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From Askifou (Ammoudari) to Anopolis and Chóra Sfakia (via Niátos and Trikoukia)

Askifou Plain (the village of Ammoudari) – Tavri Refuge – Niátos Plain – Trikoukia Plain – terraced fields above a former village of Kali Lakki – Skarfídhia – Anopolis Plain – Ilingias Gorge – Chóra Sfakia

April - May 2008
This trek was done during a rather different part of the year in comparison with that I’m accustomed to using usually – from the end of April to the 2nd week of May. The reason why I decided to change my habits was the fact I usually met the landscape in brown and grey only, with just some small spots of green (especially Levka Ori Mountains are generally very dry) in September – in my favourite month, and I longed for seeing also the country in green, with flowers…. Therefore, I set off so early in that year. There must be expected also different weather conditions in this season (compared with September), which means not so hot weather, more water both on the ground and from the sky, mists, and drizzles, lower temperatures especially during a night (what bears necessity to have more items of clothing, warmer and thus heavier sleep-bag, a well water-proof and thus heavier tent and boots…generally the heavier backpack; but, on the other hand, the backpack without so much water which is necessary to carry which balances the weight of a load on shoulders)…..All these expectations of the worse (above all the weather conditions) came true, however, I must say, so many hues of green colour and often such a rather deluge of flowers – all these nice experiences were such big plus that these drown the worse things…..I also turned my attention on flowers – I took many photos, and a digest from these all is in the folder “KYTKY” (which means “flowers” in the Czech language) on this website.
1st day (MON 28/04) - About 1500 in the village of Ammoudari on the Askifou Plain (on the road from Chania or Rethymno, via Vrisses, to Chóra Sfakia on the southern coast). The starting spot near a small chapel with a statue or a bust of a local hero under the big tree (maybe a plane tree, but I’m not sure if I remember it right)[N 35 17.507; E 24 10.594; 716m]. Sometimes drizzling. Following a small bitumen road always upward past a building with big satellite dishes (the post-office). Always up, past the building of dairy works with several by chrome coated tanks where goat’s and sheep milk is collected. Leaving the road in its sharp turning in the time, when a rainbow just appeared on the sky – at the place where a wooden bar is standing (N 35 17.522; E 24 10.462; 749 m]. There is also the first E4 sign on the trunk of a tree. One can choose either to use this marked path or to go on along the path between stones (and many flowers). Following marked route uphill from this spot is better and surer; then over two roads (the first one is rubbled [N 35 17.533; E 24 10.342; 789m] and the second one is with bitumen surface [N 35 17.632; E 24 10.173; 844m]. The paths from the asphalt road both down and up are evident due to the similar wooden bars which one can meet thereunder at the beginning of the marked route. Ascending along the old mule-track well-built by supporting stone walls and winding up the slope through a quite dense cypress wood. The end of the mule-track is at the open place with several scattered bushes and low trees; the nice place, suitable for overnight: very short grass (bitten by sheep and goats as by a very good mower) on a flat ground; near there is also a fireplace and a rubbish bin…the really very nice place, indeed!! [N 35 17.770; E 24 09.761; 1136m]. The temperature during the night fell down just slightly up zero.
2nd day (THU 29/04) - Sunny morning. The wonderful spot for overnight (unfortunately without water!!) but a little bit cool. A short trip toward a chapel standing on a near rocky hillock [N 35 17.851; E 24 09.883; 1154m]. A tomb of a monk(?) or a priest (?) who died at the age over 100 years and a nice outlook around - westward to the Tavri Refuge with the Kástro massif behind on the skyline with residues of snow on its slopes at higher altitude or a view of the down and northward lying Tavri Plain, the view of the Askifou Plain eastward down, hidden in a haze at that time which – however – during a short time risen up and disappeared [N 35 17.851; E 24 09.883; 1154m]. Back to the sleeping spot to follow the E4 waymarks (a track) down to a house with an aside standing water reservoir. The route joins the rubbled road (a gate) after about two hundred meters from the overnight spot. To follow this dirt road always slightly upward. There is a branch to the left to the Tavri Refuge [N 35 17.579; E 24 09.509; 1206m] after about 1 km – also the beautiful view from the terrace in front of the building (and – quite important – the last spot a with a signal of mobile phone for a long time)!! Not too far from this branch, the road comes above the Niatos Plain – the highest one among the three largest plains of Levka Ori (Omalos, Askifou and Niátos) at the altitude of about 1270m. A well with enough water. For about 150m along the road to reach the spot where sing-posts are standing and pointing – among others – also toward a former village of  Kalli Lakki [N 35 17.328; E 24 08.882; 1265m]. To go on in this direction marked by new and quite large marks (size of approx. 