Monday, 4 October 2010


Got home from Crete to find an A4 envelope with DO NOT BEND written on it. Amazingly it wasn`t bent. In it was a certificate saying I was a John Muir CONSERVER. It said they were honoured to present it to me. Not half as honoured as I was to get it.

SO this is just to thank all who helped me on my journey, or who offered moral support by reading my blog. Or both.

Congratulations.. you are co-conservers!

I suppose George can have a photocopy of the certificate in his stable.
I will frame the certificate, of course, and it will be a kind of memorial for Bling, whenever I look at it I will remember how important she was for adding enthusiasm and joy when George and I were tired, wet, cold and wondering why we weren`t at home.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Last post

I want to thank those who supported me. I could not have done it without you, so it was your journey too. I hope that what I did on the journey, and what I am going to do with what I discovered or experienced on that journey is what you would do, if you were me. At the very least I hope I haven`t done/won`t do anything that makes you sorry you supported me.

Particular thanks go to:

Niko and Lily who have kept George for me all these years. Without you I couldn`t have kept George. Without George I couldn`t have done any of this stuff.

Shuna.. who put the backbone into me when it was lacking just before I started off from her house near Pylos.

Vasso and Christos Nikolopoulos who very kindly invited me to stay at their house in Keramidia and also allowed George to stay in their paddock (see photo)

Jiannis Baltis who met me near Stymfalia with the intention of filming our docu.. but actually caused me to have a day`s holiday and to get calm after the loss of Bling

Eva and Babis Bakas who comforted me greatly after I lost Bling.

Vassili Thanos and fellow villagers at Nereida (AKA Spinaza) who were so hospitable and kind

Foteini at Prosillio who was so kind and gave me coffee when I needed it most..

Aegistos who became webmaster for the blog and made it a lot of fun

Katie who was my only CASH sponsor.. thanks to her I could have a marsbar whenever things got bad, and it didn`t have to be a marsbar.. she agreed that a kitkat or a twix were valid under the terms of our agreement.. Anyway thankyou Katie.
I would also like to thank Griffin Nuumed for sponsoring me with a brandnew numnah.. this is almost as good as new after 3 months of extreme use... there are no better products for under a saddle than these. I`m absolutely sure of that.

Everyone who followed the blog and who sent me encouraging emails and posted comments thankyou very very much for your support.

George.. without whom etc etc

Also in memory of an innocent,naughty little dog who brought such energy and enthusiasm to the project, and whose absence was mourned by both George and me for the remainder of the ride. She was so proud when I could say "Good dog, Bling" to her. Because she really tried to be a good little dog. It is so sad that she didn`t have time to hear those words very often. But I`ll say them now - in case her spirit is listening:

"Good dog, Bling. Very good dog"

I hope her sad fate has alerted many many people to the dangers in the hills.. not just to our beloved companion animals, but also to those iconic and necessary wild creatures..bears, wolves, jackals whose very existence is threatened by the insane uncontrolled use of poison by people who really "know not what they do"

I wrote the blog to let as many people as I could know what was happening to the Greek wilderness- I was trying to protect it. But even so, me myself, I harmed it while I travelled through, even though I really tried not to. This, I suppose, is just a metaphor for all our journeys. And for the harm we do, unintentionally, to the world as we travel though our lives.

Sorry to sound pretentious, but I don`t really know how else to explain my feelings.

OK. So on my journey my carbon footprint, and my water footprint should have been extremely small.. after all I wasn`t using any electricity, I wasn`t using much water, and I was always using water from renewable sources (like puddles) I didn`t use any petrol.. and yet.. and yet

