Saturday, 3 November 2018

Looking Down on Snowdon

Mount Attaviros is the highest point on the island of Rhodes. And we've lived here over 13 years and never gone up it. I have now though.

We've just had some good friends from decades back staying next door, along with two of their sons, one who's married and the other who brought his fifteen-year-old friend with him. Yes, all the usual clichés apply. We saw those boys born (well, the older of the two anyway, the younger was born after we'd moved away, even while still in the UK), and they're both taller than me now. Depressing isn't it. Well, it would be if they weren't such a great family and very good company.

Plus, they're up for a challenge. I'd read on Amanda Settle's lovely "Olive, Feta and Ouzo" blog about her expedition to the top recently and the fact that it was do-able in a car - if one was very careful. Me and the better half decided a couple of months back that we really ought to go up there for two reasons. One, the view and two, there's an ancient temple right on the summit that was demanding to be seen. Apparently it's dedicated to Zeus.

So, as I said, our friends, all six of them, were raring to have a go and, since my beloved was at work for the very last two days of her season, it was just me and them setting off last Monday morning in their two modest hire cars. Don't tell the hire company whatever you do. 

The road leading up to the summit begins at a junction along the road from Siana to Kritinia, right where the junction with the road to Embona is situated. In fact, the lane leading up to the summit is right next to the Embona turn, and is clearly signed with the words "Mount Attaviros"...

Photo courtesy of Google Earth Pro. The road bisecting the photo is the one from Siana in the South to Kritinia further North. So the gentle fork to the right above is the road to Embona, and the road leading off at a right angle and twisting back south for a while is the one leading to the summit.

Photo courtesy of Google Earth Pro. The road rising to the right is the one you need to take. Eagle-eyed readers will just about spot the sign saying "Mount Attaviros" on a post above the roof of the car. The road leading downhill is the one to Embona.
From the point where you set off up the lane, it's miles before you get to the top. It's also deceptively well maintained for the first mile or so. Then it becomes fairly level dirt and stones, then it deteriorates in places into sump-smashing gulleys and potholes. After that (which is probably about half-distance) it improves and the final mile or so is actually tarmac!! That's after you've passed the wind farm off to your right.

We actually got as far as the really rough patch before abandoning one of the cars. In fact, at first we parked them both up, thinking that we'd walk the rest of the way. The trouble is, each time you crest a rise or round a bend, the road just goes on, and on, and on. That's why Les, my friend and the dad of the family, decided (largely because his wife Claire declared that she'd never make it otherwise) decided to ignore the strong smell of burning clutch plate we'd been experiencing earlier and have another go with his little Japanese hire car.

The first car to be left to have a rest is visible below.

Four of the intrepid explorers. Sorry, five! Make sure you have water with you BTW.

Having passed the worst bit, huge sighs of relief as the car was once again moving upwards, except for the fact that there were seven of us and now only one set of wheels. Muggins here found himself walking most of the way to the summit and quite a long way back with the two fifteen-year olds. Yes, us kids who've been young a few decades longer than them can still do it when we have to. (Flowers to...)

The barrier lulls you into a false sense of security. Large sections of the way don't boast such a luxury. Sheer drops abound though, just to make it interesting.
Fortunately we'd chosen probably the best day all year to make the climb. In high summer it would be just too hot, and in winter it could quite possibly freeze your whatsits off, but Monday October 29th, 2018 dawned clear, with very low humidity and next to no wind either. We didn't see a cloud all day. The temperature, even at the summit, was around 24ºC and it must have been one of the very few days when the summit, at 3986ft was windless. Magic...

The temple area is extensive. It extends from here right to the summit. How they ever managed to build something like this a couple of thousand years ago in this location, the mind boggles. Imagine the estate agent's blurb though: "Suberb views, although the access road may need a little renovation."

Every direction you look in you spot some part of the island you recognise. A good pair of binoculars would have been a good idea though. Decent trainers or hiking boots are a must too. Anything else and you'll be glad of a mobile phone to call for the air ambulance for shipping a broken ankle (along with the rest of the body of course) to the hospital.

Thank goodness for the ten second delay. At this point we were still waiting for Les to ferry the remainder of the crew to the top.

That's Alimia island behind Harry (furthest person left). In the distance is Tilos, Nisyros and Kos.

