The sleep in the monastery, even though short, managed to recharge our batteries! When I woke up some of the rest were already awake. I looked out the window. The beech and platanus forest was unrolling in front of me. The landscape and the quiet made you feel calm…
By 8:30 we were all awake and having our coffee with pope Serafim. At some point we contacted Sakis, who had started from Athens earl in the morning, and Giorgos R., Maria R., Manolis M and Iro M. We arranged to meet up in Aetia, where we would stop for lunch. After that, we would continue all together for the rest of the day. Our goal was to visit the national park of Pindos and to spend the night somewhere outdoors.
At around 9:30 we picked up our stuff and got ready o leave. Before that we visited the church of Aghia Triada which is inside the monastery. The interior of the impressive stone church is a real treasure! It has an incredible wooden templon and magnificent wall paintings. It was decorated with stone carvings by Milios Zoupaniotis, while in 1802 the painted Michail drew the hagiographies. In recent years, and under the supervision of father Serafim, they were restored.
The time to go had come. We bid the monk farewell and thanked him for his hospitality and we promised we would visit him again soon. It had been a great experience for the ones of us who spent the night in a monastery!
Sakis A. proposed that we should follow a rather mountainy route (35 km) n order to reach the intersection of the Kozani-Ioannina highway (near Tsotyli). As expected, his proposition was a good one, as we had the opportunity to ride through a beautiful area which offered a great panoramic view at several points!! Around there we bid Achilleas farewell as he had to go back to Thessaloniki due to family issues.
When we reached the intersection we turned left. After 6-7 km we took a right heading towards Louvra – Krimini – Koryfi. Even though we had visited that area the day before, Sakis A wanted our new friends to take a taste of the Voio area. The road went through an overgrown area with an altitude of about 1000 m.
After about 25 km. we were on the highway again. This time we turned left (west) towards Ioannina. Our next destination was Pentalofos. The well-known town gained its reputation because of the “stone craftsmen”, which is immediately seen as soon as you enter the place. We stopped for a few minutes and then we continued west towards Eptachori (17 km).
The route to Eptachori was impressive! It went through areas with tall fir trees while in the horizon we could make out the tops of the nearby mountains. The road itself had easy turns which made the ride enjoyable! Beofre knowing it, we reached the cetral square of Eptachori. A stone fountain with cold running water and a traditional coffee shop was its “heart”. We also met another bikers’ company who had gone out for a Sunday ride.
We went back 2-3 km, where the intersection to Dotsiko was. Recently this road was paved with asphalt. This fact, combined with the mountainy view made us not wanting the 20 km route to end. The view was breathtaking!
We stopped for coffee in Dotsiko (altitude: 1060 m) in the traditional coffee shop “The Platanus”, located in the cetral square of the village. The owner was a friend of Sakis A. and Mimis. The village has beautiful stone houses, fountains with running water, platanuses and a stone arched bridge. Sakis A told us that this place was one if his favorites… And he wasn’t wrong!!
Time was passing and the rest of our company was waiting in Apostolis’ tavern, near the village Aetia. The time to depart had arrived. The closest route in order for us to get to the Samarina – Filippaioi road was a small dirt road (4-5 km), climbing the mountain Skourtza. The people in the coffee shop told us the road was easy enough and that –with some attention- we would be able to ride through it. And they were right…
As soon as the dirt road ended we took a left on the road connecting Filippaioi and Aetia. The ground was covered in short grass, gone yellow because of the time of the year, which was a proof we were riding in a pretty high altitude. The panoramic view the route offered was unique! The further we rode, the growth was becoming thicker, consisting mainly from fir trees.
After 30 km we came to Apostolis’ tavern. The guys were there and had already started drinking tsipouro! Sakis, Giorgos R. and Maria R., Manolis M. and Iro got added to the company! The owner of the tavern had a variety of fresh meat prepared for us. We sat on a big table and started the toast wishing a good rest of the trip!
