450km later…Taygetus Site and Back

Back at the NEO station once again!  It is unbelievably hot here, high 90’s at least, which has given us an excuse to stay in the air conditioning and prepare for the summer school that will begin in a couple days time.  Five days ago Paul and I left the NEO station to explore a new site high in the Taygetus mountain range.  We followed an amazingly well kept dirt road from Kardamyli to about the middle of the mountain range, where we set up camp at the base of Mount Taygetus, the tallest mountain in the range reaching over 2,400 meters.  We camped in a deserted village, one where shepherds live during the summer when they bring their sheep to the high mountain pastures to graze.  In the morning we awoke to a huge flock of sheep tramping past our camp, with their bells clanging, the shepherd yelling and the dogs barking…Guess we weren’t as removed as we thought.  We got an early start and hiked the western ridge leading to Mount Taygetus.  From the highest point on the ridge, and with our backs to the mountain, we were able to see the remaining Taygetos mountain range as it splits the sea in half creating both the Messenian Gulf and the Laconian Gulf.  Here it is easy to appreciate how mountainous Greece truly is.  The mountains come straight down to the sea, in many places exposing giant limestone cliffs and in others forming amazing beaches that stretch many kilometers down the coast. We spent the afternoon coring on the western ridge where the trees seemed to be the oldest, before heading down to base camp and getting some food and water.  I had forgotten to fill up on water because for some reason I thought we would find a spring…we did not.  It was a learning experience to say the least and Paul enjoyed a laugh or two. Because the site was not that old and we didn’t expect to find any different data anywhere else in the region, we decided to reward ourselves for our hard work and head for the coast.  We made our way down the western coast to Areoploi where we took a pass through the lowest part of the mountain range to Gytheio, where we ordered Octopus and Ouzo (note that we’re going for the traditional Greek experience here…)  We made our way a little further down the coast to a campground in Kotronas where we spent the night.  We headed back to NEO on the 18th taking the coastal route where we could easily stop and swim whenever it got too hot in the truck.  We arrived at NEO late Tuesday night just in time to meet Giorgos (the NEO station manager) and some summer volunteers for dinner by the sea.  We will spend the remaining days preparing for the summer school and swimming as much as possible to stay cool. It’s so hot!

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