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In the Greek village of Manikia, rock climbing opens up a new path

ReportageOn the island of Euboea, Manikia, 60 inhabitants, is on the way to becoming a world climbing spot, thanks to its sublime cliffs and the initiative of a band of French climbers. A rebirth for this depopulated region. But a project to install wind turbines could block this beautiful horizon.

The winding road to the Greek village of Manikia is reminiscent of a southern western setting: olive trees, cypresses and broom as cacti, huge ocher gray cliffs with the false air of Monument Valley. At the turn of a bend, you can see the village of 60 inhabitants, white houses with red roofs clinging to a green hill. It is in this wild valley (spared by the fires of August 2021) in the center of the island of Euboea that Kostas Argiris was born forty-four years ago, muscular figure, brown hair in battle, perpetually astonished look. “A land of peasants”, as this beekeeper and olive grower has always believed.

Until that day in 2016 when he discovered climbing. “Climbing friends took me on a route, and I liked it so much that I went to take lessons in Athens, in a gym. At the time, in Manikia, there were only about ten routes equipped by Greeks, but nobody talked about it too much, I was almost alone with my rope. »

“I will always remember our first meeting in 2018 at the town hall of Manikia. When we came out, village elders were waiting for us on the steps and shook our hands as if we were the Messiah. » Nicolas Glée, French climber

Two years later, an encounter changes the course of his life. “I’ve seen guys I didn’t know come to my house with a good bottle. We drank, we talked and, in the end, they convinced me to get involved with them in opening a climbing site that could attract people from all over the world. I had a paradise and a treasure under my fingers, but French climbers had to come and tell me! »

This group of enthusiasts from the Vercors see Manikia as a world-class climbing spot. And more: they believe that this incredible outdoor playground, between hiking, mountain biking and canyoning, is likely to revive a region that is dying because of the rural exodus. “I will always remember our first meeting in 2018 at the town hall of Manikia, says Nicolas Glée, one of the ushers (climbers who equip the climbing routes). When we came out, village elders were waiting for us on the steps and shook our hands as if we were the Messiah. »

A Franco-Greek adventure

While, like every evening at 7 p.m. sharp, the herd of goats and their shepherd pass through the main street of Manikia, Nicolas Glée rewinds. “When Olivier Aubel, the linchpin of this project, showed us the first photos of the site, we were amazed. It’s not so often that you find a spot of this magnitude. After the meeting at the town hall, we landed in March 2019, with twelve route setters, all volunteers, and we opened 650 routes of all levels. » This consists of creating routes by sealing various types of fixings in the walls, so that climbers can progress in complete safety.

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