topics: provatina (food), kayaking, hiking, Vikos-Aoös National Park, nightlife; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: March 28, 1998

Food of the Day: Provatina

Provatina is a regional specialty made especially well in Konitsa. Consisting of a platter of grilled chops made only from female sheep, the meat is prepared by first marinating the meat for several days and then cracking the bones (to release the flavor of the marrow).

Person of the Day: Nikos Kyritsisclick to view a photograph

Nikos is one of the many visionaries working to shape the future of Konitsa. Realizing that the natural beauty of the area could be used to attract people to Konitsa, Nikos has worked hard to establish a "Paddler," a rafting/kayaking/paragliding/trekking/mountain-biking company in Konitsa. An avid outdoorsman himself, Nikos hopes that by helping groups like BikeAbout visit the area, and by organizing and hosting competitions like the "Evathlos - Konitsa" competition being held the second week of May, 1998, the numbers of visitors to Konitsa will grow. BikeAbout would like to thank Nikos for all his help arranging housing and letting us use his telephone line for Internet access. We would like to express our sincere hope that we will return one day soon to go rafting with him.

Anyone interested in any of the activities offered by Paddler should contact Nikos at +30-653-23101 or

Place of the Day: Vikos-Aoös National Park

The Vikos-Aoös National Park is our place of the day. The region just to the north of Ioannina is largely composed of the Vikos-Aoös National Park. The Tymfi massif (part of the northern Pindos range) is partly contained within the park, with Mt. Astraka, Mt. Gamila and Mt. Tsouka Rossa being the main eye-catchers of the region. The Vikos and Aoös River gorges are two of the main attractions of the area. The Aoös gorge is one of the deepest in Europe with sheer drops of over 1000 meters (3281 ft) from the mountaintops to the river. Each gorge features beautiful hikes and wondrous views of the surrounding peaks. An area of amazing natural beauty, the Vikos-Aoös National Park is still largely unknown and relatively untouched by wide-scale tourism.

Group Dispatch, March 28
picture of Anthony

Waking bright and early, the BikeAbout crew quickly feasted on a tasty breakfast again prepared by George before heading out to the Vikos Gorge (see the Place of the Day) to do a little hiking.

Along the way to the starting point, they stopped to arrange a pick-up point with Nikos (the Person of the Day) who was helping three different rafting groups (over a hundred people) get organized for a trip down the same gorge. With that arranged, George pointed his little car up an impossibly steep (well not impossible, but nearly so for such a small car) gravel road that climbed up above the Vikos Gorge. From the top we enjoyed amazing views of both the gorge itself and the mountains that surround it. click to view a photograph Looking out across the gorge it was possible to pick out herds of grazing sheep and tiny towns nestled at the base of the mountain. It was hard to tell if we were in Greece or Switzerland!

The villages in this area are known as the Zagorohoria. They are so remote and hard to get to that they have enjoyed a greater amount of freedom and prosperity than most areas in Greece, even during the Turkish occupation. Stopping at one point and looking across the gorge, George pointed out the Papingo villages perched under the looming Mt Gamilia. From where they were standing, the group could see most of the 15 hairpin turns of the road that switchbacks up the ledge to the villages. click to view a photograph But that was not for us. Descending back down to the bottom of the gorgeous gorge, our guide George stashed his car while the gregarious Nikos graciously drove us a great distance further in the Paddler van.

And then the BikeAbouters turned HikeAbouters and were off down the gorge. Most of the time they walked along the shores of the river on a path that meandered through the gorge click to view a photograph Occasionally they climbed up the side of the gorge to navigate a particularly steep passage click to view a photograph, or paused in a meadow. click to view a photograph They would stop to marvel at the crystal clear water click to view a photograph, amazing views click to view a photograph, and wild flowers. click to view a photograph

Wherever they were, they were struck by the fact that Spring seemed finally to have sprung (this time they hope that it stays that way). Before long, everyone had stripped down to his or her T-shirts click to view a photograph as they enjoyed the first warm day since Turkey.

Seeing the gorge for the first time from the inside, it was easy to understand the passion that all the townspeople have about the area around Konitsa. The views continued to dazzle us while the quiet and peacefulness of the gorge gave it an almost spiritual serenity.

That is, until the RAFTERS FROM HELL arrived.

Actually they weren't so bad (got your attention though, didn't we?). Nikos had been busy arranging three different rafting trips for that day (100 young people had come from Athens and Thessaloniki) and we had the luck to bump into one of them as four rafts made their way down the gorge. click to view a photograph George explained that all the rafters were part of a government program that tries to familiarize the youth of Greece with some of its natural beauty. While you have to apply to the program, once you are accepted, the government pays for the transportation, housing, and rafting. The rafting trips in Konitsa are some of the most popular in Greece so the rafters we saw were extremely lucky (they knew it too, they were solely interested in having as much fun as possible).

