I’d been walking alone ever since Diakopto. Alan was back in Kalamata, still feeling bruised and fragile, waiting till he could have his stitches out. The weather had been tantalisingly beautiful, and I was keen to make the most of it, before the winter rains made the high mountains impassable. But did I dare to walk alone?
The stretch from Ano Mousounitsa down to the Corinth Canal was remote, and would mean a couple of nights camping out, even if I stuck to lower dirt roads rather than the more spectacular high level route. I’m still nervous about wild camping on my own. Even if the worst threat is from dogs, it’s somehow scarier to deal with them on your own. Also, I’d have to carry all the camping gear myself. And as we knew only too well, there was always the chance of a fall or sprained ankle. So we decided to leave that part of the walk till later when we could do it together. I would start walking again in the Peloponnese, where I could find somewhere to stay each night and never be too far from a village.
I’ve done a lot of walking on my own, including most of the six hundred miles of the south west coastal path. I enjoy it. I can go at my own pace and there’s time to think. Walking with Alan I have the best of both worlds. We each walk alone, sometimes a few hundred metres apart. Alan is usually ahead going uphill, while I lead the way going down. We wait for each other at dubious intersections, and at the end of the day we have somebody to talk to. There was one advantage to travelling alone, though. I’d probably eat less and lose weight.
But people along the way couldn’t understand it all. “Why are you alone?” was the constant refrain from everyone I met.
But in Planitero I had good news from Alan. He’d had his stitches out and was keen to get walking again. If I joined him, we could travel up to Ano Mousounitsa to complete the missing stretch together. So my destination that day was Klitoria, then the bus back to Kalamata.
I started the day walking through a very Entish plane forest, growing alongside the springs that fed the trout farm below Planitero. There were picnic tables and litter bins, but nobody was about at this time of year, except a village woman with her small flock of sheep and goats – very different from the large flocks with hundreds of animals in the high mountains. Signs explained how a new disease was attacking plane trees throughout Greece. Would this magnificent place survive? And what would happen to the countless village squares shaded by ancient planes?
The path climbed up to contour around the mountainside. Crocuses and cyclamen lined the path. Mount Chelmos disappeared and Klitoria came into view down in the plain, set among a patchwork of fields: bright green winter wheat, walnut groves and ripe maize, protected from the birds by strings of fluttering plastic bags. I was hungry and there was no cafe in the villages of Aghios Nikolaos or Tourlada, so I headed down and across the plain for Klitoria, lunch and the Tripoli bus.
The route: Well waymarked path (E4) to Aghios Nikolaos, then a combination of dirt and tarred roads to Klitoria. Water in Arbounas and Aghios Nikolaos. Kilometres: 10.5. Ascent: 391m. Descent: 564m. Map: Anavasi 8.2. Chelmos-Vouraikos.
Facilities: Seasonal taverna and guest house by the trout farm below Planitero. All facilities at Klitoria: hotels, tavernas, bank, buses.