Kefalonia : Mount Ainos

I came out of the Lorenzo Hotel to find the sun behind clouds.  I was going alone to Mount Ainos National Park for a 7 hour walk which was described as moderate to strenuous with an ascent of just under 600 metres.  Still, I could not help thinking that the hardest part was going to be getting there.  Little did I know how correct that would be !  We had not hired a car for the holiday and the bus system from the capital City, Argostoli, did not appear to provide a connection to the National Park (and we heard later in the week had not actually started up at all for this year yet…).  I had no idea how much a taxi would cost to take me there, and, more importantly, bring me back, so when one of the taxi drivers at the Mediterranee Hotel suggested 60 Euros I thought it a good enough price to solve the problem.

We left at 0820, went along the Lassi Main Road, and turned right at the top of the hill as the taxi driver was trying to tell me something about a monastery.  We did not get to Argostoli but were staying on main roads.  Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys comes on the radio.  Nice one.  And then we were out in the countryside on good roads, with the cloud cover gone.  I was glad I had packed a lot of water.  We drove through Mousata and were gradually climbing, although still near enough to the coast for there to be signs to the beaches.  Vlachata was next and the views over the sea were stunning as we passed a roadside shrine.  Simotata led us to what I believed was a detour for the Sissia Monestary, which appeared deserted.008  The driver was suggesting we stay there for half an hour.  It was a lovely building with some stunning views, but even dragging that out I could not manage 10 minutes.013  We left there at 0848, but were driving back the way we had come.  I had hoped the stop would at least have been on our way as I was keen to get as much of the hard walking as possible done before midday.  Back we went through Simotata, past the roadside shrine and the stunning views, and I was beginning to wonder if this hill featured in our actual route at all.  Or maybe my initial concern that the driver did not know how to drive to the National Park was going to prove to be true.  We are back at Mousata now and there is light jazz on the radio.  0910 and the taxi driver suggests he drives me back to the hotel.  I have to explain to him that I want to go to the National Park.  I think we are going to drive there now, although I remain unconvinced that he knows where it is.  We drive along the Argostoli front.  There are more fishing boats here now than yesterday.  And then the driver points out two banks.  I tell him I only want to go to the Park.  He tells me he thought I wanted to go to the Monastery and then back to Argostoli.  I tell him I could not possibly have asked for that because the Monastery is not on the map.  It is clear he is not going to drive me to the National Park.  That knowledge has cost me 35 Euros and it is now 0920.  I am not a happy bunny.

All is not lost !  The young lady at the tourist information office reckons it will take half an hour to drive there so I decide to try another taxi.  This driver seems to better understand.  He tells me it will be by the meter in terms of the price.  The taxi company charge 35 Euros per hour and he will charge me 25 Euros per hour.  He says he will take me there and
then come back at 1500 to collect me.  Do this, and I will pay you handsomely !  I do not say that to him, but I do think it.  He gives me a guide book to read which tells me Ainos is a 10km mountain range and its highest peak is Mount Soros at 1628m.  I should look out for the dragon, Loukissas.  I am back to being excited.  We stop to get water.  For the
driver, not for me.  It is 0950 and this is getting epic.  Our drive up the winding roads takes us past what he tells me is a NATO radar station.  I see this many times through the rest of the day and the holiday.  I do not think it is a secret radar station.  I can see dark clouds on the inland side of the mountain and blue skies going to the coast.  We get to what I believe is the edge of the National Park at 1010.  014He can still drive me in a bit further, and right now the air coming into the taxi is cold.  This is going to be interesting, but I was treating this seriously from the start and had brought my new Rab jacket.  I do know where my walk will take me because the ‘track’ is a road and we have just driven to the top, arriving at 1025.  He is now driving me back to the park gates (what I had previously thought to be the edge of the National Park) and I will make the same ascent on foot.  As we got to the park gates a National Parks truck pulled alongside and a very nice lady produced a route map and seemed to be at pains to warn me it was a long way to the top (if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll).  I assured her I had done some walking before.  The taxi driver gives me his card with his mobile number and we agree he will return to the park gates for 1600.  He refuses to take any money from me at this time.

