Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fitoko-Makrinitsa


Approaching to Makrinitsa
Distance: 7,1 km
Duration: 3,5 hours with stops (walking time 3 h)
Altitude: from 195 m. (Fitoko) to 700 m. (max) to 620 m. (Makrinitsa square)
Signing: red marks, a few signs
Drinking water on walk: no

Download GPS track:    from Everytrail     from Wikiloc

        The area of Fitoko previously belonged to the community of Makrinitsa. Although this route passes over mostly stony ground with low vegetation, we are compensated by the panoramic views towards Makrinitsa, Portaria, Volos and Pagasitikos Gulf, as far as the villages of Sesklo and Kapourna. Walking is not recommended for hot summer days with strong sunshine, as there is hardly any shade, but is particularly suitable for winter (October to April). Vegetation near Fitoko and Klima in the first half of the route may be thick in places. We can go to Fitoko by taxi and return from Makrinitsa to Volos by bus (www.ktelvolou.gr), or walking down to Aidonofolies and then take city bus nr. 4.

       We can start out from the parking lot at the main church of Panagia (the Virgin Mary) at Fitoko. A narrow asphalt road leading to the houses of the village starts by a shrine near the entrance of the parking area and we immediately turn left off this on an earth road that leads down towards a small ravine. We pass by a spring water drinking fountain (without water) and turn left at the bottom into a narrower road with a chain across it (walk over the chain). A few metres before the road ends, there is an obvious and fairly wide path-kalderimi to our left that zigzags uphill. For a short distance, our progress is hindered by prickly pears before we reach an old spring water drinking fountain. A little further up, the path emerges onto an earth road which we follow uphill. That road also comes from the main church of Fitoko. A road goes off to the right, but we continue straight ahead. Further up at a triple junction we turn right, then right again at the next junction and to the left at the following junction (watch out for the red marks).
View to Fitoko (to the right)
        In a short while we see the path on the left of the road, but it is closed by vegetation and we walk next to it on a parallel path through an olive grove. Further on, just below a house, the path continues up to the right of this and comes out diagonally onto an earth road which we follow to the right (ignore the yellow paint marks). About a hundred metres further on, after passing a small hut, we see red marks on the left, which lead us uphill, on a path that runs next to a fence. The path, which was cleaned recently (autumn 2015), shows signs of kalderimi, and further on runs next to a water channel for a small distance.
View to Volos from Vathirema ravine
       We reach the ridge and the kalderimi/path begins to descend towards a fairly large ravine (Vathirema). Electric power lines and the road going to the Kaliakouda and Ksirakia springs can be seen along the opposite side. We cross the ravine, ascend to the other bank, cross the road and continue up a narrow track that leads shortly up to a cement building of the water system. We continue, walking now on path on the dry, stony ridge of Sarakinos with an unrestricted view to the city and sea below. From time to time we see signs of kalderimi.
      The ascent becomes less steep, we walk for a short distance on level ground and then begin to descend towards Makrinitsa, visible at the distance. On our course there is a cross in memory to those who died in the battle of Makrinitsa in 1878 during the Greek uprising against the Turks (Volos joined the state of Greece in 1881).
Patosia stone bridge at Makrinitsa
       Descending amongst some pine trees, we walk over the stone arched bridge of Patosia and then the path brings us to an old fountain with no water. We continue straight ahead entering the village and shortly turn left onto an uphill kalderimi that takes us past the beautiful restored mansion that houses the Environmental Education Centre. We come out into the main square of Makrinitsa, right next to the kalderimi that goes down to Volos.
Makrinitsa

Agios Georgios-Kourventeli-Tsagarada

View to Pagasitic gulf
Distance: 15 km
Duration: 6 hours (walking time 4.40')
Altitude: from 610 m (Agios Georgios) to 1070 m (Kourventeli) to 490 m (Taksiarches square, Tsagarada)
Total ascent: 570 m.  Total descent: 660 m.
Signed with red marks and metal signs
Drinking water on walk: Katsakari spring near Tsagarada
Download GPS track:    from Everytrail     from Wikiloc

