Two days ago and I’m back in Ikaria and I am taking part in my own cleansing ritual as always early in the morning and after that I put something on and lie on the sand and I am tired and I drowse off and although it was cold earlier, now the sun rises higher and I wake up from the heat, and I think I’m dreaming ‘cause next to my waist, and my left thigh small black creatures emerge from the sand hot babes and they look as if made of rubber and they are six or seven (maybe there were more while I was asleep) and they crawl and paddle towards the sea – because they are newly born baby sea turtles!!!
And I jump on my feet and one more baby crawls out of the sand from the spot where I had laid my head and I’m trying to reach my camera while I’n also trying to keep my pareo around my waist and the camera drops on the sand and I am wasting time to clean it and I think that I’m screaming -from impatience, excitement and joy…
😖 😆 😄
And I open the lid of the lens and I finally take three good shots!!!
Bravo, baby sea-turtles!
Thanks for the short crazy moment
I felt you were my own little brats!!!
Now in case some of you thought I am some kind of animal enchanter ☺ – according to latest records, loggerhead sea turtles are not uncommon in the eastern Aegean islands, including Ikaria, and that in spite the fact that we don’t have many appropriate sandy beaches. Several friends have seen nests and even witnessed mothers laying eggs.
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
______[click for Greek]
In this entry I am going to speak about a friend who lives in Ikaria and I am going to tell you about her work.
Those of you who are interested in our small island world can’t but have noticed a young woman who appears in many pictures from Ikaria on the internet, all of which taken in wild natural settings in both summer and winter. This is Xenia Apostolopoulou and it’s about time for you to know who she is and what she does in our island.
Back in 2008 like many young people at that time, Xenia escaped from the chaotic and depressive urban frame of Athens and she moved to Ikaria. She wanted to try to grow roots in a place that seemed unspoilt, a natural place where she could feel at home. We know it, not all of those young people were lucky. After the last tourist is gone the island folds up to itself in autumn and this can be tough for strangers. But Xenia had three big advantages. Those were her love for nature, her patience against odds and her understanding for people. So she has made it! Now she is a full resident and she is very happy about her new life. Everybody who knows her is very happy about it too!
Ikaria also proved good for Xenia in another way. She has found a job, two jobs to be precise, in the two fields that the island boasts of plentiness: bees and mountains. So our friend became a beekeeper and a mountain tour guide. But if almost anybody can learn and keep bees, so to speak, even on the roof of a house, to get to know the secrets of a rough mountainous island, to walk and learn all the footpaths, to catch the spirit of the land, to know the history, understand the traditions, and above everything, to be able to communicate all this to visitors so that they see and feel a portion of what she sees and feels in Ikaria, is not an easy thing that anybody can do. But Xenia has done it, she does it and she does it well. Here is how everything started.
The most important thing is to knock at the right door. 😉 Weeks only after her arrival Xenia joined the newly-founded Mountain Climbing and Hiking Association of Ikaria and because of her love for nature and her experience in hiking, she was elected among the members of the board. Days later their first hike was to the mountain tops on the route we call ‘ridge walk’ or ‘transikarian trail». See the relevant entry in their blog (in Greek) and look at some pictures of her out there, On these rough but spectacular landscapes Xenia proved no green horn! 🙂
Many group hikes followed like the Mushroom Hunt in Myrsonas river and the first OPSikarian hike on my beloved Trail of the Elves where Xenia not only hiked hard with team spirit but showed a talent in photography of nature as well. Until finally, the following spring we discovered her inclination. During the first group hike of the OPS Ikarians in the upper part of Chalares canyon Xenia jumped and swam in the icy-cold river pools like a water nymph all in smiles!
Exploring is part of the job and Xenia, being a learner of Ikaria, was always a volunteer, like for instance in the quest for the forgotten Trail of the Lighthouse Guards at the island’s western end.
But what am I doing? 😮 This entry is badly planned! It will take me ages and pages to deploy Xenia’s story in the mountains of Ikaria! So let the pictures speak. I found them in this gallery at her profile in Flickr. One sees there nearly 100 photos of this amazing woman in rivers, on mountain tops, inside forests, taken while she is hiking, climbing, marking the paths (sometimes with her baby on her back!), laughing with friends, dancing in activist performances, leading groups, taking part in everything that goes on, sharing, making things better. 😀
As I said, today, after the first years of learning and exploring, Xenia works as a mountain guide. Some of you may have heard of her from the hikes and botanical course she does for the dancing and hiking groups of Ursula every spring and autumn. But most probably you have seen her at work in the photos of the hiking tour with the Czech photographer Zdenek Senkyrik last year. Currently, as her son Orfeas has grown up, she takes up more guided hikes as well as other activities in the nature of Ikaria in partnership with KANGA.
Unfortunately there is no space left for me to post their schedule in this entry so you’d better contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or through facebook and ask her to send you a copy. One thing I will say as a conclusion. At last somebody is doing in Ikaria what I have been asked to do so many times by friends and strangers since I started taking photos and writing about my island. I always felt awkard about denying for one more reason. Though it’s true that the island needs guides, I knew nobody who was reliable and professional enough to recommend. But now there is and it’s a very good one! A burden has gone off my back and I am relieved!
Xenia Apostolopoulou was born in 1975. Her father is Greek and her mother is Austrian. She spent her childhood in Austria, Germany and Greece. She was involved in homeopathy, botanical study and therapy, she worked as receptionist in hotels as well as guide in several Greek islands. She also worked for various NGOs in projects related to animal welfare and helping disabled persons. She has travelled a lot and she has lived in many places of Greece. Once in Ikaria she got various temporary jobs, until she decided to dedicate herself to apiculture and mountain guiding. Founding member and partner of KANGA, besides Greek, she speaks German, English and Spanish.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
everybody is picking olives and this is going to last for many weeks. There isn’t much to say about life here, so let me go on blogging «landscape shots of others». You can read the outlines of this project in the first part of the series. which begins with a memorial gallery of my own Ikarian landscapes from the glorious past. In my previous entry I got carried away into metaphysics and escapist thoughts but I promise this time I will be more sober. No more rocks and cliffs where only eagles, hermits and crazy Ikarians would take their chances. The landscapes I chose today are smooth and reasonable, at least as smooth and reasonable as an island like Ikaria can be… 😉
The choice was made using the oh! so useful Flickr Search «Ikaria + landscape» (refresh if it doesn’t load) sorted by «relevance» giving results oh! so wonderfully
untouristically random and magical almost like a crystal sphere.
Here are the 12 shots I chose: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This was the third dozen of my landscape shots of others chosen among the not so popular and less known pictures. I thought they deserved to be seen. We don’t live on the beach. We live inside of around these landscapes! So this is it. The fourth part which, God will, be uploaded in the New Year, is going be a surprise!i Wait and see…
to be continued…
Eleni Ik ❤
Thursday December 18, 2014