Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Getting lost with the Andersons

I dare to do it about once a year: take a walk with the Andersons. Which means that I walk with friends, who think it's an important challenge to do all the walks that the English couple Brian and Eileen Anderson present in their book 'Lesvos, car tours and walks' (publisher: Sunflower Books).

Regular readers might remember that I wrote earlier about their walks: a lot of troubles (see 14 November 2005). Because a walk from the Andersons means a complex searching tour where getting lost is the number one risk. It generally takes me a year to build up the courage to do another of their walks. Because I trust that my Anderson-walking-friends should by now know all their tricks. They nearly did all 28 featured walks. I should say they tried to walk them all, because it is not often you walk the paths the Andersons describe.

Yesterday we were ready to do tour number 14: a walk from Mixou, Plati and back to Mixou. Mixou is an enchanting village that we visited for the first time. It is between the Gulf of Yera and mount Olympos. In the guide we were warned that the walk was pretty steep. And it was, entering the valley of Mixou. It didn't take long before we asked ourselves if we were lost. Maybe somewhere we took the wrong road, because we reached the beautiful spot where the small church of Agios Ioannis Theologos looks down on the Gulf of Yera, a place we should reach coming back. So we decided that we probably did the walk the other way round.

We did not see that many cross roads so we walked and enjoyed the astonishing landscapes with magnificent sights over the Gulf of Yera and the first 'leg' of Lesvos, where mountains hide the capital Mytilini and where, above the mountain slopes, Turkey looms as if it is part of the island.

When we were looking for Agia Anárgyri, we walked up and down some wrong roads. We thought we were at the half way mark of the walk when we finally reached this church that lies in an idyllic oasis under huge plane trees and pine trees and where a little stream always runs across the property. After a cooling rest we continued our road in the direction of Plati, which meant that we had to climb another pretty big mountain. According to the Andersons the highest altitude of the walk sould be 400 metres high, but when I walked on that rocky plateau and looked at Olympus which was watching us from not far away, it seemed to me that we were as high as the top of this second highest mountain of the island. Wild sage, known on the island as wild mountain tea, was growing everywhere. This herb tea is known to grow pretty high in the mountains. Everything went well, until the wide path turned into a small track. We saw a car parked by the road and we met a farmer carrying a jerry can. He came from the direction that we had to take. Was he out of petrol and did he get petrol somewhere? It was the question that kept us busy when the track took a deep dive into a narrow wood full of strawberry trees and other low bushes. It was a pretty dangerous path full of little loose stones. We seriously asked ourselves if this path was indeed part of the walk of the Andersons. We and our overstretched muscles were relieved when we finally arrived on a normal mountain track. We took the direction we thought led to Mixou, but again we were wrong. And this time totally lost, because the road ended just like that.

So there you are high on a mountain slope, seeing below you at the other side of a deep valley the church of Agios Ioannis Theologos, where hours before we took our first rest. How could we get there? Nobody wished to take the track cutting through the bushes. Too dangerous and too tiring. The only thing we could do was to follow back the mountain road climbing up the mountain. You can imagine what we were calling the Andersons. Their walking books should be forbidden. Everybody complained about them and my friends, champions at doing walks, only did one of their walks without getting lost.

So we got ourselves up that mountain slope until we reached a crossroads that we'd crossed before! Saved! So finally we started to descend on the path that gave us so much sweat and tears on the way when we started. We decided that we should ban the Andersons from the island. They walk too fast anyway. Everybody in our company knows that you always have to double the time they give for a walk. If you are passed by a fast moving cloud of dust and you see some legs moving, those are the Andersons who shoot by over the paths like rockets.

Strange in a way, because the Andersons also published a book called 'The orchids of Lesvos'. How can they walk that fast and discovering orchids at the same time? I have to admit that the walk was great. Not only the far off views were breath taking, it was especially the flowers which took your breath away and your tiredness. Fancy Fair Anemones (see 20 March 2007) stared at us in their cheery colours, poppies in all shades of red, merry white daisies, purple crest lavender, pink, white and even small yellow sun roses coloured the green bushes. It was full of small bright blue lupins, yellow, purple and white clover. But there were also many orchids. I never in my life saw so many naked men. Ha, ha, on the naked man orchid it was (Orchis Italica). There were hundreds of them, often in company with the pink Four corner Orchid (Orchis quadrapunctata) and diverse Serapia orchids. We saw some very beautiful white Anatolic orchids (Orchis Anatolica var. albiflora) and a rare sample that connoisseurs do not agree which name it has: the bumlebee or horse-fly orchid (Ophrys fuciflora/scolopax/holoseriscea). In total we saw 12 different orchid species on this walk. There were that many that even the flying by Andersons would have noticed them.

When we were nearly down we were wondering where the actual walk number 14 started. We stopped at a building built with 'B2' blocks, where we should have taken a crossroad within 10 minutes of the start of the walk. We had no excuse that we did not know what B2- blocks are, because that expression for concrete blocks we could remember from another walk of the Andersons. The crossroad we should have taken was as clear as it could be. Our friend who read the map was so exited about the beginning of the walk that she completely overlooked this important clue...

That does not mean that the Dutch translations of the Anderson's walks are always right. It may be that the translator made mistakes, like is done in the translations from English into Dutch of the walks of Mike Maunder, which we know also get a lot of complaints. Nobody ever succeeded in doing walk number 12 of the Andersons without getting on the wrong roads. And number 14, well, we have to redo that one. I think yesterday we saw most of the tracks in that area, so if we get lost the next time, we will know the way back!

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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