Monday, 21 February 2011

Olive Groves near Lefkimmi

I explored the south of the island, taking a bus to Lefkimmi. The bus route goes all the way to Kavos which I believe is a popular resort in the summer. But Lefkimmi I'm told, not being by the sea, has not been so influenced by tourism. There's a minor road on the map that seems to lead to the sea. The day starts off sunny and Lefkimmi has a bakery where I buy a spinach pie for lunch, then head down the road. At the first fork I head for Alikies but at almost each house I go past, there are dogs, either chained or kept in kennels or huts or fenced in areas, and they bark their frustration. The presumed waterfront - presumed because I didn't get to see it - are lined with these purgatorial burnt dun coloured houses with their furiously barking dogs. They seemed to end in a muddy swampland so I head back to the junction and take the small road to Molos.

I was lucky to get a couple of hours walk in, before the rain came, as I completed a circuit and arrived back in the outskirts of Lefkimmi. The groves of olives between the turn off to Molos – it was worth it, for them. Hardly a car passes in fact I don't think I remember even one. The peace and silence was so welcoming, especially after the dogs – hardly any buildings at all – one memorable one has an old Citroen deux chevaux in the yard outside, beneath an orange tree. A few dropped oranges lie on its roof. A half-hearted fence gives out before it reaches the house which looks run down or left carelessly though not as abandoned as the Citroen, not quite. This amazing peace and silence continues, until a truly abandoned looking building appears, which seems to be a holiday resort.

The wild groves of olives – silent, peaceful and a slightly clammy feeling – cool yet almost close, despite a breeze – like an English early summer day, a June day, when there is this particular feeling in the air, a vibrancy mixed with the clammy atmosphere, stirring and exciting, giving off a feeling of anticipation. The olives turn their trunks in their olive dance – a slow-motion dervish whirl – even their lopped branches cut into logs have these ridges and hollows in them; the olives have an inbuilt pattern so it seems, that absorbs sunlight and returns it generously. Branches of orange trees hang over fences, weighed down with fruit. Then comes the empty large villa which is probably Orestes Restful Studios or Clytemnestra's Cosy Cavern or the Errinyes Eaterie – in the summer season, that other season they have here. There are only two – like an inhale or an exhale, an ebb and a flow.

In the ebb season, which is now, there is no tourist information office – open that is, it exists, but there are dead plants on the desk, just as the straw hat shop exists but is not open, and there are hats scattered around the floor as if the owner left in a hurry – and there is a hat there I want to buy, the perfect pale green colour – or I did when the sun came out but now that the rain and storms are back, it doesn't seem so pressing. There are no boats from Lefkimmi to Paxos or Paxos to Parga, there are no bikes for hire and I even heard that the Asklepium at Epidaurus is not open.

At any rate in front of this nameless and deserted building there are two statues – one of Atlas, wearing only the world and a fig leaf and one of a bathing goddess who could be Artemis, wearing a modest tunic. Apart from these two lonely figures, the olive wood rustles with presence and breeze. I pass only two people who are pruning some olive trees. Back on the main road, there is a vast and almost empty Dimitra store off an almost empty road. And soon after that, the turn off that will lead back to Lefkimmi. Just a few houses – still the outskirts.

And an old woman emerges from a wooded grove, with her donkey. She walks very slowly, with the aid of crutches. Her donkey has a load of cut olive branches in the pannier on its back. It is perhaps a metre behind her and slightly to the side. It's attached to the woman by a thin rope running from its halter. The old woman is dressed in a long full skirt, with apron, and large shady headwear. Ella ella! she calls out sharply. The donkey comes obediently right up behind her, so close it's almost touching her. It matches its pace, its rhythm and its slightly rolling gait precisely, exactly, to hers. Something in the devotion of its imitation seems to be trying to take the burden from her, the difficulty she must feel, putting one step in front of the other.


Forest Dream Weaver said...

Beautiful descriptive writing,lovely photos,love the old Citroen------Bring some warm weather back with you,but no rain please!!!
Look forward to seeing you. Rx

dritanje said...

Ha, thank you! It could be difficult to give the rain the slip it's intent on following me everywhere it seems. It has got a little colder but - there's time yet.... M xx