Written by Bill Economou
Translated by Bitsidis George
In search of a new destination for our excursions, my eye fell on names of places that I had never heard before. “Agridi”… “Solos”… “Vounaki”… “Zarouchla”…
Those and even more names of villages near “Kalavryta” of “Achaia”, very close to the Corinthian gulf, amongst fir trees, canyons and snowy mountain tops, a mountainous microcosm full of villages unfolds… The “Kloukinochoria” or the “Kloukines”. This word is probably of Frank origin, as during the domination by the Franks the French Arch-bishop “Patron Andello” granted the area as property to the monastery of the Benedictins Cluny of France, in which he was a monk…
Eventhough the area of Akrata is generally considered to be a well known and beloved summery destination, few know that it keeps well hidden one of the most beautiful mountainous corners of “Morias”. Near the shores of the Corinthian bay, nothing gives you an idea of what you are about to see when you get a bit higher, ascending through winding roads towards the rough inland of Achaia.
The only thing remaining was to find the route details and include them in our excursion’s program.
Sunday… November 9th… The end of a week with very bad weather conditions and changeable weather predictions starting from Friday, that were filling us with anxiety on what we are about to face on Sunday morning.
8 o’clock in the morning, we opened the curtains and a superb sun filled our faces with warm smiles…
Equipped with the winter apparel and also with the raincoats in the luggage, just in case, all the Athenian riders set out for the first destination, Akrata, as a point of regrouping and meeting with our members from Patra.
Akrata is one of the most beautiful coastal small towns of the Achaia prefecture and is the seat of the homonymous municipality. It is located 71 kilometers away from Patra, at an especially privileged geographical position.
Everyone being present and our motorcycles being filled with gas, since on the route to our final destination there is no other gas station, we headed for “Tsivlo”.
Overwhelmed by the winding roads, we were dancing to their rhythm, astonished by the colour alterations we came up to in every turn and altitude… Many sunless parts of the road were quite dangerous, due to humidity. The mind did not want to picture the road surface in case of cold weather!!! Complete ice rink!!!
After the village “Valimi”, we had to pay attention not to miss the junction leading to the microscopic lake of Tsivlou, which cannot be seen from the road. We needed to pass through the bridge of the river “Krathi”, driving on narrow asphalt road and on a few kilometers of smooth dirt road, in order to get to the shores of the lake.
Lake Tsivlou took its form in 1913 after the ground’s sedimentation, which destroyed part of the homonymous village and the “Sivilena” settlement. Its size is limited to a few acres, but beauty cannot be measured by size. This shiny blue touch on the canvas, hiding behind the pine needles left us speechless, for sure!!!
We left our dear ones to rest and we rushed to immortalize every detail of this natural beauty, similar to a colour pallete of brown, green and blue hues, with our cameras.
The existence of a nearby tavern, offered us the occasion to enjoy our coffee, with a view to this magnificent lake…
We departed from the shores of the lake to go back to the main road and continue the ascend to Zarouchla. Here, at an altitude that exceeded the number of 800 meters, we came across the first fir trees. Far away, to the western horizon, one can see the imposing peaks of “Helmos”, whose more alpine and steeper side we can see from here. After the village “Agridi” the road is separated.
One of its asphalt branches heads east to the villages “Chalkianika”, “Vounaki”, “Agia Varvara”, which literally hang above the valley of the river “Krathi”, offering clear view to the whole western side of the mountain. This road, after a ride of less than 6 kilometers, leads back to the central roadway that is coming from Akrata and continues to Zarouchla. But, we took the other road that heads west, connecting the villages “Solos”, “Peristera” and “Mesorougi”, which lay at a steep side in the shadow of Helmos’ alpine “Neraithorachi”, thus reaching our final destination, the village Zarouchla at an altitude of 1.040 meters.
A village of the mountainous Achaia through a unique scenery full of plane trees, pine trees, fir trees, rivers and streams that end to the beautiful settlement of the village, to whose stone plated central road you enjoy walking on.
At Zarouchla you may see several stone war towers being preserved that stand out by their imposing bearing. Some of them are more than 300 years old. The oldest of them, a building of at least 500 years old, is the Zarouchla Tower, which was used as war base by the chieftain of the Greek Revolution, Asimakis Photilas. As significant are the churches and the stone post Byzantine temples of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Triad.
But, what impressed us even more and filled our lungs, was the smell of roast meat brought by the smoke of burning food as it was dancing towards the blue sky.
Fresh air on one hand… The late noon hours, the beautiful images of nature that were replaced by the huge steaks and the freshly fried potatoes, which filled our tables once more at a graphic tavern that we found to accommodate us, on the other… The quick service and the very good meat left us very satisfied…
The sun had begun warning us that it was on its way to its rest and so we also had to take our way back…
After we took our commemorative photograph under the mistreated by time Charalampis’ tower-house, we headed back to Athens.
Some of us preferred to choose the route of lake “Doxa”, riding through a 20 km dirt road.
Most of us though, chose to head back by the same route, this time heavier not only by the unique and colourful memories but also by the fresh walnuts and the rustic beans that we bought from the local residents of the area, believing that when they will be cooked in our pots they will bring back the enchanting memories of Kloukinochoria…