Bridge in the sky

My parents came to visit us for a few days recently. And it seemed a shame not to show my dad the amazing mountains surrounding our house. After a bit of searching we decided to check out an area that I also had yet to discover: the Rindomo Gorge and the amazing feat of engineering that is the Pigadiotiko bridge.

Greece at this time of year is simply amazing for wild flowers. After a short ride down from Kalamata to Vorio in the Mani, we set off into the mountains along stunningly beautiful trails of colour:

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The hike began at the Byzantine church of Profitis Ilias, which sits on top of a hill looking down into the gorge below.

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When I first saw the gorge I was blown away. I knew that it was large but didn’t expect it to be this steep and this high. And all of this within half an hour’s drive from Kalamata and its beautiful beaches – pretty cool hey?

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The path down into the gorge could do with a few more signposts and waymarkers. There are several tracks that head off in different directions and it’s difficult to know which one to take. There were a few simple signs sprayed on to the rock (if you don’t understand Greek you’re a bit stuck though):

Rintomo Gorge signpost

And fortunately we had a great guidebook with us: Southern Peloponnese car tours and walks by Michael Cullen. Vicky and I actually met Michael at a conference last year – he is half-English, but knows Greece and the Peloponnese like the palm of his hand. His book is full of great tips, hikes, maps, and so on, and it was nice to put his advice to good use.

After a few kilometres of dirt track we started to descend to the bottom of the gorge via this amazing old mule track – this is called a “kalderimi” in Greek. It was still in almost perfect condition after all these years. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to build:

Mule track Rindomo Gorge, Mani, Greece

Down we went, rapidly dropping height, until we came across a bridge – a rather ugly, modern thing. Was this it? That monstrosity of steel and concrete is what we had come to see? Surely not.

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Our assumptions were right. The path continued past the new bridge and dropped down to the floor of the gorge, where a stream was in full flow. It reminded me a lot of the narrows in Zion National Park, with its steep sides and freezing water.  To get a good view of the bridge we had to pass under this huge rock that had jammed itself into the gorge. It was quite an unnerving feeling walking underneath it, and dad, in true dad fashion, had to get a cheesy photo to show the family back in England.

Rindomo Gorge, Mani, Greece

And then we got to the bridge, and it was truly worth it. Pigadiotiko bridge is really quite a spectacular sight. Imagine trying to construct this thing above a 20 – 25 metre drop without any of the modern day tools. Impressive stuff. As you can see, we had to pass under the waterfall on the left to continue on our way back down the gorge.

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Which also involved wading in, erm, almost “ball-deep” freezing water.

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But it was worth it. After exiting the narrowest part of the gorge, the river opened out into a valley full of huge rocks – not a bad bouldering spot for the summer!

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This old plain tree made it clear to see just how high the river can be here, or at least used to be here.

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As we descended further, we had to pick our way through various tricky sections with steep drop-offs and slippery wet rocks. This part of the walk was much better waymarked though, with red squares leading us down safely. Every so often we came across crystal clear pools that must be heavenly in the summer heat that seems so far away now.

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I definitely have to come back here in the summer. But I’m not sure whether all this water will still be here…

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As the evening starting to draw closer, we were getting tired and our legs were starting to wobble. We had been walking for around 4 hours and needed to start making our way back towards the car. But there were no paths and it seemed like we had missed the turn off. The scenery was still spectacular:

Rindomo Gorge, Mani, Greece

But we were faced with the prospect of another 2 hour hike if we didn’t see the path back to Vorio soon. Dad convinced me to keep going and a few minutes later we had reached the turn off. Mild panic over. Time to check out the scenery again.

IMG_4544This was a great, rather strenuous hike that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who is willing to get their feet wet. It’s definitely worth having a map and/or guide with you because the upper section is not very well marked. If you have any questions, just let us know!

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