To Vasilaki and Beyond

To misquote the famous lines (on marriage) from ‘Punch’ magazine :
“Advice to those about to go walking in August …… don’t. ”

First, a salutary story. In mid-June this year, a group of French walkers took the boat to Elafonisi, and around 11.15am set off along the E4 path towards Paleochora. By early afternoon temperatures had reached over 40c (104f) in the shade, and on this route there is virtually none, and no water either, unless you can locate the spring above Agios Ioannis church (which this year may well be dry.) When they reached the cantina at Krios beach c. 4.30pm, several were suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, one so seriously he had to be taken by ambulance to Paleochora, and from there air-lifted by helicopter to Chania hospital, where fortunately he made a full recovery.

Walking in August is of course quite feasible with an early start. The 6.15am KTEL bus to Omalos gives access not only to Samaria, but also to the Figou and Agia Irini gorges, above them the high-level E4 path to Koustoyerako, and lower down, the Kambanos gorge and Kamaria valley, although all these would result in a hot afternoon in Agia Roumeli or Sougia, albeit in shade and sea whilst waiting for the ferry back to Paleochora.

The early morning (7.30am) bus to Chania will drop you off at Spaniakos, Vlithias, Plemeniana,
Kandanos, Floria, Mesavlia and Kakopetros for walks described in the “Explore” series, returning on one of the buses leaving Chania at 10.45am or 12.45pm, (or an earlier one at 8.45am.)

Alternatively, here’s a short walk close to Paleochora, best enjoyed in the late afternoon or evening as the day begins to cool down. Drive, or take a taxi, to the turning for Vasilaki, just 3km NW from Paleochora on the road to Voutas.

Vasilaki sign

The track along to the few houses of Vasilaki gives good views into the valley of Tsaliana below, and north to the high mountains either side of Sarakina (see ‘Explore’ September 2015).

Vasilaki grapes

Vasilaki grapes

This is rural Crete, albeit only a (long) stone’s throw from popular tourist beaches, and you will pass sheep, goats, chickens and barking (but safe) dogs as you leave the “village”, through a gate, and into open country.

Vasilaki

Vasilaki

Below left is the blue-roofed Agios Georgios church, but save this for the way back and hope to catch the sunset. The track winds around the hillside, passing animal enclosures, then climbing to a threshing circle and an adjacent (ruined) building ; nearby terracing indicates that cereal crops were grown here, and the area once housed a greater community.

Above Vasilaki

Above Vasilaki

Turn right here, to reach the original Ag. Georgios church, long since abandoned.

Ag Giorgos (old)

Ag Giorgos (old)

Just above, the track crosses the ridge, at 400m, giving wide views across the lower Kakodikianos valley, where regular “Explore” readers and walkers can identify the paths around Spaniakos, Profitis Ilias church above Kadros, and the ruined Turkish fortress or “pirgos”.

Spaniakos hillside

Spaniakos hillside

You could return from here, but it would be a shame not to continue a further 500m, to where the track ends by an area of oleander bushes and an old plane tree, their presence indicating a water source. And here is a spring, a trickle flowing even during this hot dry summer, and much appreciated by the two dogs. Nearby is another ruined ‘church’ (we think Ag. Dimitrios), with a small shrine, built in gratitude for the gift of water emerging from the hillside.

Ag Dimitrios

Ag Dimitrios

Return to Vasilaki by the same route, with surprisingly different views, especially to the west in the late evening, if you happen to catch “the sundown splendid and serene.”

Ag Giorgos (new)

If you came by taxi, there’s a 3km walk home, with a wonderful panorama of Paleochora and Pachia Amos beach, and then finally down through Panorama itself into town.

Allow three hours for this walk, but remember that darkness falls very quickly here, turn back if in any doubt, and take a torch with you, just in case ….

 

 

Share This:

 

“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,” sang Perry Como many years ago, “save it for a  
 rainy day ….” 

Well, rainy days in Paleochora have been few and far between recently, and with little chance of any more between now and September or October.  But with little or no light pollution, especially away from the town itself, this is a wonderful place to watch ‘shooting stars’ or meteors, especially in mid-August, the annual occurrence of the Perseid meteor shower, which this year reaches its peak on the night of 12th/13th August.

In recent years it’s become a custom of mine, on “Perseids night”, to kayak out of Paleochora at dusk and spend the night on an empty beach, usually paddling east to one at Ianniskari (Anidri), then lying under the stars to watch the meteors, at regular intervals, streaming through the night sky and seemingly falling into the Libyan Sea.

Last August, for a change, I kayaked west, leaving the tiny harbour at Koundoura at 7pm, heading  for Akrotiri (cape) Krios, and the tiny inlet known as Kokkino or “red beach.”

Koundoura harbour - Starting point

Koundoura harbour – Starting point

It took me an hour, passing south of Krios beach, below the awesome sheer cliffs of Cape Krios, and close to the sanctuary of Viena, to run ashore at “Red” beach.

Cape Krios

Cape Krios

En route was a new discovery  – a sea cave only accessible to small craft, its features formed and eroded over a million years, and visible to few.

Sea cave

Sea cave

 

Nr Red beach

Nr Red beach

Red beach gains its name from the masses of dark red stones along the shoreline, possibly old pottery worn smooth by the sea over centuries.

Red beach stones

Red beach stones

The sun set beyond Elafonisi as I quickly “made camp”, simply throwing down a sleeping bag on top of an insulation mat.

Sunset at Red Beach

Sunset at Red Beach

Leaving Koundora I had asked a returning fisherman about the coming weather, their  predictions being far more accurate than any TV or Internet forecasts.  “Calm sea, Beaufort 2, maybe 3 tomorrow,” he advised  – ideal conditions for me, as Force 4 and beyond is  too dangerous at sea.  So it was disturbing to see flashes of lightning, and an imminent storm, in the far west, maybe 400km away out at sea.  These, but with no thunder, were to continue all night.

With no moon, the planet Venus and a million stars gradually appeared.  The closest star system to earth is Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light years and some 40 trillion km away, but can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.  Here in Crete the nearest is Sirius (the ‘dog star’) in Canis Major, at a distance of 8.6 light years.  Twice the mass of our sun, Sirius is the brightest star in the earth’s night sky.  Time for reflection as I lay back waiting (and not for too long) for the first of the meteors.  On a good night, there can be between 50/100 per hour, emanating from the constellation Perseus, some leaving a seconds-long train, before burning up c.100km above earth.

Some I missed by looking the wrong way (to the NE is the best direction), some by falling asleep (and pre-dawn is the best time to watch), but the night was spectacular. When I woke up it was already early daylight –  so,  “time and tide, etc …”  and I was soon up and away, calling in at Viena to chat with a lone camper there, also a meteor watcher.

Waking up at Red Beach

Waking up at Red Beach

 

A Stop off at Viena Beach

A Stop off at Viena Beach

The first rain fell as I loaded the kayak onto the roof-rack back at Koundoura, and half an hour later it was torrential, strangely falling heavily on a calm sea, but by mid-afternoon the sun was blazing, with temperatures again in the mid-30s.  Climate change indeed ….

Footnote:  Red/Kokkino beach can be reached on foot off the E4 path between Elafonisi & Krios,
just north of Agios Ioannis church.

Share This: