We have been coming to Symi and walking the mountains for over a decade. I spent 3 months in the summer of 2010 on the island doing the research for writing a walking guide, which is unfortunately still incomplete. So I reckon to know the island and it’s footpaths pretty well and can find my way around parts of it even where there are no paths.
So it came as a shock and an embarrassment when on Friday I got it wrong.
Symi has two parallel fjord-like inlets with steep limestone hillsides plunging down into the sea. The main harbour and the town sit at the head of the northern inlet and the much smaller settlement of Pedi sits at the head of the other with the old Horio, as is so often the case, sitting on the hill between the two.
Still easing gently into the walking the plan was to walk down the Pedi Valley on an old path meandering between the enclosed fields, have a coffee in a very pleasant taverna and then follow another very rocky path to the taverna-and-umbrella beach of Agia Marina at the tip of the peninsula which separated the two inlets.
I have walked the path over the col from Agia Marina to Pedi many times as part of a circular route from Horio but never in the other direction. As happened with the path on Nisyros from Palloi to Emborios I hadn’t appreciated that going in the other direction there were decisions to be made. Going downhill routes funnel into one valley and you pay no attention to other paths coming in from the side. Your route is clear. But going uphill the path splits. Straight choice: left or right. On Nisyros I called it correctly. On Symi on Friday I called it wrong.
Instead of going up to a low col and then dropping down to Agia Marina the path continued upwards and came out in a much higher col above Agia Marian and joined the path direct from Horio to Agia Marina.
I was uneasy all the time we were walking that bit of path. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it. We usually call that feeling ‘instinct’ but in fact it is simply that the subconscious is picking up on data and signals which haven’t registered in the conscious mind. On the way back to Agia Marina afterwards I realised what it was . There were no footprints on the path. It’s very rocky but every now and again there is a patch of red soil. Instead of seeing footprints there were only hoof prints of the feral goats.
Normally if I become suspicious that I’ve gone wrong I stop and cast around for some identifiable indication. On Friday I was just too cocky and, not wanting to let on to the others that I might not know what I was doing and might have got it wrong, just ploughed on regardless.
Reaching the high point of the path and looking down on the other col I knew exactly where I was and how to get where we wanted be …. but by then it was too late.
Lesson: trust your instincts. Look around for the evidence which your subconscious is telling you is there somewhere. And don’t be ashamed to let on that you might be wrong.
On the plus side, I found a path which I didn’t know was there.