Thursday, 27 March 2014

Climbing, hiking or picnicking in Patsos Gorge ... with your dog

Climbing in Patsos Gorge
I was invited to Patsos Gorge on a day trip with some friends of mine who were involved with the Cretan speleology group (cave people as we call them). The plan was to gather at the entrance to the gorge, then some of the more energetic people to make their way through the river, while the rest of us would have a leisurely walk along the path a few metres higher up. We would then stop by the little church of Agios Antonios to ceremonially cut the vasilopita (New Year's cake). 

The gorge is extremely beautiful, especially in mid-winter when everything is green and lush and there is a heavy flow of water in the river bed. It is one of the lesser-known Cretan gorges, and except for trips by large groups of cave people, there are relatively few visitors here.
Dogs greet each other on pathway up through the gorge
Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos during my trip here, so I am using Sage's friend Mayia (on her recent trip to this gorge) as a stand-in traveling dog. Sage was still very puppyish when we did this walk, and we hadn't quite learnt each other's boundaries at this point. I don't remember too much about the day, except for a constant anxiety that my dog was out of control. She wasn't, just a bit over-excited to be in a big group of people, away from the city.

Mayia enjoying the view from the top of the gorge
I remember another girl who had a much smaller puppy with her. This little thing had to be carried quite a lot of the way, as she couldn't make it over some of the rocks. I also remember the girl's frozen expression of fear when Sage (all 20kgs of her back then) went bounding towards her puppy in an excited frenzy, and we saw the puppy get bounced over the edge of what I now remember as a ravine. Looking fearfully over the edge we saw that she had only rolled a very short way and was scampering back up towards us. I kept a good hold on Sage after that, and avoided the girl as much as possible.

Sage was also a pain around food (still is actually). So trying to stop her from begging, barking, haring around gathering up whatever crumbs of cake fell to her level... while in a large group of people I didn't know very well, all eating, was not an easy experience. We are much more relaxed around each other these days, but back then it was a bit of a nightmare.
Picnic area by the church
Despite all this, I did get a moment to go and explore the church. It's really beautiful, hidden away in a cave in the gorge, surrounded by trees and running water. The church is dedicated to Agios Antonios, and a few icons are hung around the outside. People also leave votive offerings, as prayers for health or good fortune, or else in thanks. Interestingly, offerings in the form of figurines found in this cave date back to the Bronze Age, and archaeological evidence suggests that this spot has been an area of worship ever since. It's easy to see why - there is a real beauty in this wild and slightly mysterious place.
Church of Agios Antonios in Patsos Gorge
Offerings and icons in the church

For more info on the gorge, have a look at the CretanBeaches website here

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