Saturday, September 27 Ambelakia Rest Day
Although the road is never ending take a step and keep walking, do not look fearfully into the distance…On this path let the heart be your guide for the body is hesitant and full of fear. –Rumi
Today has been a good one for recovery. Not so much physically, but more mentally and psychologically. The every 24-hour cycle of pulling up stakes, assessing the route ahead for food and water, and then finding either a hotel, official campsite or just a flat spot hidden among the trees requires a discipline that is, quite honestly, dizzying.
The pit in my stomach this morning was sending a message. I needed to take the time to formulate a plan so that I wasn’t just riding into unknown dangers. I had that plan on Thursday before my phone plan was suddenly terminated with no warning. I was going to visit a few more of the monasteries in Meteora on my way out of town anticipating arriving in Elassona by early evening. This would have put me just a few kilometers from the west side of Mt. Olympus.
With the death of my phone I changed plans. I decided to ride with Antonio on the less demanding route south. This would add close to 100 kilometers to my route, but gave me a companion and routed me through towns that were more likely to have phone shops.
When Antonio decided to hang around Larisa, I got itchy to gain control of my schedule and pacing again. I pushed ahead assuming that I could either get to the coast where there was likely to be hotels and campsites or I would find something along the way given that Larisa was a significantly-sized town. I was lucky to find this Hotel Kouria at the top of the terraced mountain. But, the early morning anxiety that I was feeling was telling me that I just about put myself in a dangerous situation.
Today has felt really good. I have sent off emails to potential hosts all the way to Istanbul. I have a pending reservation for three nights in Thessaloniki at a hostel. I have written down the names of people I will need to contact as I near Turkey. I have connected with a professor in Konya, my destination, about potential hosts, safety issues, and media inquiries. I took a nap. I did my wash. I tossed a few unnecessary items from my panniers. I cleaned my cooking gear. I took a nice walk on the cobblestoned streets. I spent a few minutes in an Greek Orthodox Church. I drank a glass of red wine. I watched a football (soccer to Americans) game at a local taverna. I cleaned my bike, oiled the chain and checked that all the bolts were tight.
I am thinking about Rumi’s quote “to take a step and keep walking” while I have chosen to stop and take a breath. It doesn’t sound very Rumi-esque to give in to the fears of this morning. But, I believe there are fears that are based only on what we don’t know, to which Rumi is referring. And there are fears that are based on what we do know. Last night the rain and the wind was real. The freeway traffic was not an illusion. The map did not lie that my only other option was a mountain to climb. The friendly official warning from local police was not just for fun. And both the sun and my watch said that darkness was on its way.
I do believe that this pilgrimage is an exercise in trust. But, trust does not mean shutting my eyes to the evidence and dismissing what is real. There will still be unexpected surprises and challenges along the way, but, at least for now I have a plan that has dissolved the anxiety from this morning. I am learning not to fear that which I do not yet know. But, I still plan to keep a healthy fear of semi trucks, thunder storms, and darkness. An exercise in trust does not mean falling into the pit of stupidity.
This morning I was anxious. Tonight I feel ready to tackle another leg of this journey.