A trip on the mountain   
A trip to life

Part A'


                                                                         April 15th 2016
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 Dear Friends,
Have You ever thought how we find and gather the wild herbs?
Could You believe that just a few years ago we had no idea how they even look on the mountain?  And we didn't even knew where to start?
We were so naive and in our imagination we thought that it would be "a piece of cake"?
In the following text, we 'll try to deploy some of our experiences and facts about the "Trip on the Mountain -  A Trip to life" as we use to call it!

Mountainside at 5700ft with wild oregano and milk thistle plants

Location :At a mountain side of Taygetus at 5700 ft -  5:00 p.m   -  a late July afternoon

After walking , climbing and seeking around for several hours on the mountain, we ‘ve finally found a small area with the plant that “brightens the mountain”
“.. here it is!  The wild oregano!”
“..It’s so beautiful! Now I can understand why the Ancient Greeks gave that name to this plant (όρος + γάνος)
“..let’s hurry a little. We have 3 hours before the sun setting and we need 45' to return back to the car through the forest! “

The talk stops and for the next couple of hours, we ‘re “lost” in a green and white sea” of wild oregano together with thousands of bees and relative insects. We 're all busy to get as much as we can from this amazing plant. We stop for few minutes from time to time just to lay our eyes on the surrounding mountainsides while the sun has starting to set. There  are so much peace and beauty and even some sounds of some sheep somewhere around echoing like an old song from the distance…
A bunch of wild oregano

Location :  in our home 24 hours before.  We ‘re busy on preparing everything for the next day’s trip on the mountain.

It won’t be the first time to be there, but almost all of the rest ones we weren’t so lucky. We had found only a few plants, spread in large areas while most of them were hard to approach. Mostly small cliffs or harsh sides with lots of other wild plants who were making the picking of oregano too tough!
Water bottles in the fridge, small knives and a scissor, hats, linen bags, sunglasses, boots, all in a row for inspection.
Enough fuel in the car, some bandaids, some additional tools for cutting and some snacks (mostly slices bread with cheese)… That’s all.
 A good sleep is necessary but really, who could sleep a hot summer Greek night? Despite we ‘re in the 6th year(!) of the economic crisis, it seems that People had decided to live their lives and enjoy the summer. Therefore, the coffee shops are full  and the customers are already enjoying cold beer or drinks(well, you must know that we ‘re fans of coffee and it’s usual to get a cold one even at 8 :00 p.m outside).
So the next night ours are passing with some relaxing on our balcony with books and internet.

In the morning, we ‘re ready with anxiety… the last check in our stuff and after few minutes we ‘re on the road to the mountain for once more. Even with open door windows the air doesn’t help… it’s too hot and it’s still only 9:00 p.m…
The daily forecast refers 35 Celsius during the day and we know that the sun on the mountain sides is too strong!

We ‘ve done this route for so many times, but still we feel like the very first time. As we ‘ve left the city behind us and we are near the mountain roots, the scenery starts to change!  Thousands of old olive trees lying in big fields and from time to time we see some brave people working under the hot sun!  You see, the works at the farms and groves are never ending!

It’s time to make a short stop for a cold coffee on the go at the small square at the last village which we meet before leaving the asphalt road and get into the mountains.  Mostly old people are enjoying their morning coffee and chat. It’s the time of the season which many Greeks who are living in abroad (U.S, Canada, and Australia) are coming back to their homeland for few weeks. Most of the time, “they bring back to life” their old small , almost abandoned villages. They eager to meet again their relatives and friends and remember their younger restless years in the village.
The mountain road

Back to the car and as the asphalt road stops at the end of the village, the road to the mountain lies ahead.

For the first few kilometers, it seems ok, as there’s some daily traffic from local farmers who are using it.
But after some minutes, the hardness of the mountain road makes its appearance.

