On trail with...
Hilary Paipeti, March 7, 2016 - Creator of the Corfu Trail
Hilary Paipeti is the creator of the Corfu Trail. By chance we ran into her when we were on this very trail. We immediately knew it was Hilary and her dogs when she appeared from an alley in Giannades. More surprisingly, she immediately identified the two of us as a pair of foreigners on her trail :-) We had a drink in a local bar. Back home, we contacted Hilary to share some thoughts.
What do you like about hiking on Corfu?
The diversity of the landscape is quite astonishing, and the Trail takes full advantage. The Trail takes in wild beaches, juniper-forested dunes, dense oak woodland, a karst plateau where nomad cattle roam, deep gorges, wetlands, mountain summits, bucolic plains, old monasteries, ruined olive presses, picturesque villages and ancient fortresses. I still have many places left to explore. In the last six months, I have even found a couple of undiscovered footpaths within half a kilometre of my home - in a place where I walk the dogs three times a day!
Suppose someone is interested but indecisive in doing the Corfu Trail: what argument will you give to convince him/her?
No-one is obliged to walk it all. I've recommended schedules for people who only want to walk easy sections, for others who want a two or three centre walking holiday involving bits of the Trail together with other walks in that area, and even for someone who wanted to cycle it. If someone is unconvinced about the Trail due to Corfu's reputation as a busy, raucous and heavily developed tourist destination, it's important to note that the Trail only passes through two resorts, and one of those very briefly.
Can you share your favourite (yet undiscovered) hiking places with us?
NO!!! I'm joking of course - I share favourite places with my walking group every week. The truly 'undiscovered' places are those the Trail doesn't pass through, some places where no-one would imagine would offer nice walks. I number among those the Kombitsi Pine Forest - literally on the outskirts of Town, with suburbs sweeping to its edge. Yet once you step out of the houses and into the forest, you find a vast area with winding tracks through umbrella pines, chestnuts and oak trees.
How’s the Corfu Trail doing?
Interest in the Trail naturally started in the UK, where it was first promoted, then it caught on throughout Europe. We have subsequently hosted walkers from as far away as Hawaii, Alaska and Tasmania, and increasingly from Russia and former Eastern bloc states. More recently, I've had book orders from Dubai and Brazil. It'll be Martians next!
Where on the island are chances best to run into you and your dogs?
You are most likely to spot me and my three-dog family in the area between Vatos and Giannades. If anyone wants a sure meeting, email me and I might be able to join you at 19th Hole Bar in Vatos, a convenient on-Trail watering place for a coffee or a cold beer.
What tips can you give us to make the most of the Corfu Trail?
Use the local village facilities! When you fancy a coffee or a beer, or supplies of food, stop in a kafenion (coffee bar). The kafenion often functions also as the village store, so you can stock up on a few picnic items - bread, cheese, ham and olives, for example. You will really feel part of Corfu life, with the added advantage that you are supporting the economy of your immediate surroundings.
What are your plans for the future?
My Grand Vision was for the Trail to be the main artery route along the island, linking hiking networks in each region of the island, but this is not going to happen soon. I just hope to be able to maintain the Trail as long as possible, making adjustments where on-the-ground changes have occurred, and then pass it on to a new generation, so that Corfu will continue to be a great venue for walking holidays.
Is there anything you would like to share with us?
If you wish to explore the off-Trail countryside of Corfu, you can obtain my ebook 'The Complete Book of Corfu Walks' from the site www.corfuwalks.com. It contains nearly 100 walks all over the island. Enjoy Corfu, leave only footprints, take only pictures and cast only shadows!