This is the what I left on the mountains (accidentally.. but they are, at this moment disfiguring the mountains and will continue to do so for a good many years.)
I lost one new extending doglead.(lost near Xristiani)
1 dead dog wearing 2 collars which are designed to kill all insect life. (lost near Krana)
Pets, of course are very environmentally unfriendly, and keeping Bling for 2 1/2 years can`t have been good for my carbon footprint. She had a new basket, a new blanket, several new leads because she chewed them up at a prodigious rate, constant food and medical care. And I fully intend to get another pet when I have got over the grief of losing her. George is also a big polluter.. his trip to the South was made in a small lorry and I travelled in it too.. but moving horses about isn`t good for the world...And George`s kit is very specialised and has big airmile quota.
1 swiss army knife.
1 tent peg specially made of a rare non degradable metal, but which is never going to disappear.. though it disappeared when I was pitching my tent.. never to be seen again.. grr.
I pair of reading glasses (readers of "Lord of the Flies " will know how glasses start fires) My nightmare scenario is that a fire will start near where I lost the glasses, and I will never know if I was responsible. Don`t think I didn`t search for the glasses.. I had a spare pair, but HOW can glasses get lost in an area of about 10sq metres?
My kit was mostly expensive foreign stuff with a large airmile sum.
I stayed in hotels 3 times and staying in non environmentally friendly hotels leaves a HUGE footprint.. probably those 9 nights accounted for as much carbon as I would have used in a month at home...and where are the environmentally friendly hotels in Greece? Not where I went..
I got a new small computer for the journey... its all adding up horribly.. my camera.. my torch was windup.. but buying a new windup torch means a big investment in non renewable resources... waaaagh.
Apparently telling people this kind of thing makes them feel that they CAN¬T live sustainably, and this makes them lose hope and just buy more throwaway clothes and electronics.
Certainly that`s what I`ve been doing since I got back. No, not really, but I did leave the hot water heater on for 2 days just for the luxury of turning on the tap and getting hot water. I did boil the kettle without measuring the water carefully. Mea culpa.
But actually I think that I am more determined not to do so much harm, now that I have realised how much I do. I don`t think it has made me just give up hope, buy a helicopter for everyday trips to town, and hope I`ll be dead before the very worst happens.
Realising I wasn`t doing too well has made me determined to do better. Maybe other people may react in the same way.
Maybe each one of us has to make their own decisions based on their own experience and information. Maybe its wrong to think I might encourage or discourage people by finding out and reporting sad things. Maybe its wrong to think I can or indeed SHOULD influence people.
Maybe telling it like it is will let people make informed choices about their actions. Which is what I think a reporter should do.
Joanna..remember her? (if you don`t re read the Denial Denial pages) chooses denial. Others don`t care about mountains, they just want a nice lawn, so they won`t care what I write.
But most people - I want to believe that most people know that they need a beautiful healthy world to live in, and so do their children .
Too often we don`t realise that our actions ARE a choice. But if we know we can choose life or death for the mountains ..won`t we choose life?
I found out on this trip that we are indeed destroying everything that is most precious in the Greek environment. Much has been lost. Much is being lost. But there is still a great deal left.(Everyone has commented on the beautiful photos - couldn`t take beautiful photos if my journey wasn`t through areas of astounding beauty and if those beautiful places weren`t brim full of amazing wildlife-
I am telling you about it - how beautiful it is and how fragile and how ephemeral because I believe you want to know the truth , because then you can decide what to do
It used to be taken for granted that some things are eternal. We can no longer believe this.
Much that belongs to all of us is being destroyed without our knowledge or consent.
Remember the disappearing nightingales and what they stand for.
Don`t let those heartless, thieving bastards get the rest of them.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

last roundup

I had intended to get back middle of June, but, George`s shoes had worn out, and so I`d have to get to a town to get new ones, and by the time I`d done that, it`d be time to go home.. so I decided to leave out the going to a town and just get home by using the spare shoes I had, and hoping the others would last. In 2004 his shoes didn`t wear out over the same distance, so I hadn`t calculated for needing a full set of replacements. Actually it was that the shoes I used were of inferior quality, though I couldn`t know that when I set off. But I had one shoe as a spare, which I put on somewhere in the Peloponese, and this shoe was one of the old type, and this shoe didn`t wear out....

The music for this post.. the wonderfully elegiac Last Roundup. Just substitute the word George for Paint.

Since we (well I) are in to cheesey cowboy music I also include another song-my tribute to George, Cowboy music can`t much cheesier than that - but- it is also true on some level of sentiment.

I thought we would need a day and a half to get to Katerini from Prosillio, that we`d be stopping for the night somewhere. George had other ideas, though he did agree to stop after we`d made the truly knackering climb up Mt Pieria which is so often a feature of our route home to Katerini after rides.

This time I saw that the Servia Hunting Association had built us a nice little shelter and paddock. We stopped in that for lunch. There were clouds around, and I thought we may need shelter from please no..but luckily the rain dropped elsewhere, and we were Ok.

Oh yes, I found an interesting fungus there. Don`t you think there`s something about it`s shape that is somehow appropriate for a Hunting association refuge?

I sat and ate my lunch in a distressed state because I had just failed to protect a Large Whip Snake from being stoned to death by a couple of oafish louts who had seen the animla on the road, jumped out of their car and were killing it with rocks when we reached them.

They thought I`d be impressed by their manliness too. They were really expecting me to congratulate them for saving me, and the rest of the world, from this menace.

There were far less snakes on this trip than I saw 6 years ago.. They are subject to endless ignorant persecution and they are getting wiped out. Its not just in Greece, but worldwide that snakes are disappearing. The ecological consequenses are sure to be seriously bad.

A friend of mine who runs a ecological group in a village near mine is sure that mice and other rodents will soon be at plague levels because people will NOT realise that snakes are a vital predator in the control of small mammals.

But I didn`t manage to protect this snake.I just said "That is not a poisonous snake. Why did you kill it? Such ignorance in 2010. You should be ashamed" I DID say this loudly.. but ...

What I SHOULD have done is: 1. take a photo of their car number plates. 2 Take a photo of the dead snake. 3 dial 100 to report a crime to the police.

There were some reasons that I didn`t do what I ought to have done:

There were two of them in a car and there was just me and George. They could really damage George with their car. Not to mention giving me a proper sorting out.

In the past I have been beaten up by people and then arrested by police friends of theirs when it was they who had committed a crime, so dialling 100 and getting these guys` policeman brother in law could be futile. In addition I couldn`t remember the Greek words for "Presidential Decree", nor the number of the decree that protects this snake. I couldn`t remember the Greek name of the snake, nor its Latin name. This meant I couldn`t force the police to act by naming the laws that were being broken.

But, in the past, I`d have given it a try anyway.

Perhaps I have learned discretion?

I`ve got a bad burny feeling that my failure to act was not discretion but cowardice.

And THATS why I felt so rotten when I sat down for lunch.

After lunch we continued up for some time, and then we were at the top of the pass. Downhill from now on!Unfortunately the track now became a road. I have written about this disgraceful road before.. but now it is finished and is WORSE than I could have imagined,,which is, as you can imagine, pretty bad.I`m so choked about the part going down from Fteri to Foteina that I can`t even talk about it. It was once the most beautiful track in Greece. That`s not me using hyperbole. It was, to me at least, the most beautiful track in Greece. The view of Olympos is still beautiful, so I concentrated on looking at that, instead of the wrecked landscape around me.
The road has hardly been completed for two years and is already collapsing, falling apart, or causing very largescale landslides. The signs say you can go 50 km per hour. But don`t - unless you want to die.
I have included one picture I can`t bear to look at any more of them.
The ONLY part of this road that has not collapsed in some way is the part that they haven`t quite got round to "improving". This, carefully and economically built, can stand up to any number of lorries and heavy vehicles, though when it was made only horse traffic used it.

