Many years ago, I was invited to attend a senior management conference in Johor Baru, Malaysia. This entailed a 36-hour flight including stops in London, Abu Dhabi, and Bombay (where we had to be individually fumigated prior to departure in order to kill-off any of the exotic insects that might have entered the plane while we sat on the tarmac). Unfortunately, the company I worked for at the time was run by a President who might well have been a close relative of Silas the crazed Opus Dei monk in the Da Vinci Code (who strapped on a cilice – a spiked chain worn tightly around the upper thigh for self-mortification). His policy was that no one could fly Business Class, regardless of distance or time involved. I soon found myself in the Economy Class aisle-seat next to a 300 lb. Australian (I almost felt sorrier for that poor devil than I did for myself, since he was in the middle), in a completely jam-packed 747 with no other seat available! And, I’m no Mickey Rooney at 6’2″, 220lb (in those days). To describe it as the flight-from-hell would be an understatement, but there was a silver lining to that cloud of misery and suffering: After that grueling experience, every flight I ever took seemed to be a breeze, no matter the distance or time involved. Six hours to Vancouver? Sheer delight! Ten hours to Athens? Where did the time go? I guess Nietzsche was right…”Whatever doesn’t kill me outright, makes me stronger”.
Two maps of interest:
Walking from one monastery to the other can take anywhere from 3-7 hours in the often scorching heat and steeply undulating terrain. Water bottles quickly become exhausted. Thirst is a terrible thing: while hunger comes and goes in waves, thirst seems to overwhelm every thought and quickly becomes an obsession…you can think of nothing else. Imagine then, turning a corner and coming upon this beautiful roadside spring, gushing ice-cold water fed by the melting snow and ice at the peak of Mount Athos, the namesake for the entire “Athonite” peninsula.