We were now almost off the map. It wouldn’t be the last time that the 1:50,000 Anavasi map stopped, with a large gap before the next one took over. And I had sent the 1:250,000 map of Macedonia to be collected in Kastoria, thinking we wouldn’t need it till the next stretch. The GPS had run out of battery and I’d forgotten to buy new ones in Korestia.
In theory, we were still following the E6. The map showed it heading up from our campsite at Ano Kranionas to the peaks of Tsiopelos, Kazani and Profitis Ilias. We had seen some E6 signs in Lower Kranionas the day before, and asked an old man if he knew exactly where it went. “Oh those”, he said dismissively. “They’re to help measure the height of the snow in winter.” We asked two shepherds for the best route over the mountains to Kastoria. “Look at your packs”, they replied. “It’s far too exhausting. Go down and take the tarred road instead.”
Despite their advice, we headed uphill out of the village, losing the path completely as we climbed through woodland to cross the first forestry road, then on up along a rocky ridge to the second. We continued on forestry tracks, using the compass and guesswork. There was the occasional waymark with the time to different destinations, but we couldn’t find any of them on the map. It was a bright sunny day, and in the distance we could see where we were heading next: the snow peaks of Grammos. At last from the top of a saddle, we could see the lake of Kastoria down below, though we couldn’t see the town and had no idea where on the lake it lay. So when in doubt….we stopped for lunch, admired the view, and filled up from a water trough nearby. Overhead two eagles circled.
Carrying on down south east, we came to a tarred road zigzagging around the mountainside. We hoped it was going in the right direction. As we descended, it got hotter, with the heat reflecting off the tarmac. We passed tortoises, and once a two foot long snake sunning itself on the road. Veryan’s shoulders were aching. So were Alan’s thighs. I was red in the face. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, the hottest time of day. We should have stopped for a siesta, but the cafes of Kastoria beckoned irresistibly. The final stretch through the soulless modern development of New Kastoria, full of fur showrooms, seemed never-ending.
We collapsed at one of the lakeside cafes of old Kastoria tired, bedraggled, smelling of sweat and woodsmoke. Alan had such painful cramps in his legs he couldn’t walk any further. We were all suffering from heat exhaustion. We sat and sipped rehydration salts, slowly recovering, and swore we wouldn’t walk in the heat of midday again.
The route: South east along a network of forestry tracks, with the occasional footpath, and finally tarred road. No E6 waymarks, although signs to other destinations. Mostly compass navigation until you can see the lake below. One water trough , south of Lochagou Persemli, between Ano Kranionas and the lake. Kilometres: 14. Maps: Anavasi 6.2: Prespa, Vitsi, Voras (stops North of the lake). Anavasi (1:250,000) Macedonia.
Facilities: All facilities at Kastoria: hotels, tavernas, cafes, shops, banks, launderette (advertising car and clothes wash!), internet cafe.