The Cretan Road of Death

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July 7th 2019
Published: July 8th 2019
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We’re tired after yesterday’s long drive, so we sleep in. We really sleep in; we miss lunch.

Issy wants to spend most of the day relaxing. She must really want to relax; she says she’s even willing to let me go out driving on my own. I did happen to mention something about a monastery which may have played a small part in her decision. Issy’s not really into monasteries.

I head off out through endless rows of olive trees and grapevines to the Agia Triada Monastery which is on the Akrotiri Peninsula north east of Chania. I read that it was built in the early 17th century by two Venetian brothers. Its church has three domes and has been built in the Byzantine architectural style, and the monks live in rooms off the cloisters surrounding the church. The whole place is very attractive and peaceful. Wine and olive oil is on sale in an ancient looking cellar, which doubles as a museum and storage for the wine vats.

I’ve seen pictures of a beach called Seitan Limania near the Monastery and decide to go looking for it. I’m glad Issy’s not with me. I’ve read that to get down to the beach you first need to navigate a road that sounds like it’s the Cretan equivalent of Bolivia’s infamous Road of Death. If you’re lucky enough to survive this, you then get to scramble hundreds of metres down a steep cliff on your hands and knees to the beach. I think I may have neglected to mention to Issy that I was thinking of coming here or I think she may have reversed her decision to let me go out driving on my own. I pass a shop at the top of the road. It’s called “Seitan Delivery”, and apparently you can order food and drinks here and they then deliver them to you down on the beach. If everything I’ve read about the road and the track down the cliff is even half true I suspect that they could probably charge hundreds of dollars for a bottle of water and the people down on the beach would be more than happy to pay.

I head off down the road. It's steep and narrow, and comprises a continuous set of hairpin bends; and there are no guardrails anywhere in sight. I don’t think you’d feel very well if you drove your car off the edge. I breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the small car park at the bottom. This is short lived. The car park is full, so the only option seems to be to turn around, drive part of the way back up the hill, and park on the side of the precipitously steep road. Everyone else who has done this has put rocks under their wheels as extra insurance against rolling down the hill. I choose some extra large ones just to be sure.

The view of the beach at the end of the cove in the far distance below is beyond stunning. I take a few steps along the “path” down the cliff to the beach. It looks more like a Grade 4 rock climbing course. I slip sideways in my thongs towards the edge of the precipice a couple of times before deciding that getting to the beach is probably a job best left to the goats. I make a mental note to disconnect Issy’s wifi so she doesn’t read this post or I may never be let out alone again.

Back on solid ground again we share a very pleasant drink in the bar at the hotel with our new found English friends Victoria and John, and then head into Old Chania Town on the bus again for dinner. We wander through the backstreets and find our way up to a vantage point on a hill above the harbour, just as the sun is setting. The scene is stunning.

We again dine in the backstreets. When we ask for the bill we are told that they will now give us some raki as a special treat. We’ve seen this advertised for sale on the sides of the road everywhere here, usually in combination with honey and olive oil, so we assumed it was some sort of local specialty savoury dish. It seems that we were mistaken. It‘s a clear fluid and it comes out in shot glasses. It smells and tastes like rocket fuel. I hope someone’s thought to hide all the candles and other naked flames - one spark next to this stuff and the whole town would go up in flames.

We stagger back to the bus stop. We think we push the button for our stop, but the bus goes charging past it without breaking stride. We assume we’re near the end of the line and that the bus will turn around soon, but we’re halfway to Spain before we feel it do a U-turn. Issy says that it‘s good that we’re getting to see some more of Crete. I know that the rocket fuel was strong, but I hadn’t realised it had affected her ability to notice that it’s now nearly midnight and pitch black outside, and that we can’t actually see anything. I hope the effect has worn off by the morning.

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9th July 2019
Chania Old Town

Old Town

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