As I started this article, my intention was to present to the world the aestetic and environmental value of the limestone surfaces, crests and cliffs in a very special part of «Atheras», the ridge which makes the backbone of my island, Ikaria. This part is called «Pounta», a hellenized Italian word used by old seamen to describe a sticking out edge or protrusion of rocks like a promontory into the sea.
But after writing a few words, I changed my mind. I had to change my approach on the subject. You see, the landscape of Pounta is not at all «beautiful» in the common understanding of the word. Nor is the environmental value of this endless succession of barren, fragmented and cragged surfaces an easy thing to explain to a broad public. You see (again), along the irregular leaning pyramids of Pounta there is no water and none but very few weather beaten trees, the vegetation being restricted to thorny spurges of all kinds and sizes growing in the gaps between the limestone slabs.
It’s a nothingness, an emptiness, an inhospitable rocky wilderness.
But on the other hand, it’s one of the most impressive (read, majestic) landscapes I’ve seen in my life.
I’ve read that otherworldly landscapes like this were shaped by the movement of ancient glaciers. I can understand that for mt Olympus, but glaciers in Ikaria?! Glaciers in the Aegean Sea?! Well, if you want my opinion, I prefer this explanation than no explanation at all. After all, we had dwarf mammoths and rhinos 50.000 years ago. Why couldn’t we have had glaciers as well?
Anyway, my point here isn’t hard science. My point is the effect these landscapes can have to the soul of the traveller -in this case, the hiker.
I’ve already written about it when I blogged on a similarly dramatic landscape in another side of the island. It was one of the most destitude and wildest places I know, but – oh my God! – so spectacular! There I experienced strong feelings of anchoritism, like a voice calling me to escape from the worldly turmoil and settle for the rest of my life among dark hanging rocks on one side and the blue immensity on the other.
Now, as I crossed Pounta for the first time (that was in 2006) I experienced a similar, though somehow different feeling. It wasn’t about God; it was about me, as a human being. I felt brave and I felt strong and I felt persistent and decisive. Especially when few years after I tried the crossing again and the weather – as it usually happens up there – switched to gale and blew upon us thick blankets of vapor and dence sheets of fog.
In one word, I felt indomitable. 🐲
I love all the wild untamable landscapes of my island. By challenging my fears and reservations, they have strengthened my character through the years and helped me evolve to a more self-confident and more independent person.
However, in spite of their timeless, unshakeable appearance, limestone crests and cliffs like Pounta are very complicated and extremely fragile landscapes. Human activities of a gigantic industrial scale, such as the rumored installation of 110 mega-size wind turbines, would totally anihilate their actual high quality. An industrial eolian plant on mt Atheras would devastate Pounta. The prodigious ammount of excavations needed to install these monsters will sooner than later turn its proud crests to mere piles of gravel – piles of gravel rolling and dropping on our heads!
But enough with words. Just below you can see a choice of photos from a recent hiking day trip across the limestone crests of Pounta taken by my friends the OPS Ikarians.
I chose them from 1) Flickr, 2) Google, and 3) the photos contained in the Google map of the hike. If you like this visual evidence and therefore, you think like me that this very special landscape should stay untouched by capitalist piracy, please consider signing the petition! 📜
Afterword: This was eventually one more article about the landscapes of Ikaria with a stress on the mountainous nature of the island. I wonder when I will post another one. I do hope that I’ll do that soon, though. All I know right now is that the land is closing in for winter and everybody is picking olives …
Eleni Ik ❤
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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
Στην Ικαρία κάποιοι άγνωστοι έχουν σημαδέψει με όμορφους σωρούς από πέτρες ολόκληρο το μήκος της διαδρομής μέσα στο ΠΕΠ «Natura2000» (Φαράγγι Χάλαρης και παρακείμενες περιοχές) από τον Να στη βόρεια ακτή μέχρι το οροπέδιο «Εριφή» και μετά διασχίζοντας το όρος Αθέρας μέχρι τον ορμίσκο «Ελιάς Κάμπος» στη νότια ακτή του νησιού σε μια διαδρομή που λέμε «ΜΟΝΟΠΑΤΙ ΤΩΝ ΔΥΟ ΦΑΡΑΓΓΙΩΝ».