With Alex click to view a photograph (a friend and colleague of Nikos') and Andy click to view a photograph (a German member of the TEVA Extreme Kayaking team) riding herd on the rafters (in case any of them was to try anything foolish like sinking to the bottom of the river), the group slowly made its way down river, enjoying the whitewater runs and engaging in the occasional water fight. click to view a photograph Both Alex and Andy showed us a little of a type of kayaking called Rodeo in which the kayaker performs all sorts of stunts and tricks. We were all duly impressed and vowed that the next BikeAbout should be KayakAbout.

Reaching the end of the gorge click to view a photograph, we finally were able to check out one of Epiros' famous ancient earthquake-proof bridges. click to view a photograph While we are not sure how it is that these bridges have been able to withstand earthquakes, we were extremely impressed with how solidly they were built. click to view a photograph The BikeAbouters even gathered together at the top of the bridge for a group shot and it never even budged! click to view a photograph

After munching a quick lunch, the BikeAbouters hopped back in George's car and headed for town. They were in a hurry because some of the children of Konitsa had invited them to go on a bike ride that afternoon. Never ones to miss an opportunity for biking, the boys quickly changed clothes (Corinne opted to remain at the hotel and get some work done) and headed for the rendezvous point.

Once everyone was assembled the kids led the way towards the Aoös gorge that ends just outside of Konitsa. Noting that everyone else was riding fat-tired mountain bikes, Ethan, Padraic and Anthony were a little leery, but they followed along off the pavement and up the gorge. The BikeAbouters soon realized that their skinny tires were not the best equipment for the bumpy and hilly gravel road. But, determined not to let a pack of fat-tired (as opposed to fat and tired) kids get the best of them, they rode on. Before long, fat- and skinny-tired alike reached the end of the road click to view a photograph - or at least got as far as they could go on bicycle. The road continues on to the Stomio Monastery, but a section of it had recently been washed away. After pausing for group pictures, they all headed back down the gorge for a short ride on pavement, stopping to snap a photo of yet another earthquake proof bridge along the way. click to view a photograph

Taking one more jaunt off-road, the kids showed their guests the small "lake" just outside of town that the Mayor plans to make into a fishing pond. After a full half-hour of skipping stones across the pond, the whole group again jumped on their bikes to head to a local café for a frosty mug of orange juice.

This was followed by a quick dinner and clean up which put the BikeAbouters in the right mood to headed out on the town. It was, after all, Saturday night. Stopping in one drinking establishment, they bumped into the Mayor who wanted a full report of the day's activities. He was pleased that the group had been drinking in a little of the natural beauty and insisted that we drink in a round of beverages as well (his treat - the BikeAbouters are particularly susceptible to that sort of hospitality). After seeing that we were well supplied with nectar and had enough bar food to nibble on, he headed off to check another local hangout (next door) and see if it was "safe" for us. It took him a long time to return and when he did he said that there were so many people there it was impossible to move. Intrigued we headed out to see for ourselves.

He was right. There was barely room to move, but somehow the group wedged itself inside and made straight for the drink counter. They tried to hover there unobtrusively, but before long the Mayor and George started hauling people off to the dance floor. At this point the mayor said, "You are not leaving until I leave, and I'm not leaving until 4 a.m.!"

While in the bar, the BikeAbouters could not help but notice a slightly strange custom. At seemingly random points in the evening, the bartenders would walk around with huge containers of napkins and throw them by the handful into the air over the dancers. Picking the napkins out of our hair, we asked George what the heck was going on. He explained that it was a celebratory tradition that had started in Thessaloniki. (Note: George is from Thessaloniki so he might be biased.) He explained that it was cheaper and safer than throwing plates. In no mood to argue with local traditions, the BikeAbouters flung a few napkins around too (it was great fun) before sneaking out of the bar around 2:30 a.m. (They had wisely waited until the mayor was distracted by a particularly heavy napkin storm.)

Exhausted, the BikeAbouters headed down hill to the comfy beds of their guesthouse. They wanted to make sure they got enough sleep to be ready for the next days' events.

Go to Previous Rider Notes PageGo to Next Rider Notes Page

Questions? Ask Anthony Go To Anthony's Page!

Return to Fast Facts

BikeAbout Itinerary & Journal Discussion Groups About Greece eDscape Projects BikeAbout Scrapbook
Discussions About

About BikeAbout Mediterranean Journey BikeAbout Partners Resource Library

FORTHNetInternet access while in Greece has been provided by FORTHNet.

Daedalus Design Group Computer Curriculum Corporation Compaq

Copyright 1997-99 BikeAbout. All rights reserved.