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Sunday, 29 May 2016

Arachthos: friend or foe



Gloomy weather, again! In Epirus. 
‘Well’, I tell myself, ‘you want high water level, then you must be prepared to face the rain’.
We meet next to Ioannina Airport with the Alpine Zone team and it’s pouring; we take our clothes and the gear we’ve got on us in the van and we’re off. Nikos is going to be our guide – very cheerful, very knowledgeable in many fields, and very experienced with water.
The TEAM
‘You’ve swum down rivers before, right?’ he asks. ‘You may just have to do that today.’
Andra freezes. I stop to decipher whether he’s joking or not. Marcel doesn’t mind.
Three, only three in a big boat. But we’re strong and confident [although fear has started to emerge somewhere literally down the road].
The clouds
‘I know you’re very familiar with the training, but I will still do it.’
‘Please, by all means’ we all nod our heads.
It is time.
The water is green – dark green, muddled by the rains, but still green. I am surprised. The water level is optimal, although river environments change incredibly fast and it could rise or diminish in no time, as Nikos explains.
Andra [Courtesy of Alpine Zone]
We stop to visit a waterfall. I am not a big fan of these stops – it’s probably because I’m a very goal-oriented person: when I go rafting, I raft. But this time, I join the team. And I’m so glad I do! The waterfall is the source of my first wow of the trip: the water is pounding, incredibly turquoise… I take a shot in my heart and preserve the memory. We are told that a small village in the area uses this hydropower to supply a pump that would then on provide water for all homesteads. Eco-friendly idea, huh?
Marcel & Petra [Courtesy of Alpine Zone]
Heading into the water, we are then pinpointed the trickier features of the river – we have four rapids that could pose problems. We pass two of them, enter the canyon. It looks wild, very wild. My cup of tea. Another rapid follows. We’ve got a last one outside the canyon, sublimely called ‘The Rock Garden’. I like being told what to expect, what happens later on. I like to be prepared. It’s not scarier anymore and you actually know how to act. Just in case.
In action [Courtesy of Alpine Zone]
In the right-front side, paddling along Marcel, is my favourite spot. You feel the water splashes differently here and they fill you up with energy. Andra has also relaxed and – by the time we pass the ruins of Plaka Bridge, whose reconstruction is rightly planned –, we already feel stronger. All that war of nerves that our team has internally fought even before reaching Ioannina has vanished.
End of our adventure [Courtesy of Alpine Zone]
One beautiful river, a wonderful adventure, as Nikos pointed it out.
Victorious: Andra, Marcel, Nikos, and I [Courtesy of Alpine Zone]
Eager to have another go. Time is not of the essence. I realise that while wowing on the cloudy serpentines back to where we started.        

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