78 km | 2.006 vertical meters | Category 2
From Spili to the Amary valley: While the first rays of the sun illuminate Mount Kedros (1.776m), the climber faces a steep ascent to the mountain ridge at 850m, high above the Amari Valley. Leaving Spili at its western outskirts, the road winds upwards, giving beautiful views of the village and the green valley – all the way to the horizon and Mt. Sideronas (1.177m) in the south.
The road cuts into the hillside with exposed platy limestone. The gradient is often 15% and even greater at some stages. After five kilometers of strenuous climbing, a plateau opens up. It’s a small basin filled with sandstones and conglomerates of the Tertiary Flysch. Wide fields light up the way in green and yellow, intersected by the fading lines of grey limestone walls. A white spot, the chapel of Ag. Ioannis, flashes through the trees.
Amari valley: Soon after, the mountain village of Geraki comes into view, embedded in an Alpine landscape with green meadows, oaks and firs. You can look deep into the fertile valley of Amari with its alluvial plane tree forest until you pass the acropolis of ancient Sybrita. Leaving these green slopes behind, you climb through a wild landscape of rugged mountains until you reach the Monastery of Arkadi in the north.
Following the slopes of Mount Ida to the east, you pass ancient Eleftherna while going further downhill to the lowest point of the route near Perama. From here, there are 570 meters to climb until you reach Anogia. At the picturesque Platia Meintani, there are restaurants and cafes located under large sycamores, facing the church of Agios Georgios – a perfect place for a break.
I pause at the Kafeonion under the large village sycamore tree and enjoy vegetable soup and lamb chops, while the old folks frown at me and mumble their comments with raised eyebrows until we start drinking raki together.
Later on, on my way home, I cannot walk in a straight line thanks to the strong liquor, and my feet can hardly manage the ascent. But for the first time ever, the village youngsters greet me with respect, and their eyes seem to ask: »Where are your sheep?«