Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Milies train station-Vizitsa (circular)

Milies train station
Distance: 9,4 km.
Time: 3 hours
Altitude: from 290 m. (train station) to 585 m. (Vizitsa)
Total ascent/descent: 296 m.
Signed with red paint dots and various signs
Drinking water on walk: yes (Vizitsa)
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         Starting from Milies train station, to get to Vizitsa is a nice 45-minute walk uphill. From Vizitsa we take the downhill cobblestone path (kalderimi) towards Kala Nera and, reaching the train rails, we follow these to return to the start.
          There are two alternative ways to start the walk. The first one is: Just before the entrance of the train station, we take the uphill stone paved track on the right. This continues as an earth track above the train station, and then, as the track takes an uphill turn, we continue on an earth path straight ahead (notice the red marks). We cross an overgrown stream and then come to a path junction. 
Crossing the stream near the train station
          The second way to start, is to walk initially on the train rails. One hundred meters after leaving the station, looking on the right, we notice the uphill path to Vizitsa, marked with red paint and a wooden sign. After a short distance we come to the junction where the two paths merge, and continue climbing on a wide and clear path, which later on becomes a kalderimi. On our left is the large Miliotiko ravine. We can see the white chapel of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) on the opposite slope (we will pass by there on our way back). A little lower, if we look carefully, we can make the tiny chapel of Taxiarches built on the cliff. 
        Higher up, we come to cross the asphalt and continue on an earth road, passing just under the cemetery of Vizitsa. A little further on, we notice the kalderimi on the right and follow it uphill. We pass by a roofed spring water and by the tiny old monastery of Agios Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist), worthy of a visit, and then the kalderimi opens to the main asphalt road of Vizitsa.
Agios Ioannis Prodromos monastery at Vizitsa
        Walking another 100 m. on the asphalt uphill, after the parking area and a water fountain, we have on the left the main church of Vizitsa (Zoodhochos Pigi-Virgin Mary). In front of the church descends the main kalderimi coming from the square above, going towards Kala Nera and we follow it. A few meters on there is a kalderimi junction. We take the left branch and at the next junction the right branch downhill. A little further down, the kalderimi disappears as it meets an earth road. In 1994 this area suffered landslides which buried and blocked the original kalderimi.
         Noticing the signpost on the left, we follow an earth track downhill. At the end of it, we find the kalderimi again, wide and clear, climbing down to cross the stream over a concrete bridge. During winter and spring, the streamwater forms a scenic waterfall above the bridge.
The concrete bridge over Kakorema
       After the bridge the kalderimi becomes earth road joining an asphalt road and we walk on it uphill. Reaching the white chapel of Timios Stavros, which we could see from the opposite slope, we climb some steps on the right side of the road, entering the kalderimi. This passes next to a concrete water tank and then joins an earth road, where we walk for a few metres to the left to find the kalderimi again, descending among olive groves, cottages and earth roads through the settlement called ''Argireika''.
Approaching Milies
          Eventually, we come to cross the train rails over a stone bridge. Here we leave the kalderimi, which continues downhill towards the sea, and follow the rails to the left eastwards. In about 45 minutes, we reach the impressive metallic train bridge going by the name of De Chirico (the Italian engineer responsible for building the train line Volos-Milies, completed in 1903, although this particular bridge was in fact built by the German engineer Schneider, an expert on metal bridges at the time).
The metal bridge seen from above
          Before crossing the bridge however, it  is worthy to visit the small chapel of Taxiarhon above us. So we take the narrow path marked with red paint on the left, climbing steadily. At a junction we take the left branch.
Taxiarchon chapel
           After climbing some steps built with stones, we walk on a narrow lane on the nearly vertical rock (people suffering from fear of heights should avoid it) that leads to the tiny chapel built on the edge of the cliff, accompanied by the birds, waiting every day to hear the shuffle of the little train  passing below.
       Returning back and crossing the bridge, we arrive back to the station in fifteen minutes, thus completing the circle.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kala Nera-Pinakates

