Parga: olive groves and a change of plan

Last words of yesterday’s blog post:  “Still a lot more to see here before I move on again”.  Wrong again!  But more of that later.

The weather wasn’t brilliant again on Thursday but it certainly started out better than yesterday with good blue sky.  I had been recommended to visit the River Acheron, the fabled River Styx and had read up a bit about it.  I thought I would go by boat rather than bus and remembered that the posters on the harbourside said it left at 10.00.  But not today.  It seems it’s too early in the season and the boat isn’t running yet.  I then toyed with the idea of going back up to Ali Pasha’s castle on the mountain top.  However by the time I had finished breakfast, sorting myself out for the day and ambling down to the harbour it was clear that cloud had descended from the mountains, the tops of which were all obscured.

So, thinking on my feet, instant decision, I would walk over to the next bay south, apparently an attractive walk over the intervening ridge and through olive groves.  Very interesting walk not least because I got to see something of the olive gathering process in action.

I noted yesterday how vast acres of mountainside are draped in black plastic nets tied tightly around the trees so the olives drop from the trees onto them and flow down to lower levels.  But it seems that they are given a helping hand.  Not at all like the advert on the TV for a well known brand of olive oil spread in which geriatric Italians leap high into the air to pluck individual olives from the branches and lissome young maidenss dive headlong to prevent them hitting the ground when they fall.

For a start, around here no olives are picked, they wait for them to drop thereby ensuring maximum ripeness. Indeed the trees are so huge that they couldn’t be picked anyway.  Some trees are about 50 feet tall.  They collect in all sorts of intervening ‘flat spots’ and when it is time to collect them a guy in a red cag with hood up crawls underneath the nets on all fours and lifts them up so the olives flow even lower down.  Not a job for claustrophobes, the nets are very extensive and the way out could be very difficult to find if you get disoriented.  Note: the red cag may be optional rather than a uniform but it aided photogenicity (in other words the guy could be seen in red rather than camouflage colours). The large pools of olives are then scooped up into sacks for transport by pickup truck to the nearby industrial-scale olive press.

When there are no olives to drop from the trees the nets are carefully rolled up and tied, presumably so they don’t collect  extraneous material and therefore don’t need so much clearing of rubbish.

Olives on the tree

Guy in red cag crawling up the mountainside under the plastic netting, sacks of collected olives in the foreground

Olives collecting at the lowest level of the netting

Netting stretched taut over the path to avoid avoid waste

Netting furled up when not collecting fruit, in this case because trees have been cut back to reinvigorate growth

Not all the trees are massive olives.  In some of the groves, though none that I walked through today there are lemons as noted yesterday. But there are also some very long established plane trees.

Very venerable plane tree: more than 10 feet in diameter with a hollow inside the size of a bell tent

On the way back from the beach to which I walked, and there was no point in lingering under grey skies, it started to rain as I reached the highest part of the walk.  Then it started to thunder and the rain became extremely heavy again.  However, by divine providence, just as it started to become uncomfortably heavy, I reached a small, very simple church which not only had a tiny porch but was also open.  So I sat on a chair on the doorstep and read a book on my Kindle until it eased off and I could resume the onward ramble in comfort.  Now how good is that!!

When I got back to the hotel I cleaned up a bit and, as the sun was now shining and it was very pleasantly warm, I walked back up to the castle at the edge of town. Ambled up to the high point of the castle camera in hand and ….

Looking down across the main Parga bay from the castle

Remains of Ali Pasha’s domed bath-house at the top of the castle.

Basking in sunshine at the top of the castle but storm clouds looming large

…. that’s where my plans changed dramatically.  From the top of the castle, with views over to Paxos, I phoned the friends who I was planning to visit there en route south from Corfu on 2 June.  Problem!! They were leaving to fly back to Wales on 1 June.

Always one to thrive on a challenge, I went straight back to the hotel, found out the times of buses to Igoumenitsa from where I could get a ferry to Paxos, found out the time of the ferry, re-arranged my plans to stay in the Parga hotel, re-arranged my arrival date on Corfu, and phoned back to Paxos with an ETA.

I leave unfeasibly early Friday morning and arrive on Paxos early afternoon.  God willing.  Will then head for Corfu a couple of days later than planned

The friends on Paxos do not have a computer on the island so no WiFi connexion.  Therefore I will need to suss out local tavernas with WiFi and so the blog posts and communication with family and friends may not be so regular.

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One Response to Parga: olive groves and a change of plan

  1. angechris says:

    Great photos Barry, love the stormy skies photo!

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