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Published: June 23rd 2010
The ceilings in my appartment were high and I could see a couple of mozzies but not reach them. I sprayed the room, I put repellant on myself and went to bed wanting a good nights sleep. In the early hours I could hear the mozzies attacking me so I grabbed my spray and decided to deal with them and then went back to sleep. When I awoke just after 6 I felt a problem with my eye and so I went into the bathroom.................one eyelid was swollen and the eye half closed. Problem this and I didn't know what had caused it............was it a bite; would the eye close more as the day wore on. Immediately I decided I had to walk today to the end of the Trail, just in case the eye got worse and I hadn't even looked outside at the weather. I washed the eye carefully and dressed. A look outside from my balcony revealed a very cloudy day but it wasn't raining; I was facing the sea so couldn't see the weather over towards Pantokrator but the indication I got was the cloud was low. Low cloud would affect visability but on the other hand
as it wasn't raining I figured it was unlikely too and also that the cloud would eventually burn off as the sun came through. Time would tell. Boiled my eggs, made my toast and had breakfast. Over the Corfu Straight the sun started to come through at 7:20 so I now believed the weather would improve as I walked; all ready with waterproofs in rucksack in case I was wrong and a jacket on in case it was chilly if cloud low I set off at 7:40 for what my notes said would be a 3 hour continual climb to the High Col.
Down and onto Kalami Beach which was deserted; the lady who helps run Thomas's Place was sat with a man at one of their tables drinking coffee as I passed and we exchanged 'kalimera's'. Off past The White House and round the headland towards Agni and across the beach and through Nickolas Tavarna. Passed a few tourists out for an early stroll before breakfast. Shortly after you pick up the trail leaving the coastal path. The path is cobbled and crosses a road and takes you to Kentroma, you are already climbing fairly steeply. On reaching the
village the path becomes a track and you enter the square and main road. Follow the road to a water cistern and the trail is on a path behind its back corner; well marked I'm on a cobbled walled path uphill. It emerges onto a concrete road which I must take uphill for some 300 metres; this part was very steep and the sweat started to run and drip off my baseball cap even though the sun wasn't out here. Turning onto a narrow path in the olive groves I continue to climb. A combination of roads and paths soon brings me to the village of Porta; now out of the trees and having climbed a fair way I can see how low the cloud is as it is sitting not that far above me as I stop for a drink; a can of Fanta and a bottle of water. I sit outside the little Kafenion and a few locals walk past.
Now I continue through the village to the church where my path is. This is a nice wide path to start and continues into olive groves and low forest but remains a nice path to follow and walk
and its fairly flat; but when I cross a bridge it starts to climb gradually and eventually brings you to the village of Santa. Here all is quiet and I pass pens with chickens, large Turkeys and ducks in keeping to the road until a sign to Mengoulas where I take rough road to this abandoned settlement. No so abandoned now as there are some rental villas here and nice streetlights and rubbish bins and the main terrace is being renovated. My Greek is not too good but the sign I think indicates that EU funding is involved in the project. At the top of the track I swing sharp left to walk along the front of the terrace and at the end there is a man working on the renovation. I pause to look for a marker and he directs me; he is English! Up steps, through courtyards and it seems even through ruins of houses you climb through the settlement coming out on a sheep pasture above it. As I cross this I can see the sheep and a few goats but they are all in a large pen just below me. Shortly the path joins a track
and then I'm on a main track that is heading uphill and this goes all the way to the High Col. The long gradual climb takes about a hour from Mengoulas. It is not steep but the track is very uneven. I am now almost in the clouds but they are lifting slowly; no sighting at all of the Pantokrator summit which I should be seeing more and more off the closer I get. I can see well down to the left of the track and I hear music coming across the valley; it is the gingle gangle, clonk clonk of bells on sheep and goats. A very large flock of over 200 are being moved along a track below and in front of me. It is a very pleasing sound and is quite musical in its own way. I walk in time with the music as it echoed across the valley and it was sad when their path went round a corner and out of sight and mine turned away and the sound just stopped. Now I am in the cloud and I can see it blowing up the valley to my left and up over the track I'm
walking along. I cannot see more than 150 yards. I seem to have been going uphill forever but I dont look at the time but each bend in the track I think will bring me to the Col but it just reveals another bend and so on. Due to the low cloud there are no butterflies about as yet but I see a few lizards and the Black Headed Buntings which are plentiful on the slopes of Pantokrator which I still cannot see. Then finally I can see the High Col in front of me, only about 100 yards away. I stop to take a photo and just glimpse part of the aerial of Pantokrator through the cloud - if you look very closely bottom just left of centre on my photo you will see it. Here I was only about 600 metres in a straight line and 100 metres in height from Pantokrator and also just 200 metres or so from where I was yesterday! The High Col sign is broken and lies on the trackside; I pause and take in lots of water and I have completed the climb from Kalami in 3 hours including my 10 minute
break in Porta.