I set off at 1040.  My camera says I am at 1065m, but the sign says 1044m.  The air is cold, the sky overcast with some black clouds but the sun is trying to peak through.  It feels cool as I walk and there is very little sound.  I will be surprised if I encounter another person.  It is really just a matter of walking the hairpin bends and taking in whatever you can see of the scenery on either side through the pine trees.  The guide book calls this a wide track, and I do not know how it was before, but now it is a tarmac road, and could not be easier walking, other than for the gradient.  I pass a guard hut at 1130m quite early on, and I keep seeing the NATO radar base through the trees021.  In fact, the views through the trees are stunning.027  I notice the other trails which lead off from the main track, but I am concentrating on pushing right on and arrive at the picnic area on the left at 1125.  This is supposed to be a little over half way and it has taken me 45 minutes, which is both pleasing and encouraging.  The track just keeps going up and up, and while it is not difficult because I am walking on a tarmac road and not through the pine forest itself, it is relentless.  Suddenly I spy one of the communication masts through the trees, so I know I am close to the summit.  I pass another picnic area on my right and press on.  Not quite as soon as I thought I would after seeing the mast, I reach the T-junction at the top and turn right towards the communication station.059  I arrive at the summit of Megas Soros at 1210 and my camera measures it at 1609m.  Officially, it is 1628m.  I walk around the station first enjoying all the masts as well as the views, and then head the other way across the T-junction, along a rough track081, to the viewing point.  I scramble to the top of some rocks, instead of walking around them, and the view makes the hassle and cost of getting here worthwhile.  It is quite warm in the sun but cold out of it, with a bitter wind, but the wooden benches on the other side of the rocks are in the sun.  The views of the Ionian Sea and the south east corner of the island are breathtaking091.  On top of the world.  I was soon joined by a group who had driven to the top in a minibus, and took the opportunity to ask their guide to take some photos of me up there096.

I walk back along the track and begin my descent at 1300, deciding to listen to my iPod Shuffle on the way down

Pendragon – Passion
Black Sabbath – Die Young
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law
Galahad – Battle Scars
Jethro Tull – Rocks On The Road

And the sun is really coming through as I descend, and the views on the inland side are no longer obscured by clouds120.  I catch more glimpses of the top secret NATO radar base129.

Porcupine Tree – Halo
Rush – Dreamline

I reach the picnic area again at 1330.

Faith No More – Epic
UFO – Lights Out (live)
And I am rocking down this mountain.
The Fat Lady Sings – Drunkard Logic
Brother Dege – The Battle Song Of New Orleans
The Waterboys – This Is The Sea
Rainbow – Eyes Of The World
ELO – Mr Blue Sky
Riverside – Goodbye Sweet Innocence

I arrived at the park gates at 1420, with a bit of time to spare before the taxi was due to get here at 1600.  The sun was out now, so I chose to take a wander to find some shade.  I picked the Epano Eza to Melissi trail140, which appeared to go through trees, and set off at 1430.  It starts at 1044m and descends to 770m.

Opeth – Blackwater Park
Deep Purple – Fireball

Suddenly I am confronted by goats 150and the wonderful sounds of their bells as they run from me.  I also get to see the NATO radar base from another angle161.

Porcupine Tree – The Blind House
Twelfth Night – Jungle
Iron Maiden – The Trooper (live)
Rush – Caravan
Dec Burke – Days Like These
Rush – Driven
Von Hertzen Brothers – Bring Out The Snakes

It gets to 1500 and I realise I have been mostly descending…which means my journey back will mostly be an ascent, so I turn around to make sure I do not miss my taxi.  A much longer walk awaits if that happens.  It has been very pleasant walking under the cover of the trees165, and it has also been a very easy walk on soft but firm ground.  If I get to come back again I will do some more of these trails.

