Parga: water and growth

I regret to say that Wednesday arrived grey in Parga.  And before anyone e-mails to crow about it, I already know that the weather at home is sunny and warm. It’s certainly not cool here but the dependably sunny weather hasn’t yet arrived.  I think that is for two reasons.  First is that this Northern Greece and on the West coast which clearly isn’t as blessed with sunshine as the Dodecanese islands in the diagonally opposite corner of the country with which I’m most familiar.  Second is that there is no getting away from the fact that though Parga is on the coast the high mountains are its immediate hinterland and with winds blowing in from the west that creates orographic cloud and rain.

When I was doing a lot of paragliding it was always important to be especially carefully in late spring/early summer because the air was still cold but the sun was gaining in strength with the result that thermals were very ‘punchy’, small and violent.  I guess it’s the same here with the result that when it rains it’s not for long but it’s very heavy and thundery.

The cloud sat brooding on the mountains behind the town all day but the coastal strip cleared and was very pleasant. Me?  Inexorably, unavoidably, I headed for the mountains.  I was on the Ali Pasha trail.  I visited his citadel in Ioannina on Monday, today I visited what is reputed to be his summer palace in the kastro overlooking Parga and then climbed higher to what is known variously as ‘Ali Pasha’s Castle’, Agia Castle or Anthousa Castle.  Whatever it’s called it’s a spectacular location with great views and a good walk.

The walks in Northern Greece are very different from those in the Dodecanese but each place I’ve been they have been very different from each other as well.  Athens …. Meteora …. Metsovo …. Ioannina.  Wednesday was no exception.  New stuff all the time.  This blog is once again mainly visual because that has been the dominant character of the day, a ramble of visual discovery.

The start to the walk along the beach was very grey

… with a distinctly choppy sea

The vegetation around Parga is far more luxuriant than I have seen anywhere else.  In the Dodecanese it is stunted by lack of water.  In the high Pindus mountains growth, although vigorous, is limited by the short growing season and lower temperatures.  Here even the mares tails are luxuriant.  Olive trees are massive and everywhere lemon trees with massive fruit seem to grow wild, all a combination of plentiful rain in the mountains and higher temperatures close to the coast.

On the way back down from the mountain-top Castle-of-Many-Names I was tucking into mulberries from a tree alongside a small church, having been invited to do so by a Greek lady I had met earlier, when I was hailed by an English couple who have bought a house here.  They offered to show me The Waterfall.  On the way up I had seen an area marked ‘Waterfalls’ with a few pretty insignificant and unimpressive examples compared with those at Metsovo. I politely agreed the kind offer.  I wasn’t in any hurry after all.  I’m glad I did.  The way to it was pretty obscure but rounding the last contortion in the path and it was a real ‘Wow!!’ moment.  Not as much volume of flow as at Metsovo but far more impressive.  About 60-70 foot vertical drop down a narrow water-smoothed channel in the rock. This is the positive benefit of the higher rainfall in the mountains. Out of deference to my guide I took only a couple of photos but will go back and spend more time there.

The blue of cornflowers is more in evidence than the red of poppies

Other worldly look: massive olive trees with acres of black netting spread out below to catch the fruit as it falls

All the trees are deeply pock-marked

Some are clearly very old and venerable

Olives drop from the trees and flow in rivulets down the plastic netting to collect at low points from where they are gathered

Inside Ali Pasha’s mountain top retreat

With clearing skies looking across to Paxos from the mountain top

The waterfall, about 60-70 feet vertical drop

Mulberries, massive very succulent fruit

Excuisitely formed seed head

Grasshoppery thing

I have been chasing these sulphur-yellow butterflies around Greece for years. With eyes that big no wonder they see me coming.

Lemons by the tree-full

Sky clearing …. but so is the beach

Art variation of chain link fence. Each lop is about 40 cms in diameter and individually made from 5 mm steel hawser, must have cost a bit. Graffiti a common miss-spelling of a friendly greeting

I’ve now been in Greece two weeks but it seems much longer than that because I have moved on so much and everywhere has been so different, dramatically new milestones on the space/time continuum.  Athens seems a lifetime ago but in fact it was only a fortnight.  Still a lot more to see here before I move on again.

In the evening, more thunderstorms.  A reminder that all thus luxuriant growth and spectacular waterfalls isn’t without its negative side.

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