“You will see … you will see … it’s always raining over there…” my friend Chronis keeps telling me all the time. “What the heck?” I ask, “Does the rain ever stop over there? I guess not…so it …seems…he replies.
On the other hand, he explains that for this very reason it is called Pantavrechi (in Greek it means: “always raining”). This is a wild, strange place inside the Krikellopotamos canyon located on the rough mountains of Evritania, quite far from Karpenisi town.
We got into the jeep very early in the morning, almost with the first cup of coffee in hand. We wanted to catch-up with the early sunshine. The road to the south of Klapsi village passes from Muzillo village, sneaks into the fir-trees and gives us the most spectacular view of Kaliakouda mountain. Just before the village of Aniada a dirt road begins. It is the gateway to one of my most unusual adventures. Thus begins an endless bumping…what a road!
The bumpy road continues to run through a forest of fir-trees. From then on it is well maintained and driving is more enjoyable. Soon we begin to ascend the mountain. All around us stretches a panorama of bare slopes and steep, dazzling canyons.
High, high enough in the ‘passage’ at 1720 meters altitude we stop to breathe-in the thin air and admire the striking views of the mountain peaks of Evritania: Velouchi with it’s eternal fog, Chelidona, Vardousia, Oiti and Panaitoliko. A hunter approaches and greets us. We haven’t heard a rifle shot for a while. The poor birds of mountain Kaliakouda have escaped for… the moment…
We descend the dirt road’s hairpins and reach Doliana, a village almost deserted. It’s official name today is Stournara. We learned about the village’s story by the expat. Pete Vastagis from Connecticut – we met him in front of the church of St. Varvara, built in 1717. Pete will spend a few more autumn days in his village before returning to America.
Doliana – like most of the mountain villages in Greece – emptied after the Civil War and its inhabitants forced to flee to the USA to find the Great American Dream. Which for some of them was a large pizza-house. “I have the East Side Pizza» Pete tells us proud of his successful professional career.
Pete is no longer a permanent resident of the village. A certain mister Nick though is. The one and only resident, Nick Moutogiannis gathered from his little garden fresh beans and cooked them with a nice piece of lamb for all us. We had a delicious lunch and drank an exquisite local wine at his pleasant stone house.
Big gray rabbit skins and a double- barreled shotgun are hung on the walls displaying his affection for hunting. “Doliana was once the richest village in the area because it had so much water. Once there were two general market stores and lots of mills. “
Below the balcony an array of huge ‘golden’ pumpkins dry in the sun like babies in a cradle of green leaves. Somewhere in the distance I hear folk music with clarinets. “Doliana and Kontiva the nearby village did not have any musicians, but they have had people with an unbeatable charm…” says Nick. And takes a long sip, immersed in his memories.
Well, … we almost forgot our target … and we have a long walk ahead. In any case, I was dying out of curiosity: Is it raining or is it not raining in Pantavrechi? “What the hell?” I kept thinking… The day is sunny… Are they kidding me?
We leave the jeep next to the river- bed of Krikelopotamos and we all start preparing for canyoning: soft shoes for river- walking, bathing suit, light waterproof backpacks. We walk in the snow-white pebbles of the river-bed which is sparkling with brown and green transparent waters and quickly – just when we get across the first bridge – we enter finally the canyon for real.
It smells distinctly of moss and mint. We walk silently, with our heads uplifted, staring at the amazing gray rocks with their purple stripes forming abstract images at random. The slopes above us are narrow and tall like a gothic cathedral.
Soon the light diminishes and the famed Pantavrechi appears before us: a cluster of water curtains, waterfalls and caves forming a series of domes carved in the soft limestone; all around us green bushes, wet moss and hundreds of plants. We are surrounded by an endless thick trickle of water drops falling like pearls.
Above us the bizarre vegetation looks like dark green chandeliers made by roots of “floating” trees which let the water fall on us, cold and fresh like an icy breath. It is always raining here (raining indeed…so, they were right …all the rumors were true…) In an instant I have a series of flashback memories from Thailand, the Phang Nga park. An exotic spectacle indeed …both of them…
Are you thinking of coming to see this rare gem of nature in Evrytania? Then, you need 30 minutes walk along the riverside (take dry clothes and canyoning equipment anyway!) and estimate another 30 minutes for your return.
It is quite easy. It seemed easy to us too, so we decided not to go back yet. After all it is still high- noon.
We kept walking until we came to a point where in order to carry on we had to cross the river… the passage was not in shallow waters, on the contrary we could get across only if we would swim, it looked like another “Pantavrechi experience”…
So, we clenched our teeth and got in into the cold water, but as it turned out it was not such a pleasant experience -actually we freezed out. We laughed loudly of course, shaking… (But what else could we do?). All along the river- bed we observed several large crabs, frogs and water snakes. They all looked back at us stubbornly…another weird experience, really…
Later on we decide to return from the mountain track. We soon arrive at a concrete bridge. The almost vertical trail goes up the mountain with sharp turns inside a thick oak tree forest and brings us into a “ghost” village. A… real deserted village…
It’s Kontiva, one of the few villages of Evrytania where no road at all has ever reached it. Some beautiful stone-houses and a church, is all what’s left today. An icy silence spreads around us… here … this eerie afternoon… overwhelmed and exhausted we drink some cold water under the shade of a vine tree, ahh… water… best medicine in the whole world! All around us we see canyons, wild mountains, peaks blurring in the sunset: a landscape that almost blinds your sight…
It is getting dark. We descend quickly, climb into the jeep and begin to drive down the dirt road to go back to Klapsi village. Everything was good in Pantavrechi: the “rain”, the crabs and the whole exotic thing. But now I just want a hot, hot… bath!