The plan was to reach Kleitoria by early afternoon, then head off straightaway, camping somewhere down the valley. Alan was with me again, but we’d decided not to walk from Ano Mousounitsa. The weather forecast was mixed, with serious flooding in Italy, and we feared cloud and rain in the high mountains further north. The Peloponnese was a safer option. In any case, we were walking to enjoy ourselves, and what was the point if we were cold and wet, and all the views were hidden by mist?
But it took ages to reach Kleitoria by bus. The confusion of the town’s two names didn’t help. On the map it said Kleitoria, after Prince Kleitor of classical times, while the bus destination was shown as Mazeika, a more recent Byzantine name. It’s a peaceful backwater of a town, the market for the fertile plains all around. The shops, clustered round the central square with its traditional cafes, proclaim the sale of local produce. Development of ski tourism nearby has led to the construction of a couple of hotels. We checked into the Helmos, and sat out on the balcony overlooking the pool, in the delicious late summer warmth. Walking could wait till next day.
The sky was a deep autumnal blue, and there was a hint of frost in the air when we set out early in the morning. We walked along the river through a parkland landscape of walnut groves, crops and pastures. We stopped for lunch by the Ladhona springs, feasting on walnuts given us by an elderly couple waiting by the road for a lift home from their smallholding. Nearby was a memorial to the heroes of the War of Independence in 1821.
From the springs, it was a long hot climb up to Pagrati, through a green tunnel hacked out of the holly oak, too dense to allow a glimpse of the valley below as we climbed. On the edge of the village, we stopped to talk to a man in a van selling fruit and vegetables. His father joined us from his nearby smallholding, where he once used to produce forty mule loads of grapes for his home made wine. “Why do the Germans and English treat us so harshly?” he asked plaintively. “We’re so friendly and hospitable.” He cut us a large bunch of grapes, while his son gave us each an apple.
We reached Dhara along the old mule path late in the afternoon. All four cafes in the square were still closed, so we went off to find the hotel. It aspired to boutique decor, with a kind of shroud draped above the bedhead, a jacuzzi shower with two showerheads and a quirky bright orange basin. The walls were traditional stone, and there was an open fireplace. Supper at the hotel was a cut above the ordinary, too. We had oven baked spaghetti with tomato sauce, and a salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and pomegranate seeds. The prices were higher than usual, though.
The route: Dirt track along the river from Kleitoria, followed by a short stretch along the road. We rejoined the E4 at the Ladhona Springs: the route goes directly along the edge of
ethe mountains from Aghios Nikolaos to Pagrati, without descending to Klitoria. Well-waymarked and maintained path to Dhara. Plenty of water until the Ladhona Springs, then at Pagrati village. Kilometres: 13. Ascent: 539m. Descent: 397m. Map: Anavasi 8.2. Chelmos-Vouraikos.
Facilities: All facilities at Kleitoria: bus, hotels, tavernas, bank. There is still a community hostel at Pagrati, but it is not obvious and you will need to ask around for the key holder. The Pagrati cafe, mentioned in the German E4 guide, has closed. Shops, at least four cafes, and upmarket guesthouse in Dhara.