Sunday, September 19, 2010

The isle of Crete.

I am on the ferry to Rhodes, after finishing a week on the isle of Crete, Greece. I am pretty tired after our hike yesterday but I’ll get to that later. We arrived last Saturday in the port of Iraklion and continued on via bus to Plantinais. This is a 4 hour ferry from Santorini then a 2.5 hour bus ride, all pretty relaxing traveling. In my mind I had Crete as a barren wasteland of heat with a few great beaches. I was completely wrong. I now think that the island is more beautiful than Santorini. It may be the positive experiences we had at every corner of the island. Anyways, parts of Crete remind me of lush Hawaii, dry southern California, sweeping Oregon coast, and the rocky deserts of the Okanagan and Kamloops.

On the first night we went out locally to a small restaurant called Tassos. We were the first ones there which is usually a bad sign. We were served from a small menu and the food was terrific. What a relief from the so-so food of Santorini. The fact that it was about ½ the price also lent itself to a positive experience.

On Sunday we didn’t go too far, we went to Plantinais, a very long strip of tourist trap. It was very fun, we did some shopping but bought no clothing (Julia fighting all the way). We finished at the beach there. That night we made spaghetti at home, it was a nice change.

Monday was the day for business, all the stores were open so we went into the big city of Chania (or Xania) pronounced Hania, to do some banking and find a Vodafone (cell phone, internet). Chania has a very quaint Venetian harbour and the surrounding shops and restaurants were fun and picturesque. At the end of the day we had to wait until 6:30pm to see a full size replica of a Minoan sailing/row boat. So we had a drink and some tzaziki and raki at a local restaurant. Raki is moonshine, similar to skreech. When we finally got into the boat house museum, the boat was terrific.

Tuesday we rented a car, a three day rental, we have stuff to do. I thought of Cheri as we started our beach tour, Cheri loves beaches. Crete has many beaches but two were recommended and we are hitting them both, Tuesday is Falasarna. It is on the NW corner and is a terrific drive. We spent the day there and agreed it was the best Greek beach we had been to, even better then Kamari on Santorini. After 6 hours we headed back tired from swimming and sitting in the sun, you know that tired as only a day at the beach can produce.

Wednesday we drove all the way back to Iraklion (2 hours) to visit Knossos. It is a Minoan palace found around 100 years ago under 60m of soil dating from 3500 years ago. It was an interesting day. It was found by a poet who knew of the legend of Knossos about a Minotaur in a labyrinth. He figured there was something to the town of the same name and 40 years later a rich Englishman found it. According to our guide and Holly, who is really up on these things, this is the place of the labyrinth. The guide said the labyrinth IS the palace and from the layout you can really see that it might be true. In one area the stairs look as though Escher could have designed them. Later that day we stopped in Rathminon, a city similar to Chania, Holly found a bar that had WiFi so she could fix our internet stick, man we have had internet problems, Rhys read a book, Julia and I looked around. I got a haircut and now I, according to Holly, look Greek. Great.

Thursday is a Cheri day again. We take a wild road to Elafanicia Beach in the SW corner of Crete. I am sure you are sick of the road stories I have been telling. I am becoming acclimatized to the high twisting roads. Doesn’t stop me from commenting though. As we go through a one lane tunnel that was built 100 years ago and pop out on a cliff side that has rock overhang I find myself saying “Wow”…turn…”wow” over and over. Holly nods in agreement and shifts over in her seat to avoid slipping off the car. We made a short stop at a cave called St. Sophia. It was worth the 150 stairs and the stop. It is about the size of our house and has many stalagmites; the Greeks have naturally installed a church. On to the beach, Elafanicia is spectacular. It is without a doubt the nicest beach I have been to, better than Tuesday’s. It is a shallow lagoon with white sand and several small islands. The whole site is very large without too many people. The lagoon splits two beach areas and has a small current. What a super place. We take yet another winding mountaintop road along the coastline home. I took a few videos of that drive, I will try posting them. We returned the car. It will probably need brakes.

Friday we wake up at 4:45 AM to take a tour bus to the Samarian gorge for a 17 km hike down 1600m vertical of mountainside to the sea. It takes you through a gorge that has high bluffs on either side for several kilometers. The hike is supposed to take 6 hours. The bus ride is pretty daring and one lady gets sick. She is at the front so she can see the road, no wonder she is sick. We stop at a small town for some coffee, a snack and a bathroom brake. The bus travels a few more kilometers and we start the hike. A small sign recommends no high heels. Down we go on the stairs, stairs, and more stairs. The smells and scenes are very Cariboo country, with all the pine trees and we quickly get down into the valley, which is also steep. After a coupe hours and 6 kilometers it flattens out slightly and we can use different muscles. The soles of my feel are bruised, my shoes aren’t thick enough. We all have different minor pains but we suck it up and soon we are at the “Iron Gates” at 11.5 km mark which is the post card picture point of the gorge. The remaining canyon is scenic and flatter but it’s getting hotter, as we finish it seems like about 32 C, plenty hot for a 17 km hike. We hit the end of the trail and a man tries to sell us a bus ride into the town, we decline, we won’t be cheated out of “making it to the end”. At the town we collapse into a restaurant and order “the best tasting beer I have ever drank”. I don’t share. We have a little snack and go for a very refreshing swim on a black sand beach. The hike took us only 4 hours, so we have a little more time than the other hikers on our tour. We eat a little dinner and catch a short scenic ferry ride back to our bus on a different highway. After a vomit inducing bus ride and we are home at 8:30 PM. Quite a day.

Saturday we are up a 7 AM for a local bus ride to Chania then a bus to Iraklion, then a ferry to Rhodes for an early morning taxi ride to Lindos, on Rhodes. Arrival time? Could be 4 AM Sunday, maybe.


Steve said...

Glad to know things are still going well. The gaps in updates has all the family concerned : ). You will love Rhodes. The old town and the surrounding castle is fantastic. I seem to recall they have a herd of reindeer there. Looking forward to your next update and maybe a Skype call.

maryanncart said...

Thrilled to get home and find so much information, including pictures....WOW...What an adventure you are having...Love Grandma Mac

Mynnette said...

Traveling obviously agrees with your family- you all look like models, just sitting here and there looking happy and glamorous. Must say I am learning things from YOUR travels, too. Thanks. MSW