Our friends Pat and Duncan offered to go halves on a car share so off we went for a day tour of Lefkada island. First stop was a walk in the Melissa Gorge (a leaflet describing this and many other walks on Lefkas can be downloaded from here) off the road between Lefkas and Karia.
Melissa Gorge Walk
We were the only car parked at the top of the track at the start of the walk which lead down past a tiny stream with rushes growing around it, the air alive with butterflies and dragonflies flitting around. I nearly stood on a snake sunbathing on the path, it was doing a good job of playing dead before it suddenly slithered off into the grass. I don’t mind them when they’re of moving but once they wiggle – argh!
The gravel path sloped down between olive groves and shrubby trees and we passed under a wooden arch constructed to mark the start of the landscaped section. Further on a spring burbled out of a rock face and the trees closed in around a tumbling waterfall in a shady, green glade.
We came to the first of the old watermills where the walk instructions suggested we “leap over the stream and approach to take photographs”. The stream was only a trickle and hardly warranted leaping but we did as instructed.
After an inspection of the old mill it was a leap back across the ickle stream and on down the main track passing meadows full of wildflowers until a clearing where the paved track became a soil track. We were now in the gorge, pleasantly cooler with tall trees providing shade and a fuller stream than the one we had walked down past.
Bridges crisscrossed the stream, the first one was fine but then we came to one missing a plank. We carried on going one at a time across just to be safe. The next bridge was also missing planks and hand rails and had a ‘no entry’ sign, it was written in Greek so we pretended we didn’t understand it and carried on. Another bridge was work in progress but ok to cross but then the next one was a just too rickety looking for our liking with a reasonable drop to rocks underneath so we decided to head back. It was obvious work had been started on the bridges with piles of new wood lying about but maybe the changes in the Greek economy have put a halt on finishing the job. Back at the junction with the path back to the car we carried straight on along the stream on a marked path with new railings which ended in a big flowery meadow perfect for eating our sarnies in. We saw our first other people here but on the whole walk only saw 7 others. A shame we couldn’t get right to the end of the gorge but still a pleasant walk.
Back to the car and up we wound towards the town of Karia (pronounced like Korea but without any crazy dictators with dodgy haircuts as far as we know). The road rose at an alarming rate with the tightest s-bends I’d ever seen, even worse than in the Alps. As we climbed higher the views opened out across to mainland Greece and the surrounding islands and at Maria we were able to get out and enjoy the stunning vistas.
We wandered around the sleepy town, through it’s leafy square and browsed some of the local handicraft shops which were heavy on embroidered and textile crafts. The old houses and lanes were interesting to wander but time was ticking on and we wanted to see some of the The west coast.
Anyone afraid of heights might not be so keen to drive on some of the roads that lead down the west coast but the views provided a distraction for passengers and there wasn’t much other traffic to tangle with. The downward road via Kalamitsi seemed to go on forever with all its switchbacks but finally we arrived in the resort of Agios Nikitas. A short stroll through a pedestrianised area past beach shops and restaurants brought us to the little beach. It was still fairly pebbly, the pebbles of the size perfect for getting stuck between your toes but I braved the pain for a paddle in the sea. The water was crystal clear darkening to a deep turquoise where it shelved into deeper water. We tried to climb a crumbly cliff to see if there was another bay beyond (a man was taking people around in a dinghy) but it was too crumbly and we were wearing inappropriate cliff climbing sandals.
Back to Lefkas and a drink in the cool, shady beer garden of the Octopus’s Garden wine bar and a chat with one of the young owners. A stock up in Lidl on the way back rounded off our Lefkada Road Trip.