Greece 2011: from Rhodes to Kalymnos … to the top of the world and a couple of hours at The Palace

Long time since the last blog.  I hope that no-one was getting withdrawal symptoms, though the length of this one will doubtless make up for it.  Either that or serve as aversion therapy.

The problem is that broadband hasn’t reached Emborios at the northern tip of Kalymnos and it is not practical to use the dial-up connection in the restaurant.  So I have taken the bus to the main town, Pothia, at the other end of the island partly to use the internet and partly on a quest for nutbars, there being none in the Mini Market in Emborios.  Quiet backwaters have their drawbacks.  Now I’m sitting in the Olympic Hotel on the harbourside, sipping frappé and luxuriating in internet connection.

So this is catch-up.

Thursday  morning I woke at 07.00 having set my alarm clock wrongly but still in good time to pack things away, have breakfast and check-out (€50) before walking to Colonna Harbour to catch the Dodecanese Pride at 08.30 for the 3½ hour trip to Kalymnos (€38).  In fact I had half an hour to spare so after dumping my Big Bag in the right place on the ferry I walked back to the Old Town to take a few photos in the early morning light and to get a bottle of water – it was very hot and I was very thirsty.  I should have guzzled more juice and coffee in the hotel.

St Paul's Gate ... though I doubt it was here when he was on Kos

One of the carvings set into one of the towers of the old walls

As is the way with Dodecanese Seaways, the Pride left dead on time.  After Enfys was ill one year from travelling inside on the Dodecanese Seaways high-speed cats we always sat outside at the back.  I managed to find a seat outside again even though I was late arriving back from my amble and as usual it was very pleasant.  The wind made the sun bearable until we reached Kos and then fearing that with a combination of wind and sun I was beginning to burn by the end of the morning I went and sat in the air-conditioned inside of the ferry, put my Greek Vodaphone SIM card into the mobile phone, read a bit of the Hemlock Cup on the Kindle ….. and then we were in Kalymnos harbour.  It’s a very short crossing from Kos to Kalymnos on the high-speed cats.  One hour to Symi from Rhodes, 2 hours to Kos and ½ an hour to Kalymnos.  We arrived dead-on time, 12.00

On the way out of the harbour, trundling my Big Bag, I called in the Information Office to see if they had a bus timetable.  They had and it was really bad news.  Only two buses a day from Pothia to Emborios and back, leaving Pothia at 09.00 and 17.00.  It meant I had 5 hours to kill before the bus but it also meant that my options would be severely limited once in Emborios.

I thought I had been hanging around airports and the like for long enough so I took a taxi to Emborios, another €25 into the Greek Economy, but it got me to Emborios before 13.00, an extra half-day to do something worthwhile.

I unpacked my stuff and then went for a walk up to the Kastri, an ancient fortification built into the cliffs high above the village.   As always very pleasant in the afternoon sun and very nostalgic. Had a not-unexpected attack of Repetitive Photo Syndrome.

The remains of the Kastri looking down the channel between Kalymnos and Telendos Island (from a toe-hold on the cliff behind)

I came back down and went for a swim.  Fabulous!!!!  One of the major joys of Emborios is that the beach is only 100 metres away.  The sea is very clear and the beach is small pebbles with good quality sunbeds to dry out on afterwards.  Very much enjoyed it.

Also enjoyed a sit in the garden f the restaurant with a late afternoon drink. The garden is a remarkable place, and oasis in the barren heat.

The late-afternoon sun picks out one tiny corner of the garden

Friday and I had sorted yogurt and fruit to have for breakfast so had that with orange juice.  Couldn’t face instant coffee so I went without my caffeine injection.

A book on walking on Kalymnos which I bought before I left home listed two walks to the top of the 700 metre-high Oros Profitis Ilias, the path I did last year and a steeper one.  I decided to tackle the steeper one with a view to revisiting it to include in the walks guide I have been researching for so long. The bus timetable is extremely restrictive but I reckoned I could take the 09.50 from Emborios and get off in Hora, climb the mountain and get back down in time to add on one of a number of variants, including possibly going down into the Vathy Valley on the other side of the ridge and back to Pothia via the Italian Path.

I had seriously underestimated how much fitness I had lost while back home and how much I was not acclimatised to the heat any more.  Temperatures were in any case about 10 degrees hotter than they were on Amorgos where I had last been walking.  I seriously considered committing a  cardinal sin in my walking philosophy and stopping for a rest on the way up the mountain.  I have long been a pain when walking with others in insisting that you shouldn’t stop at all on the way up because lactic acid forms in the muscles and only makes it more difficult.  The preferred strategy is to set a pace that you can maintain all the way to the top.  For the first time that I can remember I seriously wondered if I could make it to the top in one go, my leg muscles were getting to the point of refusing to go any further.  The path was certainly steeper than the other one and maybe I set too ambitious a pace, but I reckon that the nub of the matter was that I had lost fitness.

A tiny church built into the rock, which I hadn’t spotted last time I climbed the mountain, saved my pride as I felt obliged to go and look at it which gave my legs a rest from the inexorably upward path as the short section of path to the entrance was level. After the short break from climbing but not from walking I managed to make the top without a stop.  Once there I had a good break to eat my banana and remnant of nut bar and take advantage of the photo opportunities being on the top of the highest peak on the island.  Amazingly peaceful places mountain tops.

