Last summer I visited the most beautiful island ever, Samothraki, in North Greece.
I don’t remember how many times I said, “How on earth was this made?”
Picture this: It's like nature decided to dig these wild swimming pools right into the heart of the mountain. That's what 'vathres' are. There are these incredibly cool spots where the waterfall meets the land, creating a natural chill-out zone.
But it's not some tame, landscaped thing.
It's raw and untamed, which is kind of how nature intended it to be. Rock meets water in a crazy dance, and you're not sure who's leading, but what's the result? It's awesome. The water's freezing, by the way. But on a hot day, nothing could be better.
An unreal place, like you had entered one of Stainbeck's books.
While it’s a magical place for hiking, it has dangerous spots, and every year there are accidents and even deaths.
I hadn't had any problems, though, during my first week there, until that day.
That morning, along with three of my friends, I decided to revisit the Old Woman's Pool.
I walk a bit fast in general, and that day was the first one that my back wasn’t bothering me, so I was way more hyped, and soon I left my friends behind,
It wasn't until I paused to catch my breath and look around that I realized - I had strayed off the trail and was now standing at the base of a steep mountain slope.
When I realized that I was out of my way, it was too late because it was pretty dangerous to climb down again.
So, I decided to continue on my way until I could find a safer spot to climb down again.
I walked and I walked and I walked for hours, but I remember that despite the uncertainty, stress, and minor injuries, I realized that I was walking in places where very few people have been.
I have felt the same a few times before, and it's a weird but awesome feeling.
After a while, I heard this familiar sound - water. Up ahead was the largest 'vathra' I'd ever seen. It was like stumbling upon a secret haven. Just a huge natural pool, shimmering water, surrounded by rocks. I was the only one there. Unreal, right?
And that was also the moment that I started to get seriously worried.
Where am I? I should go back because I have probably gone too far.
I didn’t want to return to the same road because it was too risky, I thought.
I decided to go through the canyon and its pools
Walking through the canyon was a whole different game. It was tough. The rocky terrain was unpredictable, and the 'vathres', although beautiful, were like traps.
Important note: I am wearing hearing aids, so under no circumstances could I swim or fall in the pools. I also had a heavy backpack all the time and, of course, no phone signal.
At some point, Ι was in front of a stream and I couldn’t figure out how to pass it without jumping over it.
Luckily, I didn’t do it because I made a simulation of the jump with my backpack, and it would have gone really bad.
It went all the way through the stream, and I found it around an hour later.
Finally, I went to a spot where I could see people down, in the pool, I saw my friends too, and they saw me too but I was around 100 meters upward from them. I couldn’t figure for life how to get down there. I sat around for like half an hour, making some attempts that didn’t go well.
I almost fell from a cliff 10 meters high in front of all the people, thank goodness that tree I caught on was strong enough to hold me.
Suddenly, an old man appeared before me. I knew him, I used to see him every night in the square, usually drunk from liquor. And yet, he was the only one who found the courage and the selfishness to come up to where I was.
He told me to put off my shoes and hands, and he showed me how to climb down the spot.
Even with his guidance, it's a wonder I managed that. It was one of the toughest things I've ever done.
There was one final spot that I had to pass to get down with people, around 5 meters tall.
That time I could clearly communicate with my friends, the stranger had left, and we tried to figure out how to make it.
I was pretty tired after 5 hours in this situation, and I started to get scared and unconfident.
As I was attempting to descend, I heard a noise. I turned to the left, and to my surprise, I saw a naked woman attempting to assist me.
She started putting my hands and legs, in different spots, but our communication wasn't ideal.
For what seemed like an eternity but was only a few seconds, I clung to the rock wall, desperately seeking a foothold. But it was futile. With a feeling of terrifying certainty, I felt my grip slip, and I fell.
From my upright position, I was falling downward, and my lower back came into brutal contact with the rocks. Once, twice, thrice - each one accompanied by a scream - until I finally landed.
What a memory.
I remember my friend’s face and expression as I was falling down.
I landed on my feet and into his hug... The time froze, but my first sentiment wasn’t relief.
It was anger.
Anger because I forced my friends to see that scene, anger because I fell in the very last spot, anger because I was lucky once again.
Yet, as I realized a few months later, that wasn't my greatest regret.
All these hours that I was worrying that I wouldn’t make it, I was thinking about the Lady
We had split ways a few months ago, but our connection, our bond, hadn't faded.
All I could think of were all the things I never said to her, how much I love her, and how much of a blessing the time I spent with her was despite all the mistakes and shitstorms.
I thought to send her a video so that in case I couldn't make it once my phone reconnected with civilization, she would receive my final words.
But I didn't.
I thought that would be such a tragic experience for her, so the only thing I should do is try my best to come out alive and tell her everything in person.
I didn’t do that either, and I don’t know exactly why.
I guess I was too scared. Scared of getting rejected, scared of pushing her away. So I waited for the perfect moment, which never came.
While I did tell her the story when I saw her, I didn’t mention this part.
That came later, in a ten-page letter.
A letter she never replied to.
In the end, I guess it was too late.
I think it’s time to tell you why I spent two days writing this story just before a very important week for me.
I used to believe that a very powerful, nearly deadly experience could change me and make me the person I wanted to be.
That it would take away all the fears, pain, and self-doubt.
I was wrong.
The winter following that summer was the darkest one of my life. I went straight into a void that I didn’t know could exist.
So while it’s cliche, the change that we want for ourselves is a day-to-day thing, it needs time, and usually, we need help—other people to show us the way and unlock all those parts we are hiding trying to fit everything under a mask.
Don’t wait for the right moment, the perfect opportunity, for the things that really matter—the unconditional ones.
Don’t wait for tomorrow; it may never come.
With all my love, thank you for reading this.