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