Pinakates
Distance: 5,3 km
Time: 2.10' (walking time 1.50')
Altitude: from 0 m. (Kala Nera) to 590 m. (Pinakates)
Total ascent: 629 m.  Total descent: 28 m.
Signed with red paint marks and various signs
Drinking water on walk: near Pinakates
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           This is the main route connecting Pinakates to the sea and to the train of Pelion. Ιn the past virtually all transport of people and goods used to pass by this. Most of the original cobblestone (kalderimi) still survives, only small sections are now covered by concrete or asphalt.  The neighbouring villages Vizitsa and Milies also have similar kalderimis to Kala Nera crossing the train rails. With that in mind, one can create several circular walks, with duration between two and five hours. Pinakates is also connected by a signed path to Vizitsa in less than an hour, and Vizitsa is connected to the train station of Milies.
          Starting from the seaside at Kala Nera, at the corner of ''Roumeli'' hotel-restaurant, we walk on the asphalt away from the sea, reaching the main asphalt road in a few minutes and follow it to the right for fifty meters. Just after the gas station, we find the continuity of the route on the left side of the road, along with a couple of signs. Initially, it looks like a narrow earth road, but soon the kalderimi appears.
        On our way up, we cross an earth road near a bend, and then reach the church of Panayia (Virgin Mary), at the settlement called Oglas. Most people of Pinakates preferred to stay here in winter, to  be nearer to their olive groves and to avoid heavy winter snow, which is not unusual in Pelion. This was common practice in most Pelion villages. Nowadays, it seems winters are milder than they used to be, old people say.
Church of Panayia at Oglas
       After the church, the kalderimi gets covered with concrete for a short section, until we cross a road. Then it reappears but a little higher up gets covered again. Soon it opens on a bend of a road, next to a concrete building of the water system. We take the left branch and soon find the kalderimi again on the right, climbing with zigzags. A little higher up, we come to cross the train rails over an arched stone bridge. A branch of the kalderimi to the left goes down to the rails and to the old train stop that used to serve Pinakates.
The bridge over the train rails
         The kalderimi continues to climb and we have nice views over Kala Nera and the sea. Reaching a cottage, it becomes cement road, which then takes a left turn. We walk past another cottage with a characteristic stone roof and then join a wider road. After a left turn of the road, we easily notice the kalderimi on the right side and follow it, crossing the road three times. Further up, the kalderimi is covered by concrete and in a few meters joins the asphalt road. At this junction there is a walker sign on a post. We go past a cottage and the kalderimi continues parallel to the asphalt, a few meters to the right. Here it is overgrown, but still remains passable. It joins the asphalt again and then branches off to the right, crosses the asphalt one more time and continues on a straight line.
View to Kala Nera
         We come to a junction with a road from the right, which goes to the church of Agia Kiriaki, and then come to cross the asphalt for the last time. We can now see the  houses of Pinakates. On the right is a large shrine and a drinking water fountain. Opposite on the left is an old threshing floor (''aloni''). Straight ahead the kalderimi continues, wide and clear, along with some old telephone posts, to cross an overgrown streambed over a concrete bridge.
Concrete bridge at the stream near Pinakates
        After the bridge, the kalderimi climbs sharply. We come to a junction, where we go right and at the following one go left uphill, following the red dots. Finally, climbing some steps, we arrive to the picturesque square of Pinacates, dominated by the huge old plane tree at the middle. The notable neo-classical style marble drinking water fountain was  built in 1894 with donations of wealthy expats from Alexandria, Egypt. There is a cafe-restaurant at the square, open all year round.
The square of Pinakates

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hania-Waterfalls-Makrirachi (Path of the Waterfalls)

Crossing the stream at Plakotoura

Distance: 9,8 km
Time: 4,5 hours with stops
Altitude: from 1200 m. (start) to 320 m. (Makrirachi square)
Total ascent: 121 m.  Total descent: 956 m.
Signed with: red paint, small round signs
Drinking water on walk: from the streams
Download GPS track:  from Wikiloc   from Everytrail

