw it from the outside I though "This is going to be hell." It actually wasn't that bad, and after about 10 different positions I ended up finding one that was comfortable enough. I leaned the passenger seat back, and filled the cavity where your feet go level with the seat (with my backpack and assorted random stuff that was in the car). I slept with my head on this pile of stuff (near the glove compartment) and my legs in the back seat.
I didn't take a shower. I smell terrible. More pass and another small village on the way to Kalambaka. I have a couchsurfing host there at least.
18 September 2009