Near Death Experiences Part 2
The Goats Of Atros
So, having successfully avoided chemical scud attacks on holiday in Israel (see earlier posting), C and I continued to risk life and limb on our various sojourns in warmer climates.Beware the Goats of Atros!
Atros is a small monastery high up in the mountains above the port of Poros on the beautiful island of Kefalonia, the famed setting of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It truly is a beautiful spot. Indeed, the area in the north, around Fiscardo, is officially the 7th most beautiful spot on the planet. I don’t remember who officially designated it as such, but, I am not one to argue. And, the six more beautiful places must be quite some sight.
There is a story about the monastery at Atros. Apparently the monks there are very sociable. They welcome all visitors who take the time and the trouble to visit them, rewarding them with bread, olive oil and salt, and a glass of ouzo. In return, all they ask is that you send them a postcard from home. Well, this little piece of cultural and social idealism appealed to my better half, C.
And so we set off one day, C in search of cultural and social idealism, and me in search of a welcoming glass of ouzo. The guides all told us that the road cum path up to the monastery was steep and windy. But, I was not deterred. I was not deterred because a) I am generally fearless, b) my inhibitions tend to reduce significantly with proximity to alcohol, and, c) I was driving a four wheel drive Suzuki jeep with the roof down. How cool is that!?
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for my diminutive partner. C is not the most confident passenger in the world, while I am the master of under-statement. Nor is she the best at heights. What I hadn’t known until this fateful day, is that she is also not to hot on crumbling edges of roads. I was really enjoying winding my way up the dirt track to Atros. C was not. C was clutching the jeep door like a theme park ride. Even without her glasses, the imminent fall off the sheer drop at the site of the road was clear to her.
I decided against an approach of reasoning, and reassuring that my Advanced Motorist techniques were more than a match for the route. When the screaming got too much, I parked. We parked about half way up the mountain path to the friendly monks.
We decided to walk. As we walked we were passed by a couple of other 4WDs carrying labourers from the monastery on high. They looked at us as if we were idiots for attempting to walk up the mountain. They must have fell about in a heap when they realised we had decided to walk with a perfectly functioning 4WD of our own parked below. I just hope to God that they mistook us for Germans. They don’t like Germans on Kefalonia. Don’t mention the war.
We walked. We climbed. We climbed. We walked. The path disappeared into a steep wooded area. All of a sudden we could hear a distant clunking sound. Like a pebble being rattled in an empty coke can. The clunking got louder. The clunking got closer. The clunking was joined by other clunking sounds. C and I stopped walking and we stopped climbing. C and I looked at each other in bemusement. And, then, all of a sudden, the source of the clunking became clear as hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, of mountain goats hurtled through the trees towards us. There were hundreds, and hundreds of them. It was very frightening.
These were huge beasts. Mythical beasts from ancient times. They all had huge, sharp horns sticking out from their heads. They were stampeding. Towards us. C took shelter. C took shelter behind me. I had nowhere to hide. Wide-eyed and nostrils flaring (the goats not me), these huge beasts flew towards us, hooves striking sparks on the rocks beneath them. Fortunately, they all somehow managed to spot us quaking there and changed their course at the last minute. We could smell them as they whipped past. The stampede seemed to last an absolute age. And then, all of a sudden, they were gone. It was quiet.
C and I looked at each other. Hugged each other. Sighed with relief. We climbed a little more until we heard a distant clunking sound. The clunking got louder. The clunking got closer. We had to endure another two stampedes of hurtling mountain goats. It was quite terrifying. Only when we were confident that the mountain top was goat free did we continue on our way.
The path steepened. Unfortunately, C and I were ill prepared for such a walk in such a heat. Expecting that we would have driven to the monastery (!) we hadn’t bothered to bring water with us, or hats. It was very hot. We were very dehydrated. And soon, C began to feel the effects of the heat and the sun. She was sick and dizzy. She went weak at the knees. I avoided all obvious jokes. It wouldn’t have been the right time. And so, as we caught a tantalising first glimpse of the monastery on high, we stopped. C could go no more. Fearing the re-emergence of the demonic goats, C refused to be left while I returned for the jeep. We gathered our strength and trudged wearily down the path to our jeep below.
We stopped at the first shop we could find for a refreshing can of coke. Fortunately, these cans of coke were clunk free. We never did get that glass of ouzo. But we had survived yet another near death holiday experience. But even today, the bleat of a goat or a clunking sound or cow bell in the distance can cause the hair on the back of our necks to stand on end. Beware the goats of Atros! Ignore your wife. Drive to the top!