A Walk to the Petra Reservoir and my last Day in Molyvos

Most mornings I will bump into my host Christos along the main road as he makes his way from home to Eleni Studios. This morning I’m pleased to tell him that I found the olive press. Although it wasn’t open I’d seen the machinery outside and also the beginnings of harvest piled up in sacks. Christos says that he will wait for another week or two before harvesting his 50 trees. It has been very dry and he’d hoped for rain before now. There has also been a lot of ‘droppage’ and almost any olive grove you walk past the grove floor is covered in weak and wind blown fruit. Every year the trees will have to sacrifice a certain percentage back to the earth. On a positive note, Christos tells me that this year will be an excellent harvest. Good ones like this only come along every few years so he hopes to make the most of it.

I’d been looking at a map of the local area and I could see that not far from Eleni Studios is the Petra Reservoir. The other day whilst sitting on the beach I’d seen a pelican flying overhead and it got me thinking. I’ve already mentioned that I’d been fascinated by the flamingo’s on the wetlands on the way to Kaloni (although only a glimpse from a speeding bus). I’m very curious to see if there is any wildlife at the reservoir. I ask Christos if there is a chance to see anything of interest there. He shrugs and says that the resevoir is very dry and it is unlikely to attract anything like flamingo’s as they are found in wetlands or shallow water.

Nonetheless curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to walk there anyway. I say goodbye to Christos and turn back down the road that ends at Skala Sikamineas. I pass a dry river bed and several small holdings that are set back off the road. There are a couple of accommodations to rent, though it definitely feels post season here. There is absolutely no signs of human life anywhere. Google Maps is pretty good at directing me and the blue splodges on the map are hard to miss. The turning onto the side road up the resevoir is also well sign posted.

The road begins to slope upwards but the walk isn’t particularly challenging. The resevoir seems to be nestled in the lower hills. I amble along taking in the flora and forna along the way. There are several small trees which at first I think are crab apples. However, my plant identification app seems to say that they are almond leaved pear trees. Again there are clusters of the autumn crocuses everywhere and I give chase to a yellow butterly skittering amongst the scrubby earth. The prickly scrub is in the process of turning silver whilst trees have already become adorned in their autumn coats of red, orange and gold.

There are lots of bramble bushes covered in blackberries in the midst or turning from red to a deep, rich purple. Christos had told me during one of our nature chats that blackberries are used to cure coldsores. I’d never heard of them being used topically for cold sores but that is one I will bear in mind should I get one – bearing on the time of the season and availability!

Before I reach the reservoir I see a sign for Ippos which I’d read offers horse riding experiences. This includes guided tours on horse back around the countryside of Molyvos. It sounds fantastic and I’d be quite tempted if it weren’t for the fact that I sometimes struggle to cock my leg of my bicycle. Getting onto a horse is another matter at my age!

Almost directly across the road I see the reservoir. Christos was right – it is pretty dry. The walls and the floor of the resevoir is covered with large sheets of a black visquine type material to try and help retain water. The floor of the reservoir is covered in a layer of silt that has washed down from the surrounding embankment. I want to take a closer look. There is a locked gate but there is also a bit of fencing that has been bent over by previous nosey parkers or trespassers. Whatever you’d like to call them. Do I climb over or not? There’s nobody around so I make the leap – though leap may be too strong a word!

As I scan the very barren looking reservoir I can see that at its lowest point there is a small pool of shallow water. I can see something in it and for a moment I thought that it may be a couple of flamingoes. Upon closer inspection I realise that it is just a couple of pieces of wood standing upright in the water. Right in the middle of the reservoir floor something catches my eye. I move a little closer and after focusing a bit more, I can see that there is a small pod of pelicans! They are hard to see against the pale coloured silt but there they are – I count six of them!

From the outside edge of the top of the embankment I watch them with fascination. I go full on David Attenborough and crouch down as much as I can so as not to spook them. They stand together in a cluster occasionally opening out their wings to the suns rays before shaking them out and folding them back in against their bodies. They preen themselves and peck at their chest feathers oblivious to my presence. After about fiteen minutes one of the flamingoes takes flight. Five minutes or so later the rest then follow, taking off one at a time like planes lined up on a runway. For the next ten minutes they circle around the reservoir above me in formation like the red arrows at an airshow. This look even more so with the vapour trails left by a passing plane seemingly coming from the rear ends of the pelicans. Maybe they weren’t oblivious to me after all and are taking the opportunity to show off to this appreciative bystander.

The photo’s I see later are disappointing, the lens of my travel camera is not up to zooming in so far. For the video I’ve zoomed in as far as I can on my phone camera and this has resulted in a very shaky video. I’m no wildlife photographer but it’s the experience of being there that counts. I’m absolutely thrilled to have seen them!

This really has made my day. As I walk back along the road I can feel that a gentle breeze has picked up as if to reward me for my efforts. I can smell something on the breeze that is definitely plant based. It’s as pungent as the smell of heat on ripening figs but it isn’t that. It’s perfume is so familiar to me and yet I can’t identify it. I can see tall fennel pants swaying in the wind on the roadside and I wonder if this could be it. As I suck up this heady aroma through my nose I notice the stillness and the near silence. The only sound is of dried out bamboo plants rustling in the breeze and the shrill tweets from tiny birds flitting amonst the trees. This time of year must be like one giant feast for them.

This is my last day here in Molyvos and there is only one place that I want to be for my last afternoon – the beach. The beach in itself is a nice place to while away a couple of hours but what I really love is that walk through the pistachio orchard on the way there. There is something to peaceful and so satisfying about walking through trees laden with fruit and the low pitched hum from the bee hives underneath the trees. What an interesting flavoured honey this must make.

I stay on the beach until the sun sets. I’m the only one here and I lap up every opportunity to soak up the last of suns rays. It is quite impossible to pull your eyes away from the view of the lapping waves and just to the right, the magnificent kastro of Molyvos. This is such a special place.

Before making my way back to Eleni Studios to pack I do a little timelapse of the sun setting on the horizon. Shame there’s a mad woman video bombing it!

Tomorrow I catch the early bus back to Mytilene.

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