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         This extraordinary walk follows the course of the Megalo Rema stream, which runs between the villages Makrirachi and Anilio. The path remained unknown until 29/5/2016, when we walked it for the first time. It was researched, cleaned and signed by volunteers from the Association of Makrirachi and Volos Alpine Club. On our way, we cross the stream at several places where its plentiful running water creates impressive waterfalls and ponds. So, it was only natural to call it ''Path of the Waterfalls''.
The waterfall at Kavouria
              A practical way to do the walk, is to leave our car at the first parking lot on the road to the ski center and return to Hania with the afternoon bus (starts from Agios Ioannis), which passes daily from Makrirachi at 17.15' during the winter season and at 18.00 in summer season (see www.ktelvolou.gr). We can also return to Hania walking on the kalderimi of the main route Hania-Makrirachi, in 4 hours, starting from the square.  Another option is to continue to Anilio and then to Agios Ioannis (this will take two more hours of walking), or walk down the asphalt to the beaches of Agii Saranda and Horefto. At Makrirachi square we will find a cafe-restaurant open all seasons for refreshments and food.
              So, starting off from the first parking lot on the road to the ski center, we initially walk on the asphalt uphill. After 50 m., watching out on the left for the red paint mark and the walker sign on a beech tree, we find the path and start going slightly downhill in beech forest.
         We cross a small stream and then walk on a ridge in a northeasterly direction between low beech trees. To the right we can see Agriolefkes peak (1470 m.) and the ski slopes.
Agriolefkes peak (1470 m.) and ski slopes
              At a certain spot, we cross the ruins of an old stone building. The path becomes steep but is well signed and there is no chance to get lost. Eventually, we reach an earth road junction. The uphill road leads in fifty meters to a shelter hut, built by hunters of Makrirachi, a good spot to have a stop.
The shelter hut at Nisaki
        Returning to the junction, we take the road heading east, noticing the signpost. It crosses a stream and then, at the point where it takes a sharp right bend, we leave it walking on a straight line downhill in the beech forest. A path section is unclear, but the red marks help us find the way.
Beech tree tied in knot
        We cross a stream and reach an earth road.  Here we definitely must take a short detour to the left to visit the waterfall at Plakotoura. The road ends in 100 m. as it comes to a stream. The water, after forming a small pond,  runs into a canal in the rock.
The canal on the rock at Plakotoura
          Following this, we come shortly in front of a magnificent 15 m. high waterfall falling from the rock and joining the water that runs underneath. An irrigation canal was dug by the villagers of Makrirachi at this spot centuries ago during the Ottoman era, to water groves further down. It is a good thing to sit for a short while on the rock to enjoy the powerful feeling.
The waterfall at Plakotoura
            Returning back, we follow the earth road in a straight line, ignoring two junctions to the right. Coming to a spot where a big tree is fallen blocking the road, we go down left following the red marks and then to the right, on a path traversing the slope. We walk by two ruined old huts and then cross a concrete irrigation ditch. If we follow this to the left, we will shortly reach another beautiful spot at the streambed where the ditch begins. Only problem is, it is unsuitable for people with fear of heights.
Irrigation ditch and pond
           After crossing the irrigation ditch, the path descends down to the streambed.  Water runs fast under the plane trees on the rock and forms a large pond underneath, suitable for swimming if one can withstand the cold water. This location is called ''Poros''.
The pond at Poros
       We cross the stream and the path at the opposite bank opens to an apple grove, through which we walk and join a road, paved with cement (there is a signpost at the junction). Uphill to the left, this  road leads to the location ''Karavoma'', where it meets the main route Hania-Makrirachi, which can be used to return to Hania on foot in about 3 hours.
       We walk on the road downhill to the right. Further down it takes an 'S' bend and, twenty meters after that bend (attention!) we leave it to the right going into a grove, following the red marks. We enter the beech forest and soon reach the streambed again. This area is called ''Kavouria'' (''Crabs''), due to the crabs that used to live here in the past. At present times, however, we came to notice some frogs, but no crabs at all.
The waterfall at Kavouria
         Here, plenty of streamwater falls on the rock and creates another impressive waterfall and a pond underneath. Erosion by water creates elaborate patterns on the rocks. Another long stop here is mandatory.
          We cross the stram again and walk now on earth road in chestnut forest. We go past a junction with a road to the right leading ultimately to Anilio and Kissos. We continue following the course of the large ravine, viewing the wild overgrown opposite bank.
Walking in chestnut forest
        Walking on the road, we reach the small chapel of Panayitsa (Virgin Mary). Next to it, drinkable water runs from a tube. We go past another junction with a road to the right and keep following the course of the stream downhill. After five minutes, there is another section of the path on the left, marked with red paint. We follow the path, which eventually comes down to the riverbed  and then joins the road again.
         Eventually the earth road, now paved with cement, opens down to  the main asphalt road at the location ''Felouka''. Next to the bridge is a greenhouse (Makrirachi and Anilio have a large production of plants). We turn to the left, cross the stream over the bridge heading north and after 900 meters on the asphalt we finally reach the square of Makrirachi.
Makrirachi square



