Friday, July 12, 2019

Κala Nera-Vizitsa-Milies train station (circular)

View to Milies
Distance: 13,3 km
Time: about 6 h total, moving time 4.45'
Altitude: from 0 m. (Kala Nera) to 520 m. max (Vizitsa square)
Total uphill/downhill: 694 m.
Signed with red paint and yellow metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes
Start/finish: Kala Nera beach at the bus turn
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         This is an excellent circular walk, mostly on kalderimi, climbing from the beach of Kala Nera to Vizitsa and returning back via the train station of Milies. Points of interest on our way include the waterfall Katafidi near Vizitsa, the old monastery Aghiou Ioannou Prodromou (St. John the Baptist) at Vizitsa, the metallic train bridge and the tiny chapel of Taxiarchon near Milies train station, and, finally, the cave of ''Centaur Chiron''.
          Starting from the bus turn at the seaside of Kala Nera, we walk away from the sea on the asphalt road. We come to cross the main asphalt at an angle to the right (attention to traffic!) and on the other side continue on an earth path next to a house which is on our right. The path soon becomes cobblestone kalderimi, ascending through olive groves.
          On our way up we walk through the cottages of the settlement ''Argireika'', including an old olive press. Many inhabitants of Vizitsa preferred to stay here through winter, to  be nearer to their olive groves and to avoid heavy winter snow, which is not unusual in Pelion. This was common practice in most Pelion villages.
             Further up, we walk for a short distance on earth road. There is an open irrigation water tank on our left. After that, we find the kalderimi again, overgrown by vegetation but still passable (in spring 2019). Eventually it opens at an angle to a wider earth road, next to the small chapel of Timios Stavros. From here we can see Vizitsa in the middle, Milies to the right and Pinakates to the left. There is a large ravine, which we will have to cross, between our position and Vizitsa.
View to Vizitsa
          So, we conitinue on the road downhill. Further on, it becomes asphalt. At a sharp right turn we leave it and walk at a straight line on a narrow earth road, which becomes kalderimi and we come to cross the stream over a small bridge. Shortly after that, watching on our left, we find a path that leads to the waterfall ''Katafidi''. This is an excellent spot, especially in spring when the flow of water is high. The waterfall is dry through summer and autumn.
Katafidi waterfall in spring
            Returning back to the wide, well-crafted kalderimi, higher up it suffers from landslides, so we have to abandon it and walk on an earth track. Coming to a junction, we find the kalderimi up left, next to a large shrine. It keeps climbing up and we enter Vizitsa, passing by the main church of  Zoodochos Pighi, then crossing the asphalt road and finally we come to the cosy village square. This is the highest point of our walk (520 m.), where we can have a refreshment or a snack. 
Vizitsa square
           Returning back to the asphalt, we walk on this to the left. After 100 m. we pass by the women`s association ''Esperides''  selling local products, and then turn right on a kalderimi that leads to the old monastery of  Aghiou Ioannou Prodromou (St. John the Baptist). From the entrance of the monastery we continue downhill on a path just next to the monastery`s outer wall and join a wide descending kalderimi. 
         We pass by a roofed drinking water fountain on the left and then join an earth road, on which we walk downhill. Passing under the village`s cemetery, we cross an asphalt road and continue on a path which soon becomes kalderimi.  On our right is the large overgrown Miliotiko ravine. At the opposite bank we can make the white chapel of Timios Stavros and, if we look carefully, the chapel of Taxiarches built midway on the cliff. 
         Further down, the kalderimi becomes earth path and we come to a path junction. We elect the right branch, which further down opens to the train rails and we follow them to the right to visit the bridge. In five minutes we reach the magnificent metallic bridge, which was constructed in the beginning of 20th century by Schneider, a German specialist engineer, under the supervision of chief engineer Evaristo de Chirico.
The metallic train bridge
   
