A trip to mount Kallifoni

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We spent the night under the starlit sky, with the mountainous mass of Erymanthos towering over us. The silence was broken only by the sound of river Selinoundas flowing below, two or three cars, which crossed the country road in the early morning hours, and the constant ringing of bells, coming from an invisible goat pen. As daylight broke, we heard the goats ascending the green slopes, in the same direction we were to follow shortly afterward. 'Apart from herding, there's not much to do up here”, said the shepherd we met on the way. This might explain how the landscape has escaped the destructive effects of human intervention, which are normally associated with other means of subsistence, such as tourism or agriculture. “I sell the milk to the cheesemaker, 1.10 euros for a kilo. Almost all of the cheese is exported to Germany. Meat is harder to sell. Who can afford organic meat these days?” he adds, eager to keep the conversation going.

These...pastoral scenes did not take place in some remote village on the Pindus mountain range, but within the Achaia prefecture, less than 50 km away from the city of Patras. The area's scarcely populated villages belong to the municipality of Kalavryta and in the winter are stormed by thousands of visitors, drawn mostly by the local ski resort. They have, however, retained their traditional character, since the old stone houses have not been replaced with cheap, modern constructions. The small settlements are surrounded by dense fir and pine forests, which are crossed by the mountain trails leading to the nearby peaks.

We searched for the path to mount Kallifoni near the edge of Ano Vlasia village, built on the mountain's slopes, in the shade of tall firs. “We know nothing of heatwaves here”, we are informed by the residents of the last house before the forest. Yet the sun is merciless on higher grounds, where the trees give way to low vegetation- bright green bushes and innumerable wildflower species. In mid-June, the last patches of snow, small reminders of a long winter, are melting fast. Still, the panoramic view of the surrounding peaks and the little villages between them is a refreshing sight for city eyes worn out by grey walls and traffic jams.

Some consider Kallifoni a part the Erymanthos range, others regard it as a separate mountain. In any case, it does not constitute a popular destination, especially among non-hikers. During the three and a half hours it took us to reach the peak, at an altitude of 1,998 meters, the only by-passer we encountered was a frightened rabbit. On our return, we met a pastoral dog, the lonely guard of yet anoth

er goat herd, who was immediately excited at the sight of humans. At first he seemed unwilling to leave our side, but just when the sound of hooves was beginning to fade, he ran away without looking back, guided by some inner voice of duty.

A branch in the road just outside Ano Vlasia leads to the monastery of St. Nicolas and the forested hill bearing the same name. The wooden signs we found by the country road led us to the waterfalls of St. Taxiarchis. Steps carved in the rock descend to the small stream's bank,

surrounded by perennial maples. We later learned about the unique sight, created as the water disappears into a cave, before it finally meets river Selinoundas. Probably as a result of exhaustion, our exploration ended at the small lake formed by the stream's biggest waterfall, which proved ideal for a refreshing ice-cold dip.

In the winter, when Erymanthos, Chelmos and Kallifoni are once again covered with snow, Kalavryta and its surrounding villages might once again be bustling with activity. Still, the steep peaks, the pristine forests and the region's remote settlements have no need for “tourism infrastructure” or “development”- their natural beauty is more appealing than any man-made “attraction” could ever be.

Author: Christina Sanoudou
photos: Panos Bampaloukas
Source: kathimerini.gr

 

 

 

 

 

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