Finding a good campsite is always a bit of a gamble. You want somewhere flat, of course, so you don’t keep sliding downhill all night. It needs to be close to water for cooking and washing. It needs to be safe: no dogs or bears, with shelter nearby if thunder looks likely. And ideally, there should be a spectacular view. You don’t want to stop walking too soon either, so you ignore all possibilities, however perfect, until late afternoon. Then you only have a few hours to find a good spot, set up camp and cook before it gets dark.
As we made our way up the steep path from the Stomiou Monastery towards the crags of Timfi, it was getting late. Spectacular views: no problem. But there was nowhere flat. We’d passed a long-deserted shepherd’s shelter, but it was very overgrown. I was nervous of snakes in the long grass, and then actually saw one slithering away. But carrying on had its dangers, too, especially on a steep and precipitous path. We were both tired and starting to
At last, as we came out of the trees, there was a rocky outcrop just wide enough for the tent. Cliffs fell away on both sides – we’d have to be careful going for a pee in the night. Irises trickled down a dry streambed above, but there was no water. If we were careful, we had just enough left for cooking and drinking that evening. We cooked a cheese and pasta supper and sat back to enjoy the sunset on the longest day.
We’d started from Konitsa early that morning, planning to cut up to the Timfi range from the Stomiou monastery rather than returning to Palioseli and the original O3 route. At first the path followed the milky green Aoos river, winding up and down along the banks. I’d imagined it would be a nice flat hike to the monastery but, no, it was perched high above the river, perfectly isolated, with peaks above and wooded slopes falling steeply to the river below. The church has a flair for picking the most scenic spots.
There were vegetable gardens on either side, with a flourishing potato patch. Building work was underway, with a cement mixer at the entrance. Two monks lived there, the younger one looking after his aged companion. A church group from Konitsa was staying the weekend. A box of loukoumi (Turkish Delight) stood ready for visitors. “Help yourselves,” they said.
A group of Greek climbers had also stopped to rest. We chatted to them about the onward route. There was a choice. The longer path over the Karteros pass was fairly gradual, but with some tricky scree slopes. The shorter one was much steeper. We hesitated. I hate scree, but losing the path on a steep climb can be equally scary. “Don’t worry. It’s well waymarked, ” the climbers reassured us. We chose the short, steep option.
The route: Easy dirt track and path to the monastery, although the last section is steep. The path leading upwards just beyond is even steeper, through forest, but well-waymarked and not dangerous. Water at a couple of springs above the river, then at the monastery; none beyond. Kilometres: 19.5. Ascent: 1114m. Descent: 244m. Map: Anavasi 3.1. Zagori.
Facilities: Flat camping spot and water at the monastery.