            Just after we pass over the bridge, we find a narrow ascending path and follow it climbing steadily. At a junction we take the left branch.  After climbing some steps built with stones, we walk on a narrow lane on the nearly vertical rock, that leads to the tiny chapel of Taxiarches,  built on the edge of the cliff, accompanied by the birds, waiting every day to hear the shuffle of the little train  passing below.
The path on the cliff
              Tracing our steps back, we follow the rails to get to the train station of Milies (end of the train line). We continue on the asphalt for 100 m. (on the left an uphill kalderimi leads to the square of Milies) and then find the kalderimi to Kala Nera next to a small drinking water fountain and follow it downhill. Wide and clear, it winds down to cross the Miliotiko stream over a concrete bridge and continues on the other bank between olive groves. At some point there is signpost on the left side, indicating a large cave, called somewhat arbitrarily Centaur Chiron`s cave.
          Further on, we join at an angle an earth road, on which we walk for 100 m. to find the continuity of the kalderimi on the left. Eventually the kalderimi ends and we continue walking on an earth road, which later becomes paved with concrete as it passes by the cemetery of Kala Nera and then joins the main asphalt. At the juction lie a few cypress trees and a road sign to ''Argireika''. We walk on the main asphalt for 100 m. and then, at the junction with the kalderimi coming from Vizitsa, turn left on an asphalt road that opens down to the seaside of Kala Nera, at the point of the bus turn, from where our walk had started.
Kala Nera

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Promiri-Katigiorgis

Distance: 8,2 km
Time: 3 hours with stops
Altitude: from 200 m. (Promiri) to 0 m. (Katigiorgis)
Total uphill: 115 m. Total downhill: 336 m.
Signed with red paint and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: no
Start: Gas station at the entrance of Promiri
End: Katigiorgis beach
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              This walk connects Promiri to the beach of Katigiorgis, which also serves as a port for a sea connection to the island of Skiathos, which is no more than 20 minutes away (boat trip to Koukounaries). Other walks in the area include Promiri to PlataniasLafkos to Promiri and Katigiorgis to Vromoneri beach. During the summer season, several restaurants and cafes operate at the beach. A practical way to return back to Promiri, is to take the bus passing from Katigiorgis at 15.15' daily.
           Starting from the gas station at the entrance of Promiri, we walk on the main road of the village, which is paved with flat stones. We pass by the square and then just above the main church of Koimisis Theotokou (Dormition of Our Lady), built in 1760. The church celebrates on August 15th.
Koimisis Theotokou church at Promiri
           After the church,  the road becomes paved with cement, then asphalt and continues uphill to the left, while we continue downhill on a narrow earth road. A path on the right leads in 30 m. to  the old drinking water fountain Sardeli. At the end of June, only a few drops of water were coming out of the fountainhead.
Sardeli fountain
         We walk on a downhill earth road, which incorporates sections of kalderimi. On our right is a large ravine (Gerogianni stream) We ignore junctions with uphill roads leading to orchards.
          Eventually, we come down near the streambed. As the earth road turns right to cross the streambed, we leave it and walk straight ahead on a path Shortly, the path crosses the streambed and passes on the right bank.
           After a little while, we cross again to the left bank and walk on the edge of an olive grove. At the other end of the grove there is an earth road that crosses the streambed. We find the continuity of the path on the right bank. In the first few meters we walk through bramble, but after that the path is clear and shady. We come to cross the streambed one more time, passing again to the left bank. Eventually the path opens to the asphalt road next to a cottage`s fence on our left. On the other side of the road lies a metallic bridge. Here we are at the entrance of the settlement of Liri.
Crossing the streambed
           We walk on the asphalt through Liri. After exiting the settlement, at the point where a metal cabin at a bus stop on the left side of the road, we turn right on an earth road. After about thirty meters, watching down on our left, we find an earth path which shortly becomes a kalderimi, then earth path again. Further on, we join an uphill earth road. Reaching the ridge, we continue straight ahead into an olive grove. A cottage is on our left below.
Going through olive grove
          Watching for the signs, we find the continuity of the path, descending gently in a straight line to the south. After crossing a small stream, we continue in the same direction uphill through an olive grove. Further on, the path goes through a batch of pine trees. Reaching the ridge, we walk downhill in the same direction through another olive grove. A kiosk is on our left. We cross another tiny stream  and continue on earth road, following the signs.
          Finally, we come to cross an asphalt road and walk now on a cement paved track, which opens to the main road of Katigiorgis. Our walk ends after fifty meters at the beach, next to the chapel of Agios Georgios (St. George).
Katigiorgis beach
PS. Many thanks to George Laskos from Liri, who helped us find and clean the path.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Milies-Propan

