At first it sounded ominous: boating on Acheron river? Weird huh? At least it sounded a bit eccentric?
I was that summer on Ammoudia coast, in Epirus region, traveling from Thesprotia to Preveza. Many families from Epirus and European travelers on camper vans spend their holidays here. Boating on Acheron river is one of the attractions of the area.
I finally succumbed to curiosity and joined the other suntanned travelers who also wanted a navigation to Acheron, the river of the underworld of the ancient Greeks. Strange tastes are those, what could I say?
Ammoudia is a small summer village beside a fantastic long white sand beach (ammoudia means “sandy beach” in Greek). At the southern end of the beach lies the village’s harbor just at the estuary of the river. There is where we embarked on the wooden boat and sailed on Acheron…
The boat moved slowly against the flow of the river’s current. Under the boat’s canopy a colorful crowd of passengers was photographing the green banks, tufted willows, aquatic plants and many many flowers.
Everyone was laughing, everyone was happy, they were on holidays. The boatman was giving us information about the river “Acheron was the river of the underworld …” . But no one seems to care about the underworld. They where very busy with all the beauty of the upper world…
I looked far behind the green banks, far to the fertile plain of Fanari village, that stretches green and wet to the gulf of Acheron. There the silent realm of Hades once existed, the frightening world of shadows, the Underworld of ancient Greeks. In other myths here, at this very fields, were the gates of Hades where the dead used to arrive, and only a few living humans – like Hercules, Odysseus, Orpheus, Theseus and Peirithoos – were able to go and come back from the Under World.
In these misty valleys between the mountains and the muddy hills flowed (and still flow) the rivers Acheron, Cokytos and the Pyriflegethon, the rivers of the underworld that led to Acherousia lake.
Here Ulysses, arrived, left the ship in the sandy bay and climbed the green banks of Acheron, through the reeds, the rushes and the dense aquatic plants to speak and be consulted by the soul of Tiresias diviner. He opened the pit for the libations beside the confluence of the Acheron and Cokytos River, he slaughtered a black ram and prevented the souls to taste the blood before Teiresias comes to tell him how to return to Ithaca.
Nothing reminds all that fearful mythology of the landscape today. The old fishing boat – currently was acting as a riverboat …- crossed the silent and quiet Acheron, in a glowing afternoon light. Hawks, herons and many other wild birds flew into the fragrant river’s bushes. The branches of trees were submerged in water and a dark green snake slipped startled by the sound of our old diesel engine. The snake approached menacingly a noisy frog sitting in the cool moss. Which was probably spending its last moments there…
The river is navigable for about 2.5 km. After that the boat can not go further. Acheron is no longer navigable.
The return was faster, the boat was pushed by the river’s soft current. Scents from the flooded riverside bushes were spread in the air. Scientists say there are about 415 different species of plants in the area around the estuary of the Acheron.
Shortly before our boatman tied the rope at the dock of Ammoudia village he turned to us all … and asked for a coin!
“It is for the ferryman of Acheron …” he laughed. Reminding us of course the famous “charoneio coin” which the ancient Greeks put in the mouths of their dead, to pay the ferryman of the underworld, the ferryman of Acheron river.
The passengers laughed, said thank you and left. Without leaving a single coin…
You see, times have changed.
The ferryman of Acheron today is paid from the tickets…
Where am I?
Acheron river is on the borders of Preveza and Thesprotia prefectures, in Epirus region. The estuary is located at Ammoudia village. The fastest way to get there is via the main road Preveza – Igoumenitsa.
For boat trips on Acheron river call: +30 6937457081.
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