Sfakia report, Nov 3rd – old footpaths to Agios Ioannis Everything you want to ask, read or write about Sfakia, southwest Crete, or Crete island in general.

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Sfakia report, Nov 3rd – old footpaths to Agios Ioannis

by Jean » 04 Nov 2019, 13:27

It was a beautiful day with clear skies and warm sunshine. Oct 3rd is the day they celebrate Agios Georgos o Methistis (‘St. George who gets people drunk’), and in Kalikratis after a church service there is always a big party which involves sampling the year’s new wine as well as general feasting, so it’s nice that they had great weather for it.

After a morning swim, Wiltrud and I decided to drive up to the Agios Ioannis area and walk on some of the remnants of the old footpath to the village that are now marked on the new Anavasi map. I had used this path several times before the bridge was erected over the Aradena gorge in 1986, but much of the footpath/kaldirimi was destroyed by the road which was built to connect Aradena and Agios Ioannis, and the remaining parts have fallen into disrepair in places and were unmarked. David and Pat (who have compiled the walking guides for the hotels here and in Anopoli) said that the footpath is now marked better with cairns, and that there is also a path below Agios Ioannis that allows you to make a circular walk avoiding the dirt car tracks, so we set out to find this.

We left the car a short way down the side road to Selouda and joined the old footpath near a little shrine at the first bend in that road. This part of the path is marked with cairns, but it mainly consists of loose rocks and edging stones. There are good views down over the headland and out to sea, and today Gavdos and Gavdopoula floated on the horizon. The path passes through pine trees which on a hot day would provide very welcome shade. Small purple Colchicum pusillum were scattered along the path (flower photos in a separate posting).

path with edging stones.jpg
Gavdos and Gavdopoulo.jpg

As we were ascending the path towards the main asphalt road, we had a magical experience – suddenly the sky was filled by an enormous number of Griffon vultures (at least 50), which circled and swooped silently over us, some coming very close. We stopped and watched them ride the thermals for nearly a quarter of an hour. They were joined by some noisy ravens who might have been protecting their territory.

vultures 4.jpg
three vultures.jpg

The footpath crosses the road, and the upper section into Agios Ioannis still consists of some recognizable kaldirimi. It drops down to the road just outside the village.

upper footpath.jpg
entering Agios Ioannis.jpg

We started down the path that leads to Selouda and diverted to look inside the two 14th century frescoed churches – Agios Iannis and the Panagia – which lie on opposite sides of the path (the way up to the churches has been newly marked with white paint). We sat outside the smaller church to have our picnic looking out to Gavdos and enjoying the silence.

14th C frescoes.jpg

Not far below the churches on the left side of the footpath, a cairn marks a path leading east (it is not on the map). We followed it through the trees (unfortunately, mostly pines dying from the honey fungus infection), and came across ruins of what some knowledgeable friends (Denis and Mary) told us is an old lime kiln; the large stones all around the foreground are charred black.

lime kiln.jpg

Then we lost the path. Dave and Pat had told us that they went off-piste down the ravine, so we did the same, following an elastic water line for quite a way until we reached an area with many fallen tree trunks, where we veered to the left. We could see the dirt track further below, as well as rows of tires used as bee hive platforms, so we knew where we were.

In this lower area, we were delighted to come across a small area with flowers – some yellow stenbergia, a couple of beautiful mauve-tinged white crocus with long stamens, and patches of what we assume are a type of ranunculus. A little further on we startled a bright green praying mantis. (see next posting)

We came down onto the dirt car track near the ruins of a stone hut and an old sterna (water cistern). This is also near the marked footpath that goes down into the Aradena gorge and up to Livaniana. We walked up another section of footpath to where our car was parked.

old sterna.jpg

Back down in Sfakia, it was still warm but very overcast. The post-sunset colours glowed beneath the heavy clouds. Later there was a rain shower during dinner, and much more rain overnight.

post-sunset and clouds.jpg

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