Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pouri-Horefto

Pouri

Distance: 5,7 km
Duration: walking time 1.50', total time (with stops) 2,5 h.
Altitude: from 423 m. (Pouri) to sea level
Signed with: red marks, a few signs
Drinking water on walk: beaches Analipsi, Tourkovrisi, Parisena


  Download GPS track:   from Wikiloc    from Everytrail     

          This is an excellent route, with sections of unique natural beauty offered by the paradise on earth that  Pelion mountain is. In the first part we climb on calderimi (cobbled stone way) down to the church of  St. John the Baptist (the kato [lower] Ai Giannis, as it is called by the locals), and then walk along the Aegean coastline, passing from several beautiful beaches, to finish at the large tourist beach of Horefto. Here, as well as in Pouri and Zagora of course, one can find restaurants and hotels and we can return by bus (check the timetables at www.ktelvolou.gr). The whole route is clean, except maybe from a tiny section of path near Ai Giannis church, which can be bypassed if necessary.
         At the end of the main asphalt road at Pouri, the bus stops to turn back at a concrete plateau that also serves as a parking lot. From its south edge (in the direction of Zagora) we follow a narrow downhill asphalt road (formerly kalderimi). In a few meters, next to the elementary school, the asphalt turns right and reveals a kalderimi in excellent condition on the left. Further down, it opens to a narrow asphalt next to a plane tree. Walking on the asphalt for 30 m downhill, we find again the kalderimi on the right and continue to descend.
Approaching the graveyard of Pouri

           We cross another asphalt and the kalderimi leads to the graveyard of Pouri. We pass next to a church and after a few meters (attention), watching out for the red marks, turn left downhill into forest. We descend in a beautiful natural scenery, first in forest and then amidst lower vegetation, in alternate sections of kalderimi and path. Eventually, the path opens to an earth road, descending in a southeasterly direction. We pass by a cottage and reach a junction with another road. Here we turn left and in a few meters right to a downhill path. The last time we passed (July 2012), unlike previous times, it was all but blocked by vegetation for 10 meters and we had to clean it with hand tools. If it is blocked indeed, then going back to the road junction we take the road to the right, heading southeast and after 150 m. there is an earth road on the left with a metal door, that after an initial bend leads straight to the church, which we see near the sea next to a few cypresses. The path I mentioned before opens to another earth road that immediately crosses the road to Ai Giannis and we go left.
Ai Giannis church near the sea rock
          In his book ''A hikers` guide to Mt.Pelion'', Nikos Haratsis says referring to Ai Giannis of Pouri: ''Of all the small country churches of Pelion, I think that this one has unique grace, unique solitude and  a unique view of the Aegean. Like a lonesome lighthouse keeper, rooted on this steep rock, twenty meters above the sea. Its only companions are a few trees-walnut, lemon, olive, cypresses-and a small hut beside it. If you walk to the edge of the rock and look to the east, you can see the capes of Horefto, Agios Ioannis of Kissos and Damouchari. Dear Lord, there are not enough hymns to praise this holy place you have blessed us with''.
       Coming back from the church,  we walk straight on the road, pass through the metal door (it was open anyway) and continue to the left on earth road, that soon becomes concrete and opens to a sharp bend of the asphalt coming from Pouri. Walking on the asphalt downhill, we get to another bend, with a sharp left turn towards Elitsa beach that is nearby. At this point we continue straight ahead on an earth road, and pass a stream over a concrete bridge. At a junction we take the road to the left and pass by the small chapel of Analipsi, newly built, as the stream flooded in recent years and destroyed completely the old church. We then reach the homonymous beach (Analipsi), pass by a taverna near the sea and, just at the end of the beach, after the last house, there is a narrow path on the right climbing the slope. At a junction we head left, walking parallel to the coastline, twenty meters above the sea.
Analipsi beach as seen from the path

       Soon the path widens and we find ourselves wishing it would never end, due to the striking natural beauty around us.
Tourkovrisi beach
         We pass above Tourkovrisi beach and then next to a white shrine, built, as we were told, by a local after he had found an icon into the sea. There are sections of kalderimi on our way, more and more often.
The shrine between Tourkovrisi and Parisena beaches

        The kalderimi passes by the renovated old Pantos mansion and opens to the sandy beach of Parisena. This one, like Tourkovrisi, maintain a ''hippie'' style, as they are both accessed only by foot, and one can find here free campers and nudists, young and old.
Pantos mansion above Parisena beach
          Walking along Parisena beach on the sand, we find at the other end a path-kalderimi that takes us to the tourist location of Horefto.


Zagora-Horefto

Horefto

Distance: 3,1 km one way (6,2 km with return)
Duration: 1h.15´ total time one way (walking time 1 h one way)
Altitude: from 472 m. (Zagora) to sea level (Horefto)
Signed with red marks and metal signs
Drinking water on walk: no


Download GPS track:   from Wikiloc   from Everytrail

       There are two main kalderimi (cobbled stone path)  routes linking Zagora and Horefto, one starting from Agios Georgios square and another from Metamorphosis (or Sotira) church, so one can use both to make a circular walk. We can also walk one way and return by bus (see timetables at www.ktelvolou.gr) or taxi. It is advisable to wear long trousers and hiking shoes, because vegetation may be overgrown at certain spots, mostly in the southern route, despite efforts to keep the routes clean. 

