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On The Road to Arcadia

On The Road to Arcadia

May 17, 2024

I’m sat writing this journal on the balcony of a mountain lodge, overlooking the layered, terracotta roof tiled houses of the village of Lagadika, high up in the Peloponnese Mountains. I am here to walk the Menalon Trail, with two friends from the online women’s walking community I am part of: Glamoraks.

A week ago, we left my home in Eastbourne and took the overnight ferry from nearby Newhaven to Dieppe. We drove through fields of mist along empty roads, oblivious to the fact that we had landed on a feast holiday … virtually everyone was in bed except us! Our first pitstop at the French cathedral city of Reims. After admiring this ecclesiastical marvel of 14th century architecture, we continued through the champagne region towards Alsace, deep into the Vosges Mountains, where we slept peacefully under the stars near the medieval town of Colmar.

 

More deserted roads led us to Lucerne, where we enjoyed a lakeside walk, wandered through the old town and over the famous, centuries old, wooden bridge before we camped by Semper See, enjoying an amazing sunset and for me, a dip in the cool, clear lake.

 

Heading up and over the Alps, we happened across Sisikin, a hiking trail heaven and where I plan to return to discover the forested mountains dipping down to the bluest of lakes. Onwards, I drove through the famous 17km Gotthard Tunnel. I could hardly breathe as I gripped the wheel of Bertha, my beloved campervan, who safely took us from Switzerland and into Italy.

 

We camped amongst the olive groves above Lake Garda, where I enjoyed a swim in an ice-cold pool before we headed down the steep mountain for dinner at a trattoria by the lake as the sun set.  The next day, we put our big girl pants on as we set off on a 9-hour drive to the Gargona Penisula and National Park.

 

The public holiday continued through Europe and the quiet roads were a dream for us all, as the landscape turned from forested mountains to rolling vineyards and olive groves. We sailed past signs for Venezia, Bologna, Firenze and Roma as we headed south, eventually along steep, hairpin bends where we all held our breath until we landed at a beachside campsite backed by pine forested hills.

 

A morning’s rest with yoga on the beach followed by a swim in the crystal-clear Adriatic Sea set us up for the next leg of our journey: the port of Bari. The landscape flattened and even in the Spring, looked scorched by the sun. We passed tractors and trucks and fields of migrant workers tending to crops as the modern world seemed to ebb away behind us.

 

We boarded the ferry to Greece and settled in to our 3 berth cabin, leaving Bertha to rest in the bowels of the ship after carrying us 1,500 miles over mountain and valley. We were so excited by our adventures, that in our incessant chatter and story-telling over a bottle of wine, we missed dinner! A smooth 16-hour crossing led us to the port of Patras in Greece, where we took the last leg of our journey up into the Peloponnese Mountains, with a pit stop at Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games.

 

Now, our 5 day hike along the MenalonTrail, and next adventure begins …




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