Saturday, 20 April 2013

Gouvernetou Monastery to Stavros

 View from the top of the path

We were dropped off at Moni Gouvernetou, about 300m above sea level, with the mission of walking 8 km via two gorges back to our apartment in Stavros. We walked through the monastery's grounds and looked in to see the small monastery church. Photography is forbidden, so I have no photo to show. It was noticeable that the facade was more heavily decorated near the base than around the top of the columns.

You go through a gate and begin the descent to the gorge on a well made path with the appearance of crazy paving. Quite soon you reach the little bear cave with some ruined buildings outside. Inside the cave chapel there is a giant stalagmite vaguely in the shape of a bear.

The path continues downhill with an increasing number of switchbacks. Lovely views open up to the sea where the gorge ends.

To left, caves and a sort of stone cell can be seen on the left hand side of the gorge. We later came to understand that these housed hermit monks.

 Eventually you can see the bridge which crosses the bottom of the gorge. This is the site of the Katholikou Monastery, said to be the oldest on Crete,which was founded by St John the hermit in the 11th century.

The buildings of the ruined monastery are exquisite and the tranquility of the site makes it easy to see why it was chosen.

They are still clearly used at least sometimes and we read that the monks from Gouvernetou and local people make an annual pilgrimage down there, which perhaps explains the excellence of the path. It seems that it was constantly raided by African corsairs and that this led to its abandonment.

We descended a steep slippery path from the bridge and entered the gorge to begin the long slow climb.

The signature plant was the maroon Mediterranean Alum.

Gradually the gorge widened and we could up the slope to the sky.

As the gorge widened we emerge into a high sort of plateau ringed with mountains. As we climbed the opposite side, there were good views back over the path we had taken with sea beyond.

Below us now was a large depression and looking due west, we saw what appeared to be the pass through to Stavros.

It turned out that the route was a bit more complicated, involving another shorter gorge. Eventually we emerged at the base of the mountains and strolled downhill past innumerable beehives back to the apartment.

But before we left the last gorge, just as Ange said "we haven't seen many butterflies today" up popped this wonderful Scarce Swallowtail.

Conditions: cloudy, but quite bright and warm.

Distance: 5 miles.

Rating: four stars.

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