We stopped at the highest point on the Deldhimi pass, nearly two thousand metres up. Wave after wave of peaks stretched away into the distance, both North and South. An eagle floated overhead as we had lunch. There was no sign of habitation. I thought how incredibly lucky I was to be there, with good health, enough time and money and a willing husband.
We’d left at 8.30 that morning, woken by hunters who were on their way at dawn. We met them again as we climbed up through the pines. Nobody seemed to have caught anything.
“It doesn’t matter,” said one. “I just like being out in the mountains.” As we came out above the tree line into the boulder fields, we came across more, camped next to an old shepherd’s shelter and spring. There were five pick-ups, each with portable kennels for the dogs in the back. They were enjoying a lads’ weekend out, with the bonus of meat for their families. We were invited to sample the water from their spring – “cold as out of the fridge” – as they inspected our proposed route. “Ah, Asprorema!” they said. “Only wolves live there now!”
Later, at the foot of Delidhimi we met two shepherds, both with piercing blue eyes and
wearing combat trousers. We stopped for a coffee, sitting on a rough bench outside their snug tin hut. Inside there were two beds, a hurricane lamp and gas stove, and their possessions hung neatly in plastic bags around the walls. Cheese was stored in large plastic containers. They told us it was cold up there, with snow lying in the hollows until late July. It had been a wet year too, which led to sickness among the sheep. The sheep were grazing higher up, guarded by two dogs. No, the dogs weren’t fierce at all: “Just talk to them….”
The sheep were clustered around the spring below the saddle, and the two dogs started to bark as soon as they saw us. We wanted to give them a wide berth, despite the shepherds’ reassurance, but we needed water. The sheep scattered as we approached, but the two dogs kept up the pressure, growling and barking from about six feet away. We filled our water bottles and hastily retreated, never daring to take our eyes off the dogs. One followed us for over half an hour, barking all the time.
We had planned to camp near the spring, but decided that it was unwise to risk it with the dogs so close. We were a little worried about the path down to Asprorema, since it was shown as just a faint dotted line on the map. Stories we’d been told in the cafes floated into my mind. Last year somebody gathering mountain tea on the slopes beyond Delidhimi had slipped over a precipice and fallen hundreds of metres to his death. Near Kali Komi two girls had been swept to their deaths by a flash flood as they scrambled down a ravine. We were only walkers, not climbers, and we didn’t want to take any risks.
In fact, it was easy to pick out the line of the path along the bare mountainside, although the surface was loose and gravelly, with some steep drops below, and we had to concentrate. The Mountains of Greece route description was useful, too, as for once it ran North to South. But the only spring on the south side had dried to a trickle, so we couldn’t stop to camp until we reached the Asprorema stream below. On the edge of the village, a line of pigs appeared, walking along a path above the track. Free range, we decided, not wild boar! How did they fare with the wolves? I wondered.
The route: Good dirt roads as far as the shepherd’s hut at Gika below Delidhimi, then an easily visible path (in fine weather) over the saddle and down to Asprorema. No reliable water between the spring to the north of the Delidhimi saddle and Asprorema. Kilometres: 13. Ascent: 1100m Descent: 1061m. Map: Anavasi Northern Agrafa 4.1.