Monday, November 12, 2018

Makrinitsa-Kapsales-West Refuge-Lagonika (circular)

Elatorema stream
Distance: 20,4 km
Time: 9 hours with stops
Altitude: from 630 m. (Makrinitsa) to 1434 m. (max)
Total elevation gain/loss: 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 used to be overgrown with vegetation (got cleaned in spring 2019), 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 ''Πουρί'' (Pouri village)) 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.
Agia 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. There is a shrine here at the junction. 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 at some point 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 meant to stop cars, 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, unattended. 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 (cleaned in spring 2019).
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 at 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 elevatio0n gain/loss: 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 searching enough 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.