Monday, November 12, 2018

Makrinitsa-Kapsales-West Refuge-Lagonika (circular)

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. 

           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.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

Pouri - Three bridges (circular)

The bridge of Poros
Distance: 23 km
Time: 9 hours with stops, walking time 7.35'
Altitude: 430 m. (Pouri) to 710 m. (max) to 165 m. (min)
Total ascent/descent: 1025 m.
Signing: red paint blobs, metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Agios Georgios chapel, Pirgakia, Kserorema)
Start/finish: End of bus line (parking) at Pouri
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            This is a long, 9-hour circular walk, passing by the three old stone arched bridges built near Pouri and the ruined village of Palia Mitzela. For more information on Pelion bridges, one can look up Nikos Haratsis` book ''Πέτρινα τοξωτά γεφύρια στο Πήλιο'' (Stone arched bridges in Pelion -in Greek).
          Starting from the parking lot at Pouri, at the end of the bus line, we walk on the cement paved road, which later becomes unpaved, generally on even ground ignoring other road branches uphill or downhill, looking for the red paint marks for confirmation. After 3,5 km, we reach a V-junction where the main, wider road goes uphill to the left. There is also a sign in Greek pointing left to Aghia Marina (AΓΙΑ ΜΑΡΙΝΑ). At this junction we take the narrower road to the right. The road passes by several orchards, having on the right the large ravine of Lagonika.
The ravine of Lagonika
          After about 1,5 hour from start, noticing the red marks, we leave the road and continue on earth path in beech forest, which incorporates some sections of kalderimi. The path brings us in half an hour to the stone bridge of Poros over the Lagonika stream, at an altitude of 622 m. It is considered to being built during the Ottoman era (before 1881 AD) by stone craftsmen from the Epirus region (Northeastern Greece), like most of the bridges, mansions, churches etc. in Pelion. Haratsis measured its arch height (rise) at 7,7 m. and width at 10,0 m.   The name Poros has two possible explanations: it either comes from the homonymous ancient Greek word meaning passage, or from the slavic word poroj meaning running water torrent. Indeed, water is always running at that point. There even exist trouts, possibly originating from those released by Alfons Hochhauser in the 70`s.
          Crossing the stream over the bridge, we walk uphill on the path. A little higher there is a path junction. The main path continues on the left towards Ano Poros clearing and Ano Kerasia. We take the narrower path on the right, which eventually gets to the small clearing of Kato Poros, offering an excellent viewpoint from the edge of the cliff to the large overgrown ravine.
View from Kato Poros
         After Kato Poros, we descend on the ridge in a northerly direction, cross a small stream and continue into the beech forest. Reaching a junction, where a path branches off to the left, climbing towards Ano Poros, we don`t take that but continue straight ahead, eventually crossing the stream of Skala, an impressive spot with large rocks. Climbing steadily now on a deserted earth track, we reach the chapel of Agios Georgios. Here is a good place for a stop, with drinking water running from a plastic tube. Near the chapel is a mysterious place called ''Grammata'', with pictures carved on a rock dating probably from the Ottoman era, but we were unable to find the exact spot despite enough searching for it.
At Agios Georgios chapel
Grammata (photo: Blacksmith Chiotis)
   We continue on the earth road and in a few minutes come to a junction and take the road to the right downhill. After about an hour we reach a T-junction and go left. Watching on our right, we soon find the signed O2 path (Pouri to Veneto) which leads to the bridge Pirgakia. It is the lowest of the three, with an arch height of 5,5 m. and width 10,65 m. The stream it crosses, named Kapnoutsi, is usually dry, but seemingly in times past enough water was running to justify building a bridge. This stream opens down to the sea at Kolokithaki beach.
Pirgakia bridge
       After the bridge, our path comes out again to the earth road. In twenty meters we have a small spring water fountain on the right, a welcome sight (but will be dry in summer). After another fifty meters, watching out for it on the right, we find the path again, that leads us through the ruins of the village of Palia (Old) Mitzela. Destroyed by the Turkish Ottoman army in 1828 during the Greek revolution, it lays abandoned ever since. The remains of the main church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) were recently destroyed by illegal excavators searching for gold -an awful shame and disgrace.
At the ruins of Palia Mitzela village
          After the institution of the Greek independent state, the village`s refugees were granted land near the state borders of the time, at Pagasitic gulf, were they built the New Mitzela (or Amaliapolis).
           Leaving Palia Mitzela, we reach the large ravine of Lagonika and the path becomes stone paved (kalderimi) as it winds down the slope. We cross the stream over the excellent stone bridge of Diakoumi, also built in the Ottoman era - a testimony of the Pelion villages` thriving at the time.Its foundations established on large rocks on both banks, its height is 12,5 m. and width span 12,2 m.
Diakoumi bridge

            The path opens out to an earth road (which to the left goes down to Ovrios beach) and we walk on this to the right (east). After about two kilometres, as the main road takes a sharp left bend downhill, we head right to a narrow earth road and follow it, finding at the end the path-kalderimi going straight ahead and cross  Kserorema stream, the last one to come in our way. Climbing up on the opposite slope, we meet a fountain, where spring water emerges from the rock, under a big plane tree.

