6-12 May 2018
The Corfu Trail is a 171km walk from the southern tip of Corfu along the west coast and then east towards the highest mountain Pandokratorar 917m and usually takes 10 days. We decided to walk six days of the trail from Agii Dekka the island's second highest mountain about a third of the way up on the west coast to Pandokratoras with 3000m of ascents and 3000m of descents. We had booked accommodation along the trail.
We caught the last bus on Saturday from Corfu, (they don't run on Sundays) to Kostars Bar Walkers Point at Stavros after an interesting circuituous route around the southern villages.
Day 1. After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh bread we re-traced the 2kms we had walked from the bus stop the previous day and headed to Agii Deka (meaning Ten Saints). We were walking through olive groves where the nets were either rolled up in the necks of the trees or weighted down with stones waiting to be put out to collect next year's harvest. Black rotting olives littered the ground. Small dogs barked as we passed their properties, but the walking stick kept them at bay. We came into Sinarades for a well earned lunch under the shade in the small square. Then onto Pelekas, so a 7hr day with stops. In the early evening we walked up to Kaiser's throne to see where we had walked that day and where we were going tomorrow. The weather had been fine during the day, but the heavens opened up after dinner with thunder and lightning throughout the night.
Day 2. It was clearer in the morning. It was to be our longest day yet, so another good breakfast. From the shoreline we climbed up high to a monastery and then on to the village of Vatos. We had met other walkers doing the route, mostly in a northerly direction like us. There are several route guides - we were using the Gillian Price guide. The most detailed guides were from the organised trips by Aperghi, and that is why you pay the 800 Euros to go on their trips. There were CT markers occasionally along the track, but eyes were peeled on spotting the burnt yellow blotches on walls, trees or stones along the way. We had also downloaded Wikiloc which although it didn't have great map details, had a locator and the route loaded on it, which was a godsend when we deviated from not seeing the yellow markers. We continued on, overlooking the Ropa Valley and then up to Giannis for lunch under the shade of a mulberry tree, but little ripe fruit to supplement lunch. After lunch we followed the Olive Way through to the ancient city of Liapedes by 5pm; it had been a long day and we were exhausted. Time for a shower and to wash clothes.
Day 3. John, an English guy, had dropped his notes on the track so we tried to find his hotel in the morning and return them to him, as he was having a rest day. From the beach it was a difficult footpath heading high and after an hour we reached Lakones with its breathtaking views. In the distance were the remains of the old fort of Angelokastra and so on to the village of Krini to buy water. Most of the water on Corfu is used for showers and washing, mineral content considered too high for consumption, so all water for drinking and cooking is bottled water. Then over a rise and down a spectacular track - the old Kalderimi Track clinging to the cliff face and looking out over Agois Georgious Bay and the Diapontian Islands beyond. Following the track going down a steep bank, it went over a collapsed bank and disappeared. Wikiloc got us back on course. In steep hill country the olive nets are permanently stretched out under the trees, so clambering down netted slippery banks with nothing to hold onto was a challenge. Further down the track was steep and pretty slippery, good Tararua country. We finally slithered our way to the bottom and to Agios Georgious.
Day 4. Started with a sharp steep climb like most other days. The track had a lot of concrete roads which when not wet and slippery with moss, seem to tenderise and blister our feet. Also the pack was a little heavy - perhaps I shouldn't have been carrying my netbook to answer several TTC queries along the way. We climbed to Prinilas and again to Pagi. Passed a rusting torpedo and onto Agios Vasilios to buy food and drink. We arrived just in time to shelter from a half hour downpour. We were having good views of Mt Pandokratoras and across to the Albanian mountains. As we walked, swallows were swooping down as we walked and there were many jays flying from tree to tree. We visited the Monastery of Jesus Christ of Pandokratoras and were given water and turkish delight by the nuns. So on to Rekini by 1pm where we waited till 3pm for a bus down to Roda. There were no villages with accommodation on this part of the trail.
Day 5. We caught the 7am bus back up to Rekini the next morning. The day started with bush tracks, log bridges across streams and swampy tracks. On to Valanio, a small village with nothing much happening at that time of day. A good dirt trail goes through olive groves with wild garlic growing along the wayside to Queens Leap, a massive cliff face below the olive groves. More olive groves and another overgrown track climbing up to Sokraki. Trish walked past a snake on the road a couple of metres away, a horn-nosed viper. They are venomous and very dangerous with a particularly long strike. Advice was viewing at a distance of 10 metres. Many people were in their fields tendering their newly budded grape vines. We passed a Balkan Green lizard crossing the road and often heard lizards crawling through the dried vegetation. We reached Spartillas, again no accommodation so a 400m descent on tar seal and concrete road to Barbati; our feet and leg muscles were taking their toll. We decided to spent two nights in Barbati.
Day 6. Next day with lighter day packs, we caught a taxi up the 400m, 6km road to Spartillas; it was expensive at 30 euros, but the alternative at the start of the day was worse. From Spartillas it was a 250m ascent through a zigzag track to Taxiarches chapel, a derelict chapel with no roof but still fresco covered walls and stunning views across to Albania if not a little hazy. Luckily the weather was a little overcast as we were in open country. Next day it rained and walking over Pandokratoras in a white out would have been a challenge. We continued up through small holly type trees climbing up through terraces but not too hot walking across this karst plateau, Corfu's wildest scenery on the summit of Mt Pandokratoras, meaning the Almighty. We were inundated with flies which followed us as we progressed up the mountain. The actual mountain was over-crowded with multitudes of aerial masts so we didn't actually climb to the top. Then we descended past a shepherd milking his 60-plus goats. Across this section Wikiloc came into its own again as we finally made our way to Old Perithia, a semi ruined Byzantine village, located in this high valley. The village is 30 percent restored with several tavernas. Many tourists come up for day trips so after lunch we tried to hitch and got a lift to Kassiopi and bus back to Barbati and a swim in the sea.
So a great six days tramping on this trail, a lot harder ups and downs than I had expected and certainly the concrete roads played havoc on the feet and legs - it must be the ageing bodies. The weather was kind to us. A great walk with some amazing scenery and what better way to spend each night after a hard day's walking than with half a litre of Retsina or local red wine with some great Corfiot food. PS
- Party members
- Peter Smith (scribe), Trish Gardiner-Smith