Paxos is known for its many walks – people come here on holiday just to go walking. The island is covered in ancient olive groves and pine forests, and there are so many tiny paths and tracks you would need to stay here for years to walk them all. Of course, you really need a good map or guidebook, and the book which seems to be the main source of information is ‘Ian Bleasedale’s Walking Map of Paxos. He has clearly surveyed the island comprehensively, and produced many updates to his maps and information.
I found his guidebook very difficult to get on with. It’s written in a very personal style with too many unnecessary comments for my taste, and almost too conversational to be helpful. For example he says ‘cross the lane and pass the house with the barking, but not fierce, dogs’! That’s not very helpful if the dogs aren’t there, is it! Another example, take the narrow walled donkey track down to the village. The donkey must have been very thin’….! The book is obviously self published and typed in that horrible Comic Sans font. The photos are printed onto very rough paper. Sorry if you get to read this, Mr Bleasedale, but you could do better!
The map is slightly better, but contains remarks which made me chuckle, such as ‘finding path 32 from the uphill end is fraught with difficulty, alas’, and, ‘footpath 30 is a lot better than it was’. Or – walking footpath 4 in the downhill direction is not recommended’. I just found these comments annoying!
Anyway, off we set. As always, the husband (TH) knows best. He has been to the island more times than me, and apparently heh knows the paths so well that reading of the map is totally unnecessary, so he puts it away in my rucksack. After much persuasion, I eventually get him to carry it in his hand for consultation, as the tracks and turnings are coming thick and fast and we are likely to get lost. If we do find ourselves on the wrong track, he always says that tracks can change over the years, boundaries get altered, and building work diverts the paths. He would never ever say, “I think we may need to retrace our steps slightly, as I believe it was my fault that I missed the turning”……
Paxos is a very fertile and green island. That’s because in the winter months they have an incredibly high rainfall, as in all of the Ionian.
From the harbour, where we are moored, of course every walk has to have an uphill element. You can’t escape it. I’m not a good walker, especially if I don’t know where we are going or how far it will be. And I don’t like hills or steps! The first part of our walk was up a narrow road which was so steep, basically at a 60 degree angle. I nearly turned back, it went on for ever! When we got to the top, we branched off left, then – guess what – it turned into a stony track which also must have been a good 60 degrees from horizontal!
Luckily that was almost the worst part of the whole walk. It was only superseded by a downhill section later, which seriously required professional mountaineering equipment. It was practically a vertical drop of loose shingle, with strategically placed boulders masquerading as steps.
However, I did enjoy the walk. I estimated we must have walked five miles, it certainly felt like it, but my GPS device said it was 2.6. We came across some tiny remote hamlets where locals live all year round, some abandoned mansions, an elegant Venetian house, and some little Greek churches. This is the real Paxos – not many tourists will leave the confines of their rented villa and explore the island. I might even go on a different walk this morning…….