Actually what they have done to this track breaks my heart. I didn`t want to come home this way, because I suspected the worst. But then, you never know what they might have done to OTHER tracks... like the one from Deskati to Elati, for example.
To look on the bright side, there were still lovely flowers where the sides of the road hadn`t collapsed, including this unusual foxglove. Long may they remain.
Because there was an environmental catastrophe that could have meant the end of them just round the corner...Fteri`s own BP catastrophe.
Someone had had a herbicide spill. He had deliberately or not killed all the plants on both sides of the river. He was growing potatoes in a field, and somehow chemicals intended for them had got in the river. Even BP has to pay for environmental destruction.. possibly... butt his guy is never going to get even a fine.
It was getting dark as we reached Foteina, but George had no intention of stopping. So I dismounted to festoon him with lights and hiviz stuff, and I phoned Niko and Lily in Katerini."I don`t know what time I`ll get back" I said to their answer machine, "but it`ll be very late,I`ll camp in the feed room and I`ll see you for breakfast."
The next thing we were lost in the dark. I normally make my way from Foteina to Katerini using a dirt track which bypasses most of the villages, and leads to a crossing place over the River Mavroneri. Somehow I missed it and after a long tiring time we arrived in a village called LOFOS. from there there is an asphalt road to Katerini, a road which I will do almost anything to avoid. However, because it was so late there was no traffic, George was really going for it, and we reached the stables JUST as it started to rain, at about 1.15 am. . I couldn`t see to take George`s shoes off, so I turned him out with his friends after giving him a meal.Listening to the rain hammering on the tiles of my refuge I ate a healthy supper myself. A bar of chocolate. Then I crashed.
In the morning I took off George`s shoes.
In the photo you can see him Glad to be home.
A dear friend kindly said she`d come and get me by car - so I wouldn`t have to get the bus.
Nikos and Lily gave me coffee and food.
When I got home I found my garden was a trifle overgrown.
I put silk sheets on my bed and wore my best silk nightie.
I read a book that wasn`t "A Charming Man" by Marion Keyes - this was the only book I could find in English in Amphissa and I know it off by heart now- and I sank into a most delicious sleep.
In the morning I made coffee -just turned the kettle on and there was boiling water. I didn`t need to wind up my torch (environmentally friendly but time consuming) I just switched on lights. I played music. I checked out my pond.I wore kitsch nail varnish on my toenails(nailvarnish a welcome home gift from Lily, who understands the importance of nailvarnish) and sandals with heels.
Happy to be home? yeah.

The picture of the Large Whipsnake was taken in my garden, where they are safe.

Is there anybody alive out there?

This blog`s music asks a question... listen and then ANSWER.. please! this is going to be almost your last chance, because I`m nearly home.

Woke up in Elati to a splendiferous dawn - as dawn so often is after a real humdinger of a storm-and started to try and get my stuff dry - surely THIS will be the last time?

George knew we were near home so he was impatient and stroppy while I was trying to tack him up. No standing there with a martyred expression while I loaded saddle bags and panniers. No standing there at all, just me trying to fling things on while he moved about. Then he dragged me down the lane towards Elati, and then down the asphalt towards Tranovalto. I managed to get on somewhere near the river, and we continued at a considerable lick along the road. Unusually for this stage of our journey he decided he wanted to stop at lunch time. We stopped near Mikrovalto. Tethered George and went into the village to get some supplies for me. The shop was shut, but luckily the owner lived above and came down and opened up.

I went back to George to eat lunch. It was then that I noticed that the water supply was not what I hoped(see photo). George had a large puddle to drink from but I ..

In many areas the level of nitrates in the groundwater is dangerously high. But putting labels warning people doesn`t really help the problem. The cattle and sheep in the area have no other water to drink, so they have to drink it. And presumably, if its unsafe for us to drink this water, it is also unsafe for us to drink it second hand in meat and milk. The problem has got to be tackled at base..the amount of fertilizer has got to be controlled. Knowing what we know now about the past ministers of agriculture and food - including the revered Dr Kiltidis who encouraged the use of chemicals to control Marchalina hellenica, AFTER the government had lost a case in the highest court in the land for endangering the public by so doing- (who` pocket was he in?) we cannot be too hopeful about any immediate cessation of the self poisoning of the population encouraged by multinational agri more and more water is getting unsafe,

Last time I was in this area awareness was growing and several cool springs much loved and used by local people had been labelled undrinkeable. But as I saw here, the problem is not going away.

The mosquitoes where I had chosen to sit were unbearable. So I went for a walk.

In the hay meadows I saw the vivid blue spots caused by that bluest of blue flowers -cornflowers. These have almost disappeared in England, because they can`t stand agri chemicals- so the fact that there were lots here shows that things aren`t yet as bad as England. Not that that means they aren`t bad, just they could be worse.

