Seeing pictures of those new girls as they went around and posed proudly in the wild nature of Ikaria last summer, I said: «Hey, young ladies! We were there long before you!» Not that -goes without saying- we were the first. We don’t claim a title which righteously belongs to the hippies. But we were the first who took photos and shared them with the world. Retracting my memories, I had even made a drafty webpage in 2004 where I described the magic of one of those places -the best in my opinion in the whole island. «Hike Chalares, canyon of my heart», was the title, if I am not mistaken. I had received critisism for that page, critisism of the kind, «You shouldn’t give out secrets» and so on. But I was sure of my step. Wonders of nature shouldn’t be kept secret. The same goes for «pockets of freedom», they shouldn’t be kept secret either. But this is not the issue today. The issue today is that, twelve years after that day of September when we walked up bravely for almost the whole length of that river, today that I am not as young and posy as I was in 2003, I am sharing again with the world some of the material stored in the poor memory card of our obsolete Casio Exilim which could contain no more than 20 hi-res shots. But first let me review a few stories about the river – the scenery where these shots where taken.
♦ ♦ ♦ As I said, in 2003 we visited the canyon to survey the location and take photos. Besides sport and fun, our purpose was to a evaluate: «Was it as beautiful as they said? And if so, what kind of threats to the environment were there?».
♦ ♦ ♦ Having proven that Chalares was an amazing place, having shown that inspite it was September, there was plenty of water and the vegetation was lush, having warned that the sides of the hills were infested by disastrous free-grazing goats, I suggested that a hiking trail was created in order to put in value the beauty of the canyon and hopefully promote its protection.
♦ ♦ ♦ My appeal was heard and in 2005 a large trail network spread in the area. In addition, the large river pool which appears in the photos below was chosen for a very interesting experiment: the construction of a small environment-friendly semipermeable dam, meant to slow down the flow of the river and give new strengh to the vegetation.
♦ ♦ ♦ But though in the coming years the canyon got to be more and more known, visited and enjoyed, the main threat to its environment was not treated. Unfortunately the goats were always there. As a matter of fact, for reasons that don’t concern this review, there were even more! As a result, exactly five years ago, in October 18, 2010, when a torrential rainfall hit the western part of the island, the overgrazed, barren and unstable sides of the lower part of the canyon collapsed. Tons of earth and rocks were carried by the water smashing the trees and wiping out all vegetation, leveling the lakes, transforming what used to be a detailed natural handiwork into a flat highway of gravel and sand.
Today is the black anniversary of that disaster. For older girls like me it is a bitter reminder that it takes much more things than just good intentions for paradise to happen. For younger girls I hope it is a lesson to be learned, I am afraid, only through experience. I am spreading my winds (which have started to turn grey) over their pretty heads and I am dedicating to them seven pictures from that blissful day of 2003 in the river when it was rich, when it was green, when it was mine. For better or worse it’s their turn now.
The following photos were heavily processed using different methods in different periods of time. In this entry, as they always should, they appear their real «order taken», which is «in order of feelings»: curiosity, worry, happiness, pride, relaxed bliss, anxiety, humility. Their titles in Flickr are different but if you move your mouse over each picture, you will be able to know which is which.
That’s all. Let the old show begin again!
Copyright © Eleni Ikanou
A Love Story
An Adventure Film
An Initiative of Volunteers
«…and the river -come on, red-haired wife of the priest-
and the river was muddy and the river was muddy,
muddy and turbid, dragging boulders –come on, red-haired wife of the priest-,
dragging boulders off their roots, dragging boulders off their roots,
trees that have been uprooted, dragging a -come on, red-haired wife of the priest-,
dragging a sweet apple tree, dragging a sweet apple tree,
loaded with black plastic pipes!»
