Monday, 22 April 2013

Lake Kournas and Georgioupoli

Lake Kournas

Today's entertainment was a walk in two parts: a nature walk by Lake Kournas, Crete's only freshwater lake and a visit to the seaside at Georgioupoli. The Sunflower walk guide for Western Crete showed a path reaching the lake via a gorge and continuing along its far side, and we hoped to explore the gorge and perhaps even walk all around the lake. We noted that it had been published 15 or so years ago, so we were not completely confident.

We were dropped off by the second entry to the lake and were a little put off by the number of tavernas located in the immediate area - not mentioned in the walk book. We set off with the idea of walking anti-clockwise round the lake and quickly encountered a fine goose cruising along by the edge of the lake, which I have now identified as a Swan Goose.

Just a little further on, I saw this delightfully elegant wader, with long orange legs held out behind when in flight: a Black-winged Stilt.

We turned the corner of the lake successfully, crossed a bridge over a small outflow and followed a marked path beside a field, through a gate which led down towards the water again, but here the shrubbery was impenetrable. After a heroic struggle we decided to admit defeat and retraced our steps. On the way back, I looked down into the outflow and was delighted to spot a terrapin. The hazy orange shapes in the water are fish.

We returned to out start point and headed along a track in the opposite direction to see if we could find the promised gorge this way. 

This track proved to offer a veritable wonderland of butterflies. One of the other members of our party saw a previously unknown (to either of us) black and white butterfly yesterday and I was thrilled to see the same species myself ....

... but what was it? A little later I saw a similar, but more highly coloured, butterfly.

This one I was confident in identifying as an Eastern Festoon. Only later did I discover that other one was the endemic Cretan Festoon. How wonderful!

We took a track uphill from one end of the lake, hoping it would lead to the gorge,  but eventually it reached a dead end - a typically ramshackle building. We were forced to concede that the round-the-lake walk was not going to happen and retraced our steps

On the return leg we saw a Cleopatra as well - like a brighter Brimstone, with orange patches on the upper forewings. And then we were treated to the sight of a Swallowtail feeding in a very concentrated way, seemingly oblivious ti our presence, from the clover-like flowers of a food plant. The delicate colours of its underwings were beautifully displayed.

This brought us back to our starting point. We had originally planned to walk the 5km from the lake into the coastal village of Georgioupoli, but it was by now quite hot and a walk along a road did not appeal very much, so we cheated and took a cab. After lunch we began our exploration.

Georgioupoli is mostly famous for the small chapel built on a stone causeway reaching out into the sea. It is a wonderful sight.

Walking back from the chapel towards the small harbour there and lovely views inland towards the White Mountains, still with a bit of snow on their peaks.

We decided we would now walk for half an hour along the beach and see how far we got. It was very instructive just how difficult it was to estimate distances: one of us somewhat underestimated and teh other massively overestimated how far we might get.

It was, as ever, delightful walking along at the water's edge in a pleasant breeze on a warm day.

Conditions: hot, under clear skies.

Distance: probably about three miles at the lake and 2.5 along the beach and back.

Rating: four and a half stars. One the very best butterfly walks of all time.

No comments: