Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Empty rivers

Today we got a clear view of how dry the island actually is. We drove over the concrete road via Vatoussa and Antissa to Lapsarna. And we totally forgot that in winter you have to come back the same way you went, because when you want to return over the dirt roads via Liota, you have to cross a river that in wintertime contains plenty of water.

Before we took the turn to Lapsarna, we took an unknown dirt road that we hoped would lead to Sigri. The road went high over the crests of some barren mountains, right in front of the mountain on top of which sits Ypsilou monastery, high above the landscape and looking like a waking God over the bare plains of West- Lesvos, once the country of the sequoia trees.

I always get quiet in this rough landscape. It is a merciless landscape with sharply silhouetted mountain slopes, decorated with endless long walls, built in the 1920s when there was a big land reform.

On an island that is full of bad dirt roads you would expect that a smooth sand path, well maintained, would lead to something. But after some kilometres and a sheep farm, the road ended at the second sheep farm. There was nothing left to do other than to stare down into the depths at merry winding small roads probably all leading to Sigri.

In Lapsarna the reed was waving merrily in the stormy wind. The beach was full of plastic and other garbage. The beach, which thanks to the winds and the sea gets full of all kinds of garbage in the winter, will only get cleaned in April or May when the worst storms are over. A little further on at Kalo Limano we could also not believe our eyes, because so much plastic got blown there last winter.

Only when we crossed a dry riverbed in Lapsarna, did we realise that this was not the way it should be. Here you would normally get out of the car to see if you could cross the water. After leaving Lapsarna we found the beach of Agia Triada, a little bay below some huge white cliffs which immediately make you think of the coast of the North of France. I'm sorry, I've never seen the white cliffs of Dover.

We were pleasantly surprised, because the little taverna in Liota was open and we could have a coffee there. Inside it is that small that only two tables can fit in, right under the big television. It is the first time we saw this taverna open in the winter. Great, because in that area only two other restaurants stay open the whole year: one in Gavathas and one in Kampos.

'O Costas' is the restaurant which towers above the road that goes through the riverbed that whirls itself through the gardens of Kampos. This scenic road boarded with walls is filled with water most winters. Today it was bone dry. Costas surprised us with lamb chops and pieces of chicken, roasted in the open fire place. That is the nicest way to eat this meat. But we also decided that he served better keftedes (meatballs) than in restaurant Perikles in Molyvos. And they really have gorgeous keftedes.

All over the island there was a strong wind and the dunes of Kampos seemed like moving sandhills. They were all over the road and you got the impression that these rare Greek sand dunes had blown away. But I think they seemed less high than usual because we were driving a high 4-wheel drive.

We had no problems when we crossed from the area besides Kampos to Old Antissa. At that crossing in springtime it's always fun to scare your passengers out of their wits by driving straight into the river. Only this time there was so little water that even the wheels of the car barely got wet.

It is that dry on the island that they were watering some of the fields at Old Antissa. In the tiny harbour after the ruins of Old Antissa we found a huge dolphin rotting away. The bled of Old Antissa was deserted, like it is most of the summer.

There was more life in the normally picturesque Kalo Limani, which this time was not that picturesque because of all the plastic. Here some fishermen live all year round. But keep their village clear? no thank you very much.

The water level in the small pond after Skalochori was as low as it is in August. If this pond has to survive like this in the summer, I am pretty afraid for its inhabitants: terrapins.

The strong northern wind that drove the temperatures down, even though the sun seriously tried to make it warm, is getting stronger and stronger. Dark clouds are gathering above the mountains. The weather forecast says that there might be a light shower tomorrow, but we all know now that these showers just sail past our island.

They also predict much lower temperatures for the end of the week. You think in this almost spring we will get some sensation of winter, although the giant fennels are nearly in bloom, the yellow broom is colouring the green mountain slopes, the red anemones are nearly gone, garlics are waving merrily with their tiny white flowers, some orchids already took a look around and we even picked the first wild asparagus?

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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