On the path some little black insects landed. Doesn`t its design look like a fighter jet? must be a very aerodynamic tiny creature. There are even smaller even sleeker versions, but they are so damn aerodynamic that I never manage to photograph them.

I remembered that the long road to Prosillio had been full of lignite lorries the last time I was there, because tehy were extracting lignite from a new mine there. Now there were no lorries, but a new road took us miles out of our way. The mine was exhausted, and there was a big hole where the old road used to be. The mine was being planted to stabilise it and, presumably to hide the wrecked countryside. And what trees were planted and being copiously watered?

Guess? What trees are environmentalists always lobbying the government NOT to use?

Exactly- acacias. This is another sign of corrupt government- years ago the university forestry department had lecturers who returned from the USA bringing the news that planting fast growing alien trees was good policy. Words like "nurse trees" like "economic benefits" were bandied around. BUT we know better now. Even the students who heard this stuff are reaching retirement age. What can the excuse be here? Whose friend has an acacia plantation for government use?

Because of the long detour it was pretty near dark when we got to Prosillio. I saw a place where we might park. I went to check if there was water. A lady saw me and invited me for coffee.

This was Foteini. She insisted on feeding me as well. I was so tired that when she made a pot of real coffee it was like drinking liquid energy. It gave me the strength to unpack and crash.
Before I became completely out of it I heard about what`s been happening in Prosillio.
Foteini`s husband had worked as a builder for a company that has had no work for months.
He keeps his spirits up by doing building jobs around their house.
"Its lovely here" I said brightly.
"Its lovely here" he repeated ironically "How lovely is anywhere if you`ve got no future?"
As in so many villages, as with so many people I spoke to.
There is a state of shock. People knew that the government was up to tricks. What they did not know, (and how could they?) was the extent of the cynicism of the individuals who set out to destroy the security and the very lives of their own people in order to enrich themselves. Even now, people like Foteini can scarcely believe it. It is just too alien a concept.Especially for country people who have had no "education".

OH NO blogs out of order!

Sorry.. the blogs seem to have posted inthe wrong order.. I don`t know how I managed that. But it should be bears bulls and maybe bambies followed by apples, followed by Last time. Will be confusing (even more than usual) to follow my route if you read them in the order they have posted, because it will seem as if I am going away from Katerini.. not towards it. My route was something Like Stournareika, across mountain to near Pertouli, along road to Xrisomilia across mountain to KalambaKa, along road to Deskati across mountain to Elati. In that order....

