How did it all start?
Raised in suburban Athens in the 90s', I spent my summers in our family house in Anafi. As a kid I found peace sitting on the hot sand washing away my school thoughts, playing happily with other kids, and definitely not bothering on what the little island had been hiding in plain sight.
Years later as an adult, the urge to dig deeper pushed me into following the tens of tourists rushing to their pilgrimage.
"You wouldn't want to hike earlier than 18:00, when the sun is unforgiving" suggested a friend, while I was making preps. Our ride started from the main village around 18:00 and 20 minutes later we reached the ancient remains of Apollo temple, now the orthodox monastery of Zoodochos Pigi, the life-giving fountain.
The way to the top
The hike would last 1hr and 15 minutes, being a beginner.
The path is a well-hidden secret for the common eye, and a guide is absolutely necessary.
Small lighthouses of stacked rocks guide the path to the top.
Soon the Monastery was out of sight and all I could think was that it feels like climbing a giant's back.
Along the way, the rocks would become more slippery and the path steeper, sometimes allowing only one person to pass it at a time.
The pace of the group made me pant and sweat.
"Calm down, use your senses, and watch your step. Don't try to keep up with the rest, this is not a race" the guy behind me said.
Rocky igloos providing shelter to animals & shepherds found along the way made me think why would someone come all the way up to here to build this.
But amazed by the view and allured by the scent of wild thyme, it somehow put sense in all this.
“Dont rush it. Make regular stops to admire the nature around you. Breathe.”
Reached the top just before sunset, all sweaty and with a feeling of accomplishment. The air was fresh, but I could sense the humidity coming, as the clouds went by.
As soon as I saw the Monastery's top, I knew the struggle was over and walked my self to the gathering point. The balcony of all balconies.
The unspeakable beauty gave me the chills, I swear it felt like I was walking on paradise gate.
Everyone was ecstatic and joyful, sharing food, hugs, alcohol, and laughs.
The Monastery itself was a piece of art, built in the 1600s, possibly one of the most unique places I have ever been to.
I did know it but I was about to experience a night sky full of stars, comets, satellites, airplanes, nebulas, and a milky way like you have never seen it before.
The chit chats and songs of others made a perfect lullaby for a good night's sleep.
Well, a good night's sleep it wasn't. The clouds kept us company all night and humidity tapped us in the back like an old-time friend.
Our alarm clock woke us up right before the sunrise, so we could make ourselves a coffee.
Covered in the warmth of the sleeping bag, we climbed the opposite side of the monastery to watch the sunrise from the sea.
It did put things into perspective, as you fell asleep with the sun on your front, waking up with the sun on your back.
The view of the island top in the morning light, put things in a proportion and scale.
Its time to head back.
Mise en place
A. Foam camping mattress will do the job but definitely try getting an inflatable one. It makes a difference.
B. Sleeping bag.
C. Your toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand soap.
D. Water. At least 1L for the way up and 0.5L for your teeth & washing hands.
E. Extra t-shirt and sweat suite. You will sweat. You will get cold.
F. Toilet paper. Yes, there is no toilet up there. A small hoe to dig would be appreciated.
G. Food. You can buy local Souvlakia from the village and bring them for your dinner. Fruits & nuts are also a good choice.
H. Alcohol. Raki or Ouzo is the most common spirit brought to these hights.