Suddenly, it was summer. As we came down from the rocky saddle into Tsepelovo, the owners of the first house in the village had just arrived and were hanging blankets and rugs out to air. Later, we saw the husband strolling down to the main square, greeting his friends, who were playing cards in the shade of the great plane tree. There were several rooms to rent, cafes, tavernas and even a souvenir shop. On the main road at the edge of the village were a couple of larger hotels. It felt more lively than Monodendri, though perhaps that was just the difference of a few days. But these were seasonal residents, returning to their homes for the summer, and there was a strong sense of a community re-awakening. It wasn’t just overnight tourists.
We had left early to avoid the heat, especially since the first and last parts of the route were on the tarred road, and there was little shade anywhere. We were at around one thousand metres, not high enough to enjoy the cool of the high mountains. We could see the cobbled path zigzagging up to Vradeto, the longest and most spectacular one in the area, but it was too hot to be tempted into a diversion.
We were glad to get to Skamneli, the last of the Zagoria villages. We sat under the plane trees in the square, enjoying a salad lunch from the Pindos hotel taverna. The hotel itself was being renovated.
The guest house below the taverna was said to be open, but it was siesta time and nobody was around. We stretched out in the shade and snoozed. Later in the afternoon, we found the owners, an elderly couple who’d returned to the village from Athens, where they’d run a transport business. They’d always come back for summer holidays, but had retired ten years before, and built the guesthouse to provide a small seasonal income.
Ourania, the sprightly wife, did most of the work. She said she went for a long walk herself most mornings, and the road soon curved up into the shade of the pine forest. Once again we spent the night in a traditional whitewashed room, with ornate wooden ceiling and fireplace. And once again, we were the only people staying.
Facilities: Range of places to stay and eat in Tsepelovo. Three guesthouses, two with tavernas, in Skamneli, but only one guesthouse and a taverna were open. Bus service to Ioannina.