Friday, 11 June 2010

golden apple, sweet apple, not one apple

The next morning the dawn chorus was not subdued and damp. The birds were celebrating a bright new day con brio.
It took us a while to get on the road, but once there it was great. Except that after two or three hours I got this feeling that some things about the valley we were approaching were familiar. Yes! my famous sense of direction had ensured that we were almost back where we started from.
It was worth it just for the VERY disgusting spider (see photo) I mean bloated and revolting.. and much worse because white. He (or she) was hiding in a specially rolled up leaf, but I saw a white awfulness protruding. I stopped and looked, and immediately the spider leapt out of its hiding place, and suspended from a single thick and ghastly strand of white silk, it made a break for the undergrowth. When it thought I had gone it started to climb up the stem of the blackberry bush back to its folded leaf. It seemed to be too fat to climb up its own strand of silk, even though, as I say, the silk was like a steel hawser compared to what most spiders climb up. And so I was able to photograph it in its full dreadfulness.
So then I turned back and followed the river- what river? dunno- and squeezed past several barriers to get along a track by the river. Soon we had no choice but to get on to asphalt. A signpost told us that we were a few kilometres from Pertouli, which was the village I suspected we were near when we found all the bear tracks.
There was a church, and grazing so we stopped for lunch. There was also a war memorial to the andartes in the soviet brutalist style. But I liked it with its hammer and sickle and its Fidel Castro lookalike unknown soldier.
There was something else that I liked less. A cloud formation. Oh no, thunderheads. SHIT, thunderheads. SHIT.
I didnt think the bad weather would be this night..but there was no doubt that it was coming, and somewhere, soon, I was going to get drenched, yet again. We were stuck to asphalt for a few kilometres and then from Xrisomilia (golden apples) we got a nice track through a scrubby oak forest down to the river. Another river, but I still dunno what its name was.
We were making our way towards Glikomilia, (sweet apples)but were searching for a place to camp. We couldn`t find anywhere because that area produces trifili (alfalfa) and sheep, and there was absolutely nowhere to park George. It was nearly dark when the local Dimarchos stopped his jeep near us, and told me a place where we could stop. By time we reached it- it was on a knoll above the river-it was pitch black dark. In the morning I saw what a delightful place it was. The view was fine, and there were loads of very nice sage plants in flower.
With all the emphasis on apples in the place names in this area I was expecting that fruit growing would be what they did. Not any more, it seems. On the way to Glikomilia(sweet apples) I did see ONE apple tree. That was it.Wrong time of year to test the apples for sweetness or goldness, so I don`t even know which village it belonged to.
From Glikomilia we crossed a pretty big mountain and then hit asphalt for the splendid descent towards Kalambaka, where you get views of the Meterora. There is a certain weirdness about them. They were so obviously (to me at least) once under the sea, that you feel as if you are in a huge fish tank. The monasteries are like those little plastic decorative(?) things you can get to put in your tropical tank..You half expect to see one of those plastic divers with bubbles coming out of his oxygen tanks to areate the place.
There is a huge plane forest there and I imagined that we could find a place to stop easily enough. But alas, when you get closer to the plane forest you find that it is a rubbish tip. A rubbish tip the size of London, but a rubbish tip none the less.
So we crossed the bridge and landed on the ghastly road that goes to Grevena and Ioannina. I don`t recommend it.
Then I saw an empty garage. We went in. There were paddocks around, I tied up George. Phew.
Then the garage owner turned up to feed his dogs. He was very nice and gave me bread, said I was welcome to stay, for ever, if I wanted.
The garage was closed because the petrol company with which it worked had gone bust. Taking the garage proprietor down with it.
Now he can`t do a deal with a new company because, although his garage is in a coveted site, the companies want a massive amount of cash as a downpayment.
Of course he hasn`t got a massive amount of cash, since he`s done no trade since the other company crashed.
His place has got a superb view too. I took a photo at dawn.
Then we set off for Deskati.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Last time, baby? I don`t know-oh no!

As I mentioned, going along the big road from Kalambaka towards Ioannina/Grevena is a bit of a turnoff... but at some stage you turn off towards Grevena.. which is still dangerous, still a turnoff, but about half as dangerous as the road taking all the traffic out of Kalambaka.(see photo of road sign to understand WHY its dangerous. The sign (which is not aimed at Brits, to remind them, if they happened to have just arrived in Greece, that we drive on the right here, because it is in Greek) tells everyone that we DRIVE ON THE RIGHT, we only use the LEFT when overtaking. I can`t help feeling that truck drivers and porsche owners and datsun pilots really OUGHT to know that, BEFORE they are let loose on the public highways. But apparently they don`t, so I suppose its good to remind them. A question, though.If these persons don`t know which side of the road to drive on, or which side to overtake, mightn`t it be a bit much to expect them to be able to read?
Eventually you turnoff this road and take the road to Deskati. It still asphalt, it still has reminders about which side of the road to use, its still a turnoff, but the whole thing is less urgent. There`s hardly any traffic, and you can hear it coming for ages, as it is normally something like a combine harvester or a milk lorry. These use the middle of the road, anyway. Your job is to get out of their way.
The roadside was FULL of flowers. Some of which I have never seen before. This exquisite wild clematis for example. It came in maroon or purple. Beautiful enough to make you stop feeling hungry (me. George of course seized the opportunity to graze while I looked at them)
And look at these wild members of the onion family.Maybe some kind of leeks?
And there were insects, big shiny buzzy beetles.
We got to a place, not on the map, but apparently called Agios Theodosios. There was a garage and a farm.. and a vast pastureland being developed as a leisure area.
Here incredibly vast sums of money had been squandered on.. a building and another building in a rock. Everything was as cheap and crap as could be.
They carved a path along the side of the rock to the cafe - or whatever the fuck it`s meant to be with such lack of respect.. I mean, we don`t destroy natural monuments nowadays- do we?
The local herdsmen use the park, as they are quite right to do.. it has been built, afterall, on the traditional common grazing grounds of the area. A shepherd told me that about every fifteen days, at this time of the year, busloads of children come to the "park". How many children? oh lots, whole busloads.
There was little evidence of this, but, I saw that, as an afterthought, someone had realised that busloads of children really couldn`t be allowed to climb along the side of a cliff on a narrow path without any guard rails. So they put some. Wonky isn`t really the word for them. Very wonky, perhaps covers it.
Well, anyone who has had anything to do with school outings can be nothing but amazed that a self respecting group of 16 year olds could leave such a feeble construction unmolested. It would be the work of seconds to destroy it. Even eight year girls could put down their Barbies for a few seconds and vandalise it. Are Greek children weirdly well behaved, like some kind of zombies? I believe they are as normal as kids anywhere. The only explanation for the fact that those railings are still in place is that no kids have been near them. That is to say all that money has been spent creating an unusable attraction, while at the same time destroying it aesthetically.

