Hiking in Corfu: Greece's Verdant Isle

Dramatic Coastlines
  |  Gorp.com
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Our feet sink deeper in sticky muck as Sue and I attempt to cross a newly-seeded lawn in Sidari. "I think we're headed in the right direction," Sue says, struggling to keep her balance. We're in search of the famed Canal d'Amour, which the guidebooks tout as a beach with unusual sandstone formations. "I've only been here once before," my sister cautions. We had found a place to park along the water's edge, where the sea meets the shore with odd sucking sounds; now we follow the trace of a trail along the shoreline, past guest houses and tavernas. This northwestern coastline, a buffer against Sidari's beaches, boasts cliffs carved by waves and sculpted into forms like natural pottery.

Ankle-deep in muck, we ascend a rise and find our destination: a sporadic flow of water cuts a channel through the stone, creating an untrammeled island within sight of Sidari's beachfront. As we descend to the crossing, we discover the formations are unusually slippery. "This isn't sandstone—it's clay!" I scoop up a handful to confirm the earthy smell of thick rich kaolin, the type of clay used to make fine china. In the sun's baking heat, visitors have mistaken it for rock. Sue and I slip and slide over the formations, admiring layers of gold, blue, and gray sparkling in the early morning rain.

It is a lonely place, a windswept peninsula topped with a struggle between olive groves and the relentless maquis, the fragrant scrub-forest of Mediterranean islands. Down a tired track we walk, from the village of Peroulades, past the whitewashed school, into the olive groves. The road's a stream bed, studded with rocks and impassable for the average car. A fork appears: to the right, or the left? Exploration to the right takes us into the deep shade of ancient olive trees, their gnarled bark rent with smoothed holes—the homes of rocks, the locals say, picked up by the roots and spit out again as the tree rose towards the sun. Green olives hang heavy on the spreading branches; olive nets cover the terraced slopes.

It is not the right path. Off in the distance, we can see Cape Drastis, a carving rising out of the ocean. Returning to the fork, we stick to the coastline. Sally clambers up a slope, peers over the edge. "Look at this!" I experience vertigo. It's a long way down to where the waves lap at these steep, undercut clay cliffs.

The track plunges downward, teasing us with views of the Cape and its offshore islands, mounds of clay pummeled by relentless tides. After an hour's worth of walking on this rugged trace, not a house or a car to be seen, a switchback brings us to the shoreline—a smooth cove, waves tunneling out the clay with a relentless "Thwock! Thwock!" A daring couple slips into the sea, its depths unknown; they clamber back onto the slippery shelf with difficulty. It is calm here, a restful joining of the waves, the sun, the sky. Pity the return trip is uphill—all the way.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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