Αρχική>English>"Earth, Sea and Sky as one".... running the footpaths of Amorgos!


"Earth, Sea and Sky as one".... running the footpaths of Amorgos! Προτεινόμενο

The ferry arrives in Amorgos in the middle of the night. Sakis is waiting to take me from Katapola port to Aegiali. It is my first visit to this Cycladic island, and as we drive across the island, I try to form a picture of the landscape in my mind. It is a rare thing to feel enthusiastic when you first step foot on a place in the dark. The night has covered everything in a dark veil... or almost everything, since there is a bright moon high in the sky, marking a shining path on the sea and providing a glimpse of the landscape.

 

I feel a strong positive vibe when the oddly-shaped islet of Nikouria appears after a turn in the road, "floating" in a sea lit up by the moon and countless stars.  Yes, Amorgos has an energy that makes you feel an intimacy with the island, even from the very first time you visit it. Even when your first glimpses are night-time ones. 

 

 

The contrast... Dazzling Cycladic light, and endless blue, fill my eyes as Ioanna leads me to the steps leading to the famous Hozoviotissa Monastery. No photograph, no video can do justice to the incredible spectacle unfolding before me. The monastery to the left, nestled in the craggy rock-face that extends to the sky; to the right, only blue... Aegean blue. I have never seen a more spectacular starting point for a race, anywhere in the world.  

 

 

I start running.... For about two kilometres I find it very difficult to look at my feet. The landscape attracts my eyes like a magnet. Towering rocks to my left as I cross the long scree that takes the footpath away from the monastery, and the endless Aegean a few hundred metres below me to the right... Yellow and red flowering bushes stand out among the grey rocks. The Earth, the Sea and the Sky as one... I reach a turning in the road, and now I can see the sea all around me, in countless shades of blue. Pale turquoise near the shore, darker navy as the sea deepens further out. A scattering of islands in the distance.  The Aegean... The Cyclades.... enchanting places casting an eternal spell... 

 

 

I continue along the main route of the Amorgos Trail Challenge. The landscape changes dramatically, entering the hinterland for a few kilometres and traversing the island's 'backbone'. Falcons circle above, goats scatter at the sound of my footsteps, a few mules and the "eternal labourers", the donkeys, stare at me as I run by on rough stone footpaths that the shepherds have been using for centuries.   As the kilometres roll by, I cross small sections of dirt track, as well as paved paths that the locals use regularly and have laboriously repaired.  The 'big blue' never leaves my field of vision, to the left, to the right, or all around me. Amorgos is a long, thin island, and the race route covers almost the whole northern half.

 

 

After about 10 kilometres, I can see Aegiali Bay from above. The view of Nikouria is as impressive in the dazzling sunshine as it was in the moonlight last night. I arrive at the villages, following the race's shorter route, which coincides with the last few kilometres of the main route. Paved streets built with traditional craftsmanship, countless stone terraces, old island homes, olive trees and other crops surround me. And as the route circles Aegiali from above, the sea dominates my field of vision.

 

 

I climb the steep footpath to Langada, race along the paved path to Tholaria, and descend slowly towards the sea. A sudden turn brings it before me, tempting me to stop for a swim. It is hard to resist. The last few metres of the course are along the sandy beach.  Now I can practically touch the sea, after admiring it from above for so long. This is a different kind of enchantment.

 

 

I reach the finish line in Aegiali. How well this route captures the essence of Amorgos... an island of light and endless blue! How much it stimulates the senses, even when you are breathless from the long kilometres and the toughness of the tracks. Thanks to the varied terrain and the views of the sea, this route allows you to bring your own sense to it, to generate your own emotions, to see the island through a perspective hewn by your own mind and soul. 

 

 

Let us briefly examine the technical characteristics of the event's routes. The landscape is rocky and arid, and many of the island's footpaths, including the main route of the Amorgos Trail Challenge, are hard and stony.  The race starts with a challenging ascent of 300 steps up to the Monastery, quickly gaining altitude and then continuing along a clear  path that traverses a huge scree slope.  There are steep rocks to the left, and a sharp descent to the sea on the right. The dirt road that comes next, for a few hundred metres, provides a short respite, but is followed by one of the toughest parts of the race; a stone footpath that has been constantly in use by shepherds and their animals for centuries. Around the 6th kilometre, runners will be tested by one of the most technical descents in Greek trail running, but will soon be relieved to encounter a dirt track. 

 

This is followed by a smooth ascent on a paved path, before a very technical section with stones and large slabs of rock. The approach to Potamos village is marked by a long and difficult descent, initially on a stone track, and then down a skilfully built stone footpath. Endless steps and countless sharp turns lead through the village and bring runners to the beginning of the footpath that marks the start of the race's smaller route. Descending through the village too fast can lead to fatigue, and this is the part of the race that requires the best management on the part of the runners.

