Among the villages not featured in last December’s Christmas Puzzle was one of the highest, most isolated, and scarcely populated in our area – Aghii Theodoroi. To save you searching on the map, Aghii Theodoroi is 15 km from Paleochora, at 480m high, on the road from Koundoura to Sklavopoula, on the sheltered southern slopes of Chasiou Korifi mountain.
A drive (or taxi) to the village for a short walk around, can be followed by a climb to the summit of Chasiou Korifi, 732m, a superb viewpoint, and possibly the easiest mountain ascent anywhere in Crete, with a road/track virtually to the top.
The coast, greenhouses and reservoir are soon left behind as the road winds up through a rather barren landscape to the village, slightly up right from the main road. Once with a sizeable population, it’s now virtually deserted and in ruins.
Wander past the village spring, and on to the church, plain outside but with a more interesting interior.
There’s a more modern church, and a small graveyard, above the village. And from almost 500m, a view over the Libyan Sea towards the North African coast, only a mere 300 km away ……
There was a tragedy here some years ago when a local man, after working late in Paleochora, called to visit his elderly father in Ag. Theodoroi. With no answer at the (locked) door, he tried to climb through a window, whereupon the old man, deaf and probably confused, and thinking him to be a burglar, shot and killed his son.
There’s an air of sadness about Ag. Theodoroi now, with more sheep than residents, and it’s hard to imagine the vibrant community that must once have been here. Let’s go and climb a mountain …..
My first ascent of Chasiou Korifi was in January 1998, along with Lynne and two friends then living in Voutas. This was before the masts were erected near the summit, and the service road built. We followed the track SE out of Chasi for a while, then scrambled up steeply through rocky escarpments, and more easily to the concrete pillar which marks the summit. Descending W and N, high above Ag. Theodoroi to the Sklavopoula road, then down through Azoghirez, we returned to Voutas as darkness fell, a long but memorable day.
Now there’s an easier way up the mountain, a return walk of 5 km taking around 2.5 hours. Just 800m above Ag. Theodoroi, on a bend, a track leaves the main road for a climb of 210m, on moderate gradients, to the summit.
Views unfold as the track rises, to several of the small villages above Voutas – Kitiros, Lagadas, Livadi, and Platanos, and far to the north, the highest mountain in Western Crete, Agios Dikaios, 1181m (ref. Explore ! September 2020) After around half an hour and 1.75 km, and now at 700m, the track contours above a level area, lush and green in spring and summer, with two plane trees, always a sign of underground moisture.
And, if you leave the track to investigate, you’ll find a spring of fresh water, remarkable at this height, and a godsend to local shepherds with sheep and goats grazing here.
As often with springs, there are several myths and legends associated with the water here ; it can cure eye cataracts, arthritis and stomach disorders amongst other ailments. My favourite myth is that anyone in their seventies who drinks from the spring is assured of eternal youth ……
From here, the summit is only 100m away, but out of sight. Better to continue along to the highest point of the track, then climb left over a “garrigue” of rocks and low-level shrubs to reach the pillar.
Alternatively, follow the track around and up to the masts, from where the summit is visible, then cross 300m of rough ground, via a gully, to reach it.
Views are now to the Levka Ori, or White Mountains, often snow-capped from November until May, and far along the South Coast, possibly – especially in the clear “halcyon days” of January – extending around 80km to the Paximadia Islets off the coast from Agia Galini. Gavdos is closer, and try to spot Grameno beach/promontory far below.
The (same way) return is dominated by the radar station above Sklavopoula village, and in well under an hour on this easy descent, you’ll be back at your starting point having climbed a mountain.
Christmas Puzzle Winner
The names of all who submitted a correct answer were written on paper and one was randomly drawn from a pudding bowl.
The winner of the 2021 contest is HELMUT RATHJEN
Congratulations to Helmut. As soon as we have your address, the winning mug will be on it’s way (and remember to claim your €10 voucher at The Delphini bookshop when you are next in town!