Monday, September 20, 2010

The Samaria Gorge - Holly style

Our last day on Crete we joined a tour bus group to the Samaria Gorge. I signed us up for the tour because it was difficult to do the gorge without help. The bus picked us up outside our apartment at 5:30AM. That is very early for a walk. After picking up many others, we arrived at the gorge around 8:30am. The Samaria Gorge is the largest gorge in Europe. It is 18 km long and drops 1.6 km from top to bottom. In other words, a normal workout for my mom or Shirley. The tour guide on the bus told us it was a VERY strenuous walk and to wear good shoes. He also told us if we weren’t able to do the first 4 km in the time allowed, we might as well turn around and hike back to the top because it wasn’t going to get any easier. I wondered why he was telling us all this on the bus to the gorge. Wouldn’t this information have been better BEFORE we got on the bus at the crack of dawn?

The first 4 km was all downhill into the gorge. The path was steep with few rails or safety precautions. In fact, there were signs periodically reminding us to walk quickly because it was very dangerous in that area. Ya gotta love Greece. We walked along paths with mesh wire above our heads, presumably to help prevent being brained by falling rocks. Imagine the Grouse Grind in reverse, with only Pine trees, lots of loose gravel and stone steps, and you kind of get the picture. By the bottom of this area my knees and thighs were notifying me they had had enough. The scenery was quite beautiful and the air was cool and pleasant. We caught glimpses every now and then of the cliff tops of the gorge soaring over our heads. All in all quite wonderful.

After 8 km we finally entered the gorge, following the route the water would take in the early spring melt. The path was easily lost and the loose gravel became loose boulders. Every now and then one of us would rediscover the path and the walking would get easier. I wondered what happened to the trail during the spring melt. Did they have to reblaze the trail every year? Parts of it looked particularly precarious and unstable, like a really good rush of water would take the whole thing out.

The canyon walls crept closer together and we were warned to keep our voices down lest we caused a rock slide. Again, we saw signs asking us to move quickly to avoid the great danger. It was about this point that Julia started to fade and we had to pull out the Scooby snacks to lure her along. We didn’t feel too safe sitting to rest when it was obvious the Greeks thought this was not a place for a picnic. We all began to feel our feet as well. There were rest areas every km or so with toilets and water but the wasp population discouraged lingering. The temperature rose but the sun was still blocked by the steep walls so it was bearable.

At around km 11 or 12 we arrived at the narrowest part of the gorge. The wind howled through the area and at the narrowest point was quite fierce. Once through, however, the wind disappeared completely. Weird.

The rest of the walk was fairly flat as we came out of the river bed. Even after we left the park, we still had another couple of km to walk and now the sun was out in full force with no shade. We were exhausted but thankful we had not stopped to long to rest because it was still only about noon.

By the time we reached the ocean, the four of us had HAD it. We were filthy dirty, sweaty, achy, and exhausted. We limped to the furthest café we could find. At least that is what it seemed like. The café was called Restaurant Gigilos and I felt sort of pulled towards it. It was a lovely place to relax but didn’t live up to its somewhat enticing name. We spent the next few hours frolicking in the waves. This was by far the best ocean swim we’ve had. Once our feet touched the cool salt water, it was like we hadn’t just spent four hours beating them up. I highly recommend it.

There was no car access to the village so we had to take a boat to another little village further along the coast to meet our bus. We left at 5pm. By the time the bus dropped us back at our apartment it was 8:30pm. It was a long but satisfying day.


Mynnette said...

Made me tired, then refreshed. Missed your emails last week!What a grand trip for all of you, now that your survived the Gorge...MSW

maryanncart said...

Loved reading about your ventures and thank heaven's for a sense of humor...your pictures are fantastic and it makes me feel like I am there...welll....kind of

Love Mom