          We come to an earth road and follow it uphill for a short bit, then walk on even ground. At an angle to the right, an uphill concrete paved road also leads to Pouri. We prefer to head straight on, and soon reach a narrow asphalt on a sharp bend and follow it uphill.  Reaching the lower quarter of Pouri, we notice a spring water fountain on the right. From there we take the uphill kalderimi, leading us to the corner of the parking lot, which is located at the upper (main) quarter of the village, where we started our walk.
View to the sea from Pouri

Monday, July 9, 2018


Limnionas beach
Distance: 3,15 km
Time: 1 hour
Altitude: from 0 m. to 82 m. (maximum)
Total ascent/descent: 154 m.
Signed with red paint marks and some metal signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Agia Varvara chapel)
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          This is an easy, one-hour walk connecting three fine beaches in East Pelion. Most of the walk takes place on earth road, but there are also sections of kalderimi and earth path. From Labinou beach one can continue on kalderimi and path to the village of Labinou and Milies. There also exists a path from Labinou to Kalamaki beach, but it is not researched yet.
           From the end of the car parking at Milopotamos, just under the taverna, we find a kalderimi leading down to the streambed, which we cross over a wooden bridge. There are also concrete steps leading down to the chapel of Panagia (or Zoodochos Pigi) next to the streambed.
         On the other bank we climb on a path, which opens to an earth road leading to the left to Faros hotel. We walk on the road uphill to the right. In a short distance we notice above us on the right the small chapel of Agios Nikolaos, from where an uphill path-kalderimi goes to Xourichti, marked also with red dots and a small sign.
Agios Nikolaos chapel
        We don`t follow that and keep walking on the earth road. Further on we come to a V-junction, where the road on the right goes uphill to Xourichti. We take the road on the left. After 400 meters we reach the chapel of Agia Varvara. On the east side of the church lies a drinking water fountain.
Agia Varvara chapel and drinking water fountain
            Just after Agia Varvara we come to another V-junction  and take again the left branch, which is paved with concrete for fifty meters. This eventually leads down to the beach of Limnionas, the opening of Varsami stream to the Aegean sea. A small cafe-restaurant operates here in the summer season.
Limnionas beach
         Leaving the beach, we walk for a few meters on the streambed, and then find a kalderimi climbing on the left bank. Higher up this becomes an earth road, on which we walk. Reaching a cottage on the left (attention) we leave the road and walk on a path passing on the side of the cottage. Walking on even ground through olive groves, we pass next to another cottage and then the path becomes earth road, which eventually leads to the parking lot of Labinou beach. A taverna operates here during the summer season as well.
Labinou beach
    In a short distance above the parking lies the old monastery of Panagia Labidona,  which in recent years after renovation operates again as a nunnery and is worthy of a visit.
Labidona monastery

Monday, April 23, 2018

Veneto-Paliokastro-Spilies-Agios Nikolaos (circular)

Distance: 15,9 km
Time: 7 hours with stops
Altitude: from 240 m. (Veneto) to 534 m. (max) to 0 m. (Agios Nikolaos)
Total ascent/descent: 877 m.
Signed with metal signs, red paint, sky blue paint (see text)
Drinking water on walk: at Flamouri mon. (extra 1/2 hour with return)
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            This is a 7-hour circular walk in the wild nature of North Pelion, which gives us the chance to visit the mysterious Paliokastro (Old Castle) of Veneto and Flamouri monastery`s ruined dock at cape Agios Nikolaos. We can also visit the monastery, walking an extra half hour with return.
            Starting from the square of Veneto, we climb the steps up to the cement paved road, on which we walk to the left (east). We go past the church of Agios Nikolaos and a drinking water fountain below on the left, and exit the village. At the junction we go straight ahead towards ''ΠΕΤΡΟΜΕΛΙΣΣΟ'' (Petromelisso). In a short distance we come to the junction, signed with plenty of signs, where we enter the path on the right going towards Flamouri monastery. The path-kalderimi goes into woodland, alternating with rocky terrain.
Into the woodland
       Further on we come down to cross a large ravine, called Kakorema, which opens to the sea at Petromelisso beach.
Going down to cross Kakorema stream
       Climbing on the other bank, we reach a rocky plateau on the ridge, called ''Petrialo'', with a nice view to the Aegean sea. The path continues on a straight line and comes down to cross another stream. On the other bank we come shortly to a signed junction.
              The path on the left descends gently towards the monastery`s ruined dock (Agios Nicolaos). We take the other path on the right, which climbs on the slope, becoming a kalderimi. At the ridge we come to a yellow signpost, indicating the left turn we will take, in a direction towards Koromblia peak, Alfons memorial and also Paliokastro. The Flamouri monastery is about fifteen minutes of walking time from here (on the path straight ahead), so if we want to visit it will take half an hour with return.
Flamouri monastery

