May 26, 1991 Loutses
Ann has the idea to stay for a couple of nights up at Loutzes just below Old Perithia. So we went up there and found a room to stay for next week. With that fixed, we began our walk, following a track up into the hills – the oaks are the soft leaved sort. This part of the island is like a crumpled tablecloth flung down and we were exploring its folds. We came on isolated groups of houses we never knew existed. They are dotted on the hillsides. We had to ask what names they have.
The first was Portes . Then we got up to Krinias and discovered the road that goes on up to Lafki high up on the mountain, so we turned back to explore a path leading off into the dense olive groves. Olive trees covered the sides of a narrow ravine. The high hill presented a wall of olive trees. The shady path was like a rat-run leading us on and on beside a watercourse of boulders and stones, channeling water from the heights. But it had all rushed off into the sea, there was only one pool left from which a bird was drinking.
Then we came to a magical spot – the deep high-walled ravine with a floor of boulders and a fallen tree trunk dramatically caught across the banks just where the sunlight fell , luring us to discover what lay beyond.
The ravine twisted about like a snake. We took an inviting path up the opposite bank, following it until it brought us to open land with one of the gorse-grown peaks of this mountain range above us. We were afraid to go further because of the danger of snakes in the long grasses and bracken, but we can come back here at a more suitable time of the year. This is new ground even for Ann . There are paths leading everywhere inviting you to follow them. It was not like Corfu as we know it. We had our picnic in a shady grove. Then we had to return by the road we came by – but deviated from the route by following the road at the junction that wound down the other side of the hill. A pretty road, one of the original ways with its coils and easier gradient suitable for donkeys – not something forced through the landscape by a bulldozer with 4-wheeled vehicles in mind.
We deviated again by a grass grown track which took us to an olive grove overlooking where we needed to get back to the car, but it was high with grass and scrub – snake danger again – made us hesitate to push on down through it. Then we saw a Shepherd come out of a shanty made to house sheep. He went off down the hill , so we followed and found a well-trodden path. He was going to his flock at the bottom near the main road. When the shepherd saw us he greeted us eagerly, full of questions. So we got back to the car which was not far along the main road.
Ann had been talking of some ruined houses along this road. I remember a fascinating old ruin somewhere along this road discovered 25 years ago. We had climbed into it, even up to the upper floor. I remember the window with a gantry just above the well so water could be drawn up directly from the well to the upper room. Ivy had grown over it to such an extent the building has practically disappeared.
The place Ann was talking about turned out to be the same place. We drove on till we spotted the ivy which conceals it – no trace now of the well or the gantry window – all deep in jungle growth. Trees had forced themselves like serpents through the walls, yet you can still trace the ruins of a substantial conglomeration of buildings dating from Venetian times. I remember the trace elements of Venetian red on the stucco. It is close to the sea and must have been some sort of staging post. It’s miles from anywhere – no village nearby – except the modern touristic developments. In its prime it would have been isolated. They didn’t build at sea level for fear of pirate attacks though during the Venetian period the Venetians had command of the seas so perhaps that danger was not so great.
Poking about the back of the site, it was much more extensive than I thought. There were kitchens and stables – a track leads off directly inland from the behind the buildings in the direction of Ag. Pantelemenas, and up and over the saddle to Zigos and down by Sokraki. This must have been a place for receiving goods by sea to be carried inland by this track up to the villages on the mountain. Yet this place where the ruins are has no name on the map. It must have been abandoned 200 years ago, and dropped out of memory. We will explore that track one day. This was a day of discovery. ~~
May 30 1991 Korakiana via the track to Spartela and down to Zigos.
Ann had not done this part and was delighted with it. Flowers in abundance. We marveled that so many flowers were still fresh at this time. Unusually by the end of May, the sun has dried them up. In these walks in this Spring time ,it’s as if one was already dead and elected to Paradise. The flower filled tracks, the proliferation of petal, pod and seed flight; it goes on coming and changing like a magic lantern show. In this Spring its profusion seems to belong to an earlier time when the Earth was an ’Eden Garden’ or ’Bacchus bowered’. ~~
June 6th. Staying up at Loutzes where we had booked a room for three days.