15x15cm, white margin and bright blue inside). Probably the most beautiful part of the whole trek!! After a rather short time (up to 1hr) the Trikoukia Plain. The very good waymarked route outside a fence (on its left side) to a house [N 35 16.749; E 24 08.913; 1150m]( possible water source) and a dirt road running from the village of Imbros, and after several tens meters [N 35 16.680; E 24 08.891; 1143m] the marked route goes on down to the left as a footpath through a valley-bed, whereas the road slightly ascends without any marks. The marked route through the valley is for the Sfakiano Gorge heading for the southern coast near Sfakia. From a spot lower down in Sfakiano (the chapel of Agios Pavlos), there is a possibility to take a return way up (along an old kalderimi) which ends in the village of Kalli Lakki. However, I didn't take the way through Sfakiano, as I went on along the road (which is btw. running to the former village as well). Nevertheless, the old mule track branches off from this road at a certain spot [N 35 16.206; E 24 08.561; 1152m; red marks] and climbs up the road-bank to the right (I had to improve this important first sign by building the larger cairn) winding the slope. Marks get worse. One must be often very open-eyed to find them because these are just small red marks on rocks and stones as the route - in the past very well built up - is sometimes destroyed and unclear nowadays. There is a part of the route, from which ruins of the former village of Kali Lakki are visible deeply down - some ruined walls of sheep or goat's pens together with remains of houses. Only one of them seems to be tenanted (better - used), standing near the road, next to a water reservoir. The ascent finishes on a small plain high above the village on old terraced fields which are surrounded by remains of walls and overgrown mainly by clusters of Asphodel plants and by low shrubbery of thymes and others often thorny bushes at that part of the year [N 35 16.246; E 24 07.693; 1248m]. Here, I decided to pitch my tent for the on-coming night.
3rd day (WED 30/04) Sunny morning again (like the day before)!! For Levka Ori often common “deep and dense” growth of cypresses covering slopes round this place, and above this green colour one can see a white (snow) summits of Levka Ori which rises above the road from the Anopoli Plain to a place under the saddle of Rousiés – a trailhead for the ascent of Pachnes, the highest peak of Levka Ori. Now, there is necessary to climb down into a rather wild gorge and then uphill the opposite slope again following the rather well-kept mule-track as far as to the highest point of the whole trek – the saddle under Mt. Kefála [N 35 16.167; E 24 07.330, 1306m]. At first, the rather well-evident route starts descending from here but later, there is necessary (or better) to keep yourself on the left side of the valley, under the left-hand slope. The waymarks (small red dots and low cairns here and there) are not very frequent or even absent completely sometimes and finishes in the sharp bend of the dirt road. This end of the footpath is quite well-marked by signs on a big stone [N 35 15.942; E 24 07.203; 1231m]. This place is called Skarfídhia. There are goat’s pens and a water spring (year-round working) and a small stone hut (locked). The road from here (heading for Anopoli) goes slightly up at first. A deep and wild gorge on the left hand is probably the beginning of a side-gorge of the Sfakiano which empties into the sea near Chóra Sfakia. Ascending of this section finishes at the T-junction with a really big tree (probably kermes oak)[N 35 15.655; E 24 07.098; 1128m]. The route which is necessary to keep now goes slightly down up to the next junction [N 35 15.282; E 24 07.400; 1107m] located at a small plain with fences, pens and barns, called Feeno kai Yannis. And - there are signs for bikers and water troughs as well. The road upward from here is for former villages of Mouri and Kavros where it ends (the marked route for bikers from Anopoli ends in Mouri), however, the right direction for Anopoli is downward. The road misses a deep and wild gorge  – one of several branches of the Ilingias Gorge (here called Kavis gorge) - and starts to ascent up to the next junction (with a small cypress tree which looks like a spruce tree, and with next cycle-sign)[N 35 14.912; E 24 06.811; 1128m]. The road upward is for Pachnes, whereas the road for Anopoli goes on over the open country with the wide views from this spot: of the lower part of the road, of flatter areas with tracks, of sheep herds and their pens, and of “mitatos”. And of course, even on hills above the southern coast (with the white chapel of Agia Ekaterini on the top). After several hundred meters bigger trees appear again, dominant cypresses are replaced by pines step by step. As soon as the road passes the large back-turn, it goes out from the woods into the open country again, and near the sharp road-turn back I left this road toward some reminds of walls to find a suitable place for overnight. I found a quite good one near 3 cypress trees as a landmark. [N 35 14.191; E 24 06.661; 938m].