(old Greek folk song)
[On October 18, 2010 torrential rainfalls hit the western side of Ikaria island causing an unprecedented flushflood which destroyed the vegetation and leveled the rivedbed of the most beautiful mountain ravine of the river Chalares, commonly known as «the river of Nas». Besides that, if not the worst, at least the ugliest result of the flood was the hundreds of pieces of broken plastic pipes used for irrigation purposes, piled up and tangled in every part of the ravine. So, the following spring a team of volunteers responded to the call of the local Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club (OPS Ikarias) to remove all that trash from the river and let nature heal its wounds as nature knows best. The text below is the chronicle of that huge volunteer project. It was written day after day with a lot of emotion so it’s sometimes difficult to understand. But I hope the photos will help.]
Day 1: Beginning of December, three from the board of the Mountain Club of Ikaria and other two friends we go to Chalares to see the devastation after the terrible flash flood of October. Shock. A new unknown landscape. Without plane trees, caves, waterfalls, pools. Barren, even river, broad, with a lot of water. And with a lot of light. Merciless, ample sunlight, without shade anywhere. In this light pieces of plastic pipes are seen everywhere –thousands of meters of black pipes of water intake that the river carried and broke. Pipes that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and yet they were; cut in pieces, fortunes wasted, reduced to trash. Nobody was aware that they were so many. We are thinking: we can’t remake the old river, we can’t eliminate the reasons that led to the doom. But we can remove the trash pipes. “But it’s not our business”, “But it will be hard”, “What are we going to do with them?”, “They ‘ll say they needed them. We will get in trouble”. But something like a tantrum has taken over us. We must do something. Let’s do this. Let it be like a gesture. Pick up the trash. For reasons of honor.
on facebook 😉
From that moment on we call ourselves “Initiative of Volunteers”. Write a petition, collect signatures, apply to the Municipality of Ikaria, step somewhat absurd (“please, let us pick up the trash”). Yet necessary. Responsibility, awareness, reliability, honor. Permission from the Council is granted, a “committee of inhabitants of Nas” supports us, we go for dates and finally the… ANNOUNCEMENT!
on facebook 😉
Good Thursday. K. is expecting a lot of volunteers. He has taken the hubbub on the internet for cash. A. is worried about the weather, the swollen waters, the bad shape of the trail into the gorge. G. is off to Athens. L. shows up smiling with his dog K. -mascot of every dangerous mission- who ‘s smiling too. Early at the rendezvous on the bridge there is a car, we think they are volunteers; no, they were night owls, stopped for some sleep. We meet D. who we until then knew only on the net. Orange overalls “Greek Speleological Society”. We meet K. who we knew not, yet we knew her dog V.! K. is wearing a long raincoat, hood and rubber boots to the knee. Weather rainy, north wind, the river in hissing. G. is in K.’s restaurant in Nas, making sandwiches. E. has sent 150 € for provisions, she hasn’t come herself though. There are not enough hands. We are desperately few. Embarrasment. A., K., L. and D. start picking and bundling pieces of pipes. Suddenly, bam!, the “foreign factor” turns up (“Kalimera!”) -S., J. and little R. from England. Raincoats, leather boots, woolen caps.
But we still are too few. A. exhausted (“What are we doing here?”). Little R. asks her mother who is struggling with the pipes, “Mummy, what do normal people do in their holidays?” We laugh. Young D. rides by. She’s studying for exams and she’s taken a break. “Grab a saw, go in” We take a good look at the river, the part that we have cleaned. It’s a river without trash pipes. A river that we had never seen so clean before -even in its best. OK then. We are doing a good job.
