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
This is Adam Monk. He is a professional photographer from Australia who specializes in wide wild landscapes of the type that Australians call “outback”. Adam who is an artist, calls them “Naked Landscapes”. They are, as he says, «places far from the influence of man«. Last June he visited Greece and took photos of our «outback», our Wild Nature (“Άγρια Φύση”) or “Virginal Nature”. Naked Landscapes, Virginal Nature, one metaphor for another. Metaphors is tricky stuff. To use them one has to know well what he or she is talking about. Undoubtedly Adam does. See here some great photos from Fournoi isles and four well chosen Naked Landscapes from Ikaria. On his permission I have connected them into this entry. I couldn’t also help copying the stories that go with them as well, which he was so generous to share with the viewers.
Last year in June/July i had the opportunity to go to Greece with my girlfriend Electra, who is Greek. Greece is one of the places i’d always wanted to go but had never made it to… it’s a long list! We stayed only 4 weeks, which is not long enough to really explore Greece, but seeing all of it wasn’t the objective, but to experience the life and culture of Greece a little, hear the language and eat the food… and eat more of the food… Greek food is great, usually quite simple, but really good!
One of the places we visited was the Island of Ikaria, not one of the main tourist islands, and right over near the coast of Turkey. Ikaria was quite different to what i expected Greece to look like, and very different to the other Greek Island we visited on that journey, more on the other island later.
I had always thought Greek Islands would be more like Rottnest, the island off the coast of Fremantle, and many of them are, very rocky, dry and windswept with low scrubby vegetation and small white painted houses. In contrast to this Ikaria is green, forested and has beautiful gorges with rivers and waterfalls, and the houses are not painted white!
One thing that was as i expected it to be was the crystal clear water of the Aegean Sea with it’s amazing deep aquamarine blue colour that just invites you to jump in, which i did on many occasions, including just after making this image here, which is the bay of a tiny fishing village at the end of a long rough dusty dirt road (it was a hire car…). I cant remember the name of the place, but when we finally arrived it was around midday and the whole town (all 15 houses) was asleep for the afternoon, so it was quite eerie, like a ghost town, we had the whole place to ourselves. So, we went down to the bay and swam around naked! It was lovely.
The Greek Island of Ikaria is a haven for bushwalkers and nature lovers. Unlike many Greek Islands that tend to be dry and windswept (though still beautiful), Ikaria is thickly forested and covered in gorges, rivers and waterfalls… i’m starting to sound like a travel agent or a travel documentary! Way too formal.
Well, as much as i love beaches, freshwater rivers and waterfalls amongst shady forests are really my favourites, there is something more surreal and almost imaginary about them. Its probably something left over from my childhood when i would ride off on my bicycle into the bush and spend the day wading around in creeks and rivers catching little freshwater crayfish and turtles (then letting them go again), only to turn up at home again hours later wet and smelling of the swamp!
Whatever the reason, for me Ikaria was a paradise of rivers, waterfalls and freshwater crayfish (i tend to eat those now…), with lots of long lovely walking trails through shady forests and rocky gorges, that would take you down to places like this one…
This magical little spot was just a short walk from the room we rented just outside of Nas on the Greek Island of Ikaria. It is a small pool in the Chalares Gorge which cut right through the landscape below the balcony of the room and ended at the beach shown in the previous post. This spot is cool, shady and tranquil, perfect spot to lean on a tree and read a book or just do nothing…
The reason Adam chose Ikaria is obvious. He speaks about it in the descriptions and, most of all, through his photos. The reason now I chose Adam was of a different nature. It had to do with destiny. Only few months after his visit, torrential rainfalls hit the island and violent landslides altered the looks of the sites where he took photos.
This is Trapalou (site of Adam’s 1st photo and story) in October 2010.
This is Nas (site of Adam’s 3rd photo and story) in October and the riverbed of Chalares (site of 2nd and 4th photo and story) in December 2010.
Who can say if it’s better or worse? Who can judge the course of the planets?
Someone would love the new beach (for as long as it stays). Someone else lost an ancestral old house and property. Someone loves the new clean stony bed of the river. Someone else weeps over the loss of the pools, the plane trees and the waterfalls. A romantic is shocked. A stoic is not.
Yet there is a thing we can do. We can eliminate the influence of man in what so ever aggravates the consequences of nature’s changes on man. Only rain can’t break down a mountain. That mountain had been eroded and broken already. Not by mining or excavations but by… goats! Who on earth would believe?
An extravagance for another, first thing I do when I am back in Ikaria will be to bathe in the goat-made new beach and hike in the goat-made new river! I am more than sure they will still be beautiful, though different, Naked Landscapes. And when some day people realize that too many goats is a disaster and get rid of them, the new Naked Landscapes of Ikaria will stop breaking down They will be very green and that day I will call Adam back!
Note: Adam Monk’s photos © Adam Monk, see technical details inside the original entries. Photo of Trapalou and Nas © Christos Malachias. Photo of Chalares riverbed © «angeloska».
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