4th day (THU 01/05) – Morning sunny and nice, as every day. The sun, a panorama of mountains round on skyline, peace… Preparing breakfast, to pack all things and to set off on the road again. The road goes on descending to a big water reservoir for surface water (from rains, snow). The next landmark is three wells at the beautiful place with a small forest aback and bricked or concrete house under trees….and unfortunately with the very high layer of sheep and goat’s droppings all around!! Nice views again of the Anopoli Plain and now, for the first time, of communication masts above Anopoli. The important landmark is a serpentine near the mouth of a gorge coming from the hills [Lagou, N 35 14.338; E 24 05.207; 753m]. There is possible to use a short-cut through a sparse pine wood from this spot, but it is much worse walking than by the road – very stony underfoot…. Next junction [N 35 14.246; E 24 04.899; 687m] with a table with EU symbols (for several years later it has disappeared!!) and the cycle-sign is quit important (unfortunately - it has disappeared after years as well): to the left is for Anopoli, to the right for higher crossing across the Aradhéna Gorge (the road ends after about 3 – 4 km), and what is considering is the fact the road to the right is not drawn in the map ANAVASI!! My route passed then the area where the bigger stones are ground on the rubble/gravel of different size and a place with a number of portable bee-hives. Sandy surface of the road changes into the asphalt surface and the next crossing of the road [N 35 13.660; E 24 04.975; 611m] is already with roads signs (to the left it is for Lamnia) and a blue “iconostasis” – a small shrine next to the road. A requisite small chapel is farther next to the road for about 1 km from the crossing. For a while, the road comes to the first houses of the Anopoli village (a small slaughterhouse and for 100m farther a tavern) and the T-junction: to the right, it is for Aradhéna and Agios Ioannis villages and to the left is just for me. After about 100 m there is a “centre” of the village - a circular square with a white statue (or bust) of Daskalogiannis – the local hero [N 35 13.110; E 24 05.096; 575m]. There is also the second tavern with rooms for rent and a supermarket (open year-round). Continuing along the road not so far from the statue there is an excellent local bakery. For next 2kms, the road comes to another hamlet of the Anopoli Plain - Kambia, where I have recalled the local tavern as the “Big Coffee” because they prepare here coffee really tasty and one can get it into the big cap [N 35 12.615; E 24 05.937; 548m]. The antenna towers are on the top of a hill  [N 35 12.638; E 24 06.086; 588m], not so far from this place. Another road, smaller one, running under the main one, is for Loutro (the arrow road-sign) which turns into the path later continuing downhill the slope above the sea. The outlook from towers is exclusive because it is not hampered and deteriorated by in whole Greece omnipresent phone or power wires (eventually by both). On the other side of the hill, a small concrete road is running to a goat’s and sheep barn, but as soon as this road comes into a small valley, the path turns to the right down, parallel with some cables and following remains of the old mule-track it comes on the main road connecting Chóra Sfakia and Anopoli Plain. The path hits the road at its sharp bend [N 35 12.579; E 24 06.280; 512m] and continues down along another part of the old mule-track. This footpath joins firstly a track (near a water tank) which is directed at another barn, but for a while, the route leaves it and runs down along the much worse track (very stony, rubbled) to the second waterworks and by the third one turns left down (the big red mark on a stone) as the footpath running among thyme shrubs covering slopes. Now it is quite easy – to follow the ravine-bed (red or blue marks) always. Sometimes there is necessary to overcome several rocky steps (the highest one about 2.5–3m) – not very difficult. The ravine is very narrowing in some parts, rocky walls are not strictly vertical but sometimes in a form of crags. This ravine is like a side gorge of the main one – Ilingias – and the path changes in the rather well-preserved mule-track shortly before it joins Ilingias. Overnight at for me a well-known spot on the gorge bed among several cypresses.
5th day (FRI 02/05) - The morning was peaceful and calm. And for the first time really warm. Along the former mule-track upward to “a col” – a flatter place where the track meets the dirt road [N 35 12.283; E 24 07.577; 141m, red marks] winding the slope above the main asphalt one. Along the dirt road in direction to Chóra Sfakia (well-distinct beyond), and as soon as remains of the mule-track appear on the right hand under the road there is necessary to turn on it and continue down along the overgrown old mule-track as far as its end. This track-end is about 4 meters above the road, therefore, it is necessary to climb down a rather steep rocky road-bank. This spot [N 35 12.157; E 24 08.041; 59m] is only about 100m far from the first houses of the town. To get into “the centre”, one has to use the first concrete stairs beside the first house running down from the road and then along a lane among houses as far as town streets.


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