Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, wrote a novella called ‘The Long Walk’ which has some similarities to ‘The Hunger Games’ and our activities today.
The weather is about 10C cooler and initially cloudy so we set off armed with lots of water, suncream, tissues and camera towards the dog shelter. We walk along with those people choosing to take a dog for a walk past the monastery Panaghia Kounistra through the Asselinos area, and past Mikros Aselinos, the site of the climax of my book ‘Broken’ into previously uncharted territory.
We made the same walk in September 2009 and then turned back due to low water levels and strong sunshine. Today we feel like veterans, more off-road hardcore. We know that the sun will eventually come out of the clouds but we’re prepared for a little hardship and the views are worth it. The people riding in or on the odd car or quad bike that drive past us leaving clouds of dust in their wake look at us like we’re mad, but we like the feeling that we’re pioneers. Once we leave the dog lovers behind we don’t see anyone apart from some firefighters sitting on plastic chairs beside their engine keeping lookout from under the shade of a tree. They seemed surprised to see us, but greet us politely.
We want to see Ligaries and Kechria beaches on the North coast of the island. After a long uphill section of dirt road the tree cover breaks and we are standing on the side of a promontory of rock where the road hugs to coastline and there is a very welcome bench. We are rewarded with a view of the coastline that is worth every step, every insect fly-by, every unexpected stone in the sole of our shoes. The sun has indeed broken through the hazy cloud and lights up the blue-green sea. My soul grows wings at the sight. For me this is the essence of Skiathos – I sit and admire the natural beauty, watch the gulls ride the breeze and hope my knees won’t lock up on me when I get back up. If you were driving a vehicle you would be too busy trying to follow the curve of the road and too far from the edge to see what we can see. The photograph does it little justice.
The path to both beaches runs alongside a stream and huge dragonflies, damsels and butterflies flit about in the relative shade of the trees. A foot long bright green lizard zips across in front of us at one point its tail lifted in an arc off the hot surface of the path. It has taken a surprisingly long time to get down to the path and the sun is out in full. Ligaries beach is frankly disappointing, but what I’ve come to expect from these Northern beaches. They are exposed to the elements, have less sand and usually appear unkempt. We back track to a fork in the path and a helpful signpost. We find that Kechria beach is busier, relatively more developed and has a small taverna where we have some excellent fries and an omelette of all things. There’s a posh family of crowded around one table eating seafood and drinking wine. They probably got here in the big 4×4 that’s parked up the hill.
We check the map and decide not to go back the same way we came. There’s another route which on paper appears to be shorter and we agree that it will be interesting to see the sites along the way. The walk is a trial of ups and downs (the downhill sections are as much a pain at times as the uphill sections because of the loose road surface), twists and turns and dog legs. We aim for Ag. Antonos church as a landmark. Along the way we meet an old couple walking towards us without a map. They seem to be looking for Troulos. I show them our map and explain that they have a long walk ahead of them. We left there at 10am, it’s about 2pm when we meet them. I suggest that they visit Kechria, get some water and then come back the way they have come, but perhaps they’re even more hardcore than we think we are and they’ll be fine.
A large bird of prey, probably a buzzard, circles around the top of one of the mountains and we reach a point where we can see both South and North coastlines to the left and right along the valley. A helicopter flies past in the distance slightly below our position. Now I can see civilisation again I stop worrying about the fact that neither of us have a phone about our person and I’m not anywhere near as fit as Siggy. It’s getting to the point where I am flicking droplets of sweat and suncream off my fingertips and stopping to sip water regularly. This is when I remember the Bachman story.
We get to the church at around 3:30pm and find a pool bar where we can drink something other than warm bottled water. The barman is impressed when we tell him where we’ve come from. The views are excellent, we can see Skiathos Town in the distance and the small islands that dot the sea in that area. We wait at bus stop 9 for the 15:45 bus, but when it arrives it doesn’t stop – we see that it is packed full of people like a carriage on the London Underground at rush hour. We walk to Achladias beach which is horribly busy and an affront to the senses after all the solitude of the last few hours. We eat ice cream at the other end of the beach, cut through the back of taverna and walk to bus stop 11 where a not so busy bus finally stops to let us on and return to Troulos.
The hotel pool is packed with yesterday’s arrivals and so we retreat to the balcony. We eat early at Ratatouille’s and get to Christakis Sports Bar in good time to watch the ding-dong between Brazil and Chile. It goes to penalties and Brazil come out victorious.
Later when we look at the map we figure that, accounting for all the twists, turns, and a little back-tracking we have walked at least 20km today.
You can click on any of these images to enlarge. All images on my posts are owned by me unless otherwise stated with the obvious exception of this map which is a scan of the very useful Skymap you can pick up for free from the airport, car rental kiosks, hotels etc. I hope the copyright owners don’t mind, if they do I will remove it! here is a link to their website: www.SkyMap.gr