Tuesday, my first full day in Areopoli, was really something. There are many footpaths shown on the map of the area and on the Big Map in the main square outside the hotel. I decided to go for a big hit, climbing Areopoli’s Profitis Ilias. Many mountains in Greece are called Profitis Ilias (the Prophet Elijah) and nearly always have a small chapel on top, often a monastery, but in either case there is usually a footpath. The local map and hiking guide information indicated that this was the case here.
It did have a footpath but not one for the fainthearted. It is a very steep and in many places rocky climb. A road has been bulldozed up the back of the mountain to the chapel on top and I reckon that since then the footpath as been neglected. It shows indications in places that it was once a well laid paved path but is now difficult to follow and a number of sections close to the top have been overrun by loose scree.
It was while negotiating one such scree that I disturbed pair of eagles nesting or perching on the crags around. Very good view of them before they soared away, screeching their annoyance at having their solitude disturbed. Despite the close-up there was no possibility of getting the camera out of the rucksack, it was difficult enough keeping myself in place without separating myself into bits which might easily disappear over the edge.
The view from the top was very much worth the climb. On the West side a thin band of cloud was spreading up the coast from the south creating a very strange ‘edge of world’ impression. The mountain seemed so massively high with the near-vertical drop to the low level plateau the whole thing looked unreal. In the opposite direction the whole East coast of the Mani peninsula was in sight all the way up to Giethio. To the north, Itilo and the higher peaks of the Taygetos, to the south the end of the peninsula.
I didn’t want to leave but after dragging out my banana and nutbar and taking photos as much as I could …. and lying on the wall in the sun at the edge of the chapel compound … I decided that I had better get back down to earth. I mooched around the tiny and very old village of Sotiras on the way down.
There had been a very pleasant breeze on top but back in Areopoli it seemed stifling hot. As it was still only 15.00 I decided to go for a swim. Problem with Areopoli is that it is about 250 metres ASL and so a long walk down to the sea.
I didn’t realise quite how far until on the way back I thought that I was on the wrong path because the big ‘zag’ which I was expecting was a very long time coming up. It was partly that this bit of walk had been preceded by the climb up Profitis Ilias but I felt it was more than that. Perhaps I wasn’t as fit as I thought. Perhaps the heat was getting to me. Perhaps the new-build going on all over the hillside sloping down to the sea had destroyed the path. Perhaps … Then it dawned on me that it was the map. Not that it was wrong but that the map of this part of the world is at 1:50,000. It has all the same symbols and footpath markings as the map of Kardamili which I had been tramping all over for 2 weeks at 1:25,000. No wonder I seemed to be covering the ‘ground’ at half the speed.
Not a hugely long walk, only about 18 kms. Not a huge height gain, the peak is 815 metres. But it was very steep and very sustained …… and very enjoyable.