Aetomilitsa to Kefalohori: Cars and cats

Track to Kefalochori

Kefalohori, down in the valley just off the tarred road to Konitsa, was very different from the summertime villages of Grammos and Aetomilitsa. There were saloon cars as well as pick-ups parked beside the modern whitewashed houses, with their meticulous vegetable gardens, vine-shaded verandahs and cats. We hardly ever saw cats in the mountain villages; the hungry shepherd dogs would have killed them.

Through forest  to KefalochoriWe had dropped 1000 metres below the  Alpine pastures to what I thought of as the English countryside zone: mixed woodland and meadows, festooned with wild roses and hawthorn. Though you don’t see bear prints in the English countryside! It was easy walking except for one tricky stretch, where a landslide had wiped out the track and we had to clamber around the top. I liked walking downhill, so much easier than the puffing and red-faced ascent. But Alan found it hard on his knees, especially as he’d fallen on his hiking pole and broken it.

There was one guesthouse in the village, run by Navsicaa, a name from the ancient tale of the wanderer Odysseus. The princess Navsicaa scooped the half-drowned Odysseus up off the beach where he’d  drifted ashore, fed him and gave him a wash  and clean clothes – and concluded that under all the dirt he looked like a prince. We felt pretty prince-like too, even if we didn’t look it , especially since Navsicaa produced the best food we’d had since Mikrolimni. She was from a shepherding family, her husband collected mushrooms and wild greens in the mountains, and her son had trained as a cheesemaker. She kept chickens and grew all her own vegetables. Supper was grilled lamb, wild greens with cheese, and wild mushrooms. Outside the taverna was a children’s playground, with children running around until late in the evening: there was a primary school in the village, a mark of its vitality.

Veryan planned to leave us the next day, since there was a regular bus service to Konitsa. We were heading up into the mountains again, and who knew when we’d next find a bus connection.

Orchids

The route: Mainly dirt tracks, with a final steep footpath down to the village. No waymarks. We followed the track to the south of Petra Mouka, and down the east side of the Divoika valley,  via Papa Giorgis. This is a slightly different route, and less cross-country than the one described by Tim Salmon. It does not pass through Likorachi, an abandoned village destroyed by a landslide. Plenty of water from streams. Kilometres: 24.5. Ascent: 343m. Descent: 1022m.  Map: Anavasi 3.3 Gramos Smolikas Voio Vasilitsa.

Facilities: Two tavernas, one attached to the guesthouse. No shops. Bus to Konitsa (not daily).

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