Propan
Distance: 9,5 km
Time: 3,5-4 hours
Altitude: from 390 m. (Milies square) to 340 m. (Propan square)
Total ascent: 318 m.  Total descent: 393 m.
Signed with red paint marks and metal signs
Drinking water on walk: no
Start: Milies square  End: Propan square
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         Propan used to be the very last Pelion village to remain without a connection to the walking route network. This has now changed, as in spring 2019 the kalderimi to Choreftra junction and, ultimately, to Milies was traced and reopened by volunteers after many years of neglect. A connection to Lambinou is on the way. The kalderimi  from the square to Kalamaki beach also remains viable.
        A few words about the name: In 1954, state officials decided to rename the village as  "Kalamaki" (after the homonymous beach), as the old name Propan (which is of unknown origin, probably non-Greek) was considered undesirable. However, in 2014 at local people`s request, the original name was officially reinstated. At the square a cafe-restaurant is open from Easter  until the end of summer season, along with guesthouses and rooms to rent.
Οld house at Propan
             There are two ways to get from Milies to Choreftra junction and from there to Propan. The first one follows initially the kalderimi towards Tsagarada but we don`t climb to the kiosk at Kefales. Instead we walk downhill on the earth road to the main asphalt, on which we have then to walk 1,5 km to arrive at Choreftra.
              The other (southerly) way, which is described here, initially follows the route to Neochori. Setting off from the square in Milies, we follow the asphalt road downhill. A hundred metres further down, at a right hand bend in the road, we branch off to the left onto a wide paved track that goes gently uphill. Reaching a crossroads, we take the  track to the right. Further on, this becomes a kalderimi, then a downhill cement road and we cross the main asphalt next to the last house of the village.   We now walk on beautiful old kalderimi, which continues opposite, descending to a ravine with lush vegetation.
         Further down, at a bend in the kalderimi to the left, there is a branch to our right that used to serve people using the train station. For information, this branch leads to the main road Milies-Volos at a sharp bend, 200 metres below the junction that leads to the train station.    
      The kalderimi we are following, which is  clear and in good condition, crosses the stream bed (Kakorema) and climbs up the opposite side with an olive grove to its right. When we reach the top of the ridge we meet an earth road. We cross the road and, descending gently, the kalderimi opens to another road. This leads us after a hundred metres down to the old church of Agios Nikolaos, a remnant of the monastery that used to operate here. It`s a good place to have a stop. Unfortunately, we don`t have the opportunity to admire the notable frescos inside the church, as its doors remain locked. 
Agios Nikolaos chapel
 

               Retracing our steps back, we easily find the continuity of the kalderimi on the other side of the road and follow it to the east. We cross two small stream beds, pass by an old hut and eventually the kalderimi ends, where it comes out onto an earth road, along which we walk uphill. The wider  area  is called Pavlakia.
           Further up, we come to join the wide earth road that comes from the settlement of Stavrodromi. We follow this road uphill, ignoring any junctions left and right. The road brings us to Choreftra junction after 2,5 kilometers. 
Path in arbutus forest
               From here, an easy and beautiful 1-hour downhill walk remains to Propan. So we cross the asphalt and walk initially uphill on a narrow earth road. After a few meters (attention left!) we spot the path entrance on the left, entering an arbutus forest. On our way downhill  there are sections of kalderimi. We come to cross the stream of Arkouda (''Bear") and continue on the other bank on an earth track, passing from an orchard with large chestnut trees on our right.
        After about one kilometer on the earth road, as it goes uphill to meet the asphalt road that runs above us, we leave it to the right, watching for the red marks and the signs.  We now walk on a wide earth track, which later becomes a   descending kalderimi. Further on, we walk on the upper limit of a couple of orchards. As we go past a small landslide, the earth path becomes kalderimi again. 
Propan, view to the Aegean sea

         Finally we come down to the chapel of Agios Ioannis and walk now on road. We go straight past a junction with an asphalt road to the right going down towards Kalamaki beach and at the next junction we leave the asphalt and take the stone-paved track to the right, which leads in five minutes to the square.
Propan square

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Makrinitsa-Stagiates-Portaria (circular)

Distance: 8,8 km
Time: 4,5 hours (walking time 3h20')
Altitude: max 888 m., min 394 m.
Total elevation gain uphill/downhill: 635 m.
Signed with various signs and red paint
Start/finish: Makrinitsa (end of bus line) or Portaria (Adamena fountain) or Stagiates (square)
Drinking water on walk: yes (Makrinitsa, Stagiates, Mana spring)
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         After the opening of a new path section in 2018, connecting Mana spring near Portaria to Makrinitsa at a level higher than the asphalt road, we now have the opportunity to create a circular walk Portaria to Makrinitsa, avoiding the asphalt almost completely. Caution is required after heavy rain, or when the snow melts in spring, causing the stream to flow enough water to make crossing difficult (usually it is dry). The walk is best avoided in such circumstances. 
      The walk may start either from Makrinitsa (end of bus line), or Portaria (Adamena fountain), or Stagiates village square. On this occasion, we elected to start from Makrinitsa.
Makrinitsa
      Starting from the bus U-turn at the entrance of Makrinitsa, we walk down on the narrow road going to the underage refugees' Hostel (ex-Preventorium), to find in a few meters the start of a kalderimi (cobblestone path) on our left. Going steadily downhill -the view from certain points is fabulous- we come to cross the Mega rema stream over a wooden bridge, built by local volunteers of the Association of Stagiates, at a beautiful spot with running water under the shadow of plane trees. After a little while, the path opens on a sharp turn of an earth road, which we follow on a straight line. Entering the village of Stagiates, the road becomes asphalt paved and leads to the main church and to the square next to it.  
Stagiates