Also although there is a river (dunno) running through the park, it is somewhat inaccessible for cattle and sheep to drink from. So there are water troughs. (empty) But, when I tried to get water for George (also unable to access the river) There wasn`t any. A whole expensive system of pipes and taps had been put in place, there appeared to be taps everywhere.None worked.
Oh said the shepherd, The Dimarchos has turned off the water.
Its for the visitors.
And am I not a visitor?
The shepherd had rigged up a hosepipe arrangement for his sheep, to circumvent the problems of traditional watering holes having had their water removed and put into a system of pipes and then switched off, so the animals had nothing to drink.
Kindly, because it was a very hot afternoon, he was sprinkling his sheep with water from a jug he had specifically for that purpose. The sheep were politely waiting their turn to be sprinkled.
The hosepipe had so little pressure, that he couldn`t fill his jug from it, he had to dip it into a trough which had taken most of the day to fill .
When the trough was empty they moved off.
The leisure area was a LONG walk from the garage, but I had seen that the garage owner also had a cafe and when I got there he was sweetly anxious to make sure I got fed and watered and looked after. He gave me a great meal. Everything, including the toilets (always a slight worry about using the toilets at these kind of cafes) were clean, new and carefully maintained. Really an excellent place to stop.
Some miles down the road there was yet another "Leisure area". I had stopped at it in 2004, and planned to stop there again now, as the weather was going to get bad- soon.
Unfortunately the place had deteriorated in the meantime, and the roof of the kiosk was not quite what I had hoped for. There was plenty of grass for George and water though. I spotted a small empty house nearby. The roof of its verandah seemed weatherproof. That`d do.
The usual notice board outside the leisure area had a lovely subtle butterfly perched on it. I usually go for brash in butterflies, but this was so perfect in a good taste way that I thought you`d like to see it too. Also on the notice board was a new plastic label saying how much money had been spent recently. Readers... now that we know what we know about how the Greek politicians have been stealing from us... here is a very clear example which shows it isn`t just the bignames in Athens that do it.. Somebody in the Dimos Xasion has cleaned up BIGTIME on the leisure places.. the one at Agios Theodosios, the one here, and the one I would see the next day at Agios Jiannis claim to have spent HUGE sums. And yet, the money for the leisure place where I stayed CAN¬T have been spent on that. (nor could the amount designated for the others have been spent on what they were supposed to be spent on.) The roof of the kiosk, and the shattered remains of one remaining table and a fence that couldn`t even keep George in- George, who stays in a place if you just paint a white line on the ground, was out of the fence and into someone`s trifili like a rat up a drainpipe -means that no money has been spent on this place since I was last there.. and then it had already been grossly overfunded.Look at the photo..the land already belonged to the public..and you can see how exactly thy have spent all those millions. Yes. millions.
A LOT of money has gone. But no one is in jail.
At about 6am the rain started with dreary persistence. No way we could travel on. So I walked about 500 m down the road and came to a garage/cafe that I remembered from 6 years ago.They let me stay all day in the cafe with my computer plugged in to their electrics. I got a lot of blogwork done.. but couldn`t post anything because Vodaphone doesn`t have a signal in that area.. or not much of one.
