Kalo mina! A lot of Greeks came down to the south coast for the May 1st holiday, keeping the restaurants busy, and many travelled by ferry or their own small boats further west down the coast. Businesses have hung up flower wreaths for the 1st of May. The Alkion opened its sea-side tables for breakfast, drinks and snacks. There are now some umbrellas and chairs on Vrissi beach.
The morning was sunny and warm, but there was Sahara dust in the air. Wiltrud and I drove up to Askifou to walk up to Tavri and the Niato plateau, hoping for some good views and interesting flowers. We started the hike from above Ammoudari where the E4 footpath crosses the road to the high plateaus. The footpath is messy in places but clearly defined. As you ascend, there are a few windows through the trees where you can catch glimpses down to the green Askifou plain.
The flowers growing up that high (Tavri lies at 1200 metres) are behind their normal blooming times after such a cold winter, with a lot of snow even in March, followed by a dry April. Along the path up we did see the expected assortment of white cyclamen and small purple quadripunctata orchids, plus various small flowers that are hard to identify. Near the top of the path, the peonies were still in tight buds, and we didn’t find the usual variety of small orchids.
The view of the Lefka Ori as you reach the top of the path is always a wonderful sight, even with a hazy sky.
We first took the path to the right which goes up to the little church of Agia Pnevma that sits on the ridge looking down to the Askifou plateau, with the grave of the legendary fighter Stavrianos Polentas (Sisanes) beside it. Surprisingly, we saw a lizard up at that height.
We returned to the slope down to Tavri and were delighted to find one peony bush in bloom (it was sheltered inside another shrub), many rock tulips, and a few snake’s head iris (Hermodactylus tuberosus). There are a large number of daphne bushes in the area, most of them past their best but still giving off a sweet scent. We also spotted a few blue Scilla nana still in bloom, some yellow gagea, an endemic Arum, and endemic yellow Erysimum. [photos in following post]
Sheep are already grazing on the Niato, and we drank in the peaceful atmosphere of this high mountain plateau, which we had to ourselves.
May 2nd was a real contrast in weather conditions. The day started fine and calm, and I went with friends to Loutro for a walk over to Finix. On the way back around the headland the sea started getting very rough, with waves smacking against the coast. As we got back in view of Loutro, we could see that the south-easterly swell was causing havoc in the restaurants – on the far side the waves were smashing over the terraces (someone told us a restaurant had lost 4 tables into the sea); the lower terraces on the near side had to be cleared as the waves were washing over them too.
The ferry ride back was somewhat uncomfortable, with the boat rocking, and there was a fierce wind which got stronger as we approached Sfakia. We found out after landing that we were lucky to get back, because after the Daskalogiannis left Roumeli in the afternoon, all boats were cancelled for the rest of the day. The wind did not die down much until the night.