My visit yesterday to the Brecon Beacons ‘Waterfall Country’ reminded me of the Viros Gorge running from the Taygetos Mountains to Kardamili on the west coast of the Mani Peninsula in the far south of the Peloponnese. The two weeks I spent there was the longest time I stayed anywhere in over two months of travelling around Greece in the early part of the summer and standing on the ridge-top looking across the gorge yesterday made me reminisce.
From the top of the ridge looking across the heavily wooded Mellte and Hepste Gorges there is a broad similarity with the Viros and it was that which triggered the nostalgia. But that is where the similarity ends. The bed of the Viros Gorge is dry and affords a route into the mountains with paths rising up the steep sides to the old villages on the ridge-tops.
By contrast, the Mellte and Hepste are never dry, though the water levels do vary. One summer when I was in college a few of us picked up on the idea of ‘aqua-tramping’, apparently introduced from New Zealand. Starting above the falls, we followed the rivers downstream, wading or swimming, sliding or climbing as necessary. It was one of those hot summer’s of youth and we exulted in the cool, refreshing water and took unthinking risks as only youth does. We down-climbed the falls themselves and I even followed the river into a cave, fortunately keeping to the left because, as I found later, going to the right would have plunged me deep underground. As it was I emerged with nose pressed to the cave roof to breathe the remaining inch of air above the water level to be greeted with relief by the rest of the group. It was memorable but it would take much higher temperatures to tempt me to repeat the experience. And I would be more cautious about risk-taking.
By contrast I would go back to the Viros at the drop of a hat, hike the bed of the gorge and follow the ridge-top paths. The UK has some great mountain landscapes and indeed I live within 100 metres of the Brecon Beacons National Park so dramatic terrain is part of my backyard, but the more I see of grey, wet weather and trek through mud the more I nostalge for sunshine and firm, dry paths. I have already started thinking ahead to next summer and the plan which is forming is to return to The Mani and then complete the second part of the over-ambitious travel plan I had for last summer.
Friday was very grey and damp and I had to spend time in the kitchen to prepare food for visitors coming for the weekend, so in-between-times I looked back wistfully at the photos I took of the Viros Gorge in June. Deep sigh!