Friday, June 27, 2014

The Body Demands

Jolly good, Mr Insomnia has paid a visit again and tipped me out of bed after 3.5 hours sleep, and his visit, combined with a house temperature of 27.5C, means that’s my lot for tonight. I will, therefore, write a waffly blog post. But where to begin?

I mentioned a few posts back how after walking a silly distance with the sweat pouring out, my body later responded with painful leg cramps and a subsequent demand for very salty food. Today I had a similar experience with my body registering its objection to how I’ve been treating it.

I’ve been walking for miles and swimming for miles and I haven’t been eating much. Now I was saying that I put myself on a diet because I wanted to lose weight, and because after fighting a losing battle over most of a year, losing weight was a battle I could win. However, it is not as simple as that. Spending many months in close proximity with someone dying of bowel cancer can fundamentally change your relationship with food, believe me. I have to admit that I don’t like it very much now. It’s fuel; something I must ingest if I am to continue functioning.

So, where was I? The day before yesterday I walked a silly distance in a silly temperature then followed that up with a couple of long swims. I must have burned many calories, while my intake, including beer and the two gyros I forced myself to eat, was about 2000, maybe 2500. Apparently, according to an online calculator, my BMR (basal metabolic rate i.e. how much my body burns while at rest) is 1641 calories while to maintain my present activity I need to consume 1476 so in total 3117. As you can see there’s a deficit, and this was on a day I forced myself to eat extra. On other days I have been just as active and eaten much less.

Yesterday morning, in an attempt to stop myself turning into a complete raggety arse, I made myself breakfast. I had three boiled eggs and toast. I didn’t go for a long walk (with the temperature at its present level I think that’s over until Autumn) but I did swim a distance of about three-quarters of a mile (I must check this on Google Earth). Then in the evening, I decided to take a walk over to a restaurant called Stratos and have a meal there. 

I ate a pork shank with rice, vegetables and garlic bread and afterwards sat there feeling like I’d just had a light snack. I said I was still hungry and the chef, Van, suggested barbecued ribs. I agreed thinking this would just be a small plate of ribs. Another meal arrived of a rack of ribs in hot sauce with chips and vegetables. I ate that as well, polished off all but one piece of the garlic bread and ate all the complimentary watermelon too. At this point, at any time in the last twenty years, I would have been feeling tired and perhaps a bit sick, while in the last ten years my gut would have been bulging over my trousers and I would have been burping acid. As it was, I felt more alert, stronger, and was baffled about where the food had gone.

My body had obviously been crying out for the missing calories my fucked-up mind has been denying it. And, I guess, at some point during today, it’ll demand the sleep that’s been denied by the same malfunctioning organ.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Butterfly Gorge

This Wednesday’s walk was up Butterfly Gorge and we were aiming for the second church up near a place called Orino, after which we would either walk all the way back down again, or walk a further two kilometres  to the road and call for a lift back down. I’d already heard that it was going to be hot on this day and as Chris, Brian, Kostas and I set out through Koutsouras Park I was already broiling.

This wasn’t a great walk. Yes, there’s beautiful scenery and interesting stuff to see, but a number of factors killed the pleasure for me and the others.

There’s a lot of growth in the gorge which would have been fine if we were walking in the winter. As it was we were in shorts and after stomping through low thorny growths, occasionally going off-piste to end up in Livingstone territory, and pushing through bushes and bamboo to try to locate the trail, there was not one of us who wasn’t leaking the red stuff.

Add in a steadily climbing temperature, my hangover and general bad temper, and this wasn’t a great walk for me. I couldn’t even shed my shirt because of the protection it offered from surrounding growth or, for the same reason, my sunglasses when we were tramping through gloomy areas. Even Brian, ex Royal Navy and ex Glasgow riot cop, was flagging by the time we reached the first church. I think being speared in the back and nearly through his ear by the rough end of a bamboo didn’t do his demeanour any favours either.

From the first church we tramped onwards, but no one was having any fun, especially when we kept losing the trail. Also, the next stage of the walk was in the open and partially mountain climbing, while we were running out of water and it was very hot. We turned back ... except for Mad Dog Kostas who decided he was going to go all the way to the top and try to catch a lift down on the road.

On the way down, and after I nearly keeled over with a dizzy spell, I knew we’d made the right decision, though there was some guilt about allowing Kostas to continue by himself (this started as a walk in the park but certainly wasn’t one later, and such walks can be dangerous). Back down in a bar in Koutsouras Chris remained in contact with Kostas and, as he reached the top of gorge some twenty minutes after we reached the bottom, we set out to pick him up.

