Many times I used to say that the times of adrenalin canyoning were over long ago. Today we embark on these expeditions manly because our wishes for new stories. About how we camped under star-filled nights skies in the wild, which didn’t show any mercy and how we almost killed each other because of the down pouring rain it gave us. Well, there was also a night, where I slept on the stairs beneath a church. Maybe it was His way of giving me some time off of all the ordeals I said before, of all the unslept Sunday mornings, where I vegged out at mass. Dear God, if you are reading this, know that we didn’t set the score yet! Well, there are also classic stories about how they hid our “Docs” backpack under a cliff, which is carrying her heavy first aid equipment as hard as can be already. The bad guy behind this prank, of course, got the favor returned in plenty. It’s not wise to anger a Woman from Savinja region…
Apart from the mentioned enjoyable moments we had, I will tell you about this year’s offspring; this year’s expedition to the Greek Island Crete is a rather bitter story. A story about people, which know that they need water like their own blood in their veins, but treat it at the same time like garbage. A once in a lifetime experience – I will tell you.
The Crete irrigation systems
Go to the nearest supermarket, where you can find Crete produce in the vegetable and fruit isle, because their special mild climate provides them with a plentiful growth, even in the colder months of the season. But what does it help, if Poseidon does not treat them keenly in the summer months, even if the younger Greek girls dance “topless” for rain. The women were apparently not good at it, so the men decided to take matters in their own hands and started to build irrigational systems and became the record-holding champions of alkaline pipe usage. And how they do it… well, not at all with a wholesome solution. On the top of the Arvi canyon, which is the most south-lying gorge in Europe, we can find 15 different pipes, which lead through the canyon for quite some time and then make a sharp descent to the beachy shores. It is true that the local people have water, with which they can irrigate their fields, but still…
In projects they apparently use systems, which are minimally invasive to nature and ecosystems. Why therefore set up 15 pipes through a gorge, if this could be done with one large pipe? But this is only the esthetical point of view. What infuriates me even more is the irresponsible way of disposing defective pipes. These are replaces with new ones, but the old ones are just thrown into the gorge. “The water will wash it away.” Not only that the pipes will stay there forever or end up in the sea, the remaining pipe parts also pose numerous very serious dangers. In 2005, American canyoneers hardly saved a life of a female canyoneer, who got her foot stuck in the channeling water pits under a pipe, which was left in a waterfall. You can look up the whole story on Canyon Tales.
Strategic waste handling
Just a few kilometers away from Arvi, lies the Portella canyon, above which lives a village with rather innovative villagers. The “geniuses” have decided that the best way of waste disposal it to simply throw it into the canyon. The result is that after each rainfall, the plants grow PVC bags instead of fruit, but also amass pools in which garbage just floats around, like foam in a cappuccino.
This experienced and long-lived waste disposal was also used with their canalization. And the farmers, living further down the stream, use this water, full of phosphates, to irrigate even their greenhouses. But the most disturbing fact is, that the remaining water flows directly in the Mediterranean Sea, which is the biggest ecological problem in the whole world. The Mediterranean only has the Gibraltar passage, which supplies the Sea with circulating water flow, and nowhere in the world exists a Sea which was industrially so long-lastingly polluted like here – every waste disposal from the industrial revolution onwards. Other Seas are bigger and connected with each other, which means the ecological bomb for them will explode later. The Mediterranean is a problem of our time, which is given little thought and attention, and Portella is only a small teardrop in this whole present crisis.
After the experience in Crete, I cannot stop thinking about the Native American saying: “The land we live on was not given to us by our fathers. We have borrowed it from our future children.” Will our children be able to swim and enjoy themselves in the Mediterranean Sea, like we used to? Will they ever be able to enjoy themselves in pure, untouched nature?