Cold Waterfalls and Highway Driving

We survive the night without any demonic activity from the creepy candle lit church. The candle is out by morning. 

We get an extremely early start for our hike. We don’t have time to summit so we’re just doing a 2 hour climb instead, before getting on our way back to Athens. 

The weather is perfect under the shade of the trees along the trail. I think this is the first time I’ve been a comfortable temperature since I’ve been in Greece. 

We’re the only people on the mountain for the whole hike! Getting up this early, and it being a Monday, made for the perfect combination. We don’t see another human until the very end of our walk, where we stop at a little waterfall for a dip. The water is FREEZING, but so so clear. Refreshing, but like doing a cold plunge. 

We spend an hour, first below the falls, and then at an even bigger and more beautiful falls behind it. We have to literally climb up over the small waterfall to reach it and I’m afraid I’ll never get back down but somehow we do. 

 Some Greek families come for a swim as well, and it’s good that we decided to explore further because Joseba had been swimming “en pellotas” (literally translates to “in balls” or just, naked) before deciding to climb over the waterfall. We hadn’t seen another person all morning so he assumed  it was safe. Nah. 

Yes, I climbed over this

We get back to the car to dry off and hit town for some food and a phone recharging. The little restaurant where we stop is probably the most precious place of all time. Small, family run, and very excited about having foreign customers, this might be one of the best restaurants I’ve been to here! We’re given giant portions and some extra things like tzatziki and dessert on the house. The owner picks me a fresh stalk of basil leaves while singing and dancing around the restaurant, watering his flowers. I’m never leaving, this is my home now. Come visit! 

Joseba is our designated driver, but when he starts talking about his need for a RedBull an hour into our five hour drive, I offer to take us home. I LOVE driving, especially manual cars, but never have the occasion because I live in big cities. In Canada almost everything is automatic, so even when I do get to drive it’s not the fun kind. It’s been a while since I’ve driven a stick shift but it’s a highway…hardly much shifting to be done. 

The boys are cool with it and I’m super cool with it so I get to cruise home while the spaniards take a little siesta. It’s only when we have to stop at tollbooths that I feel truly alive, having to shift down to a stop, and back up to 120km an hour. I’m not really a car person but I do love something about switching gears. If I ever own another car in my life, it will be a manual. 

Siesta time

I pull over before we hit Athens so Joseba can take over and drive us through the insanity of this city. People drive like animals here and I don’t want to be responsible for their lives (or the insurance). The other night I literally watched a motorcycle t-bone a car when the driver tried to use his emergency break to make a fancy 180 flip into a parking spot, and failed. Idiot. 

We make it home alive and I’m passed out before midnight. 

Meteora and Mt. Olympus are well worth a visit when in Greece! The train is the cheaper option (if you book in advance), but I DO suggest renting a car for the freedom to move around whenever and wherever you want. Camping under a tree on a cliff helps save on accommodation costs too. Just sayin’. 

Monasteries and Mt. Olympus

Bells are sounding off in the distance. It’s still dark outside, but I suppose this is to wake the residents of the monasteries. We hear them first from our neighbouring cliff, and then faintly from somewhere much further away. The sound bounces between the mountains and rocks to reach us in our little fort beneath the trees. The moon has risen and I catch a glimpse of more falling meteors before drifting off to sleep again. 

This time, when I wake up, the sun is shining just above the edge of the cliff, and i turn around to see two humans standing 20 feet away from me. It’s a father and his young daughter, just here to watch the sun rise, but it feels invasive and awkward all the same. Do I say good morning? Have they even seen us? I avoid drawing any attention in case I freak them out. They don’t stay long, and once they’re gone I bring my blanket with me out from under the trees, to the top of a rock where I can enjoy the morning sun. 

We have some “breakfast” (a slice of bread and a juice box) before packing up and heading over to the nearest Monastery. I’m not really very interested in religious things. Especially of the Christian variety. Buddhism and Islam interests me somewhat, but even then I’m not enthralled. I’m really just here for the views but I know I should check out what it’s all about. 