         This is the lower route between Agios Georgios and Tsagarada, passing from Kourventeli ridge above the village of Vizitsa at 1070 m. (the other route reaches maximum altitude of 1460 m. at the plateau of Mega Isoma). During its second and third part, we walk into cool and shady beech and chestnut forest, so it is also suitable for hot summer days, provided we start early. Having arrived to Tsagarada, we can walk for another two hours on kalderimi, to reach the tourist beach of Ai Giannis (Agios Ioannis) and Damouchari (see the walks Tsagarada (Taxiarchon square-Agia Paraskevi square) and Tsagarada-Damouchari-Ai Giannis (Agios Ioannis)).   
         Starting off from the fountain at Agios Georgios village square, we climb on the cobbled stone path (kalderimi). We pass by the church of  Agios Athanasios and continue climbing steadily on kalderimi, which becomes an earth path after exiting the village. We cross a concrete irrigation ditch to the right, noticing the handmade signs (in Greek) posted here by a volunteer hiker (now deceased), just as in many other spots along our route.
Handmade signs by Dimitris Kottalis. Go right for Tsagarada, if you don`t get it
         Further on, the path joins an earth road and we reach a triple junction, where on the right lies the restaurant-horse farm ''Paliovigla''. We take the downhill road to the left and pass the stream of Lagoussa. Immediately after this, we find the path on the left. It passes next to a grove and a hut and enters an earth road, which we follow. Reaching a junction we go left uphill. As the road takes a sharp left turn, we find the path straight ahead amongst dense shrub vegetation. We find some kalderimi parts on our way and, after crossing Kakoskali stream, our path opens out to an earth road and we continue uphill. At a V-junction we take the road to the right and reach a round water tank collecting the water from Klidonari spring. After the tank we continue on path, cross the Vassilikis stream and then join another earth road heading uphill into beech forest. Another road joins in from the left (that route is coming from the Eastern Refuge).
Crossing  Vassilikis stream
          Walking now on the ridge called Kourventeli, located above the village of Vizitsa, and watching constantly on our left, at some point we notice the red marks that sign the path heading to an easterly direction into the forest.
Walking into beech forest
 After a while we come out on a downhill earth road and walk by a kiosk. We soon notice a sign to the left and enter the path again. We cross Miliotiko stream walking on a stretch of well preserved kalderimi, wishing it would never end. From  certain spots we enjoy a beautiful view over Pagasitic gulf.
A stretch of kalderimi close to Miliotiko stream
       This long stretch of path ends as it comes out to a downhill earth road next to a kiosk. This road ultimately comes from the village of Xourichti. We pass by a shrine on our way and further down, as the main road turns right (attention), we continue straight ahead on a narrow road in a northerly direction. We soon notice  the signed path on the left, with stretches of kalderimi, that leads down to the bed of the large stream of Milopotamos. Very close to the bed lies Katsakari spring. Water is led through pipes down to Tsagarada.
Katsakari spring at Milopotamos stream
       We cross the stream and continue on earth road  into chestnut forest. Further down we join a wider earth road and follow it downhill. On a sharp right turn (attention) we leave it to the left and find the path going downhill, then walk aside a cottage`s fence and come out again on the road. In a few meters, reaching a ruined stone hut, we go right on a road-kalderimi  and then left at a V-junction next to a concrete water tank, noticing the red arrow.
        The narrow road we are walking on, eventually turns into a proper kalderimi, opening to the main asphalt of Tsagarada. We cross this diagonally to the right to find the kalderimi again and soon reach Taksiarches square, with its characteristic quadruple drinking water fountain.
 Taksiarches square in Tsagarada

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lafkos-Platanias (westerly route)

