Monday, 12 November 2012

Greek Island Autumn Walking



Gradually this year, green signposts have been appearing all over the island, pointing out footpaths. We have one at the end of our road, the way to Skafi; it makes for a better class of landmark than the broken-down cement mixer.
I’ve been all over recently, although some days in the last month it has been too hot for walking. It was hot sunshine the late-October morning I walked to Livadia – a social occasion with everyone waving or stopping to say hello or offer a lift. The bay was mirror-like, cats in the middle of the road, birds twittering, oranges on the trees, flowers everywhere. Someone singing outside the kafeneion and a woman cleaning fish under the little bridge on the seafront, with an audience of cats, while a man cycled over it with his son on the crossbar.
We’ve also had days of rainstorms. But other days it’s been an in-between temperature perfect for walking – maybe a few clouds scudding across the blue sky, or a soft, beautiful, grey day with blue sky peeking through, no need really to carry water or look for shade. Many people who only visit Tilos in the summer don’t get to see the spectacular views from its hilltops.
The eagles circled in slow motion around the cliffs above me and chukar or partridge flew up from the ground as I walked from Ayios Antonis to Megalo Horio; I'd walked to Plaka for a dip, and found the Ikonomou fishing boat there, watched them with the trata nets while I swam.
Anna, Stelios and I walked to Gera from Livadia. Stelios pointed out the plants that were poison – dilitiri, deleterious. We wandered around the abandoned village, the summer retreats of villagers from Mikro Horio before they moved down to Livadia in the 1950s-60s; some of the houses still with roof beams and fireplaces.

 
After a hectic day of work on Friday, I wandered to Eristos and then, enjoying blustery yet balmy weather, followed the road over the headland to Ayios Petros, taking a fast dip in the sea which was gleaming silver where it met the grey cliffs dotted with shrubs. The fields where the goats were grazing were brilliant green with new grass.
So Saturday afternoon I went out in the mood for a walk, but not sure where to go; it was very blowy - 7 to 8 Beaufort - and I wasn’t sure if I was energetic enough, after a brilliant evening of traditional dancing at Bozi the night before. But it wasn’t cold, so I headed up the road in jeans and a jumper, then noticed the green sign near the helicopter pad pointing up the path to the Italian house. This is known for being one of the most spectacular peaks on the island. I didn't plan a full assault on the top, but was intrigued to see what the path was like.

It was certainly improved from last time I went up, almost exactly a year ago. There were stones marking the edges of a mostly clear track, and cairns or red spots on the rocks marking the way. I kept going and got into my stride. Once you start, the views just keep getting better and better and it was easy to gain height fast. The view to effort ratio was a persuasive argument to keep going - all of Eristos valley and bay, the village of Megalo Horio and its castle soon far below.
I was amused to find a really helpful information board halfway up the hill in Greek and English. It seemed to encourage walkers to continue up the path, so I did, passing some lovely crocuses.
Soon I could see the sea at Ayios Antonis to the north, and the sea at Livadia to the south, with the islands of Nisyros and Halki and Rhodes clear beyond. It was hard to hold the camera straight, it was so windy.


I still had an hour of daylight, I estimated, as I neared the top, tiring a little but hoping the eastern views to Turkey would be just over the next rise – and then I was hit by a gale-force wind. I crouched low to the ground but it wasn’t letting up. I wasn’t going to risk being blown down a cliff just to touch the Italian house. Maybe next time.
I headed down, jogging down the best bits of the path, watching the sun sinking towards the shoulders of Profitis Ilias, where the monastery is, and the wind whipping up the water in Eristos bay below it.
Back at the road. I double-checked the green sign pointing the way I’d just come: it did say ‘Profitis Ilias’ ? Confusing. Anyway, I hurried back, seeing the first lights coming on in the village, and thought about food.

3 comments:

  1. There is (almost) nothing I like better than to go off walking so I was with you every step of the way in this post! I'm currently living in Cyprus and relish the quirky signposting and unexpected finds. Today, I came across a wooden post in the middle of nowhere adorned with a pair of underpants (the mind boggles) and a scrap of paper which read "Mr Shorrock 10.32am Went Left" Have no idea if the two were linked in any way. Unbeatable. Made my day. :-)

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    1. I love this comment! Long live Mr Shorrock, whoever he may be. Have just subscribed to your blog, Karen. Hope our walking paths may cross one day somewhere other than cyberspace!

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    2. Thank you! Hop over from Greece one day and I'll showcase my talent of getting hopelessly lost in the hills!

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