We pay 3€ to enter, and im told I have to wear a skirt, even though I’m already in long baggy black pants. This is one of the things I dislike about all religions. Don’t tell me what to wear! Why do the boys get to walk around in shorts while I’m subjected to another, and very specific, piece of clothing because of my gender? But fine. There’s a pile of various fabrics that can be wrapped and tied into sort of pseudo skirts and I take one. Joseba didn’t understand that the instructions were specific to me, so he grabs one too. Cesc and I repress laughter and let him put it on until the receptionist shouts at him to stop. 

The rest of the time we’re respectful though, I swear. 

The paintings and old artifacts kept inside are cool, but the most interesting to me, is of course the epic architecture, and this neat little pulley system used to brings goods (and sometimes people) to the top of the tower from 100m below. All our phones are dead so I don’t get any cool photos. 

There are 6 monasteries, but 1 is enough for us. I’m really just here for the cool views. 

We drive into town to charge our phones and get some real food. I have the best gyro ever at a random little bar for 2€. Bless gyros. 

We set off for Mount Olympus but stop along the coast first for a quick beach visit. The plan was to go for a swim but ominous clouds are rolling in, which means no swimming, and probably no camping tonight. 


We can see Olympus in the distance, enveloped in dark clouds, looking like an unfriendly place to sleep outdoors. Guess the three of us will be sleeping in our little plastic box-car tonight. 

The hike to the summit of Olympus is about 5 hours up and 2 hours down. We were going to do half the ascent today, camp on the mountain, and finish the rest in the morning, but the rain has foiled our plans. What can we do now? 

We turn to Google. I find a quick recommendation for the city of Dion (named after the gods for its proximity to Mt. Olympus) which sounds cute and old so we go. 

We follow signs through the sleepy little town to a museum, where so few cars are parked I’m not even convinced it’s open. We enter the reception area where a woman sits, chewing gum and barely lifting her gaze to acknowledge us. Crickets. 

I enquire as to where the hell we are and how much it costs. She tells me it’s 8€, which seems a little steep considering the pamphlet I’m scanning over describes it as “part swamp, part ancient ruins” and I notice her sneak the word “replicas” in before “ancient artifacts”. We decide to skip it. I feel kinda bad but can’t help but laugh that I’ve just brought the whole squad here for this. Sorry lads! 

The rain came and went quickly. We decide to check out Olympus to vibe it out, but save our hike for tomorrow. We find a short trail that leads us to a small Waterfall with a shallow pool. 


The sun is going down and the water is too cold to swim so we don’t stay. Instead, we move on to the priority of finding somewhere to sleep. 

We find a spot near the parking lot of the trail head where there’s an old church and some picnic tables just beyond a fence next to the road. The grass isn’t too wet so we figure we can set up outside instead of all 3 sleeping in the tiny car. We hop the fence and get to it. 

I notice the small church has a flickering light inside. I peer through the stained glass window to see one single candle burning inside the locked building. 

This is exactly how a horror film would start. A random church in this random place where we’re not supposed to be. Ignoring the sketchy sign of an abandoned lone candle. Creep city. I’m certain this is the end. Blondes always die first. Life’s been good, see ya. 

The boys think I’m being crazy until we hear some light rustling in the bushes next to our beds. Then suddenly THEY look even more scared than I am. That’s not allowed! I need someone to tell me we’re going to be fine, not fill their eyes with fear. 

I don’t know how I relax enough to sleep, but eventually I do. 

The bright side to the chilling darkness out here is that the meteor shower is still happening! So we fall asleep to stars falling across the sky once more. 

Meteora

We’ve been working hard, and since arriving, the school has gained 20+ volunteers, so we’re taking the weekend off. I’ve been dreaming of Meteora ever since I saw some fantastic photos a couple years ago. Probably on Instagram, if we’re being honest, but I don’t remember for sure. Continue reading “Meteora”

Men’s Residence

I love Greek food, but I do not like these little cactus fruits someone in our house has picked up from the grocery store. I’m not actually sure they’re Greek, but I’ve never seen them before. Continue reading “Men’s Residence”

English Classes

I had my first “real” English lesson the other day. Different from the day where I offered activities in English, this is a TRUE lesson with a white board and everything.
The kids sit down silently and wait for me to begin. We sing the alphabet in beautiful unison. I invite the children up one at a time to write the letters of the alphabet on the board. We introduce ourselves and spell our names. Later, we go through and think of a word that begins with each letter. They are creative and clever. They give me a standing ovation when the hour is up, and leave the room in single file.