        Starting from the lower corner of Agios Georgios square in Zagora, opposite to the church, we walk on the asphalt to the right, in a southerly direction. Reaching the post office after 50 m., we turn left downhill on kalderimi, passing next to a renovated mansion, then turn left downhill. The kalderimi opens to the main asphalt, where we turn right and walk for another 30 m. to find again the kalderimi on the left, noticing the red paint marks. Further down it gets covered by concrete and opens out to the asphalt going to Horefto, just above the old building that used to house the Ellinomouseion school where the national hero Rigas Velestinlis teached in late 18th century (there is a sign ''ΣΧΟΛΕΙΟ ΡΗΓΑ''). A little lower is the graveyard and a church.
The church next to Ellinomouseion School

       Walking on the asphalt for another 50 m., we find again the kalderimi on the left. Further down it becomes an earth road. Reaching a T-junction we head left, among apple tree groves.  We can see traces of cobbled stone into the road. At a V-junction we go downhill. A little further down, as the road takes a downhill right turn (attention) we leave it to the left, to find again the kalderimi that is half covered by soil and barely visible. We cross a small stream and walk on a narrow path following its left bank for a few meters (we step over a water tube), then a section of kalderimi again, then earth road.
         Reaching a junction, we take a sharp right turn. Our road soon turns left downhill and at that point (attention), just after the end of the turn, we climb down to the right, noticing the red marks on the bricks. For a few meters the kalderimi is not visible, covered by soil, but then emerges again going downhill on a straight line, between groves. A little further down, there is a wooden fence with a sign on the right. That section used to be completely blocked by brumble in the past, but at present (last checked summer 2014) it is clear again, thanks to the efforts of a few locals who care.
Zagora agricultural cooperative site
          Soon our path reaches the site of the agricultural cooperative of Zagora (''Zagorin''). We have to climb down a steep narrow path to get to the earth road above the site. Here steps should be constructed to facilitate access to the road. At the corner of the fence we go right, following it around the estate. Reaching a large metal door at the fence, we go left to find the kalderimi a few meters down below, heading east on a straight line.
        After a little while, there is a cottage with a stone fence in front of us. We walk down next to the fence, then follow the concrete road and cross the asphalt. There is yet another fence at the left. We cross the asphalt again and walk on a concrete road on the other side. As the concrete road turns left (attention), the course of the kalderimi continues straight ahead. At this point there is a sign ''XΟΡΕΥΤΟ'' and a small metallic side rail to help climbing down.  After a few meters of uneven surface, we walk again nicely on kalderimi. 
Approaching Horefto

        Reaching the asphalt again as it takes a right turn, we go left on a narrow road to find the kalderimi immediately on our right. It opens to a concrete road and then to the asphalt again. In a few meters we take a concrete road on the right leading to a private property entrance, only to find the kalderimi next to its fence. We finally reach the seaside road of Horefto. There is a parking lot on the left with a small drinking water fountain at the corner. On the other side is the fence of Aeolos hotel. Checking the watch, it took us about 1 h.15` to descend from Zagora.
Horefto beach

         Now it`s time to return. Walking on the road to the north (to the left) along the seashore, just before it takes the left turn going to Zagora, we go left next to a market shop and walk on concrete way between houses, thus avoiding the asphalt and cutting the corner. We cross the asphalt and continue climbing steadily on concrete road next to Aegeus (AΙΓΕΥΣ) hotel, noticing a signpost to ''Zαγορά'' (Zagora) at the corner. That road has a stone paved central lane. After five minutes the concrete ends, revealing the kalderimi that was underneath. 
        We pass next to an underground water tank on the left of the kalderimi, which keeps climbing until it joins an earth road at an angle (for information, if we go left here, after 100 m. we shall meet an alternative path that joins the main route further up). We keep on the main route, walk to the right, and in 50 m. go left uphill at a junction. If we look carefully at the road, we shall see some traces of kalderimi. The road keeps climbing with zigzags, then joins another road and we go right. In 50 m. we go left uphill at another junction. Again we see bits of kalderimi as the road passes by a grove on the right, then comes an uphill section of concrete and we reach an irrigation ditch. Here the alternate path joins in from the left. On the right, a wide and clear kalderimi appears and we follow it. Soon it becomes concrete road again, climbing steadily on a straight line. 
Old stone house on the way to Sotira

        We pass by an old derelict stone house, then the road turns right and 150 m. after the turn (attention), noticing the red marks, we go left on a narrow road and immediately right, to a path that soon joins the kalderimi. Further up, it opens out at an earth road on a bend, and continues to the right. Climbing in chestnut forest, the kalderimi suffers from landslides (attention), and finally opens to an earth road next to a horse stable and a hiker signpost. In a few meters we join a wider uphill road, that leads to the church of Metamorphosis, also called Sotira by locals. The present church was built in 1889 to replace the old one, dating from 1168 AD (the oldest church in Zagora), after its total destruction by landslides and fire.
Metamorphosis church  (Sotira) 

        We enter the church yard, climb the stairs and happily reach a drinking water fountain. After quenching our thirst, we climb a few more steps and join an uphill concrete road that features a centre lane of kalderimi, named Voltou street (ΒΟΛΤΟΥ). That finally opens to the main asphalt of Zagora, at the corner of hotel ''Anasa''. If we walk on the asphalt to the left, in 10 minutes we will be back to the main square of Agios Georgios.
Agios Georgios square at Zagora
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