ΔΕΚΕΜΒΡΙΟΣ - DECEMBER 2006
 
The first day of December was dull with rain showers. The next day was dull at first, then brightened. We went for a walk late morning - our favourite river walk by the church just outside Stilos. The bank of the stream were Roy often sees dragonflies had been cleared, together with all the wildlife. The track by the river is covered with a carpet of autumn leaves which 'crunch' as you walk along. The leaves are continuing to fall and much of the countryside is full of autumn colours. The river is in full flow. We watched a crab feeding in one of the irrigation channels. The Bermuda buttercups are colourful around the orange trees. One field looks like 'wigwam' city where someone has been very busy erecting bamboo canes.

On the way back to Provarma - by now in warm sunshine - we decided to explore the Church of Panagia. This is hidden in orange and olive trees and we have often seen it from the road. It is a very old church - obviously recently restored - situated in a very quiet area along a lane bordered by grapefruit trees. Well worth a visit.

River in full flow

 

Church of Panagia

Grapefruit trees

 Bermuda Buttercups

Wigwams (bamboo canes)


The weather brightened again on Monday and Tuesday.  It was nice enough for breakfast outside - on the balcony. We walked by the sea at Kalives in warm sunshine and took a picnic to the mountains near our house.

Wednesday, 6th December - we set off at 10.30 for a day out with Alan and Margaret.  It was sunny and 18C. Alan drove along the National Road towards the west coast. We passed the Rodopos peninsula on our right and soon after turned south towards Potamida. Alan and Margaret were looking for the site of an unusual land formation which they had a picture of on a card. Driving along Margaret glimpsed the site through the trees.  We turned left down a side lane and parked. We walked over the field to a 'moonscape' with vegetation on top of the hills. The 'rocks' were a strange texture - quite firm but slippery and difficult to climb the gullies. We spent some time exploring the site.

We continued further into the mountains on very quiet roads.  We stopped by a gorge with a shrine at the top of the road. The road had rock falls. The scenery was lovely and we could glimpse the sea through the gorge. We continued along unfamiliar mountain roads stopping occasionally to view the Griffon vultures appearing over the mountains. We found a picnic site with a great view and were joined by a local man walking between villages. A conversation was attempted but was not too successful - just a few words were familiar. We shared some biscuits with him and then he went on his way.  We returned towards the National Road  stopping off at the Deliana Gorge. It is an attractive  area - full of autumn colours and birds. We walked for a few kilometres but decided to return to the car as the daylight was fading. We will return to explore the gorge more fully. As we drove back to Provarma, for a meal, the temperature had dropped to 10C. Another most enjoyable day out.

Approaching 'moonscape'

Tree, dwarfing formation

Intrepid mountaineer

Tuft of vegetation

Shrine at head of gorge

View to sea through gorge

Rock strewn road by gorge

Into Deliana Gorge

View from picnic site


The next morning I was having a shower when the water supply suddenly stopped. I was covered in soap with conditioner on my hair. Our water supply is usually very reliable unlike some areas of the Apokoronou where shortage of water is a problem.

It was a warm day with blue sky and sunshine so when I had managed to sort out my soap and conditioner we  went for a walk on the Neo Horio plateau above the town.  A couple of years ago an estate agent had taken us there to show us where they were going to build some stone houses. We have watched from the balcony of our house, across the valley, as the houses have been built. This was the first time we had been back to what had been an unspoilt area. It is, at present, a building site.  The stone houses that have been completed are nice and have glorious views.

On the Neo Horio plateau we walked passed this huge display of gourds and a shrine


Friday, 8th December -
another lovely day, sunny 17C. We drove to Melidoni where we like to walk - and took a picnic. We parked and walked in warm sunshine into the mountains. The olive gathering was underway with groups of people dotted around the hillsides working on their trees. Lambs were plentiful and playful. We walked up quite a long way, into the mountains, and were thinking about turning back when we were called over by 'George'. He was working in his olive grove but stopped to offer us tscouthia and salted peanuts (in their shells). He was living in his small concrete summer hut although he has a house in Melidoni. He managed to find a couple of glasses, a stool and a chair. He improvised with concrete bricks for his stool and a table. We sat and talked outside in the warm sunshine. His English was excellent as he had been a builder in New York. He had returned to his home village and bought land. He had his goats for meat, his own wine, tscouthia, oil, cheese and honey. Apart from a heart problem he was a happy man. We said our goodbyes with an invitation to call on him when in the area again. Once again we had experienced Cretan hospitality. We stopped on the road down towards Agia Pantes and watched around 10 to 12 lambs race in unison along a track by the road, across the road and back.  Luckily the road is quiet.