A high-factor sun cream wouldn't go amiss either. Left to right: Connor, Harry, Claire and Les (Connor's parents), yours truly (looking the epitome of sartorial elegance in that Oakley cap, eh?), Reilly and her hubby Scot (also Les and Claire's son).

"Look where I am folks!" Reilly pans around.

That's Halki dead centre.

Reilly still impressing her folks back in the UK with her video skills.

Rhodes Town just visible in the far distance. Plus the Turkish mountains and Symi.

"The property is in need of some repair work." They just don't build 'em like they used to.

Halki is to the left in this one. Then, further back and slightly to the right, Tilos etc.

Someone had left this just two days before we got there. So we added our names with a ballpoint pen.

View from the front seat on the descent.
It was a fabulous experience, if somewhat exhausting. But I'd do it again in a trice and probably will in December, when John and Wendy turn up for a few days to take the Jeep back to the UK. So John ought to be up for taking his Commander (5.7 ltr., a beast!) up there. It will eat the surface of the lane for breakfast. May be an idea to dress for colder weather then though.

We finally made it to Taverna Savvas in Embona, where an excellent lunch was enjoyed by all. After that the girls mooched around a while, bought a rug or two an tasted some local wine...

House wine by the litter eh? Must be rubbish then. Actually, it wasn't, and Claire bought some.

On the way back I took the gang through Laerma and along the back road to Asklipio, passing the Thari Monastery on the way. This is the route I talked about some years ago in the two posts "Why Not Take a Drive?" and "Why Not Take a Drive 2". My wife and I love this road because it reminds us very much of the New Forest in Hampshire, England. Plus, we usually see deer when driving that road. Guess what...

So, if you're out here next year and fancy a bit of strenuous exertion which brings rich rewards, you'd better get out your walking shoes, some bottled water, some high-factor sun cream, a good pair of bins and some courage and get yourself up on top of Mount Attaviros. It's exhilarating. 

In fact, it was while we were up there that, since I used to live in Wales and that's where our friends live today (in Bridgend, in fact), we referred to Wales' highest peak, which is Mount Snowdon. We'd done the research see, and discovered that Attaviros is actually 426ft higher than Snowdon. So, if the two mountains were to stand side-by-side, from the top of Attaviros, you'd actually be looking down on Snowdon.

Finally, those of  nervous disposition may not want to see the next shot. We dropped by on our old friend Mihali the 'smallholder' yesterday, uninvited. We hadn't had a chat with him for while, but we caught him rather busy, along with another mutual friend or two, in the process of skinning a pig they'd just slaughtered. See, call me a hard man, but I reckon that anyone who eats meat ought to be able to do this. Needless to say, we didn't hang around long, promising to drop by another time...

The beloved said she thought it was so barbaric. All she could think about was "the poor pig." We were reminded of a similar scene we'd witnessed in the run-up to Easter when we'd been on Naxos in 2014. Taking a rural walk in the mountains we'd come across a farmer doing something similar with a goat, which in that case was hanging from an olive tree (see this post from 2014. You have to read a long way through it to get to the relevant part). 

I must say that, although I don't eat meat, I was prompted to consider something important about the culture in rural Greece. The scene we'd just witnessed is a scene that's been played out for thousands of years in virtually all human communities, isn't it. It's only relatively recently that meat-eaters have been spared the grisly task of slaughtering their own food, being able instead, as they are nowadays, to go to a shop and purchase their meat in neatly prepared chunks and often packaged, in many cases not resembling something that had been a part of a living, breathing creature until recently at all.

I had to admit a certain respect for our friends. At least when they sit down to their pork steak or bacon rasher, they'll know exactly how it got to their plate.

I think I'll stick to killing lettuces and onions though.


  1. John, thanks for a great read. We'll be in your neck of the woods in April and once my husband reads this, he'll be raring to go up the mountain!!
    Yes the area around Laerma and Thari is gorgeous--most people on holiday in Rhodes have no idea that it's there. Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing!!

  2. Hi John. Recognised wine outlet in Embonas. Wife and I stocked up there for last two years when we stay in our house in Koskinou.
    At age mid to late 70s now think might just enjoy views from Summit of Ataviros courtesy of you wonderful photos.