Vassiliki running

Back in Vassiliki on the island of Lefkada in Greece. Its pretty much an annual pilgrimage for the Wedderburn family, since we first drove into the town some 20 years ago. Since then there have ben a lot of changes but the essence stays the same. In those pre EU days the currency was drachmas and the living was cheap as chips. Cue the old joke : “Whats a Greek Urn? – about 50 drachmas an hour!

The roads at the Southern end of the island were largely unmade. I remember the steep climb out of Nidri on loose stone and gravel, with sheer unguarded drops to the valley below and Icons every hundred yards or so marking where someone had died in a road accident. Scary stuff! Now the roads are pretty good. There are a lot of new hotels and restaurants stretching all along the bay to Ponti. But the old town is much the same especially with the quaint taverns stretched along by the harbour. Only the currency and prices have changed!

Having picked up another annoying injury, well really a recurrence of the glute/hamstring problem in my left leg, I hadn’t run since limping around the Dulwich parkrun in 30 minutes last Saturday. But having rested for a few days and feeling the discomfort wear off I decided this morning to go for a short tester to see how everything was bearing up. It gets pretty hot out here so the best plan is to start early and I was out of the hotel by eight and ready to go. We are staying at a place called the Grand Nefili which is almost in Ponti, and after a bit of jogging and stretching I came onto the road leading through a short stretch of sea view restaurants and apartments. Up the steepish newly sufaced street to “The Road”.

“The Road” was originally constructed by a Greek guy who had the vision of building a coastal route at the foot of the mountain that forms the West side of Vassiliki bay. As a project it was doomed. The mountain is formed of volcanic rock and despite blasting with explosives extremely difficult to cut into. After about a mile and a quarter the attempt came to an end. What is left is an unmade gravel route to nowhere. Except that some years  later the local town planners improved it enough to set up the construction of a water treatment plant about a mile out of town. The local windsurfing instructors refer to the building as “the roller disco” and it forms a convenient point to demarcate the end of the safe sailing area.

This morning I started off tentatively and when I first looked at my watch saw that I was only at jogging pace averaging 13 minute miles. By then I had loosened up and was feeling OK so I started to pick up and the pace started to increase steadily.

It was very quiet with no-one else about. The bay was glassy as it often is early morning before any breezes ruffle the surface. The water was blue reflecting the clear sky. Large grasshoppers? crickets? Chicadas?  (0ne of the former anyway) jumped over the road and into the scrub grass and wild flowers.

My watch clicked up the mile before I reached the roller coaster gates. The time was around 10 minutes 30 seconds. Then a fairly large snake suddenly appeared on the road before me. I ran wide past it and watched as it coiled and writhed across before disappearing into the scrub. I’m no expert but I don’t think it was venomous. The body was smooth skinned, brownish in colour and a couple of inches across, topped with a round head not much thicker than its body. No obviously diamond shaped head, flickering forked tongue or body markings. But I kept well clear just in case. I was a mile from civilisation and hadn’t seen a soul since leaving Ponti.

From previous years I knew that the road continued as a trail further along the coastline and is quite pretty, so I started to follow on, but it became clear straight away that the trail was overgrown and quite a lot of the undergrowth was splky and unfriendly to bare legs, so I decided to head back. By this time I was warmed up and enjoying the run. Very little sign of the niggles in the left leg, so pushed on a bit. Reaching Ponti at just past two miles overall I continued on the main road to Vassiliki, then looped down the side road to Wildwinds and back along the newly constructed beach boulevard. About 5k overall. Great to be back running in Vass. Tomorrow I think I will head up into the Orange groves.

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