Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hania-Anilio-Ai Giannis (Agios Ioannis)

Plaka beach
Distance; 12,1 km
Duration; 4-4,5 h (walking time 3,5 h)
Altitude: from 1170 m. (Hania) to sea level
Signed with: red paint marks, a few signs
Drinking water on walk: Anilio
Download GPS track:   from Everytrail    from Wikiloc


          This walk climbs down from the ski centre at Hania to the village of Anilio and finally to the excellent beach of Plaka, following the old mule track that was recently explored and cleared. In Ai Giannis we will find hotels and restaurants open all year round, as well as in Anilio (during the summer season only).  We can return from Ai  Giannis to Hania and Volos taking the afternoon bus at 16.45' (www.ktelvolou.gr).
          We take the asphalt going to the ski centre and at the second parking turn left on the road to Kissos.  The recorded track starts from the base of ski lifts. From the edge of the plateau, a little below the asphalt, we enter the path (signed to ''Kissos'') which is a bit rough in the beginning, due to dumped soil, but afterwards it is ok and even has a small bit of kalderimi. We come out to the asphalt road again and after 100 metres, there is an earth road that goes off to the left with a sign to ''Anilio'' and we follow this. After about one kilometer there is a section of path to the right (watch out for the red paint marks), which eventually comes out to the road again. After another 100 m., we take a secondary track to the right and immediately find the path watching to the left. It descends into dense beech forest and after a while opens out to the road again at a junction. Here we take the left narrower branch heading northeast. Reaching a small plateau on the right called ''Stalos'' (attention to the marks), we leave the road and find the path at the other end of the plateau, going steadily northeast into the forest. On our way we meet a small section of kalderimi.
Walking into the beech forest
         After a while, as we reach the location called ''Psila Kotronia" (High Rocks) at 950 m. of altitude, our path starts to descend steadily. We have to keep watching for the red marks, as sections of path alternate with sections of earth road. Lower down, walking on road, there is a junction and we go right. From certain points we enjoy great views to Makrirachi village on the opposite slope and to the infinite blue of the Aegean sea.
View to Makrirachi village
      Reaching a cottage building on the left (attention), we leave the main road and descend down the track into the apple grove, to  find the kalderimi at the lower side of the grove heading east into chestnut forest. This section ends at a small stream, where we face a deadend, as there is no trace of path whatsoever on the other side, only wild overgrown vegetation. To overcome this problem, just a few metres before the deadend we follow the red marks to the right making a detour and walk on a dirt track first, then on the concrete road downhill.
     We keep on the road, avoiding another difficult section of the original path and eventually come down to the main asphalt, on which we walk to the right. Shortly after the petrol station, watching on the left side, we notice the wide and clear kalderimi that leads to the square of Anilio with the main church of Agios Athanasios (built in 1728). About three hours have passed since starting from the base of lifts.
Anilio village square and Agios Athanasios church
       Under the square goes a narrow asphalt road and we continue on this through the village heading northeast to the sea. Just after the junction with an uphill asphalt road, we leave the main road and take a narrow cement road on the right, leading to the cemetery. We continue on a dirt track downhill and immediately find the kalderimi on the left, descending nicely into the shady forest. It crosses a road a couple of times and we easily find  the continuity on the other side or a little lower, keeping an eye for the red marks.
The kalderimi to Plaka
        Eventually, it joins the asphalt and we walk on this downhill. It takes a left turn and, just after the fence of Eden Hotel, at the end of the asphalt there is a sign (in Greek). The earth road ahead goes to Panagia Faneromeni chapel (ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑ ΦΑΝΕΡΩΜΕΝΗ), above which a path continues towards Banikas beach. We don`t take this road, but instead turn right downhill towards Plaka (ΠΛΑΚΑ). Some sections of the old kalderimi have survived and others have been rebuilt, but unfortunately not to the best standard (the flat stones that were used can be slippery when wet-attention). We walk next to a deserted kiosk and finally come down to the excellent sandy beach Plaka, which, like Banikas, belong to the village of Anilio and was used as a port in the old days, hence the construction of kalderimi to help mules carrying loads. This used to be a quiet, remote place a few decades ago (thankfully remains inaccessible by cars), but nowadays the bar-restaurant of Eden hotel makes it more lively in the summer, by virtue of the loud dance music played all day long (not heard at the end of the beach, thank God).
Plaka beach (late September)
       We continue along the beach to the south, pass over the rocks at the end and arrive finally to the tourist seaside settlement of Ai Giannis.