 
Springtime over Pagasitikos gulf

Distance: 7,1 km
Duration: 2,5 hours (walking time 2.10')
Altitude: from 305 m. (Lafkos square) to 0 m. (Platanias)
Signing: red marks, round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: no
Download GPS track:    from Everytrail     from Wikiloc
     
        This is the alternative westerly route from Lafkos to Platanias, walking by the chapel of Ai. Giannis sti sara.  It is a beautiful route, but slightly difficult to follow, as some sections over goat tracks remain somewhat unlear, despite our efforts to mark them with red paint and signs.
        Starting out from Lafkos square, we follow the paved kalderimi that goes south towards the graveyard. Passing between the houses in the village, we go right at a V-junction, cross the asphalt road that goes to Milina, reach the graveyard and continue on an earth road that descends gently to the right. After a few metres another earth road goes off to the left. On the road we are on, we can make out bits of kalderimi from time to time and there is a wonderful view towards the sea of the Pagasitikos. 
Another view to Pagasitikos gulf
       Further on the road turns to the left, but we continue to walk straight ahead on a path/kalderimi that descends to the church of Ai Giannis, which has the nickname “on the scree” (sti sara) from the crumbling rocks that we can see on the hillside opposite. The route from MilinaPiges also leads to this church.
Ai Giannis ''sti sara'' chapel
      After a stop to enjoy the beauty and peace of this place, we follow the earth road to the left (southeast) and, ignoring a turning uphill, we reach the river bed (the stream is called Koumani rema (Koumanorema) – on the map it is mistakenly referred to as Ammorema), at the point where it joins a smaller stream from the left.
Walking next to Koumanorema stream
     One road crosses the stream bed diagonally to the right (that is the route to Hondri Ammos beach). Another road, which we follow, ascends diagonally to the left. In a few metres, the road bends gently to the right and we leave it, walking straight ahead and finding the recently cleared path (cleared in the winter of 2013) which heads between the stream that is to the left and the road that has been opened to the right. Initially we walk next to a low dry stone wall. Ascending slightly, we find a few metres of kalderimi and further up merge again with the road that runs on our right, next to an olive grove
     We walk up the road which ascends steeply, pass a few chestnut trees and further up meet another earth road coming from the right. Here we turn left to the east. After fifty metres (attention) we leave the road diagonally to the right and walk downhill towards a small stream on a narrow path-goat track. 

       After crossing the stream bed, the path curves up gently on the opposite side and leads to a second stream bed which we cross in the same way. Once again we ascend gently and on the ridge meet a narrow abandoned earth road, which we follow going gently uphill. We walk over a chain and then come out to the asphalt going to Mikro beach and follow it downhill. The road then turns right but we continue straight ahead, finding the path. On our right are two low cement posts on a small grassy patch. Down on our left is a narrow abandoned earth road.  
     The path goes gently downhill and a little further down, noticing the signs, we turn right onto a narrower path/goat track (walking straight ahead would lead us to the abandoned settlement of Sikia) and descend the hillside diagonally towards a stream bed. Crossing this, we climb back uphill, crossing an earth road that runs parallel to the stream bed. Another narrow earth road leads upwards and we follow this through an olive grove.
Walking down towards the Aegean
When we reach the ridge, we can see the Aegean Sea ahead and an abandoned quarry on our right. The road turns to the right, but we continue straight ahead along the boundary of a field and in twenty metres find the continuation of the path on our left. It descends through low bushy vegetation. Further down, we come across the road again at a sharp bend to the right and we follow it for about a hundred metres.
A short distance before the road reaches a small flat area, we turn off to the left (watch out for the red marks) and go downhill, sharply at first, on a narrow path which brings us out after a few metres to the top boundary of an olive grove. Here we zigzag freely down between the olive trees (the path is unclear into the grove), keeping the boundary with the next grove to our right.
Olive grove near Platanias
     Further down we come out onto an earth road, which we follow downhill. We soon come to a junction where we turn left and walk down next to a small stream on our right. The road brings us to the wide bed of a stream (Chalorema) next to a basketball court. Following the stream, we soon reach the picturesque tourist beach of Platanias. 
Platanias

 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kalamos-Paou monastery-Argalasti

Paou monastery
Distance: 6,7 km
Duration: 2 hours (walking time)
Altitude: from sea level (Kalamos) to 255 m. (Argalasti square)
Total ascent: 151 m. Total descent: 404 m.
Signing: red marks, round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Paou mon.)