Lambs everywhere in the mountains

Lamb 'race' on road from Melidoni


The next day was again warm and sunny.  We walked by the sea in the morning and in the hills above Maheri in the afternoon. There were tiny oak trees here with large acorns.

These acorns are almost five centimetres long.


Sunday, 10th December -
we set off around 11a.m. with blue skies and sunshine with Renee and Ron to drive to our favourite high taverna in the white mountains. We stopped off at Tsakistra church at the head of a valley to admire the views and enjoy a flask of coffee. After a scenic drive we arrived at the taverna, booked a table for 2.30 p.m. and headed off into the mountains. We have been there several times now and the scenery is breathtaking. We walked for over an hour then turned back. As we walked the weather changed and we were walking through cloud. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and by the time we left the clouds had lifted for the drive back to Provarma.

Trees sprout from bare rock

Goats on track, back to taverna


The next day was again sunny and warm. We ate breakfast and lunch outside.  The  following three days were dull and cooler with rain.

Friday, 15th December - we had been invited to visit Colin and Sue who live over on the north west side of the island on the Gramvousa peninsula. It was again a lovely day with blue skies and sunshine. We found the village of Kaliviani and telephoned for directions. We found the track leading to the house but decided not to attempt it in our car.  Colin kindly came to collect us in his 4x4 and took us to their house.  The area is unspoilt and the views over to Rodopos are wonderful. We enjoyed a nice lunch in between watching the many large birds which circle and pass over the house.

More about the bird watching on Roy's pages.

In the afternoon Colin drove us way up into the centre of Gramvousa along a rutted, stony track. The area is wild with fantastic views. We stopped at a recently built church, a long way up but used regularly. Nearby was a monastery with cultivated garden. It was dusk by the time we left their house. It had been very enjoyable few hours seeing yet another aspect of this beautiful island, with keen bird watchers.  

New church high up on Gramvousa

Monastery and cultivated garden

Isolated trees high on Gramvousa

Rugged Gramvousa


Saturday, 16th December -
a sunny day with blue skies 18C. We met Alan and Margaret on the National Road and Roy drove us to Rodopos peninsula. We drove west along by the coast and turned off right towards Rodopos town.  We drove through and then parked by the roadside. We had a coffee and then set off to walk northwards, along the track, towards the end of the peninsula. We walked for about a couple of hours but there were numerous stops to watch the Griffon vultures and other large birds. Cloud that had gathered soon cleared and we walked in warm sunshine admiring the views and the scenery. The area is very rocky with interesting rock formations. There are several churches towards the end of the peninsula but we didn't reach any of them. We will return and drive further along the road as we all want to reach the end of the peninsula. We retraced our steps and were ready for our picnic when we reached the car. We called in at Afrata beach on the return journey -always a lovely spot. We left there and drove, via the spectacular coast road between the sea and the mountains with glorious views, back to the National Road and home. Yet another very enjoyable trip.

Goats relaxing - Rodopos

Single flower

'Black-rock' island - Afrata

     

Church Afrata Bay

Fern like cascade in rock

Unusual 'obelisk' Rodopos


The next two days were warm and sunny. We were able to have breakfast outside. The oranges are now ripe so we are able to pick our own supply - enjoying fresh orange juice every day. The roses are in bud, yet again, in the garden. This must be the fourth time, so we can still have perfumed flowers in the house.

The weather became duller with some rain showers towards the middle of the week.

We had walks above Stilos , in unspoilt areas, although building is in progress including a vast new taverna (built especially for weddings). We also walked by the river where houses are also being built. Within three years we have seen the face of this area change. Development is spreading inland from the coast, which has become crowded.

Thursday, 21st December - we took a picnic over to lake Kournas. The weather was dull but dry. On the way we called into our favourite Zaharoplastio (cake and chocolate shop) at Vrysses. All the shops that we have seen selling these goodies are neat, tidy and clean, with rows of intricately decorated cakes, pastries and chocolates. Purchases are carefully placed in a colourful, box and sealed, often with a ribbon decoration. At special times of year such as Christmas/New Year and Easter these shops are crammed with sparkling, ornate gifts beautifully packaged.  

Selection of attractive gifts for Christmas and New Year

Cakes and pastries baked on the premises

Larger festive cakes

Variety of chocolates

Foil wrapped small chocolate cakes

Lake Kournas


The next day was dull with heavy rain -10C - We shopped at Kalives where it was drier. We collected parcels (Christmas presents from England) from the Post Office. Later our landlord - Yiannis ordered 300 litres of diesel for the central heating, on our behalf.

Friday, 23rd December - Roy hosted the Christmas meal of the Crete Western Wildlife Watch at the taverna at Armeni. Best wishes were sent to Angela (a  member of the group) now back in England, who is recovering from an operation. We look forward to more group meetings in 2007.