At first, some stones and small rocks seem normal but soon we are facing “lines of holes” even at the center of the road, as a result of heavy winter and spring rain. As the side parts of the road overflowed the water started to “sculpture” and make an inside path in the road to escape. We keep the minimum speed as our small car “suffers the most” in this dirt road. We ‘re at 3500ft now and the valley of eurotas below is like a painting!
A small stream flows through the road  and it needs caution not to stuck in.  But this won’t be only one as we will find few more as we 're going up.
About 15’ later we 're seeing the first wild oregano plants beside the road. This is the “sign we needed”.
Soon we ‘ll have to stop in a small forest glade and then we ‘ll have to walk up on the mountain side.
Following the path

“..If You  follow this small path, it will lead You to a special spot with many plants..”
was Dimitri’s (Jim) words few weeks ago upon a meeting at his forest cabin few kilometers away. Dimitris is a young local boy who after finishing high school he decided to follow a tough road. To be a shepherd. These days he has some hundreds of sheep with few goats and cows and with his only company his dogs spends almost every day (from early April to the end of October) on the mountain. As he stays in a small wooden cabin with no electricity he is a “modern mountain Robinson Crusoe” in our eyes. He was too kind and decided to share his knowledge and experiences with us few years ago when we visited him and asked to be our “mountain mentor”. You know, most of the people (and especially the ones who are living in the mountains) wouldn’t even like to hear this. But Jim (and we ‘ll always be grateful to him) wasn’t like the others. After thinking it for few seconds and with a big smile on his face, he laughed and answered : “ Ok, but you must be well prepared for long hard walks and climbing. And you have to know that most of the times you ‘ll get disappointed with the results. The mountain isn’t these days as it was to be years ago. Many people like You had come looking for the wild plants and most of them made a tremendous damage by ripping the plants of the ground instead of cutting only the necessary top parts. Greedy leads to destruction and extinction, he added!”
Moon appears are we 're walking down the mountainside

And he took us for a “short walk” on the nearest mountainside,

just to show us the area around.
We weren’t the typical city people, as we had visited the mountain sometimes before and we were familiar with such landscapes. But following Dimitris was a down to earth test for us. While we had to watch every step we made on the sharp stones, Dimitris was moving so fast and smooth, like having  a primitive dance with the mountain!
We ‘ll never forget the next 2 hours.  The sun was burning, as we had left the forest and we are just climbing a side with only rocks and our breath was cut every few minutes. Dimitris had to stop often, wait for us to get some deep breaths and always with his big smile, ask us if we were Ok.
“We just remember that we wanted to say :” leave us here to die peacefully please! – we don’t feel our feet and bodies anymore”. 
   At the top of the mountain side, it was like the apocalypse for us. bigger mountain tops in distance with pine and fir trees, big fields with flowers and upon them the alpine zone of the mountain. “This is where I ‘m going almost 3 times per week,” Dimitris said and showed us the top of Taygetus (7900ft).
  The sun was setting and soon the night spread a dark veil around while we were still a couple of kilometers away from the car, going down the mountain side. With the moon upon our heads, we had to be extremely cautious  not to slip into the nearest cliffs. Dimitris was still dancing on the rocks.  Into the car and driving through the forest  narrow road going back to the village seemed now a new challenge. But the stream now seemed so easy  to pass and the rocks under the tires of the car were like saying “looking forward to seeing You again”.. the first lights of the village were like seeing “Paris for the first time”.  Around midnight, we were back at home with a dizzy and spinning head with ripped clothes and dust everywhere…

The Alpine Zone starts 6200ft

Now the path seemed familiar and the trees were welcoming us.

Even inside the forest the heat was too much and we had to get some every few minutes. Then the forest was ending and a naked mountain side was lying ahead. For a moment, we weren’t sure but there was no one to ask around and our phones had no signal. We had only one choice. Go up.. Lots of milk thistles started to appear beside the path and suddenly more and more wild oregano plants were all around!  
“This is how Odysseus must have felt when he returned to Ithaca,” we thought!
It was so beautiful. A sea of green and white plant tops with millions of bees buzzing happily around. And no other sign of life!...

(End of Part A')

If You have missed it, You can read our article about the wild oregano here

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