Approaching the summit of the mountain, topped by a monastery

The main courtyard with a well ... which still has water in it.

View down the Vathy Valley to the fjord outlet to the sea.

Orange groves give-way to a more productive crop - photo-voltaic panels

I reckoned it would be foolish to try to drop down to the valley floor on the other side and then climb back over the Italian path to Pothia as that was a taxing walk in itself and my legs were not giving me good vibes.  So, to use a cliché, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and I dropped back down to Hora via the less steep path, the thinking being that I could write this up as a circular route.

Once down at Hora I had 2 hours to kill before the bus back to Emborios so I suppose rather foolishly, somewhat refreshed and caffeined-up by a frappé, but really out of bravura, I decided to climb up to the Castle which towers above the old village on a massive crag.  There is almost as much climbing to do inside the castle walls as to get up to the entrance and the top is well out of sight of the entrance gates.  I didn’t know what time the gates were locked so not wanting to get trapped inside I made my way back down in plenty of time to have a cold orange juice and catch the bus.

The castle perched at the edge of the crag, just visible from the bottom of the gorge

Approaching the walls, typical Crusader architecture

Saturday and I thought I should have a less taxing day in view of how tired my legs had been climbing Oros Profitis Ilias and then up to the Kastro in Hora.

As is ever the case, it didn’t quite work out like that.

I decided to walk along the road for about half an hour and then head up a hairpin road up the flank of the ridge to take photos at one of the spectacular climbing crags, ‘The Palace’.  Taking photos would be less tiring than walking steep mountain paths.

It's not hedgehogs which get run over on the roads here!

I had been there before when Enfys and I stayed a number of years ago and amazingly I remembered the way.  To get in the right positions to set up the photos properly involved basic rock climbing, for which I was very glad of the ‘Spider Rubber’ soles of the Teva sandals, the same rubber as on rock boots.  After an hour of perching on toe holds in crazy positions I had exhausted the photogenic potential and myself so decided on the second part of the plan, to continue to the top of the road and then follow a path along the ridge behind Emborios shown on the map but seeming to go nowhere.

View from The Palace, one of the iconic views on Kalymnos

..... and yet another view

Rich colouring on the walls of the cliffs and the caves

I got to the top of the col in good time but in need of some shade for a short break to eat my banana and peanut brittle (no nut bars on sale in the Mini Market in Emborios).  Unfortunately the newly built chapel at the top is surrounded by walls topped by steel fencing which would not have looked out of place on a moderately high-security prison, so no possibility of getting any shade.

Descending back to the col with its high-security monastery

I soon found the path which was surprisingly well trodden considering that it didn’t go anywhere.  I followed it diverting to take in the tops of 3 of the peaks along its length and finally reaching the top of the crag looking straight down along the main street in Emborios.  I think the path is there because in times-past it linked ancient settlements along the ridge top, now the spectacular views of both East and West sides of the island make it worthwhile with the added benefit of approaching the northern tip of Kalymnos and so looking towards the island of Leros a short distance to the North as well.

View of the channel between Kalymnos and Telendos Island from the top of the mountain

Looking straight down the main street of Emborios

I'm afraid that I disturbed this 4 inch-long creature when I opened a mountain gate

But an easy day it was not!  Altogether I walked 21 kilometres compared with 14 on Friday.  Admittedly I only climbed to 440 metres compared with 700 but I started at sea level rather than 100 metres.

Whatever the rationalisation the effect was that when I got out of the sea after an amazingly refreshing swim back in Emborios, I go worse cramp than I have ever had and it took ages for it to clear. It took me 10 minutes to be able to bend my legs to get my sandals on!!!  Very definitely need an easier day on Sunday.

Sunday and I did indeed have an easier day.  After a lazy first part of the morning loading photos from the camera onto the computer I ambled out for a leisurely walk around the headland.

Emborios and the mountain behind from the top of the headland

Peaceful around the headland

I went to a beach which is unique as far as I know, the biggest part of it being fenced off as an enclosure for goats.  A small part of it is not fenced and just about big enough for one person/couple/family so I had a lazy swim before walking back to Emborios and having another lazy swim on the main beach.

Tiny bit of beach not fenced in for the goats

Not a very exciting day but more relaxing than the previous two..

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3 Responses to Greece 2011: from Rhodes to Kalymnos … to the top of the world and a couple of hours at The Palace

  1. dai hankey says:

    Some great shots at Kalymnos Pops. Looks pretty incredible there!

    Missing ya.

    See you soon.

  2. carol Askham says:

    How delighful to see ramblings on and about Kalymnos. As a visitor (nearly native!!!) for the past 25 years I have only just started to view it from above ground level and was very interested in your descriptions. Have you any details on the walks like the other Islands that you have covered.
    I am going back next wek and hope to complete some recci’s started last year but have bits missing as well you know some of the paths are a little obscure!!!!!!

    If anyone is interested in doing any walks who may be coming to Kalymnos in the next few months please email with details of visit. Many thanks


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