We found the woman of the house waiting for us on Tuesday morning . We settled in, then kilted up for the hills. It was 10.30 by now. What Kyria Vassiliki thought of us two middle-aged foreign woman with back packs, and boots – me in my Base-ball hat. In her politeness she did not show it , but we knew – having lived here long enough.
Off we tramped up the hot road to Old Perithia, our intention being to ramble freely over the hills. We tried to find a track leading down into one of the gullies – hoping not to surprise a snake – especially the Horned Viper which apparently doesn’t go away. We thrashed the grasses with our sticks and picked up a sheep trail and were able to follow it a long way over the steep hills covered in wild flowers – walking through a blazing cocktail of blossoms. The white, the blue, the yellow, the mauve – sometimes the blue of the Campanulas predominating – sometimes the yellow. Ann was excited by the masses of blue Salvia – she knows how rare some of these thing are.
So we went on , gasping and burbling at the beauty of it, clambering by rocks imbedded in Dog Roses and Honeysuckle to a cairn that seems to have fallen out of space onto the top of the hill – from there we had views and our picnic.
Looking down on, we were trying to identify the area we had been in 10 days ago when we did the olive tree walk. A group of sheep and some goats lay in the shade of some trees below us. We made our way down towards them – to return by another route. The sheep did not startle when we got to them – I boldly asked them the way, as they had somehow arrived at this remote spot. One of the goats had incredible horns – so long and gracefully curved, ending needle thin.
Finding the track was difficult and we had to struggle through bushes of bracken – the worst place for snakes. We found and lost paths, then entered a woodland way. We managed to keep in the right direction and finally found ourselves right below the road and forced our way up to it. By now it was 3 pm.
We walked back into Old Perithia to the tavern there for a drink. Finally we got back to our room at Loutses, and sat on the terrace with the wonderful view surrounded by roses , pansies and lilies.
Later we walked down into New Perithia to try to look for the road to Riliatika, and had an ouzo in the wayside tavern. The old men there asked the inevitable questions very courteously, and we got some useful tips for pathways in the area. ~~
Day 2 The Bat cave. From Loutzes to Riliatika via the ‘red dot’ trail., and back to the stone house rejoining the red dot trail where we had gone astray. [the red dot trail was a series of red dots on trees and certain points you can follow.]
We were able to hit the road with our packs by 8.15.a.m. We trudged up Broom covered mountains to the ‘Bat’ cave, by a path toward the left as you go up toward Old Perithia. The Bat cave is at the bottom of a crater. You go down a steep path to get to the its wide spanned cave mouth. Just as we got to the rim of the crater, the crows came flying out in alarm ,as two young men were throwing stones down into it. We could see one poised on the edge ready to throw another stone. So we shouted and yelled in indignation at the idea of being brained by a tourist chap at the Bat cave. The boy disappeared, and we went on down into the cave. A sinister place – the crows chattered with the same indignation as us, as we had at the boys. Ann saw a fox just before we got to the cave. She was ahead of me, so I didn’t see it.
The time of day was right with the sun touching the rim and sliding down into the half of the crater where the great dark mouth yawns. It is a throat with a mutilated tongue of green slimey water at the bottom; and incessant small sound of dripping water from the roof.
On the way out of the crater I rescued a tortoise I think I rescued a tortoise. He was sitting among rocks. He couldn’t get anywhere from his position. How had he got there – by falling? The stones are so steep. I carried him up to the open ground. It must have been for him his first sensation of ‘Air Travel‘ He waved his legs about.
Later on the way back to the village on the tarmac, we did the same for two tortoises that had blundered into the road in danger of getting crushed by cars. I put them down together – when their heads came out of their shells they looked at each other enigmatically , as reserved as two English people!! ~~ Return To The Life and Works of Theresa Nicholas