Text / photos: Christos Paterakis
The idea fell like a bomb on an autumn noon: “hey, why don’t we cross the gorge of Agia Eirini with our bikes?” About an hour later we were already loading the car and heading towards the village of Agia Eirini, where the gorge entrance is located. The process of communicating our purpose with the guard was quite simple, and with a 3 euro fee, the party had started! “Guys, let’s go down slowly and carefully”, was the opening quote of this adventure. Nada mas…
The first passages were a piece of cake and fun, with our bikes speeding through the narrow trail and us screaming with pleasure. The fast and furious route, however, had to come to an end, as the trail became more and more uphill. The bikes are now on our backs, and as we reach the top of the hill, we realize that we have to carry them down the stairs, with a wooden fence protecting us both physically and psychologically from a vertiginous descent to the lower levels of the gorge. My three friends have full suspension bikes (suspension in both wheels) and simply disappear from my sight. And here I am, alone, struggling with my hard tail borrowed bike, which desperately desires to get me off its saddle and throw me on the big steep stairs. Further down, the familiar uphill trail appears again and I manage to catch up, since the light weight and flexibility of my bike is here helpful. No pain, no gain they say – and in the gorge of Agia Eirini these two are closely connected!
No pain, no gain – and in the gorge of Agia Eirini these two are closely connected!
Somewhere in the middle of the route, things become simpler. The trail is a lot smoother and downhill. Our speed increases dangerously on the –still unpredictable- morphology of the ground. Our only concern now is to spot the best passage; our bikes fly over the natural ‘speed bumps’ and complain when they clumsily land on rocks. Further down, the gorge walls came closer to each other, as if they wanted to kiss, and we are oblige to walk our bikes through them. That was fun too I guess, as we were stuck between the walls every now and then, and the descent in some parts was not the easiest task. Time for a break, because for two hours we hadn’t stopped at all, pumped up and conquered by adrenaline. But now we are conquered by exhaustion, since pedaling in erratic rhythms and carrying the bikes every once in a while is not exactly the most relaxing activity. Of course, to be honest, this is what we were going for!
The personal recounts of how each one of us crossed the difficult parts of the gorge color the last few meters of the route, with overdoses of exaggeration and enthusiasm, as if we descended to Hades and back again! The walls become wider and wider, implying that the party is over. But even the end of this route is amazing, with the flawless river stone challenging the easy riders to experience the complex morphology of the ground for the last time today. The last time? Once our wheels touch the asphalt road, only 5km away from the beach of Sougia, we look at each other…
“shall we go again?”