a mountain walk along the spine of Crete
by Richard Ellis
I got off to an early start for this first day of two "bonus" days of walking to try and see me all the way through the Psiloritis massif. Despite LW's dire prediction of 8 hours for 12 km (pre dirt road), the walk was safely done in five hours (including stops) with everything more or less in working order. A certain amount of pain relief was needed but I felt confident about the next day’s challenge.

The Rouvas forest seen from the E4

The walk up from Rouvas is quite straightforward; once you have walked back down the stream from the Rouvas picnic area and turned right (north) up the dry river bed for two hundred yards, you scramble up a short, easy rock section (well sign posted) before the path continues up through open oak woodland (the Rouvas Forest) heading first

Another view down on to the bowl and forest at Rouvas
for the Duo Prinoi chapel, which has a water tap, and then later up and over a ridge, beyond which a small dry water course leads up a steep sided valley to the flat lands of the Nidha plateau.

For the most part it is all quite well marked and the path pretty obvious – LW’s book offers a good description of the general route and T’s GPS was inch perfect, which was lucky as there is one spot going over the ridge towards Ammoudhara where the signs run out completely and the path itself peters out. The trick is to get over the ridge and down into the valley bottom and then follow the gully west-north-west through, or around, the overgrown maquis looking out for the occasional cairn and red spot.

The path up the dry, but overgrown,
gully on the way to the Nidha Plateau

The path

Once on the plateau itself the walking is flattish and easy on dirt roads which lead eventually to the decrepit, and closed-looking, Nidha Taverna. On the way, there are tantalising views ahead to the summit slopes of Psiloritis and as the morning wore on, the clouds thickened over the tops, giving me hints about the best time to be at the summit next day.

Tantalising views ahead to Psiloritis

I walked into the Nidha Taverna about 1130 am, relieved to see that it was indeed operating. The landline for Stelios no longer works (or at least not for him) so you now have to rely on the mobile number for future reference (see above). There are two bedrooms above the kitchen, one with three beds and one with two.

The price for the room (regardless of the number of sleepers) is 25 euros and is supposed to include breakfast, but somehow I ended up paying 30. As I was planning to help myself to their wine that evening, I supposed it was all going to work out.

T was going to find somewhere to camp off the plateau which is wise as there must be tens of pairs of binoculars scanning every inch of the grazing every hour. However, the Taverna is such a well-placed jumping-off point for the morning that it made sense for me to stay there. T came to join me for supper in the Taverna - it is a pre-pay DIY system in the evening as Stelios and his Romanian “assistant” disappear down to Anoyia about 6 pm.

There is a primitive shower (with hot water from an electric water heater) and an even more primitive loo but around here these facilities are not to be sniffed at – even at this price ! And so to bed with the alarm set for 5.00 am – I had a bus to catch at 2.30 from Fourfouras the following afternoon.

©Richard Ellis 2011 (rhellis10@gmail.com )
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