Red Sparrows – In Illusions Of Order
Riverside – Forgotten Land

I get back at 1532, so I could have walked a little further along that track, although as I emerge the taxi is waiting for me.  We got back to Argostoli at 1610 and I could see his meter said 49 Euros for that trip.  It had said about the same for the journey there, so I had no hesitation in giving him 110 Euros when he asked for 100.  That is how much I had thought it would be when I realised there were no buses.

I had decided to walk back to Lassi.  I set off at 1615.

Marillion – Holidays In Eden
AC/DC – Problem Child
The Fat Lady Sings – Drunkard Logic
The Waterboys – Don’t Bang The Drum
Deep Purple – Highway Star
DeeExpus – Me And My Downfall

I got back to the Lorenzo Hotel at 1645 after what has turned out to be a very satisfying day.

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8 Responses to Kefalonia : Mount Ainos

  1. David Armstrong says:

    Hi James,
    I too went to the summit Mega Soros in mid May this year.
    The summit you describe isn’t the summit.the summit is down the track for about a kilometre then up some wooden steps in the forest and across about 100 metres of rocks.
    The summit is marked with a plinth and has a ‘Visitors book’ in a metal protective case and it is 1628 metres
    There is a lower summit a further kilometre and both are part of the ‘blue route’
    I believe the transmitter masts around 1610 metres
    I’m afraid you’ll have to visit this lovely island again and make another trip to the national park.I hired a motor bike during my holiday and made two trips to the summit because like you I was mistaken about the location and it was only by going further along the track past some snow drifts and over fallen trees that I came to the clearly marked signpost to the path
    David
    Ps
    I stayed in the resort of Sami and there are some excellent walks in the area

    • jamesa says:

      Thank you for your comment, David. How strange, because the map I received from the tourist person did not show any of the route you describe – maybe they don’t know where it is ! How annoying, because I had more than enough time and energy to have got to the real summit as well as everything else I did on that day. You are right, I WILL have to go back again to complete it.

    • jamesa says:

      So I went back again last week and this time I made it to the proper summit !

      http://jamesablog.starjump.org/?p=3888

  2. Kasia says:

    just last night I read about Cephalonia and I started thinking that it may be a good place to visit this spring/summer. Obviously hiknikg to the top of the island is a must.Anyway, I’d pay for taxi more that I pay for flight with Ryanair, so I’d hitch hike there;) Nice walk and I hope if I get there I can add my comments here…;)

    • jamesa says:

      Thank you for your reply, Kasia, and I hope that you do get to Kefalonia – if you do, then I hope you will come back here to tell me all about it !

  3. Chanel says:

    Just read the blog and I have to commiserate with you. This is such a beautiful island, but getting places can be somewhat of a pain if you don’t have your own mode of transportation. I’m a Greek-American conservationist and recently decided to move back here to start a business (www.wildlifesense.com).
    This is a beautiful national park (http://www.foreasainou.gr/ -use google translate to navigate through the website) and the trails were renovated this year. I highly recommend renting a car as you will see many more beautiful places and it is far cheaper. Follow the links below for more information. Hope this helps!

    If you want more information about the area you can go to the museum of the national park. It is located in Argostoli near the Koutavos Lagoon.
    Here are two maps from their website:
    http://www.foreasainou.gr/storage/thumbs/vlastisi.pdf
    http://www.foreasainou.gr/storage/thumbs/Path_map.pdf

    And here is a google map I made that shows the directions to the Museum and two different routes to the top:
    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205629180208891462705.0004d1467e51085c7cac2&msa=0&ll=38.272689,20.507355&spn=0.526128,1.352692

    • jamesa says:

      Thank you so much for your very informative reply. I am hoping to get back to Kefalonia in 2013 and think I will hire a car because there are a number of other places I want to, and I certainly want to try more of the trails in the national park.

  4. Pingback: Sardinia : Punta Balistreri | JamesA's blog

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