Καθένας από αυτούς τους «κούκους» αποτελείται από αρκετές καλοδιαλεγμένες τετράγωνες πέτρες που έχουν τοποθετηθεί με προσοχή η μία πάνω στην άλλη –οι μεγάλες στη βάση και οι μικρότερες πιο πάνω- έτσι ώστε σχηματίζουν κώνους ή πυραμίδες. Μεταξύ τους οι κούκοι βρίσκονται σε απόσταση 50-100 μέτρων περίπου. Επομένως, σε μια διαδρομή τουλάχιστον 40 χμ., αυτές οι περίπλοκες κατασκευές, πολλές από τις οποίες είναι αληθινές καλλιτεχνικές δημιουργίες, πρέπει να είναι πάνω από 300 !!!
Όσο για το χρόνο που αφιερώθηκε, αν υπολογίσουμε ότι ένας ειδικός στο αντικείμενο που θα είχε δίπλα του κατάλληλες πέτρες, θα χρειαζόταν το λιγότερο 20 λεπτά για να διαλέξει τη θέση και να στήσει έναν κούκο, η εκτίμηση είναι ότι οι άγνωστοι «κουκο-κτίστες» αφιέρωσαν πάρα πολλές μέρες και έκαναν πάρα πολλές διαδρομές με τα πόδια για να ολοκληρώσουν το έργο τους. Παρ’όλα αυτά, ούτε οι αρχές, ούτε άλλος κανείς στα γειτονικά χωριά των Ραχών έχει κάποια πληροφορία για την ταυτότητα των «δραστών» ή για τα κίνητρα της ωραίας δουλειάς τους!!!
Ποιοί να ‘ναι λοιπόν οι άγνωστοι «κουκο-κτίστες»;;;
Ας παίξουμε τους ντετέκτιβ. Οι άγνωστοι «κουκο-κτίστες» μπορεί να είναι:
- «Τρελοί» καλλιτέχνες που είχαν την έμπνευση και την έκαναν πράξη –«έτσι τους άρεσε».
- ψήφοι: 0
- Ελβετοί ορειβάτες που στήνουν κούκους όπου βρεθούν –όπως κάνουν στις Άλπεις.
- ψήφοι: 0
- Κάποιοι καλοί άνθρωποι που προσφέρουν διακριτική βοήθεια στην ασφάλιση των μονοπατιών της Ικαρίας
- ψήφοι: 1
- Σούπερ εναλλακτικός τουρ οπερέιτορ που σημάδεψε και προτείνει αυτή τη διαδρομή στους πελάτες του
- ψήφοι: 1
- «Καλοί γκρούβαλοι» πεζοπόροι που προτείνουν τον Κάμπο της Ελιάς σαν στέκι τους αντί για το Να
- ψήφοι: 0
- Άγνωστη ομάδα που υποστηρίζει τα ΠΕΠ «Natura2000»
- ψήφοι: 3
- Οποιοδήποτε ή κανένα από τα παραπάνω. Είναι απλά άλλο ένα μυστήριο της Ικαρίας.
- ψήφοι: 0
Afto to systima to exw dei kai se alla monopatia. Ypothetw pws tha einai kapoios kwdikas epikoinwnias kapoiwn pou asxolountai me ta monopatia i me tin pezoporia genikotera. Eimai periergi omws na mathw ean matheis kati……
Tuesday March 20, 2007 – 03:16pm (PDT)
το μήνυμα που δίνει με τη μία είναι ΑΛΛΗΛΕΓΥΗ, συντροφιά στους αγριότοπους. Του στυλ : «Πέρασα από εδώ κι ήταν καλά. Πάει κάπου καλά. Συνέχισε. Κουράγιο φίλε». Για μένα, αυτά έχουν κάποια μακρινή σχέση με κάποια καλά grafiti και έξυπνα συνθήματα στους τοίχους των πόλεων. Είναι επικοινωνία και συντροφιά. Γι΄αυτό μερικοί τα φτιάχνουν με τόση τέχνη. Για να δηλώσουν καλύτερα την παρουσία τους.
