So last week me and Hester were in the seaside resort of Stoupa in the Peloponnese region of Greece for a week of swimming, snorkelling, chilling (or should I say roasting?) in the sun, eating Tzatziki and quaffing ouzo. Stoupa is not all about beaches, gorgeous sea, tzatziki and ouzo though as that part of the Mani peninsular is also over-shadowed by the massive Taygetos Mountain range, where the tallest peak is mount Taygetos standing at an impressive 2,407 meters (almost 8,000 feet!) - thats another 1,000 meters taller than Ben Nevis then and, despite it being smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, Taygetos and many of its surrounding peaks manage to be snow covered from November usually well into May each year.
Unfortunately we didn't have time for a trek to the top of Taygetos (thats for another day) but we did do a brilliant run up one (of the many) gorges that lead up into the Taygetos mountain range. We chose to catch the bus to Kardamili, four miles north of Stoupa, and then hack up Viros Gorge for about 5 miles before climbing to the picture postcard mountain villages of Chora and Exochori and then following a mountain ridge trail all the way back down to Kardamili.
The gorge itself was just beautiful although the boulders just got bigger and bigger as we progressed along it and, after about 3 miles, it became pretty unrunnable to be honest. Viros Gorge is as dry as a bone at this time of year but, apparently in the winter, it can be a raging torrent, what with all the snow melt and rain over the Taygetos mountains. On the way up the gorge Hester managed to find a tortoise that had fallen onto its back and was waving its little legs in the air trying to turn over - luckily we happened along, almost certainly saved its life and left it nicely in its shell the right way up. Talking of wildlife, near the village of Chora I happened upon a pretty big snake (about a meter in length which is plenty big enough for me) sunbathing on the trail but, as soon as it saw me, it shot off at a super impressive speed. I'm not completely sure what kind of snake it was but, by its looks, I'm fairly sure it was an aesculapian snake - no time to take a photo unfortunately.
Anyway a cracking run Gromit. Incidentally they hold a 35 km mountain race each year from Kardamili, the Taygetos Challenge. It doesn't actually visit the high peaks due to the likelihood of snow but it still has an impressive total climb of something near to 2,407 meters, the total height of Taygetos itself. Its set for 23rd March next year..... hmmmm.
|Kardamili Greengrocers shop|
|Let the gorge run commence|
|Bouldery from the off!|
|The mountains are very green and verdant in this part of Greece|
|Big snail alert!|
|Hard running then|
|Our good deed for the day - tortoise placed the right way up|
|Hester still doing her best to at least give a vague impression that she's actually running|
|Hester stuck in some brambles|
|Climbing out of the gorge|
|Looking towards Taygetos, ominously hidden in the clouds|
|A seldom visited trig point, I'd say|
|The inside of a too-ey mountain church, one of about 5 we passed on the way|
|The heat was getting hot by now|