-Are you going up to the big mountain, Mount Pandokratoras – asked the young man. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and was holding hands with a blond girl in a white dress. They emerged from the nearby hotel and spotted us with hiking boots on and rucksacks on our backs, an unusual sight on a hot day in August in the popular coastal village of Barbati. It was 10am and the temperature was already in the thirties.
We told the young couple that it was indeed what we intended to do.
-If you go up there you are a hero – said the young man looking at the towering mountains and then the couple headed towards the sea.
Smiling at his remark we continued on the steep winding road. It was hard to explain to anyone that our holiday on Corfu wouldn`t have been complete if if we didn`t try to reach the summit of Mount Pandokratoras. It wasn`t a particularly difficult or long walk however we had to plan the day carefully. We were based in Paleokastritsa, a lively village on the west coast of Corfu.
The distances were not long on the island, but most buses only connected the villages with Corfu Town. With a help of some maps and the Walking and trekking on Corfu guidebook by Gillian Price we made a plan.
Starting from Barbati
We took the very first bus from Paleokastritsa and got off at the edge of Corfu Town and took another bus to Barbati, a small but popular coastal village.
Sweat drops raced down first on my face and back and soon on my legs as well as we left Barbati and climbed towards Spartillas, where we joined the Corfu Trail. Spartillas was quiet, its residents wisely stayed indoors or went to the beach, dogs slept in the shade as even barking at strangers seemed to much effort for them in the heat.
From Spartillas we climbed the narrow path to the ruins of Taxiarchis chapel. I was sipping my water from my hydration pack greedily and often had to stop to catch my breath.
From the ruins we admired the expansive views of the coastline and followed the shaded narrow path. Closer to our destination we walked across open grassy areas with Mount Pandokratoras teasingly in the background. Our steps startled grasshoppers and colourful butterflies danced above the shrubs.
The summit of Mount Pandokratoras
Our T-shirts were dripping wet, and we were running low on the lukewarm water when we reached the summit at around lunchtime. People could drive all the way up to the summit and they were sitting on the terrace of the small cafe with their cold drinks, admiring the views towards Albania and mainland Greece. But they knew nothing about the hidden ruins of Taxiarchis chapel and the views that we could enjoy on our way to the summit.
On the summit there was also a small monastery with a huge and disappointingly ugly telecom tower within its courtyard. But there were uninterrupted views towards the surrounding mountains and the mainland. After a picnic lunch we refilled our hydration packs and retraced our steps to Barbati. It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the town and the young couple from earlier was probably lying somewhere peacefully on the crowded beach.