Hours later at lunch at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 2.
on facebook 😉
Day 3: Good Friday. The Longest Day of the War. Super-Production. Highlights : ◙ Two volunteers from Athens! ◙ We lost the cook! ◙ A young Greek American with family origins from Ikaria joined us. He was in the Navy Seals. He and his girlfriend ripped to work! ◙ V. showed up late, already noon, yet she brought with her a platoon of 3 men; they all fought very bravely. ◙ Even later came E. (sent by M.) who, however, helped incredibly a lot (honoring the arms of Messaria) with the pipes in the hardest part of the river at the hardest hour of the day. ◙ Volunteer G. (honoring the arms of Rahes) was carrying heavy bundles of pipes two by two. ◙ A., D. and K. who tied the bundles with wire, grew calluses in their hands. ◙ At a certain moment old man V. from Kato Raches who was also picking up pipes and repairing his own, shouted to the team. Though he was only asking to save for him a piece that he needed, his yells alarmed the English. “I think we have a political issue in there…”, they said as they were leaving. ◙ On their way back to Nas they run across a rare toad and take a photo! ◙ Except broken pipes, the only pieces of trash that we found in the canyon were a car tire, a tent pole and… a bra!
Hours later at lunch at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 3.
on facebook 😉
Day 4: Wednesday after Easter. Ungrateful, heavy carrying. Dirty weather. We are very few. K. is already working in the field, unruffled in the rain, she is carrying up bundles from the large Angels’ pool. She loves that place. She wants it to be clean. We are impelled and we get busy. K. is throwing bundles to young K. from one side of the turbulent river to the other. Young K. has freaked out yet manages to grab and carry the bundles. But Ch., a newcomer, ran away as soon as he saw what we were doing. We didn’t see him again. A.’s camera freaks out too, and it jams.
Hours later over coffee at K.’s there’s lot of good talking. End of Day 4.
on facebook 😉
Day 5: Sunday. We are nobody! G. comes by K.’s place, he finds A., then the other G. comes by, they have coffee, they recruit two tourists and later they find another two, they all go to work, and… miracle of miracles, magic power of casualness…
the job is done!!! 🙂
Request: Just now the river is (almost) clean of trash to the beach of Nas. No other pipes must be cut and removed by anybody under pretext that “they are trash” or that “they are illegal”. The pipes that remain in the river are functional. They carry water to the farms and the village of Nas, therefore, until the area is properly connected to the public network, they must be respected. Any damage to them, will cause trouble. To anybody who would like to help the nature of the river to reborn faster, we suggest planting olianders, local river plants that are found everywhere and can be planted easily any time of they year. Also, the goats don’t like them and they don’t eat them. Thank you very much.
For the volunteers
It’s December and though it’s nice in Ikaria in winter we are already missing certain situations which make a difference and hightlight our life on the island all year long 😉
Copyright © OPS Ikarias
Guided Tour in Ancient Nas
«Here in the crack of time
Here in the crack of time
I am hiding to ripen…»
Many years ago when there was only a small cafe with a grill in Nas, my father, who was a historian, gave us a tour round the archaeological site. «The penteconter sailed in from out there. They tied the ropes here. It was a temple up there. Priests came to bless the boat. The captain stepped out with gifts and a slaughtered animal for the sacrifice.
Today my daughter is at the age I was when in Nas there was only a small cafe with a grill. We went for a swim in the summer and she asked: «There is something about the place. Though there’s nothing much to see. There’s something about it. What?»
I am explaining to her. I am tour-guiding her -and you too.
The location and its use – the temple and the cult
In ancient times at the mouth of the river Chalares there was a long narrow bay, like a fjord, indented-in the steep and rough northwestern coast of Ikaria. Neolithic men and women who lived in the mountains, descended to hunt and catch fish there. Later in the Bronze Age, the Karians arrived from the East in their fast boats. They were proud warriors and seamen who shared the Aegean with the other Prohellenes -the Cycladians and the Cretans. The Karians were probably the first who used Nas as a port -to attack and loot ships- and also founded there a place of worship.
The Karians were displaced around 700 BC by Greeks who came from Miletus in Asia Minor. With them they bring goats and sheep, grapevines, olive trees, improved grain seeds and new gods. Apollo (or Asclepius) for Therma, Dionysus for Oenoe and Artemis for Nas. The virgin huntress Artemis, protectress of nature, mistress of the winds, to who sailors prayed in the gales of the Etesians. The Milesians could not have made a better choice.
