Monday, 14 November 2005

Getting lost on Lesvos

Yes, we finally did it! We managed to do a walk described by Brian and Eileen Anderson without getting lost. This English couple has published about 28 walks in the book 'Lesvos, car tours and walks' published by Sunflower Books. The walks are breathtaking, but the directions are pretty badly described, or very badly translated.

When I have to choose a walk from the book I always look at the time they give for a walk. I start to know the Andersons. It is as if they have wings because they fly over the walking paths as a fly smelling food. However we walk, we always need double time.

It is true that in the walking world, people do mend their pace. We do have friends who are alike. They walk like they have to finish a skating marathon. If you do not stop them, they will not look at anything and they pass at high speed all beautiful purple cyclamens, terrific views, nice shaped trees and beautiful landscapes.

You can say it in reverse as well. We cannot walk without stopping at superb views, we have to take a picture of a flower or a tree, we cannot pass a wild apple without looking for more or we have to stop to define a mushroom in order to pick it or not. For us walking is not making kilometres, but to get surprised by the always changing landscapes.

I have to admit that I often also have to stop the gang because I have to recover from a steep climb. For a Dutch woman coming from the Flat Countries the mountainous island sometimes gets me in trouble. Although my condition each year becomes better and better. I am getting used to climb over the mountains. In my first years I got tired just seeing a mountain where the path would pass over. Now I walk as if nothing matters.

Last week we did the winning walk, I mean the walk where we did not get lost, the part we took a wrong direction in LoutrĂ³poli Thermi I will not count. So I can criticize those walks, but I have to admit that each walk surprises us with a new part of the island. Walk number 3 is a walk about Thermi by Panagia. It starts at the beach and then it continues through a residential area, pretty chic. The sandy paths go past big houses and gardens to match. I was most surprised by the Tower Houses, some renovated, some in ruin. These are old country houses where in the past century the rich of Mytilini passed their days in the country. The area is full of olive trees, as well as orange, lemon and mandarine trees. A shadowy land with impressive views of the always blue sea.

Especially these months the coloured leaves of the huge planes which are bent over very old churches form enchanting autumnal pictures. The endless gardens are silent witnesses of a past wealth. It was a nice change to do a walk through surroundings made by humans.

You did not get that impression from walk number 12 that we did today: Agias Anargyri, Asomatos and back again. There you walked over centuries old footpaths, where time seems to have stopped and where thousands of old olive trees are backed up by walls as old as the trees. The whole looked that natural that you forgot that those walls who make half a circle around the tree are built by human hands, as well as the old footpaths which have to be made by somebody.

Now they are fantastic walking paths, the narrow monopathis who give space for only one donkey and the kalderimis which are much broader, say for three donkeys abreast. Once these were the high roads of the island. They say that when you break up an asphalt road for sure you will find an old kalderimi, they are the perfect foundation for the modern roads.

Walk number 12 started at the picnic area of the little church of Agias Anargyri, where it rained leaves from the huge planes, where the autumnal colours and the gurgling of little water streams meant that you immediately fell in love with the spot. But we were there to take a walk and the start already was a problem. In what direction we had to start? The walking guide of the Andersons (in Dutch) is a real puzzle book. And do not make any mistakes because that means trouble.

We did the walk totally wrong (as usual), but this time we were rewarded by the Gods. Everything went smoothly until Asomatos. An incredibly beautiful path wound up to the mountain village close to Agiasos. In the village square we only had to read the instructions ten times before finding the right kalderimi going down. And even at the turning point opposite a B-2 building, we thought we were on the right way.

But we did not encounter a junction where we should keep left, nor did we find a pretty steep climb. The better for us because that climb towards Asomatos was enough for that day. We walked a sheep path going through enchanting olive groves. We walked and we walked and we passed a little church on a magic spot in the middle of nowhere, we saw little streams of water but nothing anymore matched with the description of the walk of the Andersons. The sun disappeared behind the mountains, the clock was ticking time away: what would happen if we really were that lost and we could not come out of those donkey paths before it became dark...

This time we really walked as fast as real walkers do. We chose to follow our feeling of the good direction and not the directions of the Andersons. And suddenly there was the path where we started. Results? Instead of the double time we normally need to do a walk of the Andersons, we only had 1 hour more on this walk of 1.45 minutes. We set a new record! When some time later we closely examined the map we discovered that we did skip a large part of the second part of the walk. Very well with us, otherwise we probably would still be looking around for the right way to Agia Anargyri. And then I could not complain to you about those very bad directions given in the (Dutch) description of those breathtaking walks of the Andersons...

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

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