As we drove back to Makrigialos the temperature was such that if you put your arm out the window it was like putting in front of a fan heater.

After cooling down a bit in The Rock, with a beer, I looked at the flat calm sea and knew that despite being knackered I had to have a big swim. I did my usual route: to the harbour back along the buoys to the point where the jet skis go in then back to the beach (maybe three-quarters of a mile or a mile). Kostas was there, and is a good swimmer, so I suggested we have a bit of a race around the same circuit at some point. He was a bit blasé about the idea whereupon I made the mistake of making chicken sounds. He went off after his swim and I crashed on the beach. An hour or so later I heard a voice behind me, ‘Hey, poseur.’ Oops.While I had been expecting some race in a day or so he was all, ‘Let’s do it now.’ What the hell.

We raced around the circuit again, the winner the one who touched a Carlsberg sign on the beach first. I started off pulling ahead a little but then he accelerated. By the time we reached the harbour he was twenty feet ahead. Later, so he tells me, he saw someone swimming to shore and thought it was me giving up. As it was, I was on the other side of him. Still, he reached the shore about 30 feet ahead of me, sauntered up the beach with a big grin on his face and touched the sign. In my favour I have to point out that I was four beers ahead of him, and am 15 years older...

Next time.

Oh, and in the gorge I only saw one butterfly, so I don’t know what that’s all about.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pervolakia Again

On Sunday morning, I woke to a beep from my mobile and checking it found a text from Chris at The Rock. Did I fancy walking up Pervolakia Gorge and, if so, to be at Bay View at 9.00. At first, I thought it must be a text somehow delayed from the previous week. Then on checking saw the time stamp was from 1.00 that morning. My next thought, knowing that Mad Dog Kostas was at The Rock the previous evening, was that this was late night madness to be regretted in the morning. Even so, I began preparing for the walk. Obviously, I have been working on the theory that if you smack yourself in the calf muscles with a hammer the pain is all in the mind – a subjective experience of the universe fully open to interpretation or one I could ignore.

Later Chris confirmed that the walk was on. Two English guys from Newcastle way wanted to walk the gorge and he was taking them.

As I drove to Bay View, I wondered if these two were prepared for what was to come: if they had brought water, had the right footwear ... had brought hats. I briefly met John and Rob at Bay View then again at the car park below Kapsa Monastery as we set out. Here are, from the left, Chris, John and Rob:

During all this, at no point were the words ‘fell’ and ‘runner’ mentioned. Chris set out at a blistering pace that my inner masochist enjoyed, while Rob and John strolled along on what one of them called a ‘social walk’. Talking to the two, I learned that they like to do stuff like tramping for miles through two-foot deep snow, walking up Ben Nevis, or shaking the cobwebs out with frequent six-mile runs. Then, of course, there’s the fell running: 26 miles across marsh land – the kind of running that might make your average London Marathon runner pall. It soon became apparent that no, these two did not spend their holidays here seeing Crete from a sun bed.

We reached the top of the gorge in 1.5 hours, which is good going, then stopped for a break in the Kafenion (only one beer each for Chris and I).  
Next, we climbed another 150 metres to find the goat trail down, which was what Rob and John wanted to locate.

On the way back down, we found the ‘nice cave’ that we had somehow missed on the previous walk.

From the kafenion back to the cars was another 1.5 hours. Despite the speed at which we did the walk this time, I had found it easier. Perhaps this was because I had prepared with a rehydration drink beforehand, or perhaps it was simply that the lack of walking since my last trip up this gorge had allowed my body to recover. But y’know, I’m 53. The other three are all retirees, some in their 60s, doing physical stuff that would result in many much younger people being carted off on a stretcher.

Which is one illustration of why I get immensely irritated by the words, 'But I'm too old...'  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Glorious Gorging

This Wednesday’s walk was Pervolakia Gorge (my map has it as Perivolakia, but everyone pronounces it the first way). This was a shorter walk and we were setting out later at 9.00 AM so it was going to be easier, right? It was much shorter than last week’s walk so should have been a doddle, right? This was my thinking as we arrived at Kapsa monastery.

It was hot right from the start as Chris (The Rock Bar), Mark, Kostas and I set out (this picture is a later 'selfie' from Kostas).

Consider walking up 3.5 miles of staircases, with some occasional easier bits where you aren’t watching your own sweat drip on the rocks. About halfway up my T-shirt was dripping and this time I really did need the water I’d brought along. And most of this route was in the shade.