Milies-Labinou-beach

View over Pagasitic gulf
Distance: 9,5 km
Duration: 3,5 hours (walking time 2.50')
Altitude: from 380 m. (Milies) to 660 m. (max) to 0 m.
Total ascent: 302 m.  Total descent: 670 m.
Signed with red paint and signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Labinou village, Labidona monastery)
Download GPS track:   from Everytrail    from Wikiloc


       The path from Milies to Labinou was closed and forgotten for many years but now it is open again, thanks to the efforts of Manuel Baud-Bovy from Switzerland (grandson of Daniel, one of the three people first to climb to mt. Olympus in 1913) and his wife Aristea Tzanou. This excellent walk ends up at the Aegean sea. We must have arranged a taxi or minibus to pick us up from the beach, otherwise we have to walk back (regular bus lines pass from the main asphalt just above Labinou village, www.ktelvolou.gr). During the summer season, a taverna is open at the beach. There is also a kiosk at the main asphalt road for refreshments and snacks (update summer 2015-kiosk closed). One can also continue walking from the beach to the beaches Limnionas and Milopotamos (about 1 hour on earth road).
      At Milies square the library building, inscripted with the words ''ΨΥΧΗΣ ΑΚΟΣ'' (psychis akos, “therapy for the soul”) is found just above the church and immediately to its right begins the kalderimi towards Labinou-Xourihti-Tsagarada. We start up this and pass a covered spring water drinking fountain on our left. We continue straight ahead, climbing past the houses of the village in an easterly direction. 
Kalderimi at Milies
       The kalderimi zigzags next to a plane tree, diagonally crosses a cement road and continues uphill in the same direction. We keep following the red marks and ignore any downhill kalderimis or roads crossing our path.

      A little further on, we continue on a concrete road as we leave the last houses of the village behind us and walk between apple orchards. At the second left hand bend, we leave the road and turn right onto a kalderimi next to a concrete water channel and water pipe. On our right is a row of cypress trees. We pass a stream bed over a small concrete bridge and continue on a lovely kalderimi/path.
Kalderimi in chestnut forest
       We soon come to a crossing, at which the signpost indicates that we should turn up to the left onto a wide path, which becomes a kalderimi a little further up. We come out at an angle onto a kalderimi/road and continue uphill. In a short while, we meet and cross a wide earth road and continue in the same direction between chestnut trees. Where a road comes in from the right, we continue ahead in a northerly direction and reach a kiosk at the location called Kefalas.
        Here we leave the road and take a narrow downhill path that starts from the kiosk. It opens to the wider main path, which remains blocked at present to the right, but is open and clear to the left and we follow it into the wood. On our way we find some sections of kalderimi.  We pass from the lower edge of a wide clearing, where sheep shearing (kouros) was performed in the past, according to the old people. This was much like a feast, with many people gathering to assist, food and drink being at hand. Nowadays the area is deserted, most of its inhabitants have left the village and such stories only seem to belong to the past. Could they ever be revived, who knows? 
Manuel walking on the path he cleared
       Anyway, the path continues downhill on the ridge into thick shady forest, a joy to walk on. Eventually, it opens to an earth road, on which we walk downhill northeast. A little further down at a signed V-junction we go right and reach the small chapel of Agios Georgios (St. George). A narrow kalderimi continues to the main asphalt road  just below. Here is a kiosk that sells refreshments and snacks in summer season. If we wish, we can end our walk here, having walked 2,5 hours from Milies, and take the bus back to Volos via Neochori (www.ktelvolou.gr).
       An earth road continues downhill next to the kiosk and soon becomes a kalderimi. We pass from Agia Paraskevi church and then cross the asphalt next to a large plane tree, down to the village square of Labinou. During the summer, a cafe-restaurant should be open here too.
Labinou village square
        We go down the steps to a concrete road, next to the old disused water fountain, and walk down the road initially, ignoring a narrow kalderimi on the right. After 50 m., we notice a wide kalderimi at an angle to the right and follow this, going northeast through the village.
Going down the kalderimi from Labinou
           We cross a road and further down we reach an old spring water fountain (Kria Vrisi) on the bed of a stream, next to an old olive press turned into a cottage. A little further down we cross the asphalt and immediately reach the old monastery of Lambidona, after which the village was named. It was built in 1796 by craftsmen from Zagori of Epirus. Restauration works are in progress. Dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary, its annual feast is on August 23rd.
Monastery of Lambidona
         From the monastery we follow down the asphalt to the parking lot, from where an earth road sets off towards Limnionas and Milopotamos beaches. At the and of the asphalt road is a taverna and a paved path leads down to the nice little beach of  Labinou.
Labinou beach