Since Christmas, I'd been getting really tired and wasn't able to switch off from work. I wasn't able to sleep, my mind was always racing and I became more and more negative. I kept my feelings to myself, as I didn't want to upset my lovely wife, Elaine. I'd managed to remain positive during the past eleven months, with everything that had happened regarding my shoulder and the long road back to fitness (despite the appalling weather) and we'd been doing lots of great bouldering indoors. However, I'd gone back to work full time and it was proving too much. Eventually I wanted out, so I took an overdose with whiskey on March 16th and closed my eyes, hoping that I'd never wake up again.
Luckily, I did wake up next morning. I felt absolutely shit but soon began to realise that I was glad that my attempt to depart prematurely had failed. To cut a long story short, since then I have been receiving excellent professional treatment Thanks to Elaine (and our wonderful doctor's help) I have been making good progress and feeling more positive. I'm still pretty tired but I'm sleeping a bit better, though I'm often thinking about work. I'm back on anti-depressants and off the booze completely. I've been signed off work long term. I'm indebted to the Head, my head of department and my colleagues at school, who have been really helpful and supportive throughout. I don't mind being open and talking about this, it helps me understand my illness and come to terms with it more easily. Thanks Sa for recommending the following links on YouTube:
The Easter holiday arrived and we desperately needed a holiday, to get away for a complete break and share some real quality time together. The plan was to go to the Costa Blanca but the weather forecast was rubbish for everywhere in Spain. So, the afternoon Elaine finished work we booked a ferry from Ancona to Patras and drove off in the Cali straight away, heading for Leonidio in Greece. Unfortunately this meant 7 hours driving across Italy and having to put up with the horrendous autopistas filled with pot holes that are ready to burst your tyres, and to suffer the crazy Italian drivers. It also meant that four days travelling would mean we'd have less climbing time but it was all worth it in the end.
We had planned to climb on mainland Greece during our year out, three years ago, but got put off by the weather at the time. Eddie and Mandy Martinez were just finishing their three months there and we were very motivated by their tales and photos. They were travelling in the exact opposite direction as us and, miraculously, Elaine and Mandy managed to co-ordinate an excellent rdv at an autopista service stop, it was great to see them both. We traveled "Open Deck" on the ferry, which meant we were on the open-sided transport deck and could stay in the Cali. It also meant that we saved 500 Euros by not having to have a cabin. There were toilets and showers on the same deck and it proved to be a very comfortable and relaxing crossing. Three and a half hours after arriving at Patras we pulled up at Camping Semeli, on the beach at Plaka (near Leonidio). The plots were very spacious, toilets and showers were spot on and the campsite was clean and quiet (we paid 150 Euros for twelve nights). However, there were a lot of mosquitoes and noise from barking dogs during the night. There were also loads of feral cats. Now Ruff, Elaine and I hate cats, but they're great for improving your shoulder strength by practicing your stone throwing abilities and also for Ruff to chase! I only wish I'd had Al Stewart's catapult.
We managed to climb for eight days, as we took things fairly easily, making sure we enjoyed the place by having some rest days. We were a bit limited with the choice of crags because it was too hot to climb in the sun (temps were typically around 23 degrees C during the day). We climbed at Mars (shade pm), Elona (shade until 14h 30), King of Thrones (shade until 16h) and Kapsala (shade after 11h). All of these crags offered exactly what we were looking for: yeah, long routes on overhanging rock with tufas from 6a up to 8a. We couldn't make it to HADA with a dog and Twin Caves was always in the sun. Whilst there were still quite a few climbers around this late in the season, the crags weren't packed out and we were able to chose our routes without queuing. It never rained (apart from some sandy drops, one morning).
We had an absolutely fabulous time, met up with some old friends and made lots of new friends whilst there. We both agreed that it was a much nicer place than Kalymnos, because there's so much more to do than just climbing plus you don't feel like you're being ripped off by someone who's not paying their taxes. The locals are so friendly, people give you free fruit and everybody speaks some English. The scenery is stunning and it's so cheap to eat out. We were spending around 25 Euros for a starter and main course for both of us. In fact we had four attempts, in different restaurants, to eat everything we were given and each time we failed miserably, there was simply too much food! I'd strongly recommend that people go and visit this beautiful place. It was wonderful to climb on rock again, after so long. Although we were sad to leave, we'll definitely go back, there's loads to do.
|The setting sun seen from the Cali on the open deck.|
|"Open Deck" means open-sided transport deck (plus free electricity hook up).|
|How much longer?|
|Arriving at Patras.|
|The Owens at Mars.|
|Rest day food at the harbour in Plaka.|
|Mayssam El Kaii from Lebanon climbing Pontiki sto Tiri (6b+) at Mars.|
|A German climber on Mystere et boule de gomme (6c+) at Mars.|
|The amazing Elona, tufa paradise.|
|Just around the corner from the crag is the monastery (photo from the topo).|
|View of Leonidio and the sea beyond.|
|Our plot at Camping Semeli.|
|How old is this olive tree?|
|Two photos of Marco from Andorra climbing Eisvoleas (7c) at Elona.|
|Les Nicois at Leonidio (Elaine, Pessiman, Liza and Sponge Bob).|
|Two bum shots showing Sponge Bob climbing the stunning Kopakabana (7c) at Elona.|
|From the topo: Svana Bjarnason climbing Chuck Notis (7a+) at Mars.|
|Not my photo, Diet Dope (7b) at Elona.|
|So good to climb again. Knee pads off and a smile so wide after sending Oeil de Boeuf (given 8a) at Mars.|