“What we enjoy, in July and August,” a regular summer visitor to Paleochora told me, “is a scenic drive to a quiet village for morning coffee, then a short walk, preferably shady, returning to the village for lunch, then spend the afternoon on a beach.”

Deliana sign

The only village sign without gunshot holes?

So, here’s an “Explore” which ‘ticks all these boxes’, beginning with a pleasant 40km drive, north
to Plemeniana, north-west to Aligi, then north again through the Milones gorge to Sassalos, on to Malathyros and Trialonia, finally descending into Deliana, a journey of well under an hour. In the village centre is “To Faraggi” taverna, the name referring to the Deliana/Mesavlia gorge (see “Explore” June 2010), but after refreshments, we shall visit the nearby and lesser-known Rokas Gorge.

To Faraggi

Coffee over, walk (or drive) 400m north out of the village, and turn left (signed) to the church of the Metamorphosis 250m further on (parking here.)

Church of Metamorphosis

Church of Metamorphosis

Continue along the track, which five minutes later bends left down to the river. Pass through a wire gate, and before crossing the bridge, drop down right into the stream-bed.

Rokas gorge (1)The descent of the gorge is a little more than a walk, nowhere difficult, but hands are required here and there. Water flows until early summer, especially in the first section, channeled between walls some 3/4m apart (we came here once in spring to find it impassable.)

Rokas gorge (3)

The route is (rather unnecessarily) indicated by blue way-marking, taking you down, after an hour or so, to pass between spectacularly sheer cliffs.

Rokas gorge (2)Soon afterwards, a (signed) path leads left out of the gorge, climbing up to Roka village (see “Explore” January 2014.) If you can arrange transport, the walk from Deliana/Roka makes a fine expedition.

Rokas picnic

Below here, the gorge drops very steeply, soon afterwards ending on a minor track, after which the shallow riverbed continues to reach Kissamos Bay at Nopigia.

Roka village

Roka village

There are ways to return to Deliana to the west, through Astrikas and Mouriziana, complex route-finding, and it seems better to walk as far down the gorge as you wish, then head back to “To Faraggi” for a late lunch of home-cooked traditional Cretan food (but best avoid the ‘Greek couzin grilled’ …)

Greek cousin

Before leaving the village, be sure to visit the 14th century (Byzantine) church of Agios Ioannis, and if there’s time, drive a kilometer to the entrance of the impressive Deliana Gorge.

As an alternative way home, take the winding 7km road from Sassalos to Floria, then easily down through Kandanos to Paleochora, where the Libyan Sea and your favourite beach will be waiting for you.

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View from the trail

‘Explore’ moves away from Crete this month  – some 6000 km in fact –  for a brief account and some photos of last November’s Paleochora Himalayan Expedition.  Our international team of ten consisted of Michelle, Andre, Klervi & Bernard (French), Karin (Swiss), Marianne & Josee (Dutch), and Jane, Lindsey & myself (English), all of us either living in or with a close connection to Paleochora.  We met up in Kathmandu, flying in from Athens, Paris and Amsterdam, via Istanbul and Delhi, then two days later traveled seven hours in our team “bus” to Arughat, on the worst roads I’ve ever seen, in places almost destroyed by monsoon rain, and the start of our 14-day trek.

The Intrepid Team

The Intrepid Team

The pattern for the next two weeks began with tea at 6am next morning, then breakfast, and we were usually walking before 8am.  For four days we would follow the valley of the Burhi Gandaki river, often high above it, gradually acclimatising and gaining height.  Then a steep ascent beside the tributary of the Shiar Khola into the almost hidden Tsum Valley, below the peaks of Ganesh Himal and Sringi Himal, over 7,000m high, and both, I later discovered, with only one ascent, in the mid-1950s.

The well-marked trail, narrow at times, and used by mules and later yaks, took us across steel suspension bridges and some precarious-looking wooden ones, through small Nepalese villages amid stunning scenery, and by late afternoon each day to our overnight campsite  – and welcome tea, followed by a substantial evening meal.

Careful ....

Careful ….

As we climbed higher, temperatures decreased.  Cloudless blue skies and warm sun during the day were replaced, after sunset, by cold starlit nights, and by 8pm we were usually in the warmth of our down sleeping bags.  Camping at Lar (3,245m) after a visit to Rachen Gompa monastery, it fell to below 0c overnight, and we were glad to be moving the next morning.  Our highest point was above Mu Gompa monastery, at 3,700m, tantalisingly close to the Tibetan border, which was two days away but still 1,500m above us.

View from my tent at 3700m

View from my tent at 3700m

We returned down the valley to Arughat, a week away, often on alternative paths and camping at different locations.  My favourite was outside the village school at Ripche, surrounded by magnificent peaks, and where the children posed proudly for photos, holding the pencils and crayons they had been given.

Ripche schoolchildren

Ripche schoolchildren

We were superbly looked after by the team from Glacier Safari Trek  –   porters who carried heavy  loads on difficult terrain, cooks who provided nutritious meals high on carbo-hydrate and protein, and our Sherpa guides, the ever-smiling Lokpa, Norbu, Nymar and Prakesh.

Our Sherpa guides

Our Sherpa guides

Back in Kathmandu we relaxed, went sight-seeing, reminisced and re-lived our experiences of the past two weeks.  At a celebratory dinner, before we flew our separate ways next morning,
lines from Everest mountaineer Frank Smythe’s book “The Spirit of the Hills” came to mind :

“And so from the hills we return, refreshed in body, mind and spirit, to grapple anew
with life’s problems.  For a while we have lived simply and happily ; we have made good
friends ; we have adventured well. “    

Here are some more photos from the trip…

Ganesh Himal 2

Ganesh Himal 2

Ganesh Himal

Ganesh Himal

Katmandu

Katmandu

On the way back

On the way back

Sringi Himal

Sringi Himal

Tibetan onlookers

Tibetan onlookers

The winner of the Explore Christmas Puzzle was James Dymore-Brown, and the correct answer was ‘SOUGIA’.  Thanks to all who entered.

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