The tiny port at the mouth of the Chalares was for the Ionian sailors the last stop for food and rest (and a last prayer) before sailing off in the dangerous Icarian Sea to reach Delos, the commercial and religious center of the ancient Aegean. The slopes of the gorge and the mountains provided game, gift from the goddess, the villagers brought food and wine, while the river and the sources supplied them with plenty of fresh water. However, despite the frequent passage of ships, Nas never developed into a «polis» but remained a small community structured around a holly site. The temple -rather small (9,70 x 3,75 m) and of unknown architectural style- was built in the late 6th century with marble shipped from Petrokopio in Fournoi isles. The site was swampy, so first they raised a strong platform and there upon they founded the temple. In front of the platform they built a wall to protect the foundations from the water, which also served as a pier and dock.
The statue of the goddess was a «xoanon», chiseled on a single log, painted, dressed and decorated like a «sacred doll”. In the late 19th century linguist Hatzidakis, while visiting western Ikaria to record the archaic idiom still spoken there, accidentally discovers a ceramic shard with the inscription «TAUROPOL”, providing thus evidence that the temple of the Ikarian Artemis was a «Tauropolion»-one of the many that existed in ancient Greece.
The Tauropolion was a ceremony during which the priest of the goddess was bathed in the blood of a sacrificial bull while the animal was slaughtered. Originating from the ritualistic purifications performed by the archaic hunters for the killing of their prey, Tauropolion (or Taurobolium) became a particularly popular ceremony in the Hellenistic and Roman era. The Temple of the Icarian Artemis, known since classical times, along with the idyllic scenery round it, became then an attraction for the people who lived in the over-crowded cities of that time. They would set up hunting trips from Samos and Ephesus. They would climb the wooded slopes of Chalares with local hunters as guides. They would attend ceremonies still performed there «like in the good old good times.»
Yet it wasn’t idyllic all the time. During the revolution of Aristonicus (133-130 BC) that shook Asia Minor and the eastern Aegean, rebellious slaves, persecuted by the Romans, seem to have taken refuge in Nas. Whether as result of battle or bombardment with catapults from ships, the temple suffered major damage. The Roman general, however, hastened to repair it, and the notables and priests proclaimed him a benefactor and honored him with a statue.
The end of the harbor
In the Byzantine period, the temple may have served as living quarters for the crews of light cruisers stationed in the harbor. The stone pier that now appears along the lagoon is from that time. In conjunction with the watchtowers on the hilltops, Nas may have had some importance in the wars against the Saracens of Crete who had also taken the Cyclades.
Until one day, probably after the 11th century, due partly to the silting of the river and partly to the gradual elevation of the sea floor, the «fjord» of Nas began to close. The pier became too high, while the harbor became too shallow, filling up with stones, silt and sand. However, it seems that in the so-called «Age of Aphaneia» (15th-16th century), the current beach hadn’t formed yet and Nas could still be used as an anchorage. Those were times of piracy, so the Ikarians, in order to prevent Nas from becoming a pirate den, dropped rocks and tree trunks and blocked the entrance of the port. Now, the port was also the outlet of the river to the sea, so as the little bay was closing, the river flooded the area during the winter. It was probably during a tremendous flash flood that the waters knocked down the southern (internal) corner of the pier. The river must have swept across the platform and shaken the temple from the foundations. Oral tradition preserved the memory of such violent floods which occurred after the people of Raches deforested the slopes of the gorge to make charcoal in the 19th century.
The end of the temple
The same oral tradition, however, said that despite the floods, the temple was in good condition (“with columns, statues and walls over a man’s height”) until the 1840s. German archaeologist Ludwig Ross who was investigating antiquities in the Aegean, visited Ikaria in 1842. He had read the ancient authors and he was hoping to find a temple. There was none on the southern side, so he decided to travel to the northern part. But a meltemi gale prevented him from making the round of the island by boat. He was advised to cross the mountain Atheras on foot, but again he could not find pack animals. What bad luck!
