Vlacherna to Levidhi: Downpour

Path from Vlacherna We sat in the cafe and watched the rain as we drank our breakfast coffee. There had been sheet lightning and a steady downpour all night, and we were grateful not to have had to camp. Night-time temperatures near freezing had been forecast. The mountains were completely hidden in the mist. We debated our options. Back to Kalamata, maybe, though it was a long wait till the afternoon bus. And then, suddenly, the sky began to clear and we could see patches of blue. We decided to try the mountain track to Levidhi, after all. It was only ten kilometres, and  the path from the village seemed to be well-waymarked. We hoped it wouldn’t peter out later on.

At the top of the village, we stopped to fill up with water and chat to an elderly shepherd, who was collecting fallen chestnuts. There were two routes to choose from, one apparently slightly shorter but more difficult – the yellow route. The shepherd assured us the yellow route was fine, easily passable and we were unlikely to get lost. We took his advice.

Mainalon plateau

The path led up through the pine forest, past a monastery built into the cliff high above, and out onto a windy plateau, with pale gold grasses and scattered trees. Wooded peaks stood out against the blustery sky. I was wearing my fleece, windshirt and woolly hat and longed for gloves. We reached the path down through the forest just as the first drops of rain started to fall.

Path to Levidhi

Like Kleitoria, Levidhi is a an attractive little market town, with some winter tourism. We got there in time for a lunch of lamb and beans. Alan and I had finally reached a compromise on what to order in restaurants. We now get one meat dish and one vegetable one between us, and I have just a little of the meat rather than coping with the usual huge hunk on my own. I’d found that the vegetable dishes on their own could get monotonous, and the meat sauce gave more variety.

The restaurant owner phoned a friend to find us somewhere to stay. We landed up in a little flatlet just off the square, with a warm welcome from Marina, the owner, who brought us a little plate of cakes. Tea and coffee was provided and there was fresh milk in the fridge. What luxury! We could even have coffee in bed in the morning. We settled in for a long afternoon’s siesta. Outside, it was raining hard again.

The next morning it was still raining, now with thunder and lightning. I sat in bed and consulted different weather forecasts. They were all dire. We were getting the tail end of the storms which had caused flooding in Italy, and here too the streets were awash. Winter had definitely arrived, and  the weather from now on would be unpredictable. Would we ever make it to Githion along the Taygetos, or return to complete the “Delphi Gap” from Ano Mousounitsa? We gave up and escaped once more to Kalamata.

The route: Well-waymarked path (yellow route) from Vlacherna. We took the forestry track down to Levidhi, but the waymarked footpath down would probably be more pleasant in good weather. We didn’t find any water en route. Kilometres: 10.6. Ascent: 1044m. Descent: 757m. Maps: Anavasi 8.5. Mt Menalo. See also the Mainalon Trail, developed by local volunteers, with information in English, and an Android app.

Facilities: Restaurants, hotel, shops and buses at Levidhi.

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