|Look, Mom, no guardrails!|
We didn’t start driving right of the bat. The first evening, the 14 of us joining Tripology’s off-road tour were briefed on the workings of our endeavor with information on what to expect, safety, and answers to any questions we had. We were then treated to the first of many epic meals, this one under the glow of the Acropolis, while we all got to know each other a little better so we weren’t complete strangers when we began sharing a vehicle.
|Car One: Karen, Iris, Katherine, and Me|
|Every morning Yoav showed us our planned route for the day.|
|See that winding road in the background? That's the road we drove to Delphi.|
|Kicking up dust along the Acropolis Rally track.|
|A sheepherder at work. How's that for an office view?|
|Nobody wants to have an accident, but it illustrated how Tripology Adventures is ready for anything.|
Soon we were back on our way to picnic on a high peak with a lone tiny church overlooking valleys that stretched on forever. Some places just make you feel small, like a nit on a gnat’s neck. It was just vast.
After a night in the mountains, we were back on the trail to villages with history and charm and water-powered mills. On our way, we noticed the changes in the color of the earth, as the morning found us driving along deep red dirt roads bordered by forests of tall pine trees. The fog in the morning was a bit disconcerting, as fog is always a little scary on a windy road, so I appreciated the pace Nikos set. This is also the day we entered Evrytania, the Switzerland of Greece, with such breathtaking views people decided to build random churches on the side of the road and on hills overlooking the rivers.
|The greens of Evrytania.|
|Lunch along the river in Agrafa.|
Related: Travelers Guide to 33 Traditional Greek Foods
Back up the mountains we finally reached the snowy caps of Pindus. Honestly, when I think of Greece, snow isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. You’re way up there too. Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove your car past a little cloud hovering below you in the sky?
Finally in Kalambaka, we arrived at the World Heritage Site of Meteora, six Eastern Orthodox monasteries built on top of sandstone rock pillars up to 1,800 feet high. I cannot stress enough; have plenty of space left on your camera’s memory card. Meteora was the furthest site from our starting point. In the distance, we could see the snow covered Mount Olympus. We spent two days in Meteora and could have easily spent a few more.
The way back to Athens was a straight shot on highways and smooth pavement. We were treated to yet another fine meal, this one on the shores of the Northern Evoikos Gulf in Kamena Vourla, with various fruits of the sea cooked to perfection. On the way to lunch, Yoav pulled over for what we thought was a random leg stretch. How excited were we to find out where we were actually standing . . . “THIS IS SPARTA!” Don’t blink, you might miss it. It’s a wall with a few statues and an unassuming sign explaining a very important battle. The shore has since receded quite a few kilometers away. Still . . .
For the average traveler, which we are, this trip can’t, or at least shouldn’t, be done alone. While you could road trip through Central Greece and visit sites like Delphi and Meteora, the only way to see some of the quaint mountain villages we visited, view the green countryside and emerald waterways, and drive over mountain peaks is to get off the highway and drive dirt roads, sometimes for hours. If anything happened, like the incident of Tim and the boulder, you could be stuck for hours waiting for help. I’m not even sure if Greece’s version of AAA (alpha-alpha-alpha?) would drive out to some of the roads we followed.
Beyond Nikos and Yoav, Tripology Adventures had a crew behind the scenes who were prepared for anything. The ringleader/host/pre-runner was a fellow by the name of Izhar, one of the owners of Tripology Adventures. Trust this man, he knows things. He went ahead every day and made sure the trail was safe. He made the necessary arrangements for a comfortable stay in the next town. He also scouted each route we would take for the day, as some “roads” are not always accessible due to rock slides, downed trees, washouts, etc. The route is never set in stone, but they’ve been doing this for years so nothing is a surprise. They adjust on the fly and there is constant interaction to fulfill any special needs. I felt safe, always more alive than afraid.
|A group of strangers who became friends telling jokes in the shadows of Meteora.|
These are the people we shared these experiences with. We didn’t just drive the terrain and break pita together. We shared knowledge, learned about Greek history and culture, and laughed together. You can get your own SUV for a small supplement if you really want to, but I don’t suggest it. I met some wonderful people on this trip, people I initially didn’t even want to meet, but people I assure you I will never forget and will see again in the future. This trip made me throw my biases against group travel out the window.
Thank you to Tripology Adventures for hosting our off-road trip through Central Greece and making this post possible. As always, all opinions are my own. I would travel anywhere in the world with them.