From the High Col my descent begins as I now head towards Paleo Perithia. Heading downhill on a track I am looking for a path that starts by a low tree on my left. The notes say I will go steeply down into a gully and pass a large tree and a ruined building. I survey the valley below me from the track; there are only a handful of trees on the slopes and I can see the ruin so know where I have to go but I cannot see any paths such is the thickness of the shrub. Soon I come to a low tree on the side of the track and there are the yellow markers; I'm on the path and getting scratched by the gorse and bracken. The notes say 'Caution! the path is difficult to follow here' (days later when I met with Anna of Aperghi Travel again she asked how I got on in this part of the Trail as everyone else walking with them this spring has lost the Trail here.........she was surprised when I said I had found it to be no problem at all as I could see where
I was heading initially and once on the path there was no other paths to go onto so I couldn't get lost - very strange that I a solo walker found this route easy to follow and that groups all got lost). As I descend on this overgrown path the sun comes out and the clouds begin to break and I get my first views of Pantokrator summit today, initially through cloud but then clearly. Pass the ruined building descending gently to a dry stream bed the path becomes a little clearer. Now I move onto descend the left side of a steep gully and I get a glimpse of Paleo Perithia ahead. My path now zig zags steeply down and I take care to spot the yellow paint dots on the rocks to keep on the right path; dont ask me how Hilary found these paths or how she keeps them all open...........there must have been a lot of research and walking to find them and mark them and continuing work to keep them open and clear to walk. I eventually meet a track going into the abandoned Byzantine village and follow it. Here I see a slow worm
crossing my path. Soon I'm in the village and stop at Faros Taverna for water, beer and some lunch. This is the Taverna visited by Rick Stein in Mediterranean Escapes. The sun is up. Tourists are about in this much visited village but only Trevor and Marion from Pembrokeshire are at Faros. They are also staying in Kalami and were very surprised I had walked all the way there; Trevor is a keen photographer and enters competitions and he is off to photo Perithia before returning to Faros for lunch. He likes my photo of the Beech Marten and I say how much better a picture it would have been had I had his very large and expensive camera. He took a photo of me by Faros sign and they gave me a donation towards CDR. I had by well earned beer and a plate of Giagantes......these are large butter beans as we know them in a tomato sauce. Thomas makes his own with fresh tomatoes bits of carrot and fresh local wild herbs. It is really tasty. Thomas is also well known for his pies and his walnut cake. He only had large water bottles so I buy a
large one and decant it into my smaller bottles. Thomas insists I have a piece of his walnut cake so I couldn't refuse. It was very soft and had been drizzled in honey. Very sweet, Thomas said it would help me finish the Trail.
Paleo Perithia now has about 5 tavernas which is too many really; there is even one built adjacent to Faros where the owner destroyed Thomas' vine. He has opened and shut 3 times and was closed. There is a small shop and also now a place to get maps of local walking trails and also some accommodations for walkers. My way was also part of the local trails which I understand have been set up courtesy of a £100,000 fund; from where I know not. They are overmarked in my opinion............a large pole with a sign saying distance every 100metres. The sun is now up and the clouds clearing away and Pantokrator is clear. I follow the trail and the markers into forest and descend a rough footpath eventually passing a shrine before entering a thicker forest. Twisting down a rocky area and the now almost dry bed of the Parigori River you eventually emerge on
a track with olive groves either side. Here is a portaloo! Yes folks I walk about 205 km of the Corfu Trail to reach its one and only portaloo!.........................but a sign on the door indictes it is for women only!! I continue on the wide track through the olives to reach the village of Krinias. Here everyone must be sleeping as all is quiet and even the cats were asleep. Through the village on the road and then some small paths uphill and in just a few minutes you are in Portes. Going down a road ignoring 'no entry' signs you soon pick up a footpath and corss a track. This path becomes "The Secret Path" down a valley smothered in a forest of oak trees and ahead you get your first glimpse of Acharavi/Almiros on the north coast.