Our Very Best Wishes to All Family and Friends for the Festive Season.

Christmas Day - for the third Christmas running we were delighted to be asked to join Alan, Margaret and their family for a traditional English Christmas Day. Roast turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, mince pies etc. - delicious. Late afternoon we visited a Greek friend of theirs who was celebrating his name day. We enjoyed cakes and tea before returning to Alan and Margaret's home for a Christmas supper spread. It was a very enjoyable day.

The next day our Austrian friends delivered gifts to us of oranges, lemons, tangerines, preserves, smoked pork and cake. All delicious.

Wednesday, 27th December - was a cool day 6C. We went for a walk above the Maheri gorge. At first the sky was very wintry but the sun came out and it was quite warm. Some trees glowed in their autumn colours. We wandered among the evergreen olive trees and across the flat areas, searching for flowers and with great views of the distant coast and the mountains.   

Wintry sky above snow-capped mountains

Looking out over the plain

Patch of green brightening the dull scene

Attractive autumn trees


Thursday, 28th December -
breakfast on the balcony and a sunny day with blue skies. We went up into the mountains near our house - to Tsakistra church - a favourite spot. It was 11C when we left Provarma and 8C in the mountains. We stopped to admire the views near a now empty dog 'kennel', by the roadside. We walked in warm sunshine enjoying the winter mountains and views over towards Georgioupolis and Psiloritis (the highest mountain in Crete) topped with snow and over to Drapanos and the coast. We investigated a disused house (a renovation perhaps?) We then enjoyed a picnic.  When the sun went behind the mountain around 4 p.m. the temperature was 5C.

On our return we noticed that Father Christmas (who delivers presents on New Year's Eve in Crete) had appeared on the chimney of a neighbour's house.

Now abandoned dog kennel by roadside

Ready for restoration?

Looking towards Draponos and the sea

Tsakistra church in winter sun

Preparing to deliver presents on New Year's Eve


Friday, 29th December -  
when we left Provarma for a longer trip to the south of the island it was 15C. We headed west along the National Road, turning south towards Paleochora at the Kolimbari junction. We drove through several villages via vast stretches of mountains, gorges and valleys with numerous wonderful views. Olive picking was in progress - a new sight is the red nets for collecting the olives - adding a splash of colour to the hillsides.  Just after Kantanos we turned right, onto a road going northwest, towards Dris ,winding through a wild mountain region. It was very windy and deserted. We stopped several times for Roy to scan the area for birds - with good results.  We also stopped at a remote church with picnic facilities and a fantastic panorama of the surrounding mountains. The anemones, in their pink, purple, violet hues were everywhere but it was too windy to photograph them. We turned towards the south coast via Kamatera, Voutas and Vasilaki and headed down to the sweeping bays of Paleochora, and stopped to admire the views. We left Paleochora on the road to Kantanos and back northwards towards the National Road. Another great day seeing more of this seemingly vast island.

Remote church in wild mountain region

 Unusual red nets for gathering the olives

Sunlight on the Libyan
(southern Cretan) sea

Looking east from Paleochora


The next day we visited the butchers/delicatessen shop at Armeni village. Armed with a shopping list (in Greek) I bought a kilo of beef for a 'stifado', a whole rabbit, which the butcher jointed, and some pork chops. We left the shop with a very heavy bag.

Sunday, 31st December - for the last day of 2006 we spent some time on our favourite river walk, by the church, just outside Stilos. On the bank of the small stream to the left of the church we watched a hedgehog struggle through piles of debris (brambles, twigs and bamboo) along the top of the bank. He was trying to find a way down to the water for a drink.  He eventually managed to reach the water and we watched him drinking for several minutes, leaving him still at the water's edge as we continued our walk.

The trees are heavy with oranges, grapefruit and lemons. One tree I noticed had no fruit but was covered with white blossom with a wonderful scent - either a lime or lemon tree.  The Bermuda buttercups are very colourful in the area.

When we walked over the metal bridge to the other side of the river we were interested to see some new monitoring equipment. There is a joint project between Crete and the University of Iowa to remotely monitor the water quality and level of the river. There are solar panels powering the equipment. There is an information board about the project and details of websites with more details. We aim to make contact in the near future.

Further along the road we noticed the results of previous heavy rains - the foundations of a small stone building have been washed away.

Our last walk of 2006 was very pleasant in warm sunshine and it is always an interesting area - just on our doorstep. We look forward to many more trips next year.

Solar panels on bridge

Equipment for remote monitoring of river

Information board with details of joint project with Iowa University
 

Bottom corner of foundations washed away

Lime/lemon blossom - gorgeous scent


That's all for 2006. We wish everyone a Healthy, Happy and Successful 2007.
 
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