Monday 2 June 2014

Gorging on Colour

You may be pleased to know that there wil be no nostalgiafest today. For reasons known only to my parents, they decided to give the Samaria Gorge a miss. Given my brother was only 6 and the gorge 16km long, perhaps they were wiser than I knew. Anyway years later their idiot daughter found herself getting up at 4.30 to go for a gentle stroll in the mountains. Not just that but persuading a pre teen and a mad saffa to do similar. 

I don't often see sun rise and here it is a visual delight, a light show to rival any I've seen; the black-white limestone screen of mountains with a rainbow projection. As we hit the Askifou plateau we had reached the yellow/green stage and the cornfields waved in coloured empathy. As the coach doors opened it seemed that the fragrance also coloured the air. Mint green as invigorating as the breeze. 

We needed to go higher and the greens turned to blue; likewise mint turned to pine. We had clearly reached the Cretan alps. The White Mountains stretched high above us, dizzying in aspect, but our path led down. The entrance to the gorge gaped and we disappeared one by one, carefully, slowly, into the resinous gloom.   

The going was hard underfoot but looking up was breathtaking. Between the black green Calabrian pines and bright blue, the sheer sharp white mountains soared.

Still, down we went and the trees oddly started to thin until the rocks showed through, a dry, dessicated white. In parody of the tumbling froth, the stones sat in mid movement on the river bed. Many hands had created works of art from these pebbles, piling them up from large to small. Even the tree branches were covered in pebble 'moss'. It seemed that these sculptures were the only way to reduce the magnificence of the mountains to human scale.

Further down the gorge and we found the rainbow's end. The endlessly high walls were golden; liquid gold flowed over the pebble nuggets. Criss-crossing the pure stuff, the burbling echoed our giggles. By the eighth kilometre the laughing was more hysterical but, still, we laughed. The prize was the iron gates, where the ravine was a mere three metres wide. The rickety wooden path bridge carried us through the gap.

However, despite all that had gone before, the best was yet to come. The geological story that the rocks were telling us, and everyone who listens, is endless. They relate the power of the earth, the compressing heat, the lives of the fossilising creatures within - everything both in its place and transforming into something else. Like the piled pebbles and wobbly people, balance is sweet. 

And so, what about the end of our journey? We had traversed the longest gorge in Europe, lost most of our dignity and anticipated the muscle pains. But I salute the sanity of my parents for allowing me to find this gorge, myself, the hard way. 

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