Portland, OR  |  503-922-1934

From the journal: Mediterranean Therapy Day… cont’d

…As I continued, the coast crept closer on my left, until I could once again see the calm blue sea in the distance. I was riding past a large expanse of long, rectangular, shallow-looking pools that ran perpendicular to the road, and some enormous whitish mounds, presumably of the sea salt extracted from them.  Across the road from all of this was a small parking area and a lone gazebo surrounded by desolate scrub. The little building seemed misplaced, and while I was happy to make use of the shade, I couldn’t imagine why motorists would want to stop here, particularly…

‘Bird watching,’ I mused, as I surveyed the flat, marshy landscape. I laid out my still-damp gear to dry over the railing and under the midday sun. I rested under the shade of the wooden roof, then made lunch, did some reading, and tried to lie down- though I  still ached too much to get real comfort from the narrow wooden bench. Again I gazed across the quiet plain toward the distant mountains, but saw no birds to watch… so I dallied, and ate some more.

I had finally resolved to get back on the road and was packing up when I noticed a car pulling out of a gravel drive along the salt pool just across the road. When I thought about it, several cars had come and gone from there since I’d arrived at the gazebo. I looked closer at the far end of the pool, and understood why. There were PEOPLE in the WATER over there. In the distance there were three elderly people floating in the pool. They were bobbing up and down like buoys, rhythmically waving their arms in the water, and generally having a good old time.

My God! I thought. THAT’S FOR ME! I quickly finished packing the bike and rolled down the drive toward the bathers. As I approached, an old man looked up from the water and smiled, gesturing me in. I wasted no time in accepting his invitation; my bike lay clumsily on its side in the salty soil and I was already removing my shoes, smiling enthusiastically and bobbing my head as he told me (understood from the accompanying gestures) that I should keep the water out of my eyes and mouth. I stripped to my “touring trunks” and plunked into the pool. It was warm, about 100 degrees, twelve feet wide by five feet deep, and very, very saline. The water was so dense with salt that I could lie across the top like an inflatable doll, though I mostly bobbed about with hands clasped around my knees, feeling blissfully weightless and letting the thick saline solution soothe my aching muscles. Suddenly and utterly comfortable, I fell into a meditative daze.

It must have been several hours later when I pulled myself out of the brine. The heat of the day had passed and the sun hung low over the distant sea. I had the place to myself as I slapped a celebratory puff of baby powder on my rejuvenated butt, put on some warmer clothes, and grinned my thanks to this unexpected spa. A short time later, as I rolled through another quiet, old-country village, I had a non-conversation with three gentlemen gathered at the corner. One of the men asked me some questions that I didn’t understand. They smiled. I smiled. I told them I was just bicycling in Europe. They gave me directions, though there was some disagreement, with two of the men insisting on different ways.  I gestured that it was okay and thanked them, smiling again as I waved goodbye.

Only needing to find a good night’s sleep, I chose the prettier-looking way, which delivered on its promise and led me to camp in a peaceful olive grove overlooking a broad and gentle green river. It must have been the best camping in all of Greece. As I lay down to sleep, with fireflies dancing all around my tent like a swirl of living stars, I concluded that my difficult yesterday was a backhanded blessing, an indispensable shadow. Without it I would never have found the subtle brightness of today.