On the Path of the Ancients: A Walking Trip in Greece
Can a dyed-in-the-polypropylene independent backpacker find paradise on a guided walking trip?
That was my question when I met Karen Lancaster, president of Cross Country International, which runs walking and equestrian trips around the world. Karen talked about staying in remote B&Bs, exploring the countryside during the day, and coming back for hearty meals of local specialties at night.
It sounded good, but I was suspicious. In the last 11 years, I've spent most of my free time walking and backpacking. I've logged a lot of miles in a lot of countries, but I'd never been on a guided tripguided climbs, yes, but not walks. I questioned the lack of independence and worried about having to go at other peoples' paces. But Karen's enthusiasm was contagious. And she said one thing that caught my attention:"Guided walking trips save you all the hassle of planning."
Those were the magic words. I'm busy these days, and let's just say planning has never been my strong point. If a guided trip would let me have all of the fun of walking and none of the bother of travel logistics, I was ready to sign on the dotted line.
Our destination was Greece's Peloponnese peninsula. I know next to nothing about Greece, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go. I'd read the myths in grade school, and I'd worked my way through some Homer and Aristophanes in college. But all I knew about the Peloponnese was that they'd had a war there. Precisely when, I couldn't say.
The Peloponnese peninsula is the southernmost part of the Greek mainland. Technically, it could be called an islandthe Corinth Canal, which cuts through the thin Isthmus of Corinth, separates it from the rest of the country. The Taygetos mountain range runs like a spine through the center of the peninsula. It is a rugged, dramatic landscape: The highest peaks rise to nearly 8,000 feet.
I started learning about the differences between independent travel and a guided walking trip the minute I landed in Athens's brand new international airport. Jonathan Tite, an English expat who guides walking, kayaking, and sailing trips all over Greece, met me. I suppose there's a downside to meeting at the airport: If you were the first person in the group to arrive after an overnight flight, it could be a bit of an annoyance to have to wait around at the airport while others in the group straggled in.
But think of the advantages. After a long transatlantic journey, I didn't have to hassle with cab drivers or learn how to use the phonelet alone decipher the strangely familiar but incomprehensible alphabet. A minivan was ready to take us to the tiny seaside village of Kardamili, some five hours away. All I had to do was hop in, sit, and look out the window, while Jonathan gave me and my four fellow walkers an overview of what we could expect in the next few days.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication