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
WTF is this word? 😵 ❓ ❓
According to YourDictionary: Oasification
«The process of restoring water, soil, and plant life to an environment that has been degraded by soil erosion.»
According to the Wikipedia: Oasification
«In hydrology, oasification is the antonym to desertification by soil erosion. This technique has limited application and is normally considered for much smaller areas than those threatened by desertification.»
«To help the oasification process, engineers aim to develop a thriving dense woody plant cover to redress the hydrological, edaphic and botanical degradation affecting a slope.»
According to writer F. R. Chateaubriand: Oasification
«Forest precedes Man and desert follows him. Thus has ocurred with many civilizations that we know, settled in arid and semiarid territories. However, desertification is not an irreversible and hopeless process. In this new millenium we must be able to find the solutions to the problems that we generate. Against desertification: Oasification!»
According to the declaration of the three Ikarian Associations mentionned
at the end of my previous article «The little house in the desert»
«Besides that, again with our voluntary work, we intend to fence an area of at least 8.000 square meters around the shelter in order to protect it from the goats. This way, we will allow at least a small part of the overgrazed, eroded and almost desertified mountain plateau to grow green again like it was in the past.»
«Among the benefits resulting from this [project will be] the awakening of the local community concerning the desertification of the mountain volume of Ikaria through creating a visitable framed green space where endemic species will grow. This way, it will be proven in practice that this phenomenon and its disastrous effects (flashfloods, landslides, impoverishment of the soil) is not a natural, inevitable process but something that started for specific reasons [only] few decades ago and therefore, there is a way to stop it.»
«But most of all, what we want to do is to show with a project of our own -no matter its smallness- the great love we feel for our mountain, its freedom and its wild beauty.»
Well, they’ve done it!!!! Against all odds (bureaucracy, indifference, fatalism, pessimism and hostile goat barons) on Sunday, September 24, more than 40 young local people gathered on the mountain and after several hours of hard work, they secured an area of 8.000 square meters around the old mountain shelter on Ammoudia plateau with a long line of welded wire mesh panels.
They ‘ve done it! Look at them at work! You can tell from the pictures which are all first quality, the feelings of joy and fulfillment shared by the participants. I am so glad I’ve helped in my own small way to this project. If things go well -and I have every reason to thnk they will- in less than 3 years, instead of that depressive, although sometimes also impressive, goat desert, we will have an oasis!
Notice: The gallery above is made up of 56 pictures I discovered in three posts at the OPS Ikarias Google+ page. They redirected me to three of their facebook posts: the first one, containing 12 pictures taken by my friend Angelos, the second and the third one containing a total of 44 pictures, taken by our friends from Italy, Paola and Ivo, founders of the association «Η ‘δική μας’ Ικαρία».
All pictures © OPSIkarias & DikimasIkaria 2017
For the title of this article I am gratedul to
who looked up the meaning of the term «oasification» for me and
suggested that it would be more appropriate to describe the project
of fencing instead of the akward «fencing against desertification»
which wouldn’t make much sense to a reader who is not familiar
with our strange island and its strange problems.
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.
You know that my blog likes interviews and this one… well, it’s a good one because it’s like a documentary! I mean that you can just stare at the photos (loads of them) streaming over the questions and answers, only that I thought that the context was interesting too, so I got into the trouble to translate the whole thing in English and then I sent it over to be added as subtitles to the video on youtube. Which video is an illustrated version of an interview to my good Ikarian friend, Angelos K., founding member and representative of the Mountain Climbing and Hiking Association of Ikaria (OPS Ikarias), by Babis Kokosis for «The Hiking Trails of Greece» a regular radio show on «The Voice of Greece», the international Greek state Radio (ERA 5). Unlike what you might have expected, the pictures do not show landscapes and trails and maps and stuff like that but people!
As the introduction goes:
«The photos showing in this video made by OPS Ikarias were taken along our various hiking trips and many other activities in the nature of Ikaria from 2008 to 2016. They are a tribute to our older and newer friends and members of the Club who walk and enjoy the island’s fascinating landscapes and take part in the club’s projects and activities. They are our inspiration and our one and only support. This video is dedicated to them!»
. ***Find button to turn on "subtitles". Seen best in full screen mode! .
You can read my translation of Angelos’s radio interview by opening this link to OPS Ikarias Google docs. The interviewer introduces the show like this:
«Today we will visit Ikaria, an island that has managed, in spite of the growing tourist development, to maintain a big part of its cultural traditions.
The natural particularities of Ikaria are many. They are shaped by the geographical features and the position of the island in the Aegean Sea. Ikaria consists of a long mountainous mass stretching from east to west forming a ridge with heights over 1000 m. and separating the island in two sides: the northern side with mild slopes, forestlands and abundant waters, and the southern side with stony grounds and steep slopes. Therefore, it displays an impressive variety of landscapes and natural sights which the visitor can discover by following its numerous trails while getting in touch with its history and the legendary particular way of life of its inhabitants.
Let’s find out a bit more about the hiking routes of the island as well as what a hiker may encounter in them through our talk with Mr. Angelos Kalokairinos, representative of the local Hiking Club.»
And if you are a Greek reader you can check out the original transcript in this link.
The video, seen best in full screen mode, it goes without saying, includes a selection of pictures from the Flickr Album: «Mountain Climbing and Hiking Club of Ikaria». I have exercised my influence 🙂 and gotten a specially coded link so you can see all the pictures -not only the public ones. So take advantage of this privilege and enjoy an amazing slideshow! But if you just like a quick view, here is the album straight out of Flickr:
Ikaria, May 14 2016 [BIG DAY!]
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
The future belongs to the young. And the young -a special kind of young- have always prefered Ikaria for their holidays in July and August. Not only we respect that but it’s actually an honor. The following article which is also going to be distributed in print appeared in the website of the local municipal party ASPI in June 2015. In this manual-like style of document ASPI makes a list of the basic facts a young visitor should know about our strange island. I was very happy about this good piece of straightforwardness, friendliness and understanding. As there are a lot of foreign young people who come to the island in high summer and knowning from experience that they also need a warm welcome and a helping hand, I felt I had to translate it in English. I am letting you read my translation. No embellishments! Facts and instructions! Big times!!! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
You can see it from the ferry, Ikaria is one long and high mountain without plains and many beaches, while most of the villages are hidden in its slopes. By nature it’s not suitable for mass tourism. Its mountainous landscape does not offer the comfort and convenient pleasure seeked by the average consumer/tourist. Nonetheless, since the island was known as a tourist destination, the followning paradox occurs: Ikaria’s difference (not only in the landscape but in the way of life and the way of thinking of the inhabitants) attracts many people, mostly young, who want to see «what goes on here» – to catch a glimpse and understand a bit of this difference. But because they also want to be together with other young people who are after the same thing, they all arrive in August. As a result, during those few weeks different Ikaria becomes «alternative Ikaria» – a chaotic (alternatively massive) «anti-Mykonos».»
«We would like holidays in Ikaria to be a break from the massive consumer way of life.»
«It’s a shame, because inspite of our many defects and faults, we believe that our difference can tell (maybe teach too) one or two things to the people of the city. This, however, is very difficult to happen with so many people around, that is, when the city moves to the island.
It’s a shame also because we are used to being few. Although we love to have a lot of visitors, it is difficult for us to get along with the hustle and bustle, evenmore to run matters in the way we should.
This text is not a tourist guide.
It was written by a group of friends, members of the Independent League of Citizens of Ikaria (*) to inform the young people who visit our island in August about our problems and our lacks and help them get round pitfalls. Our motive is love for our island. Our purpose is to be together and have a good time. Because we love the crazy Ikarian August as much as you do.»
B u s e s : Unlike other islands in Ikaria there is no organised transport network with a central station, billboards with timetables etc. There are buses, of course, and they are more frequent in August, most times even servicing the two ports of the island, combining with the arrival and departure of ferries. Their timetables are usually pinned at central shops of towns and villages where unfortunately they soon disappear under several layers of irrelevent posters and ads. So we end up getting information from mouth to ear or by asking the drivers. T a x i s : there are many taxis with helpful drivers and a rather cheap fare given the state of the roads and the distances. However, they are difficult to find in August. H i t c h h i k i n g : When they have spare seats local cars (plates with AT, MOA or MOB) often stop and take hitchhikers. Yet, nothing is for free in life. The «fare» is communication with the driver and the passengers. Don’t keep your mouth shut but talk. Speak about your impressions, ask questions about the island. W a l k i n g : Nobody in Ikaria will think that you are pauper or tramp because you go on foot. Everything is a road and no road in Ikaria is boring.
«R o o m s : they are countless, found even in the most remote villages, some of which in amazing natural settings and with low prices even in August. O u t d o o r s : Three are the basic facts, 1st) Ikaria is ideal and very inspiring for camping, 2nd) camping is forbidden on the island -everywhere!, and 3rd) there is no organised camping site -nowhere! Not only to avoid eventual protests and raids but also because we think it is best, if you stay outdoors we suggest you are thrifty, light and flexible (and more «lawful»), by rejecting big «mobile summer villa» tents. An open awning for shade in the day and for protection from moisture at night is enough. Choose a spot as far as possible from the beach which should be kept free for everybody. If you camp on the mountains and hills, sooner or later you will be spotted and asked to leave by the locals or the fire service. As far as private land is concerned, there may be people who won’t object if you camp in their properties for a few days. As long, of course, as you find them and ask their permission. Whatever you do, wherever you go, even in the remotest wilderness, don’t behave as if you were the owner. It’s wrong.»
«Let’s face it, Ikaria may have an enviable natural environment, but unfortunately we are not famous for our cleanliness. As if the «resident trash» haunting the streets (junk metal, rubble piles, broken cars) wasn’t enough, the 3-4 weeks of the short tourist season create a garbadge bomb! There are not enough bins, not enough trucks, not enough space in the landfills, and finally not enough cleaning workers. Recently we are doing our best to handle the situation. But we also need your help.»
«The famous village festivals («panigiris») of the island are neither «shops» nor «free parties». It’s an institution (the word is not extravagant) serving multiple, religious, social and economic, needs of the small communities of every village. It is true that in the last years panigiris have been massified and commercialized (with serious impact on the environment due to over-consumption of meat and over-production of trash), nonetheless they still keep their basic characteristic as a communal egalitarian feast for everybody regardless of gender, age, origin, dress code or ideological profile. The secret is that all the organizers are volunteers. Therefore, if you have complaints, don’t behave like «dissatisfied costumers». Talk to the people of the village. They want to talk about it too. A panigiri is no one-night clubbing. Its a reunion and a celebration.»
«It is to wonder how roads were built through those mountains and over those cliffs. And yet, the road network of Ikaria is huge and immeasurably complicated. On the other hand, most of these roads are not in a good condition. Even the main roadway (Agios Kirikos – Evdilos – Rahes – Karkinagri) is messed up in many parts with reverse slopes, sudden narrow curves, obstacles, holes, bumps etc. Drive at speeds not exceeding 30-40 km/h, wear seat belts, put on bike helmets. Don’t drive, if you drink a lot in a panigiri. Find a spot, lie down and sleep you are sober.»
«Often when the meltemi wind blows, big waves beat the most known beaches of the northern side of the island (Kiparissi, Kampos, Messakti, Livadi, Nas). We like to watch them and to swim against their strength, but unfortunately there have been many drownings too. Besides the rules of safe swimming, when you play in the waves you must keep in mind that this activity is actually a sport. Even in the form of simple game body-surfing requires good physical condition and self-restraint. You should also keep in mind that the hardest part is at the end, when the countercurrent which runs under the waves makes it difficult for the swimmer to get back to land. You shouldn’t forget yourself in the pleasure of the game. You must have kept forces to fight the countercurrent. Finally, if you are tired of this sport, of course there are several hospitable, calm beaches in the southern side of the island, that’s something to remember too.»
«You may have heard about it, among the islands of the Aegean sea Ikaria is considered a top mountain climbing and hiking destination. Indeed its hiking trail network is boundless. It was created by volunteers with no help from the government in the course of many years. A d v i c e : a) When it’s windy in the summer, it hardly ever rains, however the mountain-tops are often covered with thick fog. b) The canyon of the river Chalares (what most people know as «the river of Nas») has acquired a fair reputation regardless of the fact that there is too little water in the river in August. The canyon itself is quite impressive, however hiking can be hard because the trail has been destroyed in several parts by floods and overgrazing goats. c) A successful hiking day in Ikaria is a day that has started early in the morning. The island has a very high relief and the ground is rocky. As a result, distances come up longer than their actual length shown on the map.»
«Small-scale agriculture is a way of life in Ikaria. We search, find and buy wine, moonshine, cheese, fruit, vegetables, dried herbs and everything that comes from the island. It’s good quality and it’s good for our economy.»
«We would like holidays in Ikaria to be for you a break from the massive consumer way of life. We know, it’s odd to ask for such a thing in August which is the most wholesale and haphazard month of the year as far as holidays are concerned. But it’s exactly at that month that we think it’s worth asking. Look at the works of out ancestors on the mountains, the houses in the rocks, the terraces over cliffs. It’s in our nature to ask for the impossible. We don’t know what results we attain, we do know however that a beautiful story is being written, little by little, slowly, piece by piece, every year. It’s the fairy-tale of Ikaria. Catch the spirit and be part of our story.»
Have a good time!
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