Walk Pílio and Skopelos 21 May – 24 June, 2012
On the bus from the airport, the Greek landscape presented itself in all its glory: bursts of yellow broom, lush banks of pink and white oleanders, herons stalking through paddy fields, goats and ponies by the roadside, and cypress trees poking up like marker pins.
This was Pilio: the mythological home of the forest-loving centaurs, and the starting point for the legend of Jason and Argonauts, which had them setting sail in search of the Golden Fleece from Volos. The Fleece made the wearer invincible, and came from Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, to protect two children, Helle and Phrixus, from their evil stepmother.
We crossed three or four rivers, and drove amongst amazing hills including Mount Olympus before arriving at our hotel in Kala Nera, ready to explore this land of legends.
The walks here took us through incredibly scenery: through old olive groves, past fields of wild flowers – even orchids – with butterflies and swallows flitting about, uphill trails with stones worn smooth by generations of mules and feet, markers on trees to guide us.
One memorable walk along the southwest coast of the peninsula afforded beautiful views of the blue gulf, and a chance to explore the pier with tiny fish teeming below. Another day, the rain bucketed down interspersed with thunderclaps which sounded like they were right beside us – but a brave number of our group still took the local bus from the coast up into the hills to the charming old village of Agios Lavrentis.
We piled into the cafe out of the deluge where there was a wood burning stove, drinking tea made from locally grown herbs. Then we walked around the mountain village, which was dripping with huge roses and bougainvillea against gleaming white walls.
We came past beautifully restored traditional houses with their overhanging balconies and small high square windows. A little cat joined us and wanted to be in our photos!
At the top of the village we followed a road lined with stately mature chestnut and pine trees. We followed a jungly track with loads of birds chirping, surrounded by wild flowers of yellow and mauve, crossing streams on stepping stones. We came to a village and had lunch at a tavern with a brilliant view – very misty and atmospheric.
The taverns were another highlight: ouzo, sea bream, fried courgette, tsatsiki, garlic bread, and more! One restaurant had house martins nesting under the eaves and darting in and out.
Things we learned: give walls or stones a kick before sitting down to give snakes a chance to slide away! Carry one and a half litres of water per day. Don’t eat sweets as they attract bees. Wear a hat as caterpillars drop from trees.
Then it was time to depart for Skopelos, with an early start to Volos to catch the ferry in the sunshine. It was a gorgeous trip over, with four hours of calm beautiful seas and wonderful views, basking in the heat with a free bar and sandwiches. We stopped at bustling Skiathos before sailing round to get to Skopelos town.