If Ross had been to Mesariá or Raches, he would surely have learned about the temple of Nas. He would have visited the site and given us a full and accurate description. Ross’s presence would perhaps have even managed to prevent the damage done to the temple only a few years after his visit. The villagers of Raches, while building the church of Christ, facing a lack of lime and probably encouraged by ignorant, fanatic clergymen, demolished the temple. They got what marble parts they needed for the church and melted the rest in a limekiln. The worst loss was the statues. Later settlers from Asia Minor were shocked to hear about the incident. They asked the locals why they hadn’t at least spared the statues. The locals replied that the leaders of the destruction were saying: «You do not see how they look at you? On whichever side you go, they look at you. They are demons!«
The details of the crime were unveiled to Leon Politis a century later. In 1938 in Nas this famous Greek archaeologist found no temple, not even ruins, except the limekiln and piles of burnt chips of marble. Despite his disappointment, however, Politis conducted an exemplary excavation. In a few days he digs, he identifies, he dates and collects findings. And finally confirms that Nas was the site of the temple of the Icarian Artemis mentioned by ancient sources. He was planning to return, so he left the findings of the excavation in Raches. This never happened because of the war that broke out few years later. Some of the findings were stolen by the Italians during the occupation, however, the most important ones were saved and are now exhibited in the museum of Kampos. This beautiful small museum, built with little money from America and lots of personal work by the residents, washed perhaps part of the shame for demolishing the temple of Nas.
Are there still antiquities?
If there is anything, it will be in the sea. But what shape will it be in? I was a kid in Armenistis in the summer of 1967 when, after a big storm, word spread from nearby Nas that a statue was seen in the bottom of the small bay. An American archaeologist who was on holiday in Raches, was told about the discovery. He was excited and he took up to organize the haul. Eventually the divers hoisted into the boat the headless statue of an Ionian Kore in the typical robe with the beautiful folds. The Kore can be seen now in the Museum of Campos, more or less looking the same as on the day of the haul: hopelessly eroded by the sea and the friction with gravel and sand. Based on this, my father believed that if anything else was found in the bottom of Nas, would be in a similar condition, that is, almost shapeless.
The archaeological importance of Nas
Tourists wonder. An archaeological site without antiquities? Not even a fragment, a column or a column capital? Seen from above the pier of the old harbor is no different from the dry stone walls of the terraces, and the blocks of brown stone on which the temple once stood, look like steps to nowhere –without meaning. There is nothing to see, yet the tourists climb down to the site and most of them return quite satisfied. Why?
It is the landscape. Which, thanks to the timely proclamation of the archaeological zone, remained almost intact, with no buildings, no roads, looking much like it was in ancient times. It is the canyon, wild and precipitous, and the bay, wild too, yet one feels something of the warm welcome the Karians felt thousands of years ago and they chose to settle. The landscape that inspired the Ionians to dedicate to a great goddess who they honored with a temple. The archaeological importance of Nas lies in the morphological characteristics, the very ones the ancients, with their unmistakable judgment, detected and utilized in the best of ways. The magic and the sanctity of the site wasn’t due to the temple. On the contrary, the temple was a subsequence of the magic and the sanctity of the site. Thereat, even though the temple vanished, even though the statues melted, the magic and the sanctity remained. Nas is an «ancient landscape» surviving in our day.
Floods and mountain slides in Ikaria. Was it «an industrial accident»? Do you know what «industry» is located on the mountains of the island? Do you know what «other industry» is located lower in the villages and the mountain industry feeds it with raw material in the summers? I doubt if you do. Due to overexploiment, unexistent maintainance and measures of safety, the «industrial site» collapsed during and as a result of a torrential rainfall that lasted for 28 hours.
(pictures fromsse See more pictures ikariamag.gr through facebook)
Take the link to the related discussion for now
Later in this photo group a friend posted two videos (Folioscopes) by Michel Derosiaux