All of nature’s elements coming together to create one magical e
It’s been only a month and yet it feels so distant.
It’s been only a month and yet it feels so strange, so far off from the reality we are now into.
I am talking about the recent adventure that I and some friends made at Valia Kalda and more specifically, the mesmerizing night we got to spend at the plateau of the Flega alpine lakes.
That magical night we spent under the stars, listening to the sound of the howling wind and staring at the fire’s primal dance.
Getting to the lakes
It was a long hike. Around 16 km, since we decided to reach the lakes through the long trail that starts from the Valia Calda Mountain Shelter just outside of Vovousa. We got up around 07.00 am and had a quick breakfast before starting our journey. From its beginning, it was clear that this was going to be an epic hike. The valley of Valia Calda is famous around Epirus for its stunning views, waterfalls and colors, especially in Autumn, but I won’t speak much about it, since the national park deserve an article of its own.
After passing through the river of Aoos multiple times, swimming in the natural stone carvings created by its waters, witnessing gigantic primordial trees and hiking until we could no longer feel our legs we reached the plateau.
Surrounded by the nearby mountain tops and standing beneath the Flega peak (from where their name derives), the two lakes offer a view that you seldom have the pleasure of viewing. We usually see lakes on lower altitudes, and in my case, most I have seen were on valleys or at the base of mountains.
But these two sit at the top of a plateau, offering an outstanding view — in front of the lower lake where there is no surrounding land — of tens of other peaks that go as far as the eye can see. It’s a landscape that seems like it was born out of a fairy tale, two mystical lakes hidden underneath the mountain, a place where fairies would come and bathe under a night with a full Moon.
Night falls on the plateau
It was already late so we had to set up camp fast. We put up our tents and lit a fire. The sky was turning into a beautiful deep-blue pallet of colors. Twilight was upon us and it’s my favorite hour to shoot — especially when there is a fire in the scene. The radiant, blazing orange of the fire seemed like a hearth of comfort, a sanctuary of some sort, against the cold but beautiful silence of the surrounding landscape.
We baked some coffee and sat down to enjoy this moment of connection with nature.
As the last rays of the sun started disappearing, the cold air embraced us, but gently, making the body feel an invigorating rush due to the low temperature. We could feel fragrances of pine, coffee, and the smell of burning wood filling our nostrils. Oh, the smell of burning wood, I just love it. It brings a feeling of coziness in my mind, one that I had longed to feel again.
And the fire. This radiant spectrum of reds and oranges, roaring fiercely with its burning embers. Caressing the body with its warm touch. It’s been a companion of humans for almost 2 million years and its effect on our gaze stands as concrete proof for the role it has played in our evolution and survival. We stood there, watching it tirelessly, devouring its ever-changing colors and tones, as it devoured the wood that we fed it.
Going a bit further away to take some pictures, I turned back and looked at the scene.
It almost looked like a pagan ritual. Three figures standing around a pyre, moving, shouting, playing music, in the middle of nowhere. When witnessing scenes like this my mind goes back, thinking about the first of our species who harnessed the power of fire.
I think of how important it must had been for them to be able to gather around a source of warmth in the relentless cold they had to face. And how beautiful the landscape around them must have looked. Pure and wild, without any of man’s technological interventions, pollution and destruction. Like the scene we had the privilege of enjoying that night — if you exclude our tents of course.
I look up at the night sky. The stars are shining brightly. Another scene we have come to treasure deeply due to its rareness. The night sky that our cities offer is usually home to tens of stars in the best-case scenario. In the wild you see hundreds, thousands or millions. In places with no light pollution and nights with no Moon it can feel like there is more light than darkness up there, and that’s something that words or images can hardly describe. Only your eyes can make you feel the true sensation of witnessing a proper starry night sky out in the wild.
I believe that looking at a night sky full of stars is of paramount importance. It allows our minds to wander off freely, without constraints and borders. It’s a place where reality and fantasy blend into an opaque mix of light and darkness. A place of total detachment from the hustles of everyday life that allows us to get lost on our thoughts, embracing them fully with their light and darkness.
One of the few scenes we are able to observe and actually feel the grandness of the unknown. A liberating source of visual magnificence, reminding us how vast this world we live in is, how little we know about it, how small we are, but at the same time how lucky we are to be alive right now, right here, enjoying this moment.
And for me this is a source of creativity, liberation, and introspection that rejuvenates me like nothing else.
After a few hours the moon started appearing behind a nearby mountain top, dimming the star’s light and filling the sky with its silver radiance.
The water’s surface on the upper lake started glimmering with beautiful shades of green, cyan, blue and grey. If there is a place where dryads lived this would probably be it, and I could almost see them emerging from the lake bathing themselves with water and moonlight.
The end of a magical night
My roaring imagination was halted by the shivers of my body. The cold had started to become unbearable and it was time for me to go to my tent.
I went back to our fire and stood there for a few minutes warming my hands. A feeling of appreciation filled my mind for the scene we got to experience this day. The stars, the moonlight, the trees, the mountaintops, the sound of birds chirping, the strain on the body’s muscles after a vigorous workout, it’s all things we need but have come to enjoy so seldomly, especially this year with the lock-downs imposed due to COVID-19.
I put out the fire as I started to prepare to go to sleep. Before going in I decided to check it again, making sure it’s properly extinguished. I threw in some water and it made a loud, hissing noise. I looked down at the last burning embers. They looked like sprinkling stars shining out in front of the background of black coal. I looked up the actual night sky and saw the resemblance.
I guess there is beauty everywhere, I thought, you just need to have the eyes to look for it.
Do you also love hiking and camping? Are you a lover of nature? If so connect with me through Instagram and share your favorite adventures.
Originally published at https://odysseaschloridis.com on November 24, 2020.