Just kidding. It’s fucking chaos.  Continue reading “English Classes”

Play-Doh

Things are starting to come together at the school residence. We’ve arranged for a meeting with all the volunteers this week so we can create a schedule of activities each day. I’ll be teaching English classes every day at 5, and helping out with whatever else needs doing before and after. 

For now I’ll just be teaching kids, but I hope to offer some classes to adults soon. 
We’re slowly making a dent in Donation Mountain, too. Between the projects here and some smaller occasional tasks at other camps, we’re going to be busy. We now have some work at a small camp specifically for pregnant women, we’ll be going twice a week to the summer camp outside the city, and some of our Spaniards will be doing an activity making human towers (known as castellers, or muixeranga because they’re from Valencia). 

I have my first English “class” today, which is really just a test to get a feel for the kids levels, and to get them comfortable with me. This is no challenge. The kids are all SO extremely friendly and energetic everywhere we go. 


I lay out some colouring pages, markers, and worksheets with simple math questions in English. I bring colourful clay and hope no one tries to eat it. About 15 kids show up, and within moments are tearing the room apart. The 10 year olds are swinging the 2 year olds around. The 2 year olds are crying because they’ve pushed the markers so hard into the paper that they break. I try to keep some order but you wouldn’t believe how hard it is. I had a couple students in Spain that I thought were difficult but this is next level. The clay is a big hit but of course everyone has trouble sharing. Kids are flowing in and out of the room, their attention spans don’t last long and there are no rules about where they have to be. They always ask to bring entire colouring books or boxes of markers to their rooms. I hate saying no but obviously we don’t have enough supplies for that so I have to. Then I have to watch to make sure they don’t try to sneak it out anyway. 

One of the mothers comes into the classroom and I smile at her, but she starts just screaming at me in Arabic, pointing at the clay. She’s holding the hand of her 2 year old son and I’m worried she’s mad that I’ve given a young kid something he might try to eat? I’m asking the other kids to translate for me, and piece together that no no, she’s angry because I didn’t give him any clay. I can assure you I did, but maybe one of the other kids stole it from him. He’s 2 so like…who knows. 

She storms out, and one of the other volunteers tells me there’s an issue in the camp, where the Iraqi community feel they are treated more poorly than the Palestinian residents. I have no idea if that’s true in other aspects of the organization or not, but I assume they must have some reason to believe that. Though I am not denying 2 year old children play-doh because they’re Iraqi. Did I even know he was Iraqi? No. I feel better that this isn’t the first time she’s yelled at someone though. 

After an exhausting 2 hours trying to keep the children entertained, speaking English, and from eating any play-doh, I help with some donation sorting and head home. 

Later in the evening I meet a friend to sit just outside the Parthenon; under the stars, overlooking the city with a couple drinks in hand. Athens is a strange place, dirty, abandoned, crumbling, yet somehow bustling, illuminated, and beautiful from here. 

Summer Camp

We have a bit of a trek to cover this morning so we leave early. Cesc has been in contact with another refugee camp outside of the city, which will take us about an hour and a half to reach. I’m a little reluctant to go at all, because it doesn’t seem sustainable or wise for us to spend our time traveling there and back every day, but it can’t hurt to check it out. Continue reading “Summer Camp”

Markets and More Tea

Alright. Another day, another attempt at getting sorted in the squatters residence. The Portuguese volunteers are opening the clothing donation room for distribution and suggest we come help out at noon. Again, we arrive on time. Again, no one is around. Continue reading “Markets and More Tea”

Best Tea Ever, Thank You

The rest of the volunteer squad doesn’t arrive until the 1st, when we will begin working at a refugee camp and/or squatter’s residence. Cesc and I are here early, so we take today to be touristas and explore the city.  Continue reading “Best Tea Ever, Thank You”