Travel

Curtis in the World: Climbing in Greece

Sweating and panting, I finally managed to climb the side of a rocky cliff in my attempt to reaching the highest point of the ruins of Palaio Pyli. I had been climbing steadily for the past 40 minutes over large building blocks and other portions of the ruins that were scattered all over the landscape, generally for as far as the eye could see. When I finally did reach the halfway point — a combination of pine trees and an old church — I sat down on the nearest comfortable stone I could find and waited for my Turkish friend to arrive. I scanned below me, looking for any signs of him — when I finally found him, I felt pretty bad. Onde (“Un-duh”) was a bit heavier than me, and he was having some trouble navigating the stones, but the determination on his face was a sight to see. Having fallen a couple of times, Onde simply got up, patted himself off, smiled, and continued onward.

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“Fuck that,” Onde yelled when he finally reached me. He was looking upward, measuring the distance we still had to go in order to reach the top.

I stood up and patted him on the back while desperately trying to hold back laughter. “Hey man, it isn’t like we can’t occasionally take a break… and it is honestly not that bad,” I said, again trying to hold back laughter.

Onde simply rolled his eyes and murmured something and we continued onward and upward.

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The beauty of Greece was incredible. Throughout the valley below, we could see spectacular blue streams and small lakes covered by the green canopy occasionally letting sunlight through. Looking westward toward the horizon we could see the calmness of the Aegean Sea, swaying back and forth with the breeze.

It was about an hour and a half later when we reached the top; sweating, tired and out of energy, we excitedly walked to the edge of the cliff we were on and looked out. I could see every part of Kos and even a few of the other Dodecanese islands in the distance. The sun was lower now, and cast an orange tint over the land. I can’t quite put into words how incredibly beautiful my surroundings were, but I took a thousand or more pictures trying to capture the magnificence of it all. I love looking at those pictures still, even though I know they don’t do the sight justice — no picture could.

After what felt like an eternity, Onde and I grabbed our rucksacks and slowly started making our way back to the bottom of the mountain. The trek was considerably easier because we frequently stopped to admire other parts of the ruins, and occasionally we would talk with other adventurers who were making their way up.

We passed an older Asian couple who were exhausted and debating whether or not to make the journey to the top. We stopped and shared some of the pictures we had taken from the summit, and they started to become excited about reaching the top. They said their thank yous and continued their journey.

After another hour we finally reached the base and took off our rucksacks, finishing off our water. People at the base who had never trekked to the summit were eyeing us with uncertainty, as if they now became reluctant to attempt the climb — Onde and I reassured  everyone that we had ran the entire way and that was why we were so tired. When we reached our car, we quickly got in and laughed until we had tears in our eyes, remembering the faces of those tourists who were going to have a hard time making it to the top.

Greece was an amazing place, filled with incredible food, beautiful scenery and rich cultural experiences. If you ever visit Greece, make plans to climb Pyli because although it will be exhausting, it is one of the moments you will cherish and remember forever.

Curtis Albers is a former abused foster care child survivor turned Army Ranger. He enjoys traveling, learning about other cultures, astronomy and generally enjoys interacting with other human beings who are just as optimistic, interesting, creative and passionate as him. 

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