Our canyoning expedition down the River Kakodikianos from Mahia to Vlithias (see ‘Explore! – August 2012) was a memorable adventure, and one I think not too often repeated, but we never found the waterfall.
I’d known of the existence of a waterfall in the valley, with a deep pool below it, for many years, and intermittently tried to locate it. Supposed “friends” told me it was a secret and special place, and I suspect, possibly unkindly, that the directions they gave me were purposely incorrect. Only one thing for it – to continue following the river downstream from where we left off last time, and hope to discover it, rather like Livingstone and Victoria Falls.
Leaving a car (with dry clothes) at Kalamos, 6km north of Paleochora, we drove the short distance into Vlithias, just off the main road, and parked in the platea. Michelle joined the previous team of Rick, Phil, Laura and myself, thus making a “Famous Five”, if you were a childhood fan of Enid Blyton’s adventure stories, as I was. Walking out of the village on the road towards Mahia, we took the first turning left, passing a tiny church/shrine on a winding track through olive groves. This reaches a point overlooking the valley, then leads down to the concrete bridge where we had left the river on our first expedition.
Being gentlemen, we insisted on “ladies first”, both to ascertain the depth of water, and to check for any reptilian presences in the river, or python-esque creatures dangling from the branches overhead.
Petite Michelle disappeared at intervals, resurfacing with a loud and accurate translation of her native French “merde” ; squeals of delight from Laura indicated that a water-chute, deep pool, or maybe waterfall lay ahead, and that having temporarily dried off in the summer heat, we would very soon be wet through again.
On we went, through thickets of bamboo, below canopies of overhanging plane trees, the water fast-flowing then calm, shallow then deep, with Michelle ahead disturbing crabs, eels and an occasional bird. As one particularly placid section stretched ahead of us, I wondered idly if the poet Tennyson had explored here. “ A land of streams ! ” he wrote, “and some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke.” Like his lotos-eaters of old, and being modern-day ones, we “saw the gleaming river seaward flow from the inner land …. ”
Eventually, an hour or so after setting off, an exceptionally loud shriek from Laura told us of a new discovery ahead. The river drops nearly 200m from our ingress above Vlithias to below Kalamos, and 4 metres of it was here, a vertical plunge from a rocky ledge into a pool of indeterminate depth below.
….And there was Laura, threatening to leap off into it. “Courage !” cried the lotos-eaters. “Don’t jump !! ” cried we, less poetically, and scrambled down the steep-sided (west) bank to the shingle shore below. And there we enjoyed “an hour of glorious life,” not as Edward Whymper did on the summit of the Matterhorn after the first ascent, but swimming up to and under the waterfall, drying out in the sun, and relaxing with a picnic lunch which had remarkably stayed dry.
The river below the waterfall was inevitably an anti-climax ; we reached a concrete bridge from where we could have climbed back to Vlithias, but continued downstream.
As the gradient eased the water became more shallow and overgrown, progress more difficult and with less interest. At a small and precarious-looking wooden footbridge we left the river, and in the late afternoon sunshine meandered up on a widening track to Kalamos.
At a guess, we had covered only 3km in over four hours, slip-sliding our way down the river. If you follow the route of “Famous Five discover a Waterfall”, do be aware of the dangers – water levels and temperatures can change, the valley is very steep-sided and escape from the river is difficult or impossible, and evacuation in the event of an accident would be a serious problem. To quote Whymper again : “ Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end. ”
[important]Remember, you can get a digital copy of the Explore! book detailing ten amazing walks within striking distance of Paleochora. Get your copy here [/important]