“The Infernal Ascent to Delphi”
In March to Athens on 18 April 2012 at 19:49
Day 163-LXXXIX, from Ιτέα to Δελφοί, 16 km.
Delphi, April 18
It has been raining all night, and yesterday all through the day the scirocco had been blowing, the southeastern wind of which they say it can make you go nuts if you are exposed to it for too long.
As a result of this we found our tents covered with the fine dust of the desert this morning. I took it as a good sign. Today is a great day.
Along the road some of us have come to me repeatedly to ask about our route through the mountains. They wanted to be reassured. But instead of tranquilising their anxiousness, I always did the exact opposite. I told everyone that it was going to be hell.
Now that we were finally there I called for a route briefing just before we set out. I like to rally the troops whenever there is a good reason for it. As usual I did so in Italian. It went something like this.
Today we leave the sea. Take a good look at her. On the opposite side, high above us in the clouds, towers the snowy peak of Mount Parnassus.
The ancients narrate that when the waters invaded all the world, it was up there that Deucalion and Pyrrha, the last survivors of man kind, found refuge.
And it was from up there, at the end of global holocaust, that they descended back into the valley to restart the circle of life.
In the shadow of mighty Mount Parnassus there was founded the sacred town of Delphi, the belly button of the world.
Today, we, the March to Athens, will do the terrifying, the infernal, the PAN-DE-MO-NI-AL ascent to Delphi!
Yet however hard it will be, I can assure you that once you get up there you will realise that all your efforts have been worth it. Bon route.”
The road is more than one today. There’s the national road that most people take, there’s a secondary road, and there is the ancient, three thousand year old trail.
You won’t be surprised that I took the trail.
It’s another of the reasons why I prefer to walk with a bagpack instead of a trolley. The trail can only be trotten on foot.
It could have been truly infernal, because the weather menaced more rain. But the gods were benevolent to us. It became by far the most thrilling leg I ever walked up until today.
The first few chilometres went across the olive groves. The small plain of Itea is completely covered by them. When you start your ascent, you can see them from above. It’s a giant mint green lake, with sporadic cypresses rising up from it.
At a certain point of the route you can see two legs into the past, to Itea and Galaxidi, and two legs into the future, to Delphi and Arachova.
Delphi is built high up a steep slope of mountain. Arachova is further up, almost touching the sky. You sense eternity all around. There’s no trash or any other sign of modern times, only the excrements of the goats. You walk slowly to absorb every single impression. You can feel the presence of the satyrs and the nymphs, discretely spying from behind the shrubberies to see who comes to disturb their peace.
But not only mythical figures are present on this trail. The wind brings you the echoes of many an ancient traveller’s footsteps.
Kings and nobles, mortals and heroes have past by this trail throughout the centuries. They arrived from sea at Kirra, and they walked all the way up, to interrogate the famous oracle on all pressing matters of life, great and small.
They saw more or less the same panorama that I’m witnessing today on all sides.
I walk on, winding through the flowering fields, climbing the rocks, holding still in the shadow of a lone tree or a small sanctuary.
Everything in this place is mythical. The only living creature I consciously encounter on the route, except for comrade Aristocrates, is a beetle. As if he were Sisyphus, he is rolling an enormous piece of shit straight up the hill.