         Νext to the drinking water fountain at the square, the main  kalderimi goes uphill and we follow it. We cross the asphalt and continue climbing among houses. Higher up, as we exit the village, the kalderimi becomes road paved with cement. Ιn a few meters, we leave it at an angle to the right and keep climbing on earth path. Road sections and path-kalderimi sections alternate on our way up, until we come το join the main asphalt, just under the cemetery of Portaria. Walking on the main asphalt to the right (towards Portaria), after 400 m. we reach Adamena fountain and a cafe which is nearby. Here we leave the asphalt and start climbing on a path following the course of Mana`s stream. Several wooden pedestrian bridges make crossing the streambed easier, as water is running for the most part of the year (not in summer). We can easily imagine Centaurs strolling up and down in this fabulous scenery.
The path at Mana stream

         The path opens to a small plateau, next to a building of the water system collecting the water of Mana spring and a drinking water fountain. We continue uphill, following the plain red marks (attention!) ignoring the red-on-white marks pointing downhill, which belong to a mountain running race (Ultra Trail Pelion, UTP).
Having a short break at Mana spring
          

      The path opens to an area where a few goats are kept and a stationary caravan is on our left, and we continue uphill on an earth road, ignoring signs in Greek to ''ΞΕΝΩΝΕΣ ΠΟΡΤΑΡΙΑΣ''. In seven hundred meters we come to an earth road junction and take the left branch uphill. After another three hundred meters, as the road takes a right turn, we leave it on a straight line, cross a small stream and continue on a narrow path traversing a rocky slope. 
Approaching the stream Mega rema. The path runs above the cliff 

         We come to cross the stream of Mega rema, an easy task as the stream usually is dry, but can be increasingly difficult in case of recent heavy rain or melting snow.  
Crossing the Mega rema


      On the other bank the (recently cleaned) path is OK. At some point there is a balcony offering truly magnificent view to Portaria, Makrinitsa, Volos and the Pagasitic Gulf. 
View to Portaria


           In a little while the path seemingly disappears, as we come to a small plateau that used to be a vineyard previously, we were told. The path actually continues descending on the left edge of the plateau, but this section is deserted and totally blocked by overgrown vegetation. So, for the time present, we climb down to a second small plateau and turn right, finding at the edge a narrow path into oak forest.
A cleaned section of the path

           Eventually we come down to an earth road,  on which we walk for one hundred meters. At that point we notice a kalderimi joining in at an angle from the left. Here we have the option to walk another hundred meters on the road to visit the small monastery of Agia Paraskevi that lies ahead. Otherwise, we follow the kalderimi downhill. This gets us to the parking at the end of the asphalt road, on which we walk to return back to the end of the bus line, where our walk had started.   
  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Makrinitsa-Kapsales-West Refuge-Lagonika (circular)

