Text: Anna Kalatzi
Photo: Loek van der Kreke, Olga Karagianni
Partly because of the gloomy weather forecast, partly because of the bumpy dirt road that only allowed agricultural vehicles for transport, the number of participants for the walk on Sunday 17 April was only eight!!!! So eight people set off on foot.
Footpath no. 19 is the path of extremes. It starts under the peak of Profitis Ilias at Nonia, at an altitude of 600-650 meters, and peaks to finally end up at the sea just opposite Tinos. Neither higher nor lower you can go on this southern side of Andros. The ascent to Profitis Ilias is a “pilgrimage” due to the steep difference in height. And yet, the breath is taken away – not by the steep ascent but – by the view of the plain and the bay of Korthi and the wooded parts of the footpath, since all senses are activated on the way up, distract you and do not let your body feel the fatigue of the climb. At the peak, just seven of us were left in order to continue the descent, since the eighth person of the group was obliged to return due to a scheduled appointment.
After the summit the landscape changes. Low vegetation, stones, terraces and dry-stone constructions lie before your eyes and in the horizon the target …. the sea and Tinos. It is the route that surprises you at every step, meter, kilometer, turn, optical angle to remind you of the synergy between the works of God and Man. An embroidery the works of past generations with the dry-masonry structures on the rugged land, a lace the work of God. The coasts of Andros and Tinos tend to embrace each other, while harmoniously spreading their curves and elaborately forming the Andrian Fiord … of Stenos. And the narrow footpath appears on the horizon with the perspective of the background diving and disappearing into the sea.
The grey sky that threatened to bring the rain never came and the weather remained mild bringing a sense of tranquility to the landscape and the sea, the “embroidery” and the “lace” being a delight. Incredible the number of stones in this area used to construct the cottages, the threshing floors, the troughs for animal watering (there where water flows from the springs) and hundreds of narrow footpaths, which have been correctly called “Cyclopean walls” by a writer. This area, once well-developed agriculturally and livestock farming, still retains its character to a lesser extent, of course, but much more than the rest of Andros. This is demonstrated by the narrow footpaths, the condition of which testifying their use by the natives up to now and – in many places – by the well-kept terraces and the well-maintained cottages.
Such a cottage has Ms Irini at the beach of Stenos, where we arrived after the maintenance work of the footpath by walking on the cliffy coast from the adjacent beach of Stavros, where footpath No. 19 terminates. She offered us home-made raki produced by her family from the nearby vineyards and took us back to the top at Fragaki with her farm truck. We thank her sincerely for her generous transportation offer, invaluable for us in achieving the maintenance of the footpath. We also thank those who participated at the maintenance hiking as well as those who wanted to participate but conditions did not allow it.
And after the thank words, it is worth noting as a postscript conclusion (and a little differentiated for the needs of the text), what the volunteer route angel of this route, Giorgos Vrettos, once wrote when he first hiked on it and fell in love with it: “When I walk I rediscover the world like a little child, I exaggerate and this is part of the delight. The photos that were shot just give a small fraction of what we saw and experienced; what is important is, nevertheless, what the eyes record and what the memory keeps … It is up to you to live the experience that this route offers … just by following the way-marking 19! !”…. At this point I would like to add that high up there, where you descend and your eyes get lost in the sea and the horizon, in the lace of Andros and Tinos, there you find the God that you hide inside you and you reconcile with him, grateful for what you are experiencing!!!