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.  

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
Download GPS track: from Wikiloc

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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 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

PS. We thank Kostas Chiotis from Pouri, who showed us the path Poros to Agios Georgios.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Milopotamos-Limnionas-Labinou

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.
Milopotamos
         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)
Download GPS track (gpx): from Wikiloc

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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 road junction we go straight ahead towards ''ΠΕΤΡΟΜΕΛΙΣΣΟ'' (Petromelisso beach). In a short distance we come to the road-path junction, signed with plenty of signs, where we enter the path on the right 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.
Arbutus unedo
              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.
Veneto