2095 – the hike from Kavsokalivia to Panaghia refuge

Our main goal during our 2019 pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain was to reach the top of Mount Athos. We decided to do the climb in two stages: day one from Kavsokalivia to the Panaghia refuge and day two the climb from the refuge to the top, and then down to Agia Anna and end in the monastery Agiou Pavlou.

Monday 30-09-2019, 7.30 PM: preparing for the climb on the terrace of Kavsokalivia
Kavsokalivia: the guest house is on the right. Behind the four cypresses: a glimpse of the aim for today, Mount Athos
Kavsokalivia – two signs: the paths to Lavra/Prodromou/Nelios and to Agia Anna/Kerasia

Immediately after leaving Kavsokalivia I passed a stable with mules and two friendly who laymen asked me where I was going. “To Panaghia and the to the top” I replied. “Would you like to rent a mule to go up”, they asked me? The be honest I was rather surprised and a bit annoyed by this question. Me, only 62 years old and in a perfect physical condition, would need a mule to go up? And on second thoughts: isn’t it an issue in modern times to use an animal for these purposes? At the same time I realized that mules and donkeys have been used for transportation for centuries and that their bodies are perfectly suited to do this kind of labour. And that in this part of the world there is no alternative to transport heavy loads. So I declined the offer friendly and I started the climb up (regretting that I forgot to ask what it would cost to rent a mule).

This is what we saw the next day, while climbing down the mountain: a Russian priest sitting on a mule going up

The first part of the hike is very steep and goes to the path that comes from Lavra. We started at 172 m and ended at 1477 m above sea level, the hike is ‘only’ 7.56 km. Our moving time was 3 hours, but with the breaks it took us 5.15 hours. For more details have a look here on the Wikiloc site.

Google maps: the first part of the hike in detail and the places where I took pictures
The path from Kavsokalivia going up. A breathtaking landscape: the ancient forest with its wild nature

I cannot emphasize enough how special the Athos environment is, assuming it is so different from the rest of Greece, because this landscape has been left alone by goats and sheep for hundreds and maybe even for thousands of years. Here nature has been able to develop almost without any influence from humans or animals, and especially around the flanks of the mountain. It is said many endemic plants survived here. To walk here makes you feel small and privileged.

a stone avalanche near the junction with the Lavra path
A sign to a well (200 m) near Kerasia

Hiking towards Kerasia over the stone avalanche

After the stone avalanche we arrived at Kerasia, an area with many kellions and buildings. The first (deserted) kellion is named Timiou Stavros (also on the Howorth map, buy it here: http://www.filathonites.org/ ).

Looking up from this spot: the top with the Metamorphosis chapel.
The second kellion we passed lies a little higher up, named Timios Prodromos: on the digital Howorth map it is erroneously called Panaghia, in later versions this has been corrected. According to Jemmo the name of this kellion is Genesiu Theotokou (Birth of Virgin Mary)- see his comment.
The new large kellion with chapel at Agiou Apostoli
The finishing touch: the roof is almost ready. All these stone blocks were transported by mules!
leaving Kerasia: the last part to the Stavros crossing
Not far after leaving Kerasia: a turn to the right, the high path leading to Lavra
The large oak trees in an fairytale landscape
10.15 h: time for a break at Stavros: friendly pilgrims from Moldavia greet us
The famous sign to the top: only 3.5 h to go!
on the move again from Stavros
beautiful crocus flowers accompany us

At first the path goes through a forest, but soon the vegetation gets lower and dryer, more bush like, and you reach the point where you’ll have a view over the West coast of Athos and Micra Agia Anna.

View over the West coast
The vegetation gets lower: here a view to the South and the Profiti Ilia top (887 m). On the right Sithonia.
At the view point the path turns to the right and heads Eastwards to a valley. The path is rocky and full with loose stones, which makes it difficult to walk.
and after a while the vegetation gets higher and more dense
this is the area here these pictures were taken

I forgot to mention that from Stavros a dog accompanied us in our hike to Panaghia. Sometimes he walked ahead of us and just waited on a shaded spot to follow us again.

the dog that followed us: here the path turns to the left and we will enter a valley with trees
The valley, with the top in the background
The valley, with more shadow and a cooler temperature
almost there: 1400 meters!
leaving the valley: the vegetation gets thinner, the tree line is closeby
at the tree line, near Panaghia
Panaghia in sight
on the balcony of Panaghia, looking down at Kerasia
13.00 h arrival at Panaghia

Wim Voogd, 10/01/2020

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4 Responses to 2095 – the hike from Kavsokalivia to Panaghia refuge

  1. Jemmo says:

    My dear friends, the cell with blue roof is not Panagia or T.Prodromo. This is Genesiu Theotokou (Birth of Virgin Mart)!

  2. Jemmo says:

    Virgin Mary

  3. Gerard Koolschijn says:

    Thanks for the nice sequence of pictures, mr Wim!

  4. Tina says:

    “… be honest I was rather surprised and a bit annoyed by this question. Me, only 62 years old and in a perfect physical condition, would need a mule to go up?”
    This had me laughing…pride? I like that those Monks assumed nothing.
    Looks like it was a lovely day.

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