Giannis gives me a quick but welcome refresher course in mountain biking and we set off. My ride is a solid red number, basic but sturdy, with good quality Shimano gears and brakes. We quickly become fast friends. The first few uphill sections do set my legs on fire, but I soon find my rhythm.
Giannis, of course, could probably whip around the mountain before my first water break. His tree-trunk legs hint at his previous career as a professional footballer, and he literally lives here, in the Bafi refuge. Yet he adjusts to my pace while making it seem that he is doing no such thing, chatting knowledgeably about Parnitha’s flora and fauna.
Despite the devastating 2007 wildfire that ravaged much of Parnitha’s fir forest, the national park is home to roughly 1,000 species of plants, as well as animals large and small, including a large population of red deer. After many years of absence, wolves have even started to reappear on the mountain.