A Short Walk for August

It’s August, and far too hot except for the shortest of walks, and here’s the shortest walk “Explore” has ever described…..just two kilometres (twenty minutes each way) from Pachia Amos, our “sandy beach” in Paleochora.

Sandy beach at sunset

Even so, it’s advisable to set off early morning, or in the cool of the evening, and remember to take a bottle of water with you. Preferably go in the evening, returning to the “Jetee Bar” in time enjoy the view out to “the quiet west, the sundown splendid and serene …”

Our destination is the Hones-Millstone quarry, on sea-edge rocks just before Kalamia beach. I’ve known about the site for years, but now a roadside sign indicates its position, and you could reach there by car (and by cheating …) in just five minutes, but let’s walk there instead, it’s healthier.

Millstones sign

From wherever you start on Pachia Amos (Sandy Beach)  walk along the seashore to reach shallow Limnaki, (“little lake”) at the far end (this is where all of the local kids learn to swim). Continue beyond the wonderful, laid back ‘cantina’, threading a way between and over rocks, and passing (at present anyway) a disgustingly untidy shanty ‘campsite’ – how on earth is this allowed to be here, close to one of the most attractive beaches in Crete*?

Keep close to the sea on a faint path, below a tamarisk tree, to reach a shingle strand, and a little further on to walk over terraces just above sea level. Look carefully – although they are impossible to miss – to see where millstones have been hewn out of the rock, leaving spaces as wide as 50cm diameter. Many more, often smaller, with circumferences cut, are still there.

My friend Costas Liatakis**, an authority on local history, believes these date from the early years of the Venetian occupation (which was from 1204 – 1669), and work possibly continued into the 18th century. The millstones were transported from here (presumably by mule or donkey) to inland villages, and were used for crushing olives to process oil, and for grinding cereal crops to produce flour. Smaller stones – hones – were used for sharpening tools and farm instruments (similar to English ‘whetstones’.)

Some are still in situ

Costas is unable to explain how these (very heavy) stones were chiselled out and lifted from the rock. Any ideas ?

Whilst you’re here, climb up to the road and look at the rock arches just above. Something easily missed when travelling this way in a car.

Rock arches

Western Crete is very slowly rising (the eastern part dipping), and once (upon a time) the sea reached the foot of these cliffs. A clear “tide-mark” can be seen in several places along the south coast, notably at Cape Krios and west of Sougia, the one-time water-line now 2/3 metres above current sea level.

Water level mark at Krios

Return to the coast, and by the same route to Pachia Amos, to enjoy a cool drink at sunset.

Watch the sunset over a cocktail

* At the time of publishing, it appears that the council have moved these people on.
**If you haven’t been already, do visit Costas’ workshop and studio in Paleochora centre, close to Maria’s greengrocery, and admire his unique crafts in olive wood, stone and ceramics.

 

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The recent spell of scorching temperatures – four consecutive days of 40c-plus – made thoughts turn to pleasurable cool evening walks, followed by leisurely meals in village tavernas far away from Paleochora’s often “madding crowds” of July and August. A favourite is the Vavouledo Gorge, above Palea Roumata, and afterwards at the simple taverna in the village “platea” (ref. “Explore” August 2009). Others are a walk up to Ancient Yrtakina ( see “Explore” – February 2011) with dinner at “To Temenia” ; above Voutas ( “Explore” November 2015) with now a choice of two tavernas in the village, or an easy stroll around Azogires, and then to the “Alfa” cafenion.

Here’s my recommendation for an evening in July, escaping the heat of the coast for a short (less than two hour) walk in the foothills, then a meal of traditional Cretan food at a riverside taverna. Note that a car, or taxi arrangement, is necessary for this “experience.”

Many visitors to Paleochora will have driven, or travelled by ‘bus to Elos and Elafonisi, passed through Psariana, and seen …….. absolutely nothing, except for the village sign on the main road. And that’s where you need to drive to, just 20km from Paleochora, first north towards Chania and then turning left at Plemeniana (signed to Drys, Elafonisi). A little further on, look out for and pass by the roadside taverna “O Milos”, where we’ll return to after the walk. Then on through Dris to reach Psariana, parking 100m past the sign, at the foot of a surfaced road leading up to the village.

O Milos

First, look for a “shaddock” tree, 40m away on the other side of the road, the only one I’ve ever seen, which in spring has pear-shaped citrus fruit similar to grapefruit, but a sharper taste.

Shaddock Tree

Seeds were introduced to the West Indies (Barbados and Jamaica) c.1683 by Captain Shaddock of the East India Company, after a voyage from Malay, East Indies. How this specimen came to grow in SW Crete is a total mystery, but the fruit makes splendid ‘marmalade’.

Shaddock fruit

Walk up, ignoring a turning right, into Psariana ‘hidden’ village, comprising of some half a dozen houses, and a similar number of loud (but chained) dogs. Continue ahead, the road soon becoming unsurfaced, below chestnut and several pear trees. The latter were laden with fruit on a recent visit, and a substantial amount fell into my rucksack as I passed by.

Chestnuts

Avoid all left turnings, and keep to the main track. Alongside are myrtle bushes, currently in blossom ; the ripe berries, bottled in a solution of ‘raki’ and sugar, make a powerful spirit, similar to English “sloe gin”, and will be ready for Christmas.

Myrtle blossom

Higher up are large areas of Arbutus Unedo, or Strawberry Tree, the red/orange berries edible, despite what the Latin name might imply. Truly a rural delight.

Strawberry fields

Twisting then rising, the track (now concreted) reaches a 4-way junction, height 460m. Ahead (left) is a contouring route leading to the high point of the Aligi/Sassalos road, from where you could walk NE over to Floria. But we take the second right, downhill. Distant, the commanding view is of the long ridge leading to Agias Zinas, our “blue moon” church high above Kandanos (see “Explore” – August 2015) and a landmark from many points in our Selino region.

Easy walking now, this time avoiding a track right, will lead into Despotiko, close to a splendid Umbrella Pine tree (Pinus pinea). We’ve been here before, on a walk from Floria (‘Explore’, July 2013.)

Umbrella pine

Turn right through the village, ahead at a fork, but soon afterwards make a detour, on a track winding up to the small church of Panagia, the short diversion worthwhile for the views, especially towards sunset.

Panagia church

Return downhill, avoid a left turn (into Fragoudiana), and soon reach the “main” road, virtually traffic-free, for a 1 km stroll back to Psariana.

“Eal Cafe”

Relax in the cool of the evening at “O Milos” and enjoy the “Eal (sic) park welcome”, where there are eels in the river below, and also possibly on the menu ……

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