Megali Mantinia / by Adrian Joyner

The village of Megali Mantinia stands on the rim of the Rintomo gorge, a vast canyon cutting into the heart of the Taygetos Mountains. During the hot days of summer the balconies of the houses which hang above the gulf, catch the cooling airs.

About a month ago, Linda and I took a couple of days off to walk up the floor of the gorge into the mountains. We leave the car in Vorio, a tiny place a few kilometres further up the flank of the canyon, and drop down the steep track into the bottom, turning up toward the distant peaks. We pick our way up the dry river bed between white boulders and drifts of gravel, climbing a bad step here and there with the aid of old Via Ferrata style iron rungs: a prodigious place. High up, we spot the ruins of the old water powered corn mills which used to operate here, though there is no water now.We see what we take to be a viper, a patterned bootlace of a thing that slides lazily away across the white rock at our approach, and a dead wild boar, malodorous, half gone, though its razor tushes are still intact: a formidable creature in life, I guess.

The walls of the chasm grow closer and steeper until we are passing through a narrow vertical defile, chill and dank. We walk beneath the tiny double arched bridge which carries the path to Pigadia village, hanging high above us. We continue on for three or four hours toward the heart of the range, stopping briefly where the gorge divides, at a surprisingly large church standing at the edge of the gravel beds of the canyon floor.

Our Lady of the Burning Stooks, something like that, and then on again. It’s getting dark as we trudge into the abandoned hamlet of Rintomo, no more than a scatter of ruins. We build a fire of driftwood and make tea on the Trangia stove. We sleep, not entirely comfortably on the floor of an abandoned shed.If you think of Greece, think of mountains.