It’s May, and warmer at last after a prolonged wet winter in Paleochora, so with temperatures rising, and our annual three hundred days plus of sunshine already begun, