Good day on Friday. Having spent a day wandering the rim of the caldera with spectacular lava extrusions I decided it was time to go down into the caldera and look at some of the craters. But via a new-to-me path. I emphasise ‘new-to-me’ because it has obviously been there for centuries if not millennia. Enfys and I had failed to find it starting from the caldera on our last visit together in 2009 so I adopted the usual tactic of trying it from the other end. That proved to be no problem if a little slow going.
It was slow going due to the Greek attitude towards walking and therefore paths. They are only maintained if they have a practical/economic purpose here and now! So paths to monasteries/churches where there are annual ceremonies are kept open as are paths with an agricultural purpose. Mention the possibility of footpaths for the pleasure of walking and locals scratch their head in bewilderment. One guy on Corfu during my 2012 Greek Odyssey Part 1 expressed the view that footpaths are for animals.
Back to reality. Friday’s New Path was in places overgrown or collapsed but it had clearly at one time been a significant transit route for people living in the many ancient houses it passed on the way down to the caldera. It was a dedicated path not just a meandering down through the terraces. The route had been set aside and walled or built up as appropriate along its whole length. The loss of agricultural land was obviously considered worth the ease of communication.
It is amazing that the world over people live so close to potential catastrophe. I know that there were people living inside the caldera into the 1950’s and yet the record of volcanic activity puts the last major eruption at 1888 when there must have been significant numbers living here.
I managed the way down without incident save a few expletives when overhanging trees scratched my head or snagged the rucksack. In truth I grumbled to myself but quite enjoyed the path. The only real concern was the pigs wandering loose towards the end. I am very wary of sows with piglets after hearing a horror storey from a friend who found her mother killed by pigs in their sty while feeding them. The two sows looked at me threateningly but took no action, content that I posed no threat and preferring to stay in the shade under a tree.
Once on the caldera floor I went first to one of the minor craters I hadn’t visited before, the flanks of which I had photographed many times but not been up to look at the inside. It wasn’t as spectacular as the other two I had visited but take it out of its context and put it in the middle of, for example, the Peak District National Park in the UK and it would have real ‘Wow!’ factor.
Then on the way up to the second of the ‘minor’ craters, no-one would be allowed within 5 miles of it in the UK, I started chatting to another guy walking on his own who turned out to have been to the same university as me. We agreed to meet up back at the caldera-floor taverna and walk back to Mandraki together. We are also staying in the same hotel though that is less of a coincidence as the Porfirys is the Number 1 hotel of choice on Nisyros.
I mooched around the other crater for a while with the camera and found that it seemed to have changed significantly since last year. The fissures were larger and more extensive. However, the fumaroles in the cliffed sides continued to pour out sulphur gases and were encrusted in crystallised sulphur. It was a shame to drag myself away but the stench of the sulphur began to get to me, particularly when I climbed up the sides of the crater to get close-up shots of the fumaroles. I wished I had had a macro lens for that but I couldn’t justify the cost against the number of times I would deploy it. And I would have been even closer to the gases.
Eventually made my way back to the taverna and a bottle of cold water from the chiller ….. important to conserve the water I was carrying for the walk along the caldera and then up the mountain pass to get back to Mandraki. There was no wind so it would be hot.
There is a lot more to see in the caldera but the advantage of staying on the island for a few weeks is that not everything has to be crammed in to one visit.