Along the coast of Crete
As I write this in early June, temperatures are climbing into the low 30s, and set to climb to 38c, which is 100f for British visitors (of a certain age). The Paleohora area has many fine walks (see our two guides ‘Ten Walks from Paleohora’ and ‘More Walks from Paleohora’, available from the bookshop ‘To Delfini’), But unless you can set off very early (on the 7.15am bus to Kandanos for local walks or the 6.15am bus to Omalos via Sougia for Agia Irini, Samaria, or back to Paleohora via Lissos), it’s inadvisable to walk too far in the heat of June, July and August. A far better option is the Libyan Sea, and beaches with sun-beds and parasols, with swimming and snorkelling to cool off, although sadly the Sub-Aqua and wind-surfing centres in Paleohora are no more.
A more active and adventurous water activity is kayaking, if of course you have both experience and sea-kayaks. Last week Dominique and I loaded two (‘Scupper Pro’) kayaks on the morning ferry to Agia Roumeli, planning to paddle west along the coast to Sougia. The E4 path runs above the coast, certainly the most serious expedition hereabouts, and the 20km expedition takes around 12-15 hrs. Our estimation, on a flat, calm sea, with a slight following wind, was 4 hrs, with landings on Domata beach and at the foot of the Tripiti Gorge to stretch our legs – and the four legs of Dominique’s little dog “Chausette” who would sit at the front of her kayak!
Preparing to launch at Agia Roumeli, peaceful at 10am, Andreas Stavroudakis from the ‘Tarra’ restaurant shouted a greeting. “Have you got my mobile, in case you need help?” he asked. A nice thought, but we hoped we wouldn’t require rescuing. Hugging the coastline, and paddling below the immense cliffs of Cape Kalotrividhis, where the sea is such an incredible translucent aqua-marine colour, we beached the kayaks on the easterly of the two Domata beaches and plunged into the sea.
Another hour, passing numerous small sea-caves, took us to the immense caves at Tripiti. We carried ample water with us, but checked the ‘cistern’ for interest,
which was almost full after one of the wettest winters in recent years. Lunch in the shade was by tradition spinach pies, ample calories for the second half of the trip.
A short distance from Tripiti, around the headland of Cape Tripiti, on top of which is the tiny chapel of Profitis Ilias, is the church of Agios Antonios, with a distinctive ‘double’ roof. We paddled past this time, as landing is difficult, and headed across the bay towards Sougia. We paused by sea caves at the foot of the Keratidhias (‘Ochra’) Gorge, which drops steeply down from the village of Koustoyerako. It was here that Cretan resistance fighters and Allied agents came, to meet vessels and submarines from Alexandria bringing supplies, arms and ammunition, always on a dark moonless night. These caves could tell some stories!
Steadily paddling took us into the little harbour at Sougia, after almost four hours in the kayaks and six hours total. We had acouple of hours to relax on the beach (in the shade) before the ‘Samaria’ appeared on the horizon, to return us to Paleohora.