 Download GPS track:   from Everytrail   from Wikiloc

     We walk southwards along the beach road at Kalamos, and at the end of the beach the road begins to ascend towards Argalasti. After a short time, a narrower concrete road branches off on the right and we follow this, going gently downhill. In a little while, we see a small beach on our right but we do not go down to this. Continuing down the road a bit further, we reach a concrete post with electricity metres. On the left of this post a footpath leads us towards a second beach (Belian) and we walk along the length of this.
Walking between Belian and Paou
     At the end of the beach we find some concrete steps which we go up. On our left is the fence of a cottage and a concrete path ascends next to the fence away from the sea. We turn right, however, and walk along the footpath parallel to the shoreline. Further on, the footpath widens and becomes a rough, narrow earth road under which water pipes have been laid. We ignore the earth road that branches up to the left and continue walking parallel to the shoreline, eventually reaching Mikri Paou beach.
Mikri Paou beach
    We continue half way along the beach until we reach a small stream bed and walk up the footpath on the right hand side of this between orange trees. Further up we enter an olive grove and continue up the path, which alternates with sections of kalderimi.
The olive grove at spring
 

      We pass a couple of houses and eventually come out onto the asphalt road next to a garden wall, at the point where there is a mirror. We walk up the road and, where it takes a left turn, we leave it to the right and follow the path signed with red marks and small yellow signs (as in the whole route), that takes us up to Paou monastery. Built in 1778 and dedicated to St. Nicholas, it currently functions as congress and exhibition center of the University of Thessaly.
Paou monastery
      After exploring the monastery, which is in excellent condition after renovation, we walk along the path between the cypress trees, which leads us to a spring water drinking fountain. This is a good place for a picnic. We continue walking uphill parallel and a little to the right of the asphalt road, and after 30 meters we find the kalderimi that was cleared in January 2011 by the Friends of the Kalderimi of South Pelion. Further on, this becomes an ill-defined (but marked) path that continues upwards through an olive grove in a north-easterly direction. 
Springtime at the field above Paou
                                                                                                                                                           It comes out onto an earth road at a left hand bend.
Following this, we reach a field and continue left in a north-easterly direction along an earth road. Passing a football pitch on our left, we come out onto an asphalt road and turn right.
Αrgalasti square

      We walk along the road for 200 meters, after which we see to our left the kalderimi, that leads to Agia Paraskevi church and then continues as paved road to Argalasti square. From there we can return to Kalamos if we wish, following the route Argalasti – Kalamos (1 hour) or Argalasti-Lefokastro-Kalamos (2,5 hours),  to complete a circular walk.





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tsagarada-Fakistra-Damouchari

Fakistra beach
 Distance: 7,9 km
Duration: 3.15' (walking time 2.30')
Altitude: from 500 m. (start) to sea level (Fakistra, Damouchari)
Signing: red marks, a few round signs
Drinking water on walk: fountain after Agios Georgios chapel, Agios Nikolaos chapel