(Σ’ ευχαριστούμε για το ενδιαφέρον σου, γλυκιά Μελένια)
Thursday March 22, 2007 – 11:35pm (EET)
Θα πω ότι μπορεί κάποιος, ως παγανιστική ένδειξη λατρείας σε κάτι μαγικό που έζησε ή ένοιωσε, να το σημάδεψε, για να το καθιερώσει. Μπορεί να είδε στοιχειά, μπορεί να άκουσε γέλια (και ορκίζομαι ότι κάτι τέτοιο άκουσα κι εγώ στο Να κι ούτε γκρουβαλίνα είμουν τότε ούτε μανιτάρια είχα φάει), μπορεί ακόμη και να σημάδεψε τη στύση του… Κι ήταν ο κώδικας στην αρχή πολύ προσωπικός, αλλά ύστερα από δάνεια από άλλες περιοχές του κόσμου, εξέπεσε να γίνει οροβάτης.
Friday June 8, 2007 – 06:17pm (PDT)
Unknown group of hikers have marked with beautiful cairns the entire length of the trail across the SPA “Natura200” (Chalares river gorge and adjacent territories), from Nas on the northern coast and southwards to the mountain plateau “Erifi” and then over the top and down as far as the cove “Elias Kampos” on the south coast of the island, on the long, rough trail we call «THE TRAIL OF TWO CANYONS». They have also raised cairns along the transikarian trail which runs on the tops of Mt. Atheras.
Each cairn consists of several well-chosen cubic stones standing one on top of the other, from the larger to the smaller like cones or pyramids. The distance between them is from 50 to 100 meters, so you may have a rough estimate of their number. On a trail of at least 40 km, these elaborate constructions, some of which are clearly artistic, must be over 300!!!
As for the time involved, given that an expert in stones and with the material handy would need no less than 20 min. to choose the right spot and build a cairn like this, the estimate is that it took the unknown group several days and many back and forth hikes to accomplish their feat. Yet, neither the authorities nor anybody from the neighboring villages of Rahes have heard a word about this!!!
Who may these people be? Let’s play the detective. Maybe they are:
- “Mad” cairn-maker artists who were inspired and did so because they felt like it.
- votes: 1
- Swiss hikers, specialists in cairn-building, who plant cairns wherever they go.
- votes: 0
- Just some good people who offer discreet help and mark trails in an interesting, difficult place
- votes: 12
- Some ultra-alternative hiking tour agency who have marked this new trail “as their own”.
- votes: 1
- “Good grouvaloi” from Nas who propose “Elias Kampos” as an alternative refuge –by hiking there!
- votes: 0
- Shadowy organization supporting the “Natura2000” SPA project.
- votes: 1
- Any or none of the above. Better not to know. It’s just another mystery of Ikaria.
- votes: 2
(Eleni in Ikaria -January 22, 2006)
I just deleted the blog entry and photo of the ‘earings’
My German friend got worried. He said it was a copyrighted photo and asked me to remove it. Anyway those ‘snowdrop’ earings made my ears chill. So to take their place I’m posting something much warmer : the ikarian orchid! This photo was taken by Christos Malachias, one of the island’s leading photographers. Now let me show you some more of my island’s orchids:
Handle with care…
So the ‘earings’ weren’t his!
It was a sample, not a real gift, eh ?
Oh, those men!..
Αχ αυτοί οι άντρες …
Only now we have our earings we need nobody
Sunday January 22, 2006 – 09:47pm (EET)