When the rain finally stopped I decided to go for a walk. Wearing my usual wetweather gear (see earlier blog for details) I crossed the river (don`t know) and tried to climb up the hill to the Church Agios Jiannis. Because some dope with a grader had been up the track it was very hard to walk up. So I changed route and went along the first unimproved path I could find. And there I beheld a wonder!!! an orchid- but WHAT an orchid. So strange so exotic so - well peculiar. I`d never seen anything quite like it. Near where I live I found a Lizard orchid, but it wasn`t quite the same as this.. the Lizard orchids were greenish, and though spectacular, were also kind of ugly, didn`t have the oomph that this flower did. Never the less I suppose this is a kind of Lizard orchid.. they vary greatly, and the ones at Agios Jiannis are maybe a special subspecie endemic to that area.
I showed the old guys in the cafe the pictures, later. They all recognised it at once. Its name is Agia Jianni they said. The reason they called it that was that their grandfathers called it that. They thought it may be to do with the fact that it usually blooms at the time when they go to the Church of Agios Jiannis, Prodromos (beginning of May) to celebrate. This one, they said, was very late and so that`s why I only found one.
Though, as the cafe owner said, there isn`t so many of them as there used to be.
The next morning it wasn`t raining, and there was lovely light illuminating the hillsides.
That`s it for rain, I thought. There can`t be more.. and that`s why this post`s song is The Last Time. Because I thought I`d got soaked for the last time, baby. Any Greek will tell you that its very foolish to think like that, and sure enough..OH NO!!! it wasn`t the last time at all. Usually I say just listen to the music while you read, but.. this Youtube is worth a gander.. its Mick as a youth.. and how very very compelling he is.. I`d forgotten...
But for most of the day it continued warm and sunny. I found the most FANTASTIC insect on the road. He is the hopper stage of some very large locust type thing. he was the size of a baby mouse. Wow!!
The roadsides continued to be decorated by all kinds of rare flowers
As we started down the road from the top of Mt Deskati (the map calls it Vounasa) towards Elati we had a couple of nasty shocks.
First this was a track when I was last here. And now it isn`t. And why?? (there is already a road from Deskati to Elati) lining pockets again I`d say..
and to make this crappy road they have killed not only the trees that were on the new road but also many beside it, The other shock? Well look at the sky behind those dead and dying trees,
OH NO!!! not the Last Time at all.
The light which now reaches the ground because the trees have gone means that many plants that can`t grow under trees can now . Strawberries for example.
Luckily about halfway down the mountain they have either run out of money or those in charge of the Elati area have decided to spend the money on something else, not having a brother in law with a road building company. So it reverts to being a track. Hurray!!!.
However someone HAS got a grader, so when the rain began to fall in buckets, the track became almost impossible. Either like glue, or like icerink or like paddling pool. All because some dope had removed the grass that was holding everything together.
But now came a very great thrill. I saw bear foot prints.

But you`ve seen billions of bearprints! you`ve already bored us with more than enough info about bears and their prints! don`t tell us even more stuff about bears! just shutup about bears!

Sorry, I can`t.
You see a bear on Mt Deskati is a sign that bears are really doing well. Deskhati is a small mountain, though it is suitable bear habitat. But no bear lived there - and now one does!!!
It isn`t possible for a bear to live on a mountain without the people who have animals there knowing. So - this means they are learning to tolerate them. To welcome them. To understand why a mountain that has a bear is a mountain that is healthy for all of us.

I`ll probably read in the newspaper that someone has shot the bear on Deskhati.. but for now, I am full of optimism.

In this mood of exhileration and hope I reached a little church outside Elati. MrLeonidas and his wife were just leaving the church having lit candles. They told me I could sleep there, that George could graze there and that the Panayia would take care of us.
"If anyone asks any questions, just tell them Leonidas told you to stay here" siad Mr Leonidas "I`m in charge of this church and I have told you to stay here."