 Download GPS track:    from Everytrail     from Wikiloc

       On this route, we descend from Agia Paraskevi church, Tsagarada to the beach of Fakistra and then follow the coastline until we reach Damouchari. From here, if we wish, we can return to Tsagarada on the kalderimi (see the route Tsagarada – Damouchari – Ai Giannis) or we can continue to the nearby coastal settlement of Ai Giannis (Agios Ioannis). Fakistra is an isolated beach, but at Damouchari and Ai Giannis we can find tavernas and hotels.
Update September 2017: two path sections below Agios Georgios church are blocked by vegetation, and we have to walk on the asphalt.
        From the main road through Tsagarada, at the junction towards Agia Paraskevi, there is a café-bar. We set off from here and follow the kalderimi that descends and brings us out onto the asphalt road at a bend. We turn to the right here and after a short distance come out into Agia Paraskevi square with its famous old huge plane tree next to the church.
Agia Paraskevi square with the big plane tree
      The kalderimi descends from the square and we pass a spring water drinking fountain at its lower edge. We immediately enter a beautiful chestnut forest and pass next to a small bridge on the right on our way down (don`t walk over the bridge).
Walking in chestnut forest
       Lower down, the kalderimi comes out on a road and we go down and then immediately left at a junction, to reach the church of Agios Georgios. We continue on the asphalt road  downhill for 300 metres. Looking out for red dots and a small round yellow sign on our right, we find a kalderimi which goes straight down through thick vegetation and leads us past a spring water drinking fountain. We come out onto the asphalt road again and walk to the left for twenty metres, before we find the continuation of the kalderimi on our right. Walking down this, we cross the road twice more before the path comes out on the road again. 
Approaching Fakistra beach at the Aegean
        At this point the path should continue straight downwards on the other side of the road. However, at present it is impassable, so we have to walk down the road with hairpin bends towards the sea. Lower down is the church of Agios Nikolaos, after which the asphalt ends. There is a wooden kiosk here, next to which a kalderimi descends and in five minutes leads us to the beach at Fakistra.
Fakistra beach
          Returning to the kiosk, we take the narrow earth road to the right in a northerly direction. Within a few metres there is a kalderimi to the right, which leads us down to the chapel-retreat of Krifo Scholio (Hidden School) in a cave close to the waves. A visit to this evocative place, which is ideal for quiet reflection, is thoroughly recommended.
Krifo Scholio
       We continue on the road which runs parallel to the coast and soon see a rocky spit of land, Makrolitharo, jutting out into the sea. Here there is a path/kalderimi coming from the left that used to lead to Agia Kyriaki in Tsagarada. We continue on the road, which further on ends and becomes a path. After passing by the locked chapel of Agios Antonios, the path comes out on an earth road and we walk uphill to reach a kiosk. 
Damouchari
         Here we meet the main kalderimi that comes from Agia Paraskevi in Tsanarada and we follow this downhill. Ahead we see Damouchari. After some zig-zags the kalderimi brings us to a wooden bridge across the Chalorema. Justifying of its name (Chalorema=destroying stream), the stream has partially destroyed the cement path which we walk across to its other bank.
The bridge over Chalorema stream at Damouchari
          Here we find ourselves on the pebbly beach of Damouchari, just beneath the ruins of the old medieval castle. If we walk a little further along the paved road, we reach a small harbor with the deserted building of the old customs and two tavernas. Some scenes from the Hollywood film ''Mamma Mia!" starring Meryl Streep were shot here in 2006.
 
Damouchari port

   Continuing a short distance on the paving, there is a kalderimi on the left that leads to the asphalt road. From here, walking for another 15 minutes, we can get to the beach of Papa Nero at Ai Giannis. This final section is described in the Tsagarada-Damouchari-Ai Giannis route.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Damouchari-Mouresi-Tsagarada

Chalorema stream
Distance: 5,7 km
Duration: 3 h (walking time 2.20')
Altitude: from 0 m. (Damouchari) to 350 m. (max)
Signing: red marks, a few signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Vigla of Tsangarada, Damouchari)