Saturday, April 30, 2016

Milies-Boufa

Distance: 5,6 km
Time: 2 hours (walking time 1.50')
Altitude: from 380 m. (Milies square) to 0 m. (beach of Boufa)
Total ascent: 93 m.  Total descent: 448 m.
Signed with metal signs and red paint dots
Drinking water on walk: yes (Agii Anargiri chapel)
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         An excellent 2-hour walk, mostly on kalderimi (cobblestone path) through olive groves. The fertile valley of Boufa, where the stream of Platanorema opens out to the sea, was a major destination for the people of Milies, along with Kala Nera. The official name Koropi, introduced some 50 years ago, was given due to the οracle of Koropaius Apollo that existed in the area in ancient times.
           Starting off from the square, we initially walk down on the main kalderimi towards the train station and Kala Nera. After 50 m. there is a signed junction where we go left. A sign (in Greek) on the house at the corner informs us that this belonged to Daniel Filippides, one of the teachers of the higher school that operated in Milies during the 19th century.
Μilies, descending on the kalderimi to Agios Konstantinos
          Descending on the kalderimi in a straight line, we reach the church of Agios Konstantinos. Just below is the asphalt leading to the train station.
Agios Konstantinos church at Milies
           Leaving the church yard, we cross the asphalt and continue on the kalderimi, which is paved here with flat stones. This passes next to the last house of the village, turning gently to the right. Another kalderimi joins in from the left, coming from the bus stop on the main asphalt a few meters above.  A little further down we cross a road leading to the graveyard and continue on the kalderimi, wide and clear, passing through a virtual tunnel of vegetation. To the left is a complex of newly built mansions. On the opposite slope we can see the course of the main kalderimi to Kala Nera.
          We come to a junction (attention!) where one branch turns right, passes by the chapel of Agios Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist) and comes to an end down at the asphalt. We take the other (left) branch, which continues on a straight line. This section used to be completely blocked by vegetation in the past, but now is cleared.
            After crossing the main asphalt twice, further down we come to another signed junction. One branch continues descending straight ahead, crosses the stream and then follows its course to the sea, ultimately leading to Kala Nera. We take the other branch to the left, and soon reach the stone bridge ''Tsipokalamos''. Constructed at time unknown, it still remains in good condition and is now easily accessible for all to enjoy, after the recent cleaning of the kalderimi.
''Tsipokalamos'' arched stone bridge
           After the bridge, the kalderimi climbs on the other bank, then gets covered by soil and opens to the main asphalt. We continue climbing on the other side and come to an earth road. Here we elect not to walk on the road, but noticing the red marks on the left, we climb to an old threshing floor and continue in the same direction through an olive grove. We soon join an earth road, which in turn joins an asphalt road and we reach the chapel of Agii Anargiri. This is a good place to have a stop. At the chapel`s yard there is a drinking water fountain to quench our thirst.
View to Milies from Agii Anargiri chapel
            Continuing on the asphalt in the same southerly direction, in 50 m. just after the tree (attention!) we leave the road at an angle to the left and climb on the slope. The path is hard to notice initially (there is a sign and red marks), but later widens and becomes kalderimi again. This joins the asphalt road a little higher up, on which we walk to the right, entering the settlement called ''Stavrodromi'' (''Crossroads'').
         After walking past a derelict old olive press, we exit the settlement and the road becomes unpaved. After about 500 m. (attention!) we come to a V-junction and take the left branch downhill. The road incorporates a fair stretch of kalderimi. This area is called ''Palatia''. We reach another junction, where we don`t go straight ahead, but to the right, noticing the arrow.
View to the sea at ''Belegrinos'' (between Boufa and Kala Nera)
             At the next junction, we continue straight ahead. The narrow earth road descends in a southerly direction and we have nice views to the sea from certain spots. We go past a couple of cottages, then the road ends crossing an irrigation ditch and continues as an earth path, soon becoming a kalderimi as we walk through an olive grove.
           The kalderimi ends for good as we join an earth road, which then takes a right turn heading west downhill. Keeping on that road (the last section is paved with cement), we descend down to the main asphalt, next to the church of Agios Ioannis Theologos (St. John the Theologian) and to a cafe-restaurant (open all seasons). Here is also a small parking lot and the bus stop. Crossing the asphalt, the road passes by hotel Saily and a complex of summer cottages, and finally opens down to the sandy beach of Boufa, where two cafe-restaurants operate during the summer season.
Beach of Boufa late in August
The beach of Boufa (off-season)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pinakates-Vizitsa