 

After a few hundred metres of smooth dirt track, the paved uphill muletrack leads you to Langada village.  This is the hardest extended ascent on the route, gaining 160 metres of altitude in approximately 1.5 kilometres.  After Langada, both routes trace a long circle above Aegiali bay, leading to Tholaria village along a relatively straight (and kinder on the feet) path most of the way, with a paved section for a few hundred metres before the village.

 

 

The descent to Aegiali starts after Tholaria, down a technical path that straightens out as you reach the sea. A sudden turn brings you to the seaside, and runners will cross the sandy beach to reach the finish line a few hundred metres away.

 

Overall, the main route of the Amorgos Trail Challenge (18Km, +1,020) is very technical and requires a high degree of attention. The ascents and descents are not particularly  extended, but runners will have to be patient, because there are constant alternations. The shorter route (7.5Km, +425) is much less technical, without major difficulties, other than the initial extended ascent. As for signs, the island's footpaths have excellent permanent signposting, since Amorgos has been a popular hiking destination for years. The race organizers have added permanent signs along the route, without unsightly interventions.

 

The Spike race to take place on the Saturday, is an original type of race. It will be carried out on an islet next to Amorgos, called Nikouria, starting on the beach and climbing to the summit - but not using a sign-posted route. This means that runners will have to rely on their intuition and experience to get to the top. Perhaps also on their luck! Once at the top, each athlete will receive a stamp and then start the descent to the beach - the beautiful setting will definitely encourage many to reward their efforts with a cool dip in the sea! The Spike race is an interesting combination of a sharp ascent and descent, with tracking choices to be made along the way.

 

The Amorgos Trail Challenge was supposed to take place at the end of May, but ferry strikes resulted in its postponement. Yet, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of Amorgos, the new dates (16 & 17 September) are an opportunity for many parallel events and pleasant surprises for runners and their companions. 

 

 

 

Amorgos became world-famous thanks to Luc Besson's successful film “The Big Blue”, a dramatic story about free diving, one of the island's hallmarks. This September, 30 years after the film was launched and just after the Amorgos Trail Challenge, the theme of the film will be revisited on Agia Anna beach, below Hozoviotissa Monastery, in the framework of a world free diving tournament! The tournament will be paired with the “Gastronomy Days”, a week-long gastronomy festival aimed at showcasing the varied and delicious local cuisine of Amorgos. What a unique opportunity for runners and their companions to attend the free-diving events, and recover from the race with some local delicacies!

 

 

Speaking of gastronomy, the race stations of the Amorgos Trail Challenge will offer a variety of local products, while the pasta party will take place in picturesque Chora, the island capital. The closing ceremony also promises to be a major event, since the organizers plan to give out medals and winners' awards on Sunday evening, at a celebration with traditional music, dancing and local delicacies! There will also be a short tour of the island on Saturday, after the Spike race. The event organizers have already secured significant discounts on ferry ticket prices (Blue Star, Skopelitis), special rates from the island's hotels and restaurants, and free transfers during the race weekend by local bus companies that support the race. More details will be announced soon, as will some surprise sponsors and special awards for the runners. 

 

 

Dazzling light, a rough and difficult landscape full of rocks and stones, amazing paths and tracks, beautiful remote white chapels, traditional villages with flowering courtyards, delicious food and "psimeni raki" liqueur, the endless blue of the Aegean and the Cycladic islands spread beyond and below, and - above all - authentic, hospitable people ready to embrace our sport and show us every element that makes their island unique: that is the Amorgos I discovered, and that is the Amorgos that awaits runners who choose one of the event's races in September.

 

 

Amorgos Trail Challenge 2017 is the third race in the  Cyclades Trail Cup 2017 and will take place on 16 & 17 September 2017, under the auspices of the Municipality of Amorgos. It is organized by Amorgos Diving Center, Vigla Hotel, Askas Pension and Ms Sofia VlavianouRegistrations are open, through the Amorgos Trail Challenge website .  Advendure is the event's Main Communication Sponsor and will be reporting on Amorgos Trail Challenge 2017 before and after the event; our team will also participate in the races, bringing you the atmosphere from the Amorgos trail running weekend, and our impressions of the courses and the parallel events.

 

Dimitris Troupis

English Version: Sofia Vlavianou

Photo©: Babis Giritziotis @ Canon Greece, Ioanna Synodinou

 

View this photo set on Flickr

Δημήτρης Τρουπής

Γεννήθηκε στο Ξυλόκαστρο Κορινθίας το 1969 και ζει στην Πάτρα τα τελευταία 30 χρόνια. Συμμετείχε στην συντακτική ομάδα του Adventure Zone από το 2009, ενώ μαζί με τον Τάκη Τσογκαράκη ίδρυσαν και "τρέχουν" το Advendure.  Παθιάζεται με τους αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος, υπεραντοχής και  περιπέτειας. Έχει πολλές συμμετοχές και διακρίσεις σε αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος όλων των αποστάσεων, με έμφαση στους αγώνες ultra trail.  Θεωρεί ότι το τρέξιμο στην φύση μας βοηθά να ενισχύσουμε την περιβαλλοντική ευαισθητοποίηση μας.

Website: www.advendure.com

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