White River (Makry Gialos - Aspros Potamos)
Considering that this is supposed to be a tour of the upland villages of east Crete you could be forgiven for wondering why I have brought you down here to the coastal resort of Makry Gialos. Apart from the fact that it is a beautiful little place and well worth visiting in its own right it is also the point where one of the main winter watersheds reaches the sea. If you remember back to Chrysopigi and Skordilo we passed beneath the massif of the Ornos mountains and we have now circled around to the mouth of what is grandly called the White River (or Aspros Potamos) in Greek. So today I thought we'd take a gentle riverside stroll and see what is about before motoring up to Pefki next week.
Well, this is it folks and if you are wondering where the water is then I have to tell you that we are still awaiting any significant rainfall. What little flow there is appears to be choked with Giant Cane and after last week's escapade I'm in no hurry to get down amongst it. We'll cross the road up there and when the reeds clear a bit keep your eyes peeled for Wagtails. The White Wagtails, Motacilla alba are quite abundant and there is also a good chance of seeing a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea. We are probably a bit early for the Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava as they don't usually turn up until late March or April but if you do spot one take a good look at the head colouring as they come in a number of different flavours: black-headed; ashy-headed, blue-headed etc.
Here on the wall of the Villea Village we have a handy map which shows the route all the way up to Pefki. We're only going as far as Aspros Potamos today which is a pleasant, flat stroll suitable for all but there's plenty to see just along this little stretch. As far as winter flowers are concerned mauve is the colour to look out for starting with the Windflowers, Anemone coronaria. These actually come in a variety of shades ranging from pure white to pink but there are a few mauve ones down here at our feet conveniently illustrating my point. In the soft earth at the side of the track we also have the much maligned Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, which, contrary to folklore does not scream and send you mad if you pull it up by the roots. It is however, highly poisonous, being packed full of tropane alkaloids and is best admired from a distance. Finally we have that well known garden herb, Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, which this newly emerged Large White is drying her fresh wings upon. In the kitchen most of us associate the leaves of this plant with lamb as they have a strong flavour and need a similarly robust meat to accompany. The flowers though have a more delicate and sweeter flavour and sprinkled over a chicken breast or pork escalope pan fried in butter at the last moment add a lovely twist to the meal.
Now here's a little butterfly that you won't come across very often. It's a Mallow Skipper, Carcharodus alceae. Other species are available but as far as I am aware this is the only species recorded for Crete and I have seen them before on this track. The adults will feed on a variety of flowers (this one is enjoying the Wood Sorrel) but they lay little pink, knobbly eggs upon various species of Mallow which is the preferred foodplant of their caterpillars, although they are not averse to Hisbiscus as an alternative, both of which are in plentiful supply in these parts although the Hibiscus is imported.
Well, this is as far as we go today. As you can see, it's all uphill from here but it is a lovely walk if you don't mind a bit of climbing. Meanwhile I'm a little disappointed that we haven't found any fungi today but, as I say, we're still waiting for the rain. However, it just so happens, that down by the harbour I know of a lovely little taverna that boasts a magnificent bracket fungus, Innotus tamaricis, growing on a tamarisk tree at a very convenient distance from a table. I really do think that we should go and see how it's getting on.
Many of you have asked me what photographic equipment I use so for details of aperture settings, shutter speeds etc. my pictures will be on Flickr within a few days and that has all the geeky stuff.Pictures were edited with FastStone Image Viewer and combined with Microsoft Paint.
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