Pinakates

Distance: 1,74 km
Time: 50 min.
Altitude: from 590 m. (Pinakates) to 510 m. (minimum) to 520 m. (Vizitsa)
Total ascent: 77 m.  Total descent: 128 m.
Signed with red paint and round yellow signs
Drinking water on walk: no
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         This route was cleaned and signed by volunteers in March 2016. It was in normal use until 1985, when construction of the asphalt road was completed. Pupils from Pinakates attending to Milies high school for example, had to walk on this route twice daily, regardless of weather conditions. It can also be used in combination to the routes Kala Nera to Pinakates and Kala Nera to Vizitsa, to create a circular walk, either extending to Kala Nera (longer) or to the train rails (shorter).

           Starting off rom the parking lot in Pinakates, just above the village`s square, we walk on the asphalt road towards Vizitsa. Exiting the village, the asphalt takes a right bend going downhill. We will find the path entrance 100 meters after that bend, looking for it on our left (we have to walk over the safety barrier at the side of the road).

          The path zigzags down to cross the stream of Vasilikis, which has water running in the spring. On the other bank an earth road runs parallel to the stream, on which we walk for 100 meters to the right (downhill). Seeing the signpost, we find the continuity of the path, climbing on the slope heading east. Reaching a signed junction, we head left uphill for a few meters and then the path turns gently to the right, starting to descend. Dry stone walls support the sides of the path as we walk along the upper border of a grove. We can see Vizitsa at the opposite slope and also the sea at the distance.
Seeing Vizitsa at the opposite slope

             After the grove, a short section of the path suffers from landslides but remains passable and descends to cross the stream of Galani. Climbing on the other bank, there is a short section of cobblestone (kalderimi), then again earth path. After crossing a third, smaller stream, we walk on kalderimi again entering Vizitsa. A concrete road comes to end at that spot. A little further on, we pass next to an old drinking water fountain (Sakellari fountain, 17th century), sadly without running water most time of the year.
Sakellari fountain at Vizitsa

         At a kalderimi junction we head to the left, walk over a concrete bridge and finally reach the nice and quiet square of Vizitsa, surrounded by renovated old mansions showing the characteristic Pelion architectural style.
 Vizitsa square

Renovated mansion at Vizitsa