Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 28 March 2016 • Abroad
I just finished reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. The story is set in a hike adventure that Bryson did with his old friend, Stephen Katz, through the famous Appalachian Trail. None of them was the typical mountain man, so they went through some hardship walking through the trail, physically and mentally. I felt related with them, in a sense that I’m not a mountain person either, but did challenge myself to hike a bit here and there, like the times I went trekking in Greece. None of my hikes took as long as they did, in terms of time and distance, but still, I did what I doubted myself could do.
Some of these hikes were within Indonesia, such as Betung Kerihung National Park in the jungle of Borneo, the time when I almost cried trekking in Sawai Village, Maluku, and when I huffed n’ puffed to finally NOT see the blue fire of Ijen Crater in East Java.
But you know what? As much as I love Indonesia’s nature, I enjoyed hiking in Greece a lot more. Simply because the terrain of the hiking spots that I did was much easier. In terms of natural scenery, it’s a different kind of beauty with what we have in Indonesia. Greece’s nature that I saw was more pale and dry, but there I also the bluest of blue. In my month-long trip in Greece, I managed to do three wonderful hikes.
The Walk from Oia to Fira, Santorini
The walk between these two most famous towns in Santorini Island was the first trekking we did in Greece. The distance was 9 km give and take, and was said to take only about 3 hours. I compared it with my normal walk pace, the math didn’t add up. It would’ve taken maybe 5 hours for me!
Diyan and I started the walk from Oia at about 10 a.m., 2 hours later than our plan. The sun was already quite high, and the day was quite hot. All through the route the gorgeous blue caldera was seen to our right. In fact, everything that we saw was gorgeous. The ocean, the plants, the curvy islands, and the iconic white buildings and blue church dome. I had to make my own rule of only taking pictures every half an hour, otherwise I’d be taking too much time clicking my camera. I fell in love with the scenery, I felt like bringing it back home and hang it on my bedroom wall.
We got outwalked by many other tourists, as predicted, and passed by a lot more walkers that started their walks from Fira to Oia. We took our time catching breath at a church with no village around, and dropped our jaws at the scenery of Immerovigli, a village with one of the most luxurious villas in Santorini. The day was so hot, I felt like taking a plunge at one of the villas’ pools.
I felt a relief upon our arrival at a town that I thought was Fira. Nope, turns out it was Firostefani. Oh, darn! It was a pretty small town with its pretty shops and alleys, but nonetheless I panted at the thought of having to still walk more.
Until I saw a sign that said “Fira – 10’ “, which means 10 minutes walking to Fira. Woohoo! Vira was entering Fira in just a couple of minutes!
Down the Samaria Gorge, Crete
Crete Island sounded familiar to me since I was in school, but I didn’t exactly remember what it was about. I think it was mentioned in the history book as one of the oldest civilizations or something like that. On this trip, Crete got in our itinerary mainly because Diyan wanted to do the Samaria Gorge trek. ‘Oh dear,’ I thought, ‘another trek?!’
The difficulty escalated from our first trek to this one. Samaria Gorge is 13 km with more slopes; it was a walk down a valley. It started at 1,250 m height at Omalos down to the sea level at Agia Roumelli, my knees worked harder this time. Along the path, rocky path with vast green forest was in view, creeks were to be crossed, and accommodative rest area with water spring, toilet and benches were provided. ‘I could do this again and again,’ I thought. Never in my country I found a trekking path so well organized like this.
The Iron Gate at about km 11 was good news, in a sense that it was another great view and a sign that the trek was almost over. It was the most iconic part of the gorge, where the rocky walls came closer to each other, forming a narrow path with the walls up to 350 meters high.
Then we took our time sitting by a small river before finally getting out of the gorge area. Trekkers from diverse nations and ages walked by, either from Omalos to Agia Roumelli or the other way around. It was a very lovely day, in spite my sore feet. We then continued the extra 3 km to get to Agia Roumelli by a shuttle car and waited for the ferry to take us back at the beach, facing the Mediterranean Sea.
Mount Olympus, Home of the Gods
I was going to pass on this hike but then I thought, ‘When else can I hike the epic mountain? It’s the home of Zeus! It’s not like I can go to Greece anytime I want!’ And so it was that easy for me to decide I would tag along with Diyan on the hike, as if I was meeting Zeus and the other 11 Olympian gods and godesses for real.
We started the hike at the east side of the mountain, in Prionia, like most people do. Our only access to Prionia was by taxi from the town of Litochoro. From there, it was jus us with our backpacks filled with water, lunch, camera and basic medical kit.
The hike started at the 1,100 m asl. The highest peak of Mount Olympus is Mytikas, but we were only aiming for the first refuge called Spilios Agapitos at 2,100 m asl. With that kind of elevation, the 6 km distance felt like forever to me. I don’t need to mention again that I suck at hiking, right?
However, again, the exhaustion was paid off by the scenery. Mountain tops – Olympus has several peaks – behind the clouds, clear path with no rubbish, and snow! Approaching Spilios Agapitos there was still an impressive amount of snow even though it was May. Our mistake was wearing shorts when the weather up there reached about 13 C and we are totally tropical people!
Each of these three hikes was remarkable. Mount Olympus is epic because it is THE Mount Olympus, Samaria Gorge is beautiful with the diverse terrain and such accommodative facilities, and Oia-Fira trek is unforgettable because it’s just too beautiful. I can’t say which one is my favorite. But okay, if you insist, I’d say the Oia-Fira trek because it’s the easiest for my legs.
Then when I just got back to Indonesia, the pain on my feet and legs, which had been gone after being treated in therapy, reappeared. And it was worse than before. It was caused by my flat feet condition, which caused pain in my knees and heels. So for now, unless I got myself a pair of corrective soles, I shouldn’t be doing any hiking, trekking, not even a long walk. Though I’m not a big fan of hiking, it is a sad thing to find out, for at least I do enjoy walking tours.
But hey, there’s no need to cry about it. Now I’m still going to therapy and I know better how to handle my feet so as not to make the condition worse.
At the very least, I’ve had the experience of these three awesome trekkings, which are now some of the best memories I have of my travels.
Do you have your own sweet hiking memory? Do tell us about it in the Comment 🙂