A bit of history for you here written by Hilary Paipeti." At the time when Anthony and Cleopatra were planning their ill-starred attempt to wrest the Roman Empire from Octavian, Ivi was a peaceful settlement, one of three prosperous cities in north Corfu. Forced by the war to take sides, Ivi chose the wrong one and, after Anthony's defeat at the
battle of Actium, the city was razed and its citizens slaughtered in punishment. Just a few escaped by fleeing to the hills, using a secret path, and they established a new settlement high in the mountains at Eriva. After that event people referred to the destroyed city as Ahari Ivi (unlucky Ivi), a name that was corrupted to the present day Acharavi. The path, with its hidden ingress and convoluted course, was the inhabitants' main route to the outside world, a route that pirates and raiders could not discover." This path is not only part of the Corfu Trail but is also waymarked in blue as part of the network of footpaths and trails in the Acharavi area.
Back to my walk; the oak forest levels out into an almond grove and then you reach the coastal road at a point many of you who have visited Corfu will know; almost opposite the field with the helicopter in it. The clouds are closing in again. Cross over and round the back of the council yard the land is now flat and agricultural. A glimpe behind and Pantokrator seems so far away. In just a few minutes I am on the
coast at Almiros and so near to completing the trail that I can taste the Beer and Sardines to toast my success. Following the coastal path and approach Lake Antinioti; another Natura 2000 site in Corfu. This Lake is the one referred to by Gerald Durrell. The Lake is again fished and has an outlet to the sea. There are otters living here and one or two other places on Corfu. Sightings are very rare. Tortoises live in the sand around her also and the lake is also home to many terrapins. Moving back to the beach you pick up a path parallel with the shore to reach the Beacon that is at Cape Agia Ekaterini; this Corfu's northernmost point. The low cliffs here are very rough jagged rock indeed and the going underfoot on the path the worst of the Trail; save the worst til last. It is only enjoyed as there are goats and then sheep grazing; how they manage to walk let along trot and jump over these rocks I do not know. Back on the main coastal path I approach the bridge and the last Corfu Trail marker; over I go and round towards the beach
at Ag Spiriodon and the end of the Trail. I have done it yet there is no finishing tape, no end of Trail sign, no Band playing and no applause from the tourists on the beach. Only Shrek and I know what we have achieved and people may just wonder why I look so knackered but am smiling so broadly as I raise my arms to the heavens and say 'yes'. My notes here say in large letters "Congratulations! You made it!!!"
The Taverna at the end of the beach is closed but there is one open around the corner and I order 2 large beers and sardines (what no sardines.....nightmare; in fact I had 4 picks before he had food; meatballs! Ok I thought but when they came they were the size of the goat droppings I'd just walked over on the Cape!!) The beer was good though; some Brits on the next table to me kindly take my photo for me. I order another beer.........well it was a long hard walk of 25 km today with the initial 800 metre ascent to the High Col.............and a taxi to take me back to Kalami. I get a crazy taxi
driver but he is a laugh as we speed to Kalami; along the road I see two of the German ladies and wave at them as we pass. Arriving at Thomas's Place I sit in the sun enjoying more beer and now the plate of grilled sardines I desired. The walk is over the memories can begin and I now have 2 days holiday time; one in Kalami and one in Corfu Town. I will write about both of these days. As I drink beer the rain starts, a very light shower but enough to force me inside the taverna and for the staff to rush around moving tables. A few ouzos after the shower stops and then a walk up to my Villa. It is quiet and the sun back out so I just chill by the poolside before having a very long cool shower. I sit on my balcony going through my photos and realise what a long way I've come and what a joy it has been to see and get inside the real Corfu. Tonight I go to bed very happy (and my eye it got better as the day went on; cleansed by my sweat.
I reckon I must have got some deet in it from the Mozzie spray!). Tomorrow...............Kalami and Kouloura
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