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  Nr. 131 - November 2009
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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

by Robert van der Most
With the fierce heat and high winds of the summer behind us, organized walks are now starting up again through some of the most beautiful scenic routes in our islands.

Enjoy a social outing combined with a few hours of gentle exercise and experience spectacular views of some of the more remote and untouched areas of Cycladic nature.

Earlier this year the Paros Community Walkers Group led a small group of enthusiastic hikers from Lefkes across the old road through the hills to Aspro Chorio.

Meeting at the parking lot above the town hall in Lefkes, the walk began through the small Lefkes forest at a height of around 200m above sea level, rising quickly to 500m after just three or four kilometres. Right from the very first steps of the adventure you are presented with stunning scenery; first over the valley of Lefkes and then, as you continue onwards, with the boundless views across the sea towards Naxos.

Embrace the magnificence of nature, gaily painted with bright flowers and with an abundance of aromatic plants. Twittering birds hoping for a breadcrumb treat welcome us, while high over our heads soar birds of prey. Goats graze the land, bells tinkling around their necks, and only a few scattered farmhouses show that man has ever set foot here before.

High up on the mountain top, the wind whispers softly and – is it the breathtaking beauty we are witnessing, or perhaps because the air is thinner – we feel a little lightheaded.

We continue on to the halfway point where we pass a beautiful old house between the cypress trees on the corner of two mountain peaks. It’s tempting to imagine living in such a haven, sipping refreshing white local wine from your terrace on a warm summer evening, surrounded by such magnificent views and serene silence. Although you’d have to think carefully when you did your shopping list – if you forgot the milk, it’s a long walk back into town...

Home owners in these natural areas collect their water from wells, drinking the pure, naturally-chilled, crystal clear mountain water. Electricity is still a luxury here – the nearest DEH poles a long distance away – so power in these simple dwellings would have to be generated using windmills or solar panels. Who needs a television in a location and with a lifestyle like this anyway?

Slowly we climb up to the highest point at 500m and from there on follow the winding path downhill towards Aspro Chorio. We pass local farmers busy planting and cultivating their crops on the terraced slopes. A friendly, “Yassas” and a big smile from their hard-working, weather-worn faces indicates the pleasure and pride of these people in their life and their work. Living a simple life; one with nature.

We come to a well by the side of the path where we stop to enjoy a welcome refreshment of cool clear mountain spring water. This is also a good spot for our four-legged friends to rest their paws and take a cooling bath to rid the dust and heat from their fur coats.
The last few miles of our journey is all downhill and we really feel it in our leg muscles! At this point, inexperienced walkers start to notice the work-out their calfs and thighs are getting. If you join one of the walks for the first time, we recommend that you wear good hiking shoes, and bring water, a snack to eat at the halfway point, sunglasses and sunscreen on warmer, cloud-free days, plus a hat and your camera.

We all start to tire a little, our energy is flagging now. As we approach Aspro Chorio, the village disappears every now and again behind the mountain ridges where strangely-shaped rock formations remind us of animals, monsters, even human faces in stone... is the sunlight playing tricks on our eyes, or perhaps in our fatigue we are imagining things...

As we crest the final ridge, the village lies beneath us in all it’s clean, white beauty (Aspro Chorio means “white village”) with the spectacular Orthodox church of Zoodochou Pigis in the centre of this postcard-perfect scene (see photo on front page).

Eagerly anticipating our arrival (and lunch!), we are motivated to speed up for the last few metres as, unfortunately, the old path suddenly gives way to a new road constructed to serve the many new houses that have been recently built on the edge of the village.
Our adventure comes to an abrupt end, but, undaunted, we make our way to a traditional taverna to enjoy a fine lunch and exchange our thoughts, photos, and ideas and to already start planning our next trip.

Walkers Groups on Paros and Naxos

Paros Community Walkers Group
organizes Sunday walks 2 or 3 times per month through different areas of Paros, paying particular attention to areas which are experiencing environmental deterioration. Walks to clean up the countryside from garbage are also due to start within the next few weeks (see page 29 for details). Details of the length and level of difficulty of each route proposed are announced in advance in the Paros Community web pages. Everyone is welcome to join. For further information contact tel: 22840-24571, or visit: http://community.parosweb.com/group/walkers

XON (Folkdance Group of Naoussa) Walkers Group
organizes walks on a monthly basis, the most recent taking place on 25th October from Logaras through Punda to Drios. For further information contact tel: 22840-52971, 6936-670552, email: info@paros-xon.gr, or visit facebook:

Naxos Dimos Walkers Group
The Naxos Dimos (Municipality) organize regular walks at weekends (usually on Sundays) allowing walkers to become
acquainted with different areas of exceptional beauty on the island through gentle exercise. Info: 22853-60122.

See article “Discovering Naxos on Foot” in the December 2008 issue and “Walking on History” in the May 2009 issue of Paros Life & Naxos Life at www.paroslife.com for additional information on the islands’ walking groups.
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