           From the yellow signpost at the ridge, we turn left and descend on the rocky slope, cross the stream of Vathoulomeni. and climb on the other bank in an easterly direction.
          We enter woodland for a little while and continue climbing on rocky ground, where vegetation is lower, always following red marks. At the point where the red waymarks begin to take a southerly direction to the right (attention!), we notice sky blue marks on our left and follow them, going gently downhill on a northeasterly direction. We pass by a small clearing called Loggarakia and continue descending into woodland.
              Exiting the woodland, the blue arrow to the left indicate the location of the Paliokastro of Veneto. This is a ruined fortification, with thick walls up to two metres high in a trapezoid shape. It remains unknown who, when and why would undertake such a building in this remote, unpopulated area, without water. There is absolutely no mention of it in written archives. Kostas Liapis, whose book about the many ''Paliokastra''  of Pelion (in Greek) contains valuable information about the subject, makes the assumption that it might be built around the 14th century A.D., to protect local shepherds from pirate attacks.
The north wall of Paliokastro
           Leaving the mysterious Paliokastro of Veneto to its quiet, we return back to the arrow and follow the other one to Spilies, descending on the slope into woodland in an easterly/southeasterly direction, finding the path again. Soon we meet a small stream and follow its course in a northeasterly direction, having the stream on our left.
Marking with sky blue paint
          Further down, the path becomes unclear for a small section, but we keep walking on the same direction following the sky blue waymarks. The path becomes obvious again, and finally opens to the wider O2 national path (Veneto-Pouri), some fifty meters above the sea level, on which we walk to the left (northwest). We can see the sea caves on the coastline. This area is called Spilies (Ipnoi in ancient times, when a considerable part of Xerxes` fleet sank in the rocky coast in a storm, during the Persian invasion in Greece).
The sea caves
            After a while, watching on our right, we come to a junction and follow the sky blue signs that mark  the coastal path to Agios Nikolaos. On our way we pass next to the hollow roof of a sea cave (we can see the sea below). Reaching the small rocky beach, we can see the ruins of Agios Nikolaos chapel next to the derelict building of Flamouri monastery`s old dock (tarsanas), At the far distance, if the sky is clear, we can make out Athos mountain.
Looking at Agios Nikolaos from the north
           Continuing on the path uphill, this joins again the O2 path, always marked with red paint, near an abandoned pen. Here the blue marks cease. We follow the main path to the right (north), cross two streams and then the path-kalderimi opens out to an earth road (which leads to Petromelisso beach). We walk on that road uphill to the left, finally reaching Veneto after about half an hour on the road.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Agios Georgios-Pinakates

Distance: 4,1 km
Time: 1,5 hour
Altitude: from 605 m. (Agios Georgios) to 667 m. (max) to 575 m. (Pinakates)
Total ascent: 86 m.  Total descent: 111 m.
Signed with red paint and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: Argireika (near Pinakates)
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              This route was explored, opened and signed during the winter of 2017-18, thus completing the South Pelion Trail. Agios Georgios is also connected with hiking trails to Ano Lechonia, Agios Lavrentios, Kato Gatzea, Kissos, Hania, Tsagarada and Mouresi. Pinakates is also connected to Kala Nera and Vizitsa.

                Starting from the square of Agios Georgios, we walk on the asphalt uphill through the village. After 250 m, passing by Vogiatzopoulos mansion, a downhill concrete road on the right is the start of the walking route to Kato Gatzea. We keep on the asphalt, exit the village and after about one kilometer we leave it at an angle to the right, watching for the signs on the electricity pole (we don`t take the concrete road).
             We walk now on a downhill path in an easterly direction, below and roughly parallel to the asphalt road. After crossing a small stream, the path keeps on the same altitude, offering nice view to the Pagasitic sea below. We join an earth road for 20 meters and continue on the path on the left. It opens to an asphalt road on which we walk uphill. A large water cistern is on our right. As the asphalt takes a sharp left turn, we walk straight ahead, cross a concrete irrigation ditch and join the main asphalt, going now downhill. In fifty meters, we come to a spot with excellent view to Pinakates on the opposite slope.
View to Pinakates
          Here, noticing the signpost, we take the downhill path that comes to cross the Kakorema stream, another beautiful spot of our walk.
Crossing the Kakorema in spring
            On the opposite bank the path continues in oak forest, we cross an unused concrete irrigation ditch, then a grove and join the main asphalt again, on which we walk for 200 meters. At a left turn of the asphalt, we find a downhill path that leads down to the settlement Argireika, next to a drinking water fountain. 
            We now walk on concrete road. At the first junction we take the right branch and at the next two junctions the left branch. Meeting the first houses of Pinakates we walk on a flat stone paved track, which later becomes a proper kalderimi. Climbing a few steps, we finally arrive to the quiet and picturesque square, with the big old plane tree in the middle and the neoclassical style drinking water fountain, built in 1894, under the main church of Agios Dimitrios. 
Square of Pinakates