Ambles in the Cyclades
13th & 14th May May 2011
We thought we had left the boots and walking poles brigade behind after three days walking in the Cinque Terre, but the 9:30am first bus out of Hora was packed, with standing room only, with boots and walking poles and people of different nationalities — Brits, Germans, French and a few Aussies — all ready to tackle the many walks on offer on the island. The warm Aegean zephyr, which was a bit warmer but no less persistent than the Wellington winds, meant we would do a lowland route on our first day. We were to explore one of the many donkey trails now overgrown with the demise of the donkey to more modern transportation. With no DOC workers or locals to clear the trails and limited track markings, it wasn't always clear going.
We had purchased a German guidebook, and, while the English translation left a bit to be desired at times, it gave a good detailed description of the route. It was a 9.5 km medium difficult round trip according to the guide book, although several times we had to go back and re-check the route instructions. Back at Chalki, the other walkers doing the same walk as us had taken to the road, evidently without our bush bashing skills. It was a pleasant walk though; we started at Chalki and headed up to Moni returning on the other side of the valley back to Chalki. On the way there were many churches with frescos, some dating back to the 4th century. During the day, the ever looming Mt Zeus beckoned us upwards.
So the next day, with the zephyr considerably softer, we decided that the ascent of Mt Zeus, the highest mountain in the Cyclades with a 600 metre ascent was the challenge of the day. We caught the bus to Filoti and got off at the church of Agia Irini. Up the road to the end and a shaded area with a spring and time to refill our water bottles with fresh water. We walked up the track. It was a steep climb for an hour up to Zeus’ cave, a rather, dark and cavernous place which we explored with our head lamps. It is said that the God Zeus spent his early childhood there, but without a torch, the young God Zeus must have had an inhospitable childhood. We climbed higher, veering to the left of the scree, and then another steep climb, but a magnificent view compensated for the strenuous ascent. In the distance we could see the mountain village of Apiranthos. As the track climbed ever upward, cairns littered the direction of travel. Over the brow, we could see several figures making their way up the well-trodden path, which started 200 metres higher than ours and the route of our return. We continued to where a concrete cairn marked the summit of (Zas) Zeus, at 1004 metres the highest in the Cyclades. The views from the top were spectacular. One could see 360 degrees around the island and pick up the villages and different trails on the island. From the top one could also see other islands, the long shape of Amorgos, another island with plenty of tramping possibilities and in the distance the outline of Santorini whose volcano blew its top 3000 years ago. We had lunch on the summit for an hour soaking up the scenery and the spectacular views. Our return trip took the same path for 200 metres and then swung to the right towards the Bay of Apollonas following marker 2. Goats with bells grazed the lower slopes; colourful wild flowers adorned the fields. We came to a well and the track veered to the right and ended up at the chapel of Agice Maria. We continued on the zigzag road cutting off the zags before hitting a track back to Filoti. So it had been a great couple of days walking on Naxos before heading to the Lycian Way in southern Turkey.
- Party members
- Peter Smith (scribe) & Trish Gardiner-Smith.