Taygetus Trip

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450km later…Taygetus Site and Back

Back at the NEO station once again!  It is unbelievably hot here, high 90’s at least, which has given us an excuse to stay in the air conditioning and prepare for the summer school that will begin in a couple days time.  Five days ago Paul and I left the NEO station to explore a new site high in the Taygetus mountain range.  We followed an amazingly well kept dirt road from Kardamyli to about the middle of the mountain range, where we set up camp at the base of Mount Taygetus, the tallest mountain in the range reaching over 2,400 meters.  We camped in a deserted village, one where shepherds live during the summer when they bring their sheep to the high mountain pastures to graze.  In the morning we awoke to a huge flock of sheep tramping past our camp, with their bells clanging, the shepherd yelling and the dogs barking…Guess we weren’t as removed as we thought.  We got an early start and hiked the western ridge leading to Mount Taygetus.  From the highest point on the ridge, and with our backs to the mountain, we were able to see the remaining Taygetos mountain range as it splits the sea in half creating both the Messenian Gulf and the Laconian Gulf.  Here it is easy to appreciate how mountainous Greece truly is.  The mountains come straight down to the sea, in many places exposing giant limestone cliffs and in others forming amazing beaches that stretch many kilometers down the coast. We spent the afternoon coring on the western ridge where the trees seemed to be the oldest, before heading down to base camp and getting some food and water.  I had forgotten to fill up on water because for some reason I thought we would find a spring…we did not.  It was a learning experience to say the least and Paul enjoyed a laugh or two. Because the site was not that old and we didn’t expect to find any different data anywhere else in the region, we decided to reward ourselves for our hard work and head for the coast.  We made our way down the western coast to Areoploi where we took a pass through the lowest part of the mountain range to Gytheio, where we ordered Octopus and Ouzo (note that we’re going for the traditional Greek experience here…)  We made our way a little further down the coast to a campground in Kotronas where we spent the night.  We headed back to NEO on the 18th taking the coastal route where we could easily stop and swim whenever it got too hot in the truck.  We arrived at NEO late Tuesday night just in time to meet Giorgos (the NEO station manager) and some summer volunteers for dinner by the sea.  We will spend the remaining days preparing for the summer school and swimming as much as possible to stay cool. It’s so hot!

NEO

As I mentioned in my last entry we are currently staying at the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) in Pilos Greece.  NEO is a cooperation between Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens and TEMES S.A. where the communal aim is a dedication to climate and environmental research and education of the Mediterranean region.  NEO is a center for scientists all over the world to come and develop tools and conduct research as well as exchanging knowledge and ideas.  In about a weeks time Paul and a few of his colleagues will be holding a summer school devoted to understanding climate and climate systems.  Masters and PhD students from all over the world are scheduled to attend.  It’s going to be an incredible time.    Navarino Environmental Observatory

Athens to Pilos

We arrived at the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) close to Pilos Greece two days ago.  We left from Kavala on Monday June 10th and drove to Thessaloniki in hopes of catching a train that would bring the Land Rover and us to Athens instead of driving all the way ourselves.  It turned out the truck was too tall to fit on the train so we got back on the highway and drove a little over 500km to Athens.  We arrived late that same night at a campground located right in the middle of the city more or less; it was an odd area to say the least… In the morning we drove to a beautiful family owned Land Rover garage where Petros Balomenos, the owner and one of Pauls dear friends met us.  Paul described that we needed a new clutch badly, Petros smiled and said “I fix it, no problem…” 7 hours later we drove out of the shop with a beautiful new clutch and smiles on our faces, it was that easy. We toured Athens for about 3 hours and then decided we had had enough, it was one of the most chaotic places I have ever been, and hot too! Anyways from Athens we drove to Pilos where NEO is located and where we will base ourselves for day trips to the next site near Sparti.  NEO is also the location for a summer course that Paul and a few other of his colleagues have organized which will take place in about a week.  We are very close the Kalamata, the famous olive capital of the world where the olive groves reach from the mountains to the sea.  Tomorrow we will leave for a two-day trip into the Sparti region where we will scout the terrain for promising sites that are reasonably accessible.  Attached bellow is a map showing our general route for the past couple weeks

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Pindus National Park, Valia Kalda Site

Valia Kalda

After our work in the Smolikas Mountain range Hakan, Paul and I traveled from Samarina to Krania, a small village in the near the Pindus National Park, more specifically Valia Kalda, where our next site would be.  We spent hours navigating up and down washed out logging trails to get to our destination which was at the top of Mt. Latouaka 1,720 meters.  This area proved to be slightly more difficult because of the recent logging.  It was hard to find old trees worth coring, and the ones we found didn’t prove to be all that old, however some of the dead wood collected appeared to be quite old and could make for a decent chronology.

We stayed for two nights in a wonderful Bulgarian Hotel which was mushroom themed…a little weird but the food was good and the woman who took care of us (we called her mom) was a saint.  This made it a little awkward when I broke the wooden bathroom door and tried to repair it on my own. We moved to another lovely hotel in the same village this one owned by the mayor and his wife.  We spent another two days there before we packed up and headed to Thessaloniki.  Here Paul decided it was the perfect place to change the oil, so after about an hour of banging around with the wrong tools we left covered in oil and sweat.  Hakan suggested we head for the Swedish Institute in Kavala where Swedish scientists and artists studying Greece could stay and have a place to work.  After a total of 12 hours of driving we reached our destination at around 10:30pm.  Today and tomorrow are rest days before we head to Athens to get the truck looked at and then to our next site near Sparta.  I’m writing from a beautiful balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, it’s about 80F with a slight breeze from the east.  Life doesn’t get much better than this…

View from the roof of the Swedish Institute in Kavala Greece.

View from the roof of the Swedish Institute in Kavala Greece