2263 – FoMA footpath team 2022 – part 2: the path from Vatopedi towards Esfigmenou

a part of the route:: the paths we cleared on 26th of September

On Monday, September 26, 2022, our team started our first mission, clearing the path between Vatopedi and Esfigmenou. After waking up at 6am and having breakfast at 6.30am specially made for our team, we got a lift from a grumpy Greek driver, who couldn’t understand why we had to go up the hill, thinking we had can start working on the trails from below, near the monastery (it would have taken us an hour to walk up the hill to our starting point!). Anyway, we finally reached our spot to start our day cutting down and removing obstacles such as bushes and trees, to ensure that pilgrims can have a good and safe walk on the Athos hiking trails.

But before I continue describing the work on our first day, I would like to share a webinar where two of our prominent members of the FoMA footpath team attended, Chris Thomas and Peter Desmond, which took place in February 2022. In this video of a webinar from the Anglo-Hellenic League, viewable on YouTube, the story of the FoMA footpath team is told. What I didn’t know was that (at the time) Prince Charles played an active role in the foundation of the footpath team in 2004, 18 years ago. He asked the members of FoMA to set up a team of footpath cleaners to preserve and maintain the Athos trails. He even helped a team in 2004, as you can see in the photos below, which I ‘took’ from the video.

The FoMA footpath team: Chris Thomas and Peter Desmond

Prince Charles joining the FoMA footpath team in 2004

Father Mathew from Vatopedi discribed our mission as follows in simple words: “make shure that a monk on a donkey can pass the paths smoothly”. With that simple task in mind we put on our work gloves and took our loppers and saws and started working.

2022: a kalderimi with cobblestones

Most kalderimi, these are the wider paths that have been paved with cobblestones in the passed centuries, do require much work, although sometimes you have to remove fallen trees or the most annoying plants, the broom plants with their vicious thorns – see photo below.

Cytisus lanigerus – broom
working at a path near a the FoMA sign to Chilandariou / Esfigmenou
10 o’clock: a break with the famous coffee of Bart Janssens, our team leader
the Greek airforce flying over the peninsula
A view over the Vatopedi bay, with Mount Athos in the background
panorama photo of this area
12:50 pm Here we are half way through our mission, at the place where the monopati stopped in the forest and where bare rocks appears on the path that leads further down to Esfigmenou (with a broken sign on the ground to Vatopedi!).
The team on our way down to Vatopedi: Lucas, Daniel, Justin and Bart
back at the coast near Vatopedi: doesn’t the rock in the sea look like a sfinx?
the path continues along the coast: I learned from the webinar as mentioned above that special teams of Greek volunteers try to focus only on cleaning the beaches and removing the plastic. This beach has not been visited yet….. At 3.30 pm we were back at the monastery, after a walk of almost 13 km

Unfortunately the old trapeza of Vatopedi is being renovated while we were there, so dinner was served at 5:30 pm in a cellar near the kitchen: that night we got spaghetti with tomato sauce without oil, but with olives and fruit (not wine but fruit juice) . Let’s not forget to mention Father Mathew’s hot sauce made from the Carolina Reaper pepper, the hottest pepper in the world: just 5 drops of it in my spaghetti and it almost killed me too!

In the middle: the Carolina Raeper sauce of father Mathew

Wim Voogd, 14-3-2023

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