This Time the Monastery
Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
154Trip End Sep 11, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
At one point I came across an olive harvest in process. A couple of guys were flailing at an olive tree with about ten foot long poles. As I approached a location on a hillside closely across a gully from them they moved a tarp to just opposite me. I sat down and prepared to make a video of the process, already with a title in mind: "Harvesting Olives in Paradise." I would pan from some cows grazing on a green grassy hilltop across the olive trees to the men whacking at a tree in this gorgeous setting.
But, they positioned the tarp under the tree, spotted me, waved a greeting--then left the set for a tea break.
In going overland sometimes the expanse of rock was like walking on a highway. The texture was very favorable to easily walking up and down extremely steep slopes. But the knobs were also polished, and if wet quite the opposite. Then it was more like trying to walk on ball bearings.
I continued on to pretty easily find the ruins of the Seven Brothers Monastery. I was viewing it from above when I saw a tour group approaching. They, of course, had come up along the path that Saddam and I had lost track of. And, without noticing, I had crossed a few minutes before.
I raced down to the tour group in hopes of perhaps getting in on some explanations of the place. It was a combined group of Germans and English. They said it was fine if I hung out with them for a listen to the guide's remarks. They didn't amount to much at all, mostly answering questions. But he did direct us to the only remaining frescoes, painted beneath the shelter of one of the scooped out rocks.
After a short lunch break the group headed back. I said my thanks, and headed off to continue along the well-defined path as it continued up beyond the monastery. If it continued in my favor it would curve from northward around the rising geography and to the west. Then if all worked out well I could come down, back into the village where my pension was.
For a while it was easy going, as the path was pretty well marked as a cow trail.
But, when I felt the path was going too far north to be comfortable about, I cut across to my left at a place convenient to cross the stream that came down from above. It was possible that the path would do the same, but considering the time remaining in the afternoon I didn't want to invest any more time going north. I wanted to get heading west.
As it was, the path did in fact cross the stream above and I was able to reconnect with it not to far up from where I did cross the stream.
But, as it went west it became less and less distinct. Until I basically lost it altogether.
I lost the path, but it was still possible to keep going west; but at the same time climb higher. This was initially pretty fine, too, as I had wanted to do that as well.
However, as the climb went higher, the rocks--massive rounded boulders, really--became larger and larger. And therefore the gaps between them became larger, and deeper, thus cutting down my options to progress.
I was trying to get a look over the crest of one rock mass that faced the slope. Finally I had only one choice if I was to go ahead, and that was to use a crack in the rocks on my right to get a hand grip and a place to wedge my feet. The rock I was crawling on rolled away to my left, and a serious drop off. Above my back it angled out to my left above my head. I'll confess to a little anxiety in these moments, as much for the necessity to inch upwards on my stomach as for the lowering sun.
I had crawled, inching up this incline maybe twenty feet, with another perhaps thirty feet to go to get a look over and see what might be next. But my experience has taught me to believe that what you see "over the top" is often another top to see or get over. So, for one of the first times in my life I decided to "go with the devil I knew rather than the devil I didn't know." I elected to inch-slide back down the crevice, hope that I could fairly quickly find my way back to reconnect with the path down to the monastery, and then follow that path down from the monastery, which I hadn't before traced, and it all would deliver me back to the village of Golyaka, Saddam's home, before the sun set and it got dark. That little crawl up, then back down, the ledge was probably the most anxious moments I have had in all my ventures so far.
I was fortunate to regain the path fairly quickly, even re-crossing the stream in the same place. And, once I was back on the path, whatever stretches were level and packed dirt--as opposed to descending and rocky--I jogged.
Down just outside the village I saw an item I remembered from the day before. It was a large, greenish ceramic jug. It was in a small grove of trees along with a couple of crude benches. I took note that in coming down it was on my right, and the day before, with Saddam the Guide Dog, when we had passed it it was on my right as well. So evidently that is where the true path was lost. And I can't honestly say who was leading at that moment, Saddam or me.
In any case I was back into the neighboring village just after sunset.
I was about half way into the village when the street made a right angle turn to the left, and made a steep drop down to another level. Near the bottom I looked back up and wondered, had that old dog and I gone up such a steep incline the day before? We had.
I turned and looked down the street--and saw in the fading light a dark form plodding my way. Yes! It was Saddam! I couldn't believe it. Did he know I was coming? Or had he labored all that way up in his daily rounds of checking his territory? I had been nowhere near the village previously on this day. One will never know.
I called his name and he turned to me. Was he wagging his tail, was he smiling? Again, I have no idea. By this time it was too dark to tell. But in his slow way he came right to me, sticking his nose between my knees. I knelt down, scratched his ears and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then he turned and walked down to the bottom with me.
There at the bottom Saddam had to attend to a little policing of a couple of other fellows in his territory. I continued along the road back to my village.
I even jogged some of that, wanting to get back quickly so that Emin, the pension keeper would not worry. While jogging I was thinking, I walk a lot, I hike a lot, I climb a lot. But I don't jog; so in the morning I'm going to be stiff as a board. (I wasn't).
After a few sets of alternate jogging and walking an elderly German couple gave me a lift. (Elderly? Perhaps contemporaries. I don't know where I fit into the scheme anymore).
The next pictures are of geologic features of the area that sparked my imagination.