A Night to Remember

Getting there was not easy. I had looked at the map. I could walk a long loop around the coast, which would doubtless have been wondrously scenic in the way that the Greek Cephalonian coast is; blue sea, white surf, chalky cliffs, with smooth sun-coloured and -kissed beaches along the way. But no; I was on a mission. I had a destination, and I wanted to get there as directly as I could. I spotted a short-cut on the map; a minor road over the hills. It did not look far on the map. After hours of walking in the baking heat, the sun burning through my eyes and head, I began to wonder. I had left behind the shade of cliffs and cooling splash of sea for a trek across the barren sun-baked surface of Mars. And it was uphill..... No shade, no water, no breeze. And no hitch-hiking potential!

As I peered at the map, realising that I had not travelled far, and that I was going to have to spend the night in this desolate land, I heard a vehicle straining up the track behind me. It was an old rickety farm truck, and the driver was so shocked to see a bedraggled and clearly mistaken tourist out here that he stopped his truck without me even having to brandish a thumb. As we drove along, lapsing into satisfied silence having failed miserably to communicate in opposing languages, I marvelled at my good fortune as the kilometres passed-by.

We soon reached a point along the track where my saviour apologetically indicated that this was home and it was time for me to foot-march once more. It was not long till I rejoined the tarmac, and soon I was winding downwards towards the picture-postcard harbour-village of Assos; just as the sun was sliding towards the horizon. After the desolation of my hill-top journey, the sight was heavenly. As were the smells and atmosphere of the cafes and bars, but as evening fell it was clear that my appearance was not well-suited to the clean and well-dressed eateries and drinkeries.

Onwards and upwards I pushed my weary legs, towards the ruined castle perched upon the peninsula overlooking the harbour. Darkness had fallen as I entered the grounds of the ruins and gazed enviously down from the ramparts onto the comfortable nightlife of Assos below. I was too tired even to chew on my remaining bread, so I unravelled my sleeping bag and bedded down in a corner, enveloped by night. Unfortunately, in spite of my abject exhaustion, I was not to have a night of deep sleep. The ground was rocky, but I could not decide if it was the terrain or terrible aroma that kept waking me. As dawn broke, and the imposing view of the castle and surrounds was gloriously unveiled, I was somewhat disturbed to realise that I had spent the night sleeping next to a long-dead and rotting sheep. ...

J Gilchrist

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