Sunday, 15 February 2015

Not Quite Mount Kilimanjaro

Reports of our imminent demise from hypothermia grossly exagerrated!
Here I go again folks, humbly debunking another myth about Rhodes!! By and large we're having a mild winter but, as usual, we've had one or two cold snaps, although not as many as some other recent winters here on Rhodes. The most recent was last week, when from Wednesday night thru Friday morning the overnight temperatures did drop quite dramatically and Mount Attavyros, the highest peak on the island and not more than 20k from our house, was capped with snow. 

Attavyros is just under 4,000 feet [1215 metres exactly] in height and, purely due to that altitude, very often gets dusted with white at the summit for a few weeks each winter. This past week, owing to the sudden cold snap and a very cold air mass coming down from the area of the Black Sea, much of the Aegean experienced snow the like of which it very rarely sees. Samos and Naxos, as two examples quite far apart, were very snowbound for something like 48 hours, Naxos experiencing arctic conditions for a while. Of course there was the usual clutch of photos on the social media sites showing the snow here on Rhodes, but it was very limited in location and that was more or less the area around the mountain. It seems that the village of Empona [phonetically pronounced: EH'bonna] was white for a while, which, although situated on the northern slopes of the mountain, is nevertheless much, much lower than the peak and rarely sees ice and snow on its streets.

Prompted by the photos I'd seen on Facebook, we took off in the car on Friday afternoon to take a look for ourselves, not 36 hours after several Facebook posts had given non-Rhodes residents the idea that we were all out there shovelling snow for all we were worth to cut a path to the woodstore and thus keep alive!!!  Here in Kiotari we saw nothing whatsoever, just had a couple of chilly nights, so I was somewhat bemused by responses from some UK residents to the effect that they thought we were all gripped by the ice and snow. I wanted to snap a few photos myself, since it would have been quite fun as in almost ten years of living here I've never seen snow. The nearest we've ever been is the occasional hail storm.

So, we set a course for Agios Isidoros, a delightful village on the South slopes of the mountain, from where we then skirted around at least 50% of the mountain's foothills to Embona (alternative English spelling, don't they all have half a dozen versions?), where we took a walking tour of the village. Guess what folks, there wasn't a single snowflake in sight, not even on the mountain's summit!! Talk about a let-down. Mind you, it was a superb drive and thus I shot a few photos and scanned the map so that I could share the route with you if you feel like a dramatic scenic drive next time you're here for a visit.

Here goes then...

The route basically begins in the village of Lardos, from where you take the Laerma road, which leaves the village from between Valantina's Taverna and Il Gelso Italian restaurant. The road soon rises steeply as you leave the village and, once you've crested the first rise the scenery already begins to exhibit the "wow" factor. The quality of the road surface for most of this excursion is excellent by the way. The exceptions being actually in the village of Laerma itself. When you go through Laerma you need to simply follow the road you're on as it snakes through the village and drops down into a valley the other side, where it's signposted for Agios Isidoros and Embona.

Eventually you approach the mountain and it is quite impressive, if, in this case, rather disappointingly completely devoid of snow!! See first photo...

You eventually arrive at a T-junction, where you take a left to visit Ag. Isidoros (highly recommended). It's only 1Km to the village, from where you have to double back to come back around the mountain to get to Embona. This nice little place was right in the village itself.
A lot is made on Rhodes of the village of Seanna, and OK, it is a nice place. But for my money if you're looking for a pretty village relatively untouched by tourism, then Ag. Isidoros wins hands down. The people here are famed fo their hospitality too. This doesn't surprise me, since we only drove up and down the village briefly, stopping only for a couple of photos, yet an old ya ya seated against a sunny wall on an old stool and sporting the regulation headscarf tied tightly under her chin waved and smiled as we crept past. Incidentally, on the weather theme, when we left home in Kiotari it was 15ºC outside, with a real-feel of more like 19 owing to very light winds. Here in Ag. Isidoros it was reading 9.

Another snap in Ag. Isidoros

Same spot as the one above, just a different angle.
Heading back the way we'd come, we passed the turning for Laerma that we'd recently emerged from and continued around the mountain to Embona. Parking up at the edge of the village we took a stroll...

We'd eaten at this taverna some years go with our landlords John and Wendy. It was during a bad bout of Sciatica for me and so I ate kneeling on the floor since it was too painful to sit in a chair. Boy did I get some odd looks.

The beloved with her new boots. She was so looking for an opportunity to wear them, bless her!! Dammit though, still not a snowflake in sight.

On the edge of Embona, that's Mount Attavyros. See, no snow!!
On the way back we decided to snap a few scenic shots. These are taken on the road back down to Laerma, which starts from just outside Agia Isidoros...

In summer  this is a refreshment station that also sells Souma and honey etc.

This is the view from the wooden shack above. The lake in the distance is Gadoura (shown on the map scanned above), where one can visit the fairly new dam, which we did almost precisely a year ago. See this post.

And this is taken from where we were standing in the shot above. This perspective makes the lake look deceptively near to the sea, which in reality it isn't.

Click on this one for the larger view and you'll be able to make out the road as it snakes up the far mountain and through a shallow pass. The road is almost new throughout, albeit extremely "curly" in places.

Well, as you can see from the above photos. we aren't about to be buried up to our goolies in snow any time soon. It does amuse me though how deceptive reports on the internet can be to those not actually here on the island. Take Mount Kilimanjaro as an example. It's only (so I found out by Googling it!) about 300km from the equator, yet owing to its altitude [over 19,000 ft] it is always capped with snow. Here on Rhodes, Mount Attavyros is similar, although not to the same extent obviously, as it's somewhat smaller height-wise. Yet it often has a white dusting in wintertime, which from a distance is very picturesque anyway, yet because for a couple of days last week that dusting crept a bit further down the slopes, there were folk in the UK worrying about our survival!!

Just yesterday, walking the beach road here in Kiotari, which as you'll know we tend to do rather a lot, there was a bloke shovelling cement in the Petalas (formerly the Paralia) Taverna with nothing on from the waist up whatsoever. Can't quite see that happening back in the UK during February eh?


  1. Thanks John for reviving happy memories of a part of Rhodes we know quite well. As you say--the views are fantastic, and the roads are very good-- a bit of a change from 10-12 years ago! If anyone is interested, there is a fantastic 4 hour walk in that area--you need a car, but well worth is. Park at the cemetery outside Seanna, and find yourself in another world. Details can be found in Mark Dubin's Trekking in Greece book. We were in Laerma once--stopped for a cold drink and got handed a plate of broad beans and some unidentified liquid--the old chap refused payment. We'll be there in just under 2 months

    1. Thanks Anon (Mark D. maybe?). Such comments are a joy to receive. You show that the old Greeece that we all used to come here for decades ago is still out there to be found, if one is willing to go looking for it.

  2. No I'm not Mark D!! Just an old--in all senses of the word--Grecophile. (In fact--I'm female--so definitely not Mark D!)

    1. Sorry! I wouldn't have minded though if you had been, since we all need a bit of "networking" to promote our work! I rather like getting references like that because if I investigate them and like them they get placed somewhere on the blog for others to benefit from too. Hope it's not too cold where you are at the moment.

  3. Wondering if it's my 'old' mate who goes on to Tilos for a longish stay! John -why don't you and Maria come over to Tilos during May and we'll show you why we keep going back - c from b-o-a