At around 4 pm we all left together towards our main destination: The national park of Pindos and especially the Valia Calda valley. Giorgos R. took the task of guiding us through the area. He knows it well because of his job, since it includes climbing, hiking, etc.
We rode on a route (about 40 km) through –mainly- fir, pine, beech and a special kind of pine, the “robolo”. The traffic was minimal and the road was in good condition, having many comfortable turns. The more we rode, the higher we went in altitude. Around us we had the tops of the mountains. We were in charming Pindos!!! We stopped some times for photographs and Giorgos R. gave us some information on the area.
We took a short coffee break in the mountain village Perivoli. It is the last village before the national park. We decided the plan for the rest of the route there: We would go into the park up to a point and then spend the night somewhere in Vovousa. That’s what happened…
We left Perivoli and after about 10 km we saw the sing that read “To the national park” A dirt road was starting there (10 km) that led us to the start of Valia Calda’s “core”. This part of the Pindos sierra is one of our most important national parks. It includes Arkoudorema, the Lygkos and Mavrovouni mountains (Flegka – 2159 m) up to the tops of the mountain Avgo (2177 m) and the valley of “Valia Calda” (a vlach word meaning “Warm valley”) The name comes from the fact there exist great temperature fluctuations during a 24 hour course, with very high temperatures during daytime, with no clouds, and very low ones during nights.
The “heart” of Valia Calda is also called the “core”. It is covered in thick forests of “Black-Whiteskinned” pine and beech. It also shelters many kinds of birds, among them many rare predators (Vulture, King Eagle) and big mammals (Bear, Wild goat, Deer) that have gone extinct in most areas in the country. The whole area is, maybe, the most important biotope of the country for the Brown Bear.
The access up to the core’s limits is relatively easy. From then on, 4x4 vehicles or enduro bikes are required. Furthermore, a guide who knows the area very well is essential. We did not have the appropriate vehicles and equipment to spend the night there, so we went back to the main road (Perivoli-Vovousa) and continued west to Vovousa.
After 2-3 km the spiral road crossed an overgrowth with platanuses and firs. The trees were so dense that in some points the sunlight could nto reach us! After 15 km or so we reached the graphic village of Vovousa, with its stone houses and the characteristic arched bridge. The residents are very few. The central, stone paved square has a traditional coffee house but it had already started getting dark so we didn’t stop. We decided to press on and we ended up in a clearing, 2-3 km after the village. It was near the shelter. Giorgos R. and Sakis A. had visited the area before and they knew the location. I think their suggestion was the most suitable for us!
With no further delays and with lots of joking around we started setting the tents into place. Around us there were fir trees and we could hear the rushing water of Arkoudorema close by. Even though we were near (100-200 m) to the main road and a tavern, we were under the impression that we were far away from all kinds of civilized areas.
As soon as the tents were ready, we picked up some firewood and prepared a place for the fire. It was dark but we were happy to realize it was a full moon night! In a short while, after the moon went higer up in the sky everything was lit up!! The result was amazing! It couldn’t have been like that even if we had ordered it…
We had taken some meat to cook from Apostolis’ tavern, while we bought some retsina from the one nearby. We didn’’t have equipment for a barbecue so we used a big, flat stone (which are not rare in the area). Giorgos R. was the cook for the night and he did great! The time went by pleasantly with chat and jokes! At some point more members were added to our company. Johnny, Vaios and Vassilis, bikers from Trikala and Larisa, who had come with off-road bikes to visit the park.
Late at night we started going into the tents. It had been a great trip! For almost its entirety, the route was interesting and I was trying to remember a dull part in vain! The beauties of the area were incomparable and gave us the chance to know “real” nature!
At this point, I would like to say a big thank you to the guys from motodiadromes, and especially Sakis A and Mimis for their hospitality, the great moments they gave us and the amazing places we visited with them!! We thank our friends Giorgos R., Maria R., Manolis M. and Iro M. for the great company and the tour they gave! May everyone be well and good riding to us all!!!