 Download GPS track:   from Everytrail    from Wikiloc       

        This is a nice circular walk, starting off from the seaside settlement of Damouchari in East Pelion. First we climb to Mouresi village walking on cobbled stone path (kalderimi) and then cross the overgrown ravine of Chalorema on a recently reopened path, to reach the location called Vigla at Tsagarada village and return to Damouchari, walking again on spectacular kalderimi.  At the end of our walk we can have a swim at the beach and lunch at one of the tavernas there. If we use public transport (KTEL bus), we can get off at nearby Ai Giannis (Agios Ioannis) and walk to Damouchari (a 15-minute walk from the south end of Papa Νero beach of Ai Giannis). Please wear long trousers as vegetation near the stream is usually overgrown, despite volunteer efforts to keep the path open and clear.
      Starting off from the drinking water fountain at the parking at the end of asphalt road at Damouchari, we climb to the left on a concrete road which has a central stone paved lane. After 50 m. we find the signed kalderimi climbing up, opening to a stone paved road that soon becomes an earth road. Watching out for the red marks on the left as we climb the earth road, we find the kalderimi, which was abruptly cut by the road and is not readily visible (attention). Further up, it opens to another earth road and we find it again on the left side of the road. This procedure is repeated one more time and we find ourselves walking through a virtual tunnel of vegetation around us.
A virtual tunnel of vegetation
       The kalderimi opens to a concrete road climbing steadily and we reach a junction, where it becomes again visible through the concrete. If we take here the road to the left, in five minutes we will reach an excellent viewpoint peak called Tsouka. Back to the junction, continue up the road-kalderimi having a line of cypress trees at the side. As we reach the asphalt, we do not continue straight ahead towards Mouresi square (attention), but follow the asphalt to the left.
The overgrown Chalorema ravine
      As the asphalt takes a sharp right turn, we take the narrow concrete road to the left at the sign to ''Villa Glykas'' (ΒΙΛΑ ΓΛΥΚΑΣ) and then the earth road going straight on downhill. Shortly before the end of the road, watching for the red marks, we find the path on our left side. This climbs down to cross the wide Chalorema stream, and continues on the other side amongst dense vegetation. Ignoring a path to the right going to Agios Stefanos of Tsagarada, we keep climbing following the red marks.
      The path becomes an earth road and eventually joins the downhill asphalt that comes from Agios Stefanos church. We walk downhill and soon get to a junction with an asphalt road to the left and a sign to ''Vigla'' (''Βίγλα''). It is better to take that road and follow it straight on, until we get  to location Vigla, a small plateau with a plane tree, a bench and a drinking water faucet. Here we join  the route Tsagarada-Damouchari (coming from Agia Paraskevi church). We continue straight ahead on an earth road for a few meters, reach a fork and go left to find the kalderimi next to the fence.
View to the sea from Vigla

     A little further down, we reach a wooden kiosk. On the left a small stone balcony is built, where one can sit in quiet and admire the view to the Aegean. As the kalderimi zigzags its way down, we can feel the sea breeze and hear the waves that hit the rocky coast below.
Closing in to Damouchari

     Two paths cross on the right, going towards Krifo Scholio and Fakistra beach. There is a protective low stone wall built on the outer side, because the slope is very steep. Eventually, we pass Chalorema stream over a wooden bridge.
The bridge over Chalorema stream at Damouchari
        As if to justify its name (Chalorema=destroying stream), the stream has destroyed the concrete lane on which we walk at the other side.  Here we are at the beach of Damouchari, under the ruins of the old castle, where we can have a swim into the Aegean sea.
The beach of Damouchari
       Walking on the flat stone paved lane parallel to the sealine, we pass just above the small port, the only place in the whole east Pelion area where a ship could safely dock. Some scenes of the movie ''Mamma mia'' were shot here in 2007 and there are happy pictures of the taverna owner with Meryl Streep.
Damouchari port
          A little further on, as a concrete road continues ahead, we notice the kalderimi climbing to the left. It soon opens at the end of the asphalt road, where we started our walk.