Arkoudorema - Valia Kalda

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Arkoudorema is an impetuous stream in the heart of the National Park of Valia Kalda, in one of the most wild and pristine areas of Greece. The stream is located at an altitude of 1,200 metres at the roots of the folds created by the mountains Avgo (2,177 m.) from the North and Mavrovouni (2.157 m.) from the South. The name of the stream Arkoudorema (Bear’s stream) comes from the translation of the local Vlach name “Valea di la Ursa” which means “Valley of the Bear”. Arkoudorema is created by many smaller mountain streams and springs like Salatoura, Zesto, Flega and Mnimata. The stream moves meanderly, from east to west, to a length of 10 km, until it flows into the big river Aoos in Smixomata area, close to the Forest of Mourgou. It is a particularly “alive” stream, as almost every year and depending on the waters it descends, it literally changes the landscape of the area. In times of heavy rainfall, the river demolishes entire slopes taking along roads and small projects of the Forest Service. Arkoudorema is located in the centre of Valia Kalda. From here begins one of the most beautiful forest paths of Greece, which, through Arkoudolakkos, goes up to the twin alpine lakes of Flega. Unfortunately in recent years the situation in Arkoudorema and Valia Kalda is not at its best in terms of management. On days with good weather the area is filled with four-wheel cars coming down the river, campers lighting fires, fishermen and vans with tourists, while the intensive logging has become a permanent and major problem.

Next to Arkoudorema, on the side of the Avgo mountain, spreads a beautiful forest of scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), the “Red Pines”, as called, or otherwise “Kinlii Arosi” in Vlach. Around Arkoudorema, from 1,000 up to 1,600 metres, are forests of huge black pines joined by dense forests of beech. At the subalpine and alpine areas appear large, centenarian bosnian pines. The serpentine rocks result in the presence of a flora rich in endemic and rare species, a true botanical paradise. Most important plants here are Centaurea vlachorum, Onosma pygmaea, Noccaea epirota, Soldanella pindicola, insect-eating Pinguicula crystallina subsp. hirtiflora, Moneses uniflora, Phelipanche nowackiana, Bornmuellera baldaccii subsp. baldaccii, Bornmuellera tymphaea, Aquilegia nigricans, Campanula hawkinsiana, Erica carnea, Geum coccineum, orchid Gymnadenia frivaldii, Jasione orbiculata, Minuartia baldaccii, Pedicularis petiolaris and Silene haussknechtii. Other species of the area are Lilium albanicum, Podospermum roseum subsp. peristericum, Narcissus poeticus subsp. radiiflorus, Polygonatum multiflorum, Galeobdolon montanum, Euphrasia liburnica, Allium phthioticum, Tulipa australis, Pyrola chlorantha, Armeria canescens, Cardamine plumieri, Dianthus giganteus, Linum hologynum, Polygala alpestris subsp. croatica, Potentilla micrantha, Primula veris subsp. veris, Veronica jacquinii, Viola dukadjinica, Viola epirota, Viola hirta, Viola graeca and orchids Corallorhiza trifida, Neotinea ustulata, Coeloglossum viride, Platanthera chlorantha, Orchis pallens, Orchis mascula and Orchis pinetorum.

Over 100 species of birds are present here. Common dippers are abundant in the stream bed. From the predators here live golden eagles, short-toed eagles, booted eagles, common buzzards, honey buzzards, goshawks, sparrowhawks, kestrels, hobbies and rare lanner falcons. The nocturnal predators include eagle owls and tawny owls. There are also reports of the presence of the rare Tengmalm’s owl. It is important that around the Arkoudorema live 8 of the 10 species of woodpecker of Europe (black woodpecker, green woodpecker, grey-headed woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, middle spotted woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker, syrian woodpecker and lesser spotted woodpecker). The presence of the rare red-breasted flycatcher has also been recorded in the area. The bird fauna is supplemented with species, such as woodcocks, woodpigeon, cuckoos, nightjars, woodlarks, red-rumped swallows, water pipits, tree pipits, grey wagtails, dunnocks, redstarts, northern wheatears, whinchats, rock thrushes, mistle thrushes, ring ouzels, lesser whitethroats, common whitethroats, Bonelli’s warblers, firecrests, goldcrests, semicollared flycatchers, coal tits, crested tits, willow tits, marsh tits, long-tailed tits, wood nuthatches, treecreepers, red-backed shrikes, jays, ravens, tree sparrows, bramblings, linnets, siskins, bullfinches, crossbills, ortolan buntings, yellowhammers and rock buntings.

In ponds around Arkoudorema live large numbers of alpine newts. Amphibians also include fire salamanders, macedonian crested newts, yellow-bellied toads, common toads, balkan frogs, greek frogs and agile frogs. Herpetofauna consists of Hermann’s tortoises, greek slow worms, green lizards, common wall lizards, balkan wall lizards, smooth snakes, large whip snakes, balkan whip snakes, levant montpellier snakes, grass snakes, aesculapian snakes, leopard snakes and nose-horned vipers. The surrounding area is the kingdom of the brown bear in Greece, while herds of wolves often make their appearance. In the dense forests live wildcats, roe deers, wild boars, foxes, badgers, pine martens, weasels, red squirrels, northern white-breasted hedgehogs, forest dormouses and hares. Otters are abundant in the stream, while often chamoises descend from the alpines. The fish fauna includes the west balkan trout (Salmo farioides), the Vardar nase (Chondrostoma vardarense), the Pindus stone loach (Oxynoemacheilus pindus), the European spirlin (Alburnoides bipunctatus) and the freshwater blenny (Salaria fluviatilis).

The wilderness in Arkoudorema is at its best and anyone should be relatively careful. The use of the word “bear” as a synthetic in a lot of places here is literal, as the area is a top refuge for this animal. It will not come as a surprise if a walker meets a bear here. Be aware though that the fastest changes in the weather are more dangerous. In case of heavy rainfall and if you are near the stream, leave for higher grounds.

Πως θα πάτε

If you are coming from Athens, choose the route to Trikala, Kalambaka, Metsovo. From there you arrive just before Milia village and enter Valia Kalda after 18 km of a bad dirt road. If you are coming from Thessaloniki after Grevena go to Mavranaios, Ziaka, Perivoli with 23 km of asphalt road and 20 km of a good dirt road. Once you reach Valia Kalda, you will see forest signs that will guide you to the stream.

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(Latitude: 39.897337848488824, Longitude:21.11408478834869)

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