22 Apr 2011

S is for Samaria Gorge.

In the summer of 2005, I went on holiday to the Greek island of Crete, with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, his brother and their dad. It was an amazing holiday: we explored the island, enjoyed great local food and sampled the entire cocktail list of the nearby bar(s).

One day, my father-in-law suggested we'd go for a hike in the Samaria Gorge. I don't remember my exact response, but it will have resembled: 'Uh-uh. Right. Hm.'

I had read about the gorge, and decided it wasn't for me. The guidebooks described it as breathtakingly beautiful, but it was also a 16 kilometre (10 mile) walk on steep, rough terrain, in the blistering July heat.

I was 30 at the time, overweight and in the worst shape of my life. A few months before, I had decided to turn my life around, quit smoking and started working out, but it would take me longer than a few months to see and feel the results.

In spite of those good intentions, when my father-in-law suggested the trek, I resisted. I thought of a hundred excuses why we shouldn't go, but they all came down to this: I was afraid. Afraid it would be tough, afraid I wouldn't make it, afraid everybody would see how weak I was, afraid to be confronted with how much I had let myself slide.

To this day, I'm glad he insisted. Unable to say no, I decided I would go along. The trek would be hell, but once I was in the gorge, I would have no choice but to plod on and get to the end. If it wouldn't kill me, it would make me stronger.

So a few days later, we got up before daybreak to take a taxi that would take us to a bus that would take us to the entrance of the gorge. Armed with brand new hiking shoes, a white hat and a bottle of water, I began my journey.

The first 3 kilometres of the walk consisted of a steep descent along a stony path. By the end of it, my knees ached and I had blisters. Then the real walk began.

Let me tell you: I struggled and suffered, but I also conquered and cheered. I can't even remember how long it took me to get to the end (way over 6 hours would be my guess) but I made it.

The Samaria gorge was to my body what writing is to my soul: a perfect blend of beauty and agony. And after all that misery, when I reached the exit, walked through and turned around to look back, I felt happier, stronger and more proud of myself than I had in a long, long time.

This hike has taught me a few invaluable lessons about life: the importance of facing my inner resistance and fear, how strong (or stubborn) I really am, to put my money (or actions) where my mouth is, and that I never want to go back to the abysmal physical condition I was in - at least not before I'm 80.

Oh yes: and sometimes it's okay to listen to your father-in-law.

I said sometimes!

Here are a few more pictures of what I would have missed, had I stayed on the couch that day:

What was a big turning point in your life?
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  1. Probably my major turning point was when I went back to work full time after being away from the work force for twelve years. (I did the odd temp assignment during that time) I was really scared that I had a) gotten out of touch with how to fuction in the work place b) that I couldn't keep up with my obligations in the home c) that the world would fall apart if I wasn't there to keep things going at home.

  2. Samaria Gorge and A Strong woman. You'll end up a Survivor. I hope you had good solid hiking boots for all the rocks on that trek.

  3. Beautiful. And a great analogy on life and writing. Really related to this post. Loved it. :)))

  4. What an inspiring post. A big turning point in my life was going back to school at 52 years old to complete a college degree. I wanted to quit every single day - it was so hard. But I'm so glad I didn't. I'd felt unfinished until I accomplished that goal. KC,
    thanks for the visit and comment on my blog today.

  5. @mybabyjohn: after 12 years ... wow. I already fear being out of touch after a couple of months of writing sabbatical.

    @Manzanita: thank you! And the boots were a problem: solid hiking boots, but I'd never worn them before ;-)

    @L.G.: thanks! Speaking about 'Rare Revelations' ... :-)

    @Karen: thank you so much! Going back to school after you've been gone for a long time is so hard! I teach at a college, and every so often we get students who are a bit older and juggle studying with the other aspects of their lives. I have so much respect for that!

  6. I think it's wonderful you went on that hike, made it to the end, and turned your life around. And I love the last line of your post. Sometimes it's okay to listen to you father-in-law.

  7. I started out loving this post because of the photos, but then the more I read the more I loved it for what you wrote. It really was a turning point for you!

    With gas prices what they are these days, this summer I'm planning on a lot more hiking trips than road trips so I'm already starting to walk more to get in shape. :-)

  8. @Angela: Thank you :-) (And yes: 'sometimes' is an important word in that sentence =) )

    @C R: Thanks :-) That's a great thing for a writer to hear ;-). Preparing for a hiking trip seems like a good idea. Have fun hiking this summer!

  9. That was beautiful. Thanks for the vicarious trip. :)

  10. @Shelli: thanks, and: you're welcome. :-)


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