Elatorema
Distance: 20,4 km
Time: 9 hours with stops
Altitude: from 630 m. (Makrinitsa) to 1434 m. (max)
Total ascent/descent: 1130 m.
Signing: plain red paint marks, metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Agia Paraskevi, Elatorema, Krio Nero)
Srart/Finish: Parking of Makrinitsa at the end of asphalt road
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              The path climbing from Karias bridge on the ridge Kapsales towards Pourianos Stavros was researched, cleared and signed in 2017/18. Now there are four alternative routes from Makrinitsa towards the mountaintop and ultimately to Pouri. In order from west to east, from Lagonikafrom Glistri-West Refuge, from Kapsales-West Refuge (as in the present walk) and from Flambouro-Pourianos Stavros.
              In the present walk, we combined the first and third route to create a circular walk: we climbed from Kapsales to the West Refuge, continued to Lagonika peak via a connecting path and then returned to Makrinitsa via Chamorigani-Elatorema-Karias bridge-Trano Isoma-Agia Paraskevi. 
Our intention was to return to Makrinitsa via Profitis Elias (this used to be the main route to go from Makrinitsa to the mountain) but, as a path section just above the church is currently overgrown with vegetation, we passed again from Agia Paraskevi on our way back.
The path as seen on a map from 1938
               Another similar circular walk from Makrinitsa, combining the second and the fourth route, can be found here (in Greek). Of course, any combination is possible as we wish.  
             As we come to the parking lot at Makrinitsa, at the end of the asphalt road, we see on the right a kalderimi (cobblestone path) heading uphill. A red handmade sign indicating to “Pouri”(Πουρί) is nailed to a tree. This was made, along with  many others, by the late local hiker Dimitris Kotalis. One can also start from the fountain in the parking. The kalderimi winds uphill among the village houses, passing by a lone pine tree next to a bench and two fountains and eventually opens to a narrow dirt road, which leads us to the old monastery of Agia Paraskevi.
Αgia Paraskevi

          Having enjoyed a refreshing stop at that tranquil spot and filling our water supplies from the fountain, we continue uphill on dirt road. After a right turn we find the path on our left. It soon opens to another dirt road, which then turns right and comes to an end. We continue on a path with sections of cobblestone, climbing into chestnut forest.
           We cross an earth road and further up turn left on another road. Watching on our right side, after about 30 m. we find the path again, climbing between chestnut trees. Further up, we walk parallel to a water ditch, noticing another handmade sign to “Pouri”. From a certain spot, we can see lake Karla at a distance to the west.
          Passing next to a water tank, we  enter a secondary dirt road, which after a few meters joins the main dirt road coming from Makrinitsa. The location here is called Trano Isoma. We continue to the left and in twenty meters reach a junction next to a concrete ditch. The road to the right leads to Flambouro and Pourianos Stavros. We take the downhill road to the left, initially heading north, then turning west. We soon come to another junction where a 
shrine lies.             Here we take the road to the right on a north-northeasterly direction. This has replaced the old path (we can notice two small surviving sections of it on our left) and eventually leads to the stone bridge of Karias, built in 1934 over the stream of Kaliakouda (Xerias).  
Karias bridge
          Just after the bridge, we leave the main road and take the narrow uphill earth road to the right. We pass easily through a closed metal door, and higher up we find the path, signed with red paint, watching on our right. Climbing constantly in a northeasterly general direction, we shortly join higher up an abandoned earth road, pass through several clearings and finally, at 1430 m of altitude, the path opens to the earth road coming from the military area of Pourianos Stavros (and from the fourth route as described above). 
         Following the road downhill to the left, we soon reach the West Refuge. Built to an altitude of 1400 m, it can house 8-10 people and remains always open. A few meters before arriving to the Refuge, we notice the path on our right that continues towards Pouri.   
West Refuge
          After the refuge, we continue on the earth road going north. We notice on the left the signed path junction towards Glistri -Makrinitsa (second route as described above). We keep on the road, which eventually ends. Just a few meters before the end, looking for it on our left, we find the path that continues downhill into the beech forest. Further down, we come to a T-junction with another path, which we follow uphill to the left (in the other direction it leads downhill towards Pouri). 
View from Lagonika peak

         Reaching Lagonika peak at 1295 m. (the concrete pole can`t be seen, hidden by vegetation), we now turn southwest, having Pourianos Stavros peak and the beginning of Elatorema stream on our left. Descending steadily, we come to a rocky plateau called Chamorigani. Here another path branches to the right (north), going towards Antovitos and Sourvia monastery.  We don`t take that but continue downhill to the south, cross an earth road and come down to the bed of Elatorema stream. Here spring water is running from a plastic tube. 
Elatorema

           On the other bank we climb on the slope until our path opens to the earth road. Keeping on the road going south we pass from Krio Nero (here is another spring with running water and a small deserted hut), Karias bridge and come back to Trano Isoma. From here we continue on the road to the right (west) towards Profitis Elias. As the road takes a right turn, we continue straight ahead finding the old path. Reaching an orchard, we take the earth road to the left, thus avoiding the overgrown path section to Profitis Elias which is on the right.
Returning to Makrinitsa

       The road we are walking on meets the path-kalderimi of Agia Paraskevi and we follow this downhill to return back to Makrinitsa.
PS. Many thanks to Alekos Kayias, Akis Michalopoulos and Ian Allright who helped to research and clear the path to Kapsales.