Crete - west side of island and Samaria Gorge

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May 10th 2015
Published: May 15th 2015
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We caught the bus from the local Bus Station (6 euros each person, each way) and went to Chania! It took about an hour but very pleasant journey running along the coast! Chania was massive!! I had imagined a small walled village but it was an enormous town with two rows of fortifications and a huge Venetian Harbour! Wandered down from the bus station, through the narrow touristy streets, past the old walls, down to the harbour. The dockyards originally contained 17 Neoria’s built in 1599 (storage sheds!) but only five were now left. Walked out to 16th C lighthouse, for views of the harbour and the snow-capped mountains and then back along to the Giali Tzamisi mosque built in the 17thand the ‘Firka’ Fortress on the Northwest side of the port. Spent ages watching an old man trying to kill an octopus that he had caught, by beating it to death!! Apparently they are only dead when they release the blue ink! All in all a lovely visit to a lovely town!

It was a very early start to Samaria Gorge (32 Euros + 10 euros for the boat and 5 euros for entry to the National Park) as the Spiridon Tour Bus was picking us up at 6.30am! We had to drive to Ormalos at nearly 4000ft for breakfast before starting our walk of the gorge at 9.40am. It took us just over an hour to walk the zig zag path downwards to the bottom of the gorge, from the snow line, and then we had the most fantastic walk – ever!! It starts off with very little water and huge boulders and as you descend the gorge the river flows faster and deeper. The gorge sides get higher, the strata of the rock is just amazing and with wooden bridges and stepping stones we criss crossed the river, on our way down to the end of the gorge, passing the deserted village of Samaria – adorned with Dragon flowers, arriving at the sea at 16.40pm!! It took us 7hrs to walk at a comfortable pace, stopping for photographs and a 15minute lunch stop! We didn’t rush at all – but I think we were expecting it to be a shorter walk!! On the boat at 17.50pm, calling into Loutro ( a village that is completely cut off and can only be reached by sea or walking!) before landing at Hora Stakion and our drive back to Rethymnon.

We hired a car for 2 days (60Euros + petrol) and as the forecast was rain in the North of Crete we decided to drive to the south of Crete! Good move!! A few raindrops through the mountains and then followed the road to Plakias, through the Katsiou Gorge in sunshine! Plakias is a very nice, if not windy seaside town, where we had a coffee ( well, I had a Mountain tea!!) sat in the sun!

Drove onto Preveli, where we were going to walk to the Palm Beach, but the gravel road didn’t seem very interesting and as there were a few rumbles of thunder over the mountains, we decided to drive on! Parked up again and walked down 400 steps to Palm beach with a river and Taverna! Very pleasant! Sat in the sun and had our omelette and greek salad for lunch and then walked up the Palm Tree Gorge! No idea what its all about, but loads of date palm trees either side of the river and a very nice walk up through part of the gorge – once it got quite difficult we turned around! It was still spotting to rain, although still sunny, with thunder rumbling around in the mountains behind…..and then the heavens opened!! We had our cheap plastic macs but were drenched by the time we had got them on, sheltering wasn’t working anymore, so it was a quick dash back to the Taverna to join the dozens of people who were already sheltering!!

Waited a while until the worst had passed, then tredged the 400 steps back up to the carpark before driving on to Preveli Monastery (2.50 euros each) The monastery, which has been around since the 10thC, has played an important role in the revulsion of the Turks in the 18thC and also used as a refuge for Australian and British soldiers in WW2 before they were rescued by submarines and sent to Egypt. Wandered around, sheltered in the church and the museum inbetween showers, and then headed towards Spili via the Kourtaliotiko Gorge! Spectacular drive and scenery and the drove into Spili where we saw the lion fountains where it is said that the freshest water in Crete comes from! They do not know where all this water comes from, only that it continues to flow, probably from the cliffs behind!! Spili is also known because when the Germans invaded during the 2nd world war Spili was not harmed, The reason maybe because a German officer was being treated well by villagers after he fell from aircraft, it is suggested that they didnt know of his identity!! Peered in at the Church but as more rain seemed imminent we called it a day and headed back to Rethymnon.

After a second drenching walking back to the hotel last night, with a borrowed umbrella from Melody Garden Restaurant, we were glad to see the sun the following morning! It got cloudier as we drove up into the mountains again – this time to walk the 8km of Imbross Gorge! It started at 780metres (compared with Samaria – over 1300 metres!!) so in theory should have been an easier walk! It started off fairly gentle – it’s a very green gorge, plenty of flowers (or that could be the result of yesterdays rain!!) and the track wends its way slowly downwards. There is no water in the gorge – which is just as well because the gorge suddenly narrows and twists downwards to 1.6 metres wide with high cliffs either side. Quite easy to imagine the roar of water that there once was being forced through this narrow channel! After this the gorge widens and the path meanders down to the end of the Tavernas at the end of the gorge. Plenty of offers for a lift back to the top of the gorge for 5 euros each – if you don’t mind sitting in the back of a Pick-up Truck! The road back up is quite spectacular with about 20 horseshoe bends and fine views of the sea.

We then went back to Lake Kourna, the only freshwater lake in Crete, where we tried to find a walk around the lake but failed!! Fed the ducks and took some pics – declined the hire of a pedloe! Don’t think my knees were up to it!!

Onto Georgiopolis, a seaside resort with excellent facilities! Had a wander along the front! Unfortunately couldn’t reach the chapel of Agios Nikolaos, on an island in the sea as the sea was too rough! Next time!!

Flight back to UK 14.30pm the next day, our transfer from the hotel picking us up at 10.55am. Chaos at the airport as you check in, and then have to take your own cases to be scanned! 3hrs 55min flight arriving in UK abou 4.30pm. Collected from Airport for transfer back to Cambridge Hotel to pick up Van. Then we had 2hrs of rush hour traffic getting out of Gatwick. Cut off the M25 and went through Bracknell (good move!) and eventually reached home about 21.00pm!

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25th May 2015

We are very pleased you walked the gorge and have the time to visit Santorini. Sounds like You had great time. Catch up with u both later in the year . Await your next updat M & J.
25th May 2015

LOVED Santorini! Wish we had more time there though! Catch up with you in September!

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