Kostas is a Greek guy who, later on during this walk, acquired the title ‘Mad Dog’ because, of course, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. This name is appropriate in so many ways. It describes someone who climbs up mountain paths, which most people would find difficult simply walking, so he can rake them clear for his mountain bike. There were odd instances when Kostas got out of breath during this walk – I could tell because he occasionally stopped talking!

For those of you who might feel inclined to indulge in some of the ideas we discussed, like para-cycling or throwing yourself in a flight suit off of a Pervolakia cliff and leaving you mark there, probably as a splatter on another cliff, Kostas can be found here, the apartments he runs below.  

Yet again the scenery was superb. I can ramble on about it but these pictures tell that story, and as always they don’t quite capture the scale. Kostas immediately adopted my use of the word ‘glorious’ here.

Mark, meanwhile, true to his name, dryly informed us of our present elevation or how many kilometres we had to go, usually when we were sweating up some steep slope.

At the top of the gorge we stopped off in the village of Pervolaki for the obligatory beers and mezes. The guy on the left is Tim from Armeni, whom Kostas didn’t allow any of the first bottle of water since he didn’t deserve it, having driven there.

Next came a schlep up another mountain followed by a walk down a winding goat track back to Kapsa Monestary. Here there was no shade at all but luckily a breeze had sprung up.

In all the distance covered was about 8 miles, but I’m guessing because my pedometer packed up on the way back down. I think I’ve worn the thing out.

After this I returned to Makrigialos and swam maybe three-quarters of a mile. This was okay. It was only on my second swim that cramp hit first my right calf muscle then my left. In each case it was like I’d been whacked there with a hammer. Later I ordered a gyros and found I simply could not put too much salt on it – my body was crying out for the stuff.

I suspect, unfortunately, that it’s beginning to get too hot for this kind of trekking.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Between The Rock and the Hard Place

My apologies for the title of this blog, but I couldn't resist it.

So I met a guy down the pub the other day ... let me rephrase that. I was down in Makrigialos and, since I sometimes find it painful to be in there, I avoided Revans and walked into a bar called The Rock 
 On his way out of the bar was Tim, who lives in a village called Armeni up behind me (he’s the guy whose coffee bill has gone up because I keep stopping in at his house during my walks). He turned round and walked back in and we sat there enjoying a beer along with the owners of the bar: Chris and Claire. At one point Tim said, ‘You should go with Chris and his group – they go for a walk every Wednesday.’ Since I was in arrogant upswing mood I replied, ‘Nah, they’d never keep up with me.’ Later I listened a bit more closely. These walks are along various gorges. Later still, I meekly asked if I could go with them and, despite my gob, was invited.

This Wednesday I met Chris, Brian and Margaret in Makrigialos. Margaret drove us up the Pefki road and then up a fork from that, up and up until it terminated at a point where you just turn round and drive back. On the way up Chris pointed to a church and said, ‘We’re going a thousand feet above that (first picture below).

As we set out along what was effectively a goat track I realised this was going to be no pushover. Oh-oh, I thought, I’m about to be taught a lesson.

First stop was Vreiko Cave.

Thereafter the country got wilder and incredibly beautiful.

Here's that church viewed from above on the other side - the white speck on top of that distant peak:

Here are Brian (with the hat) and Chris.

We negotiated a couple of gorges. Here's just a few views - got loads and every one is a postcard.



While we were walking I was ever on the lookout for a plant called dictamus. This is the Cretan tea that is supposed to be a universal panacea. I’ve just been told by a guy called Martin, who is painting my house, that young Cretan men used to prove their manhood by climbing to remote spots to collect the stuff. I’ve also heard that people have been killed while collecting it. Anyway, I think the silvery stuff you see here in this ruined village is the real deal, but I’ve been wrong before so don’t take my word for it.


While we were walking, I kept checking my pedometer. Chris had told me that the walk would be about 15 kilometres, so about 9 miles. This is about what I’ve been walking up behind my house, but not on this kind of terrain.

I forgot to check the distance but, after a number of hours, we arrived at the village of Pefki where refreshments were in order.

After Pefki we walked down Pefki Gorge to Makrigialos with the temperature steadily rising all the way down. Up in the mountains it was cool. Prior to this walk I was worried that I might get overheated walking ‘down there’. What a prat. This walk was mostly ‘up there’ compared to where I walk behind Papagianades.

Finally arriving back in Makrigialos I went for a much needed swim. My pedometer read 10.3 miles. The things aren’t that accurate so it could have been less could have been more, but it was certainly one hell of a walk. Two days later now and I can still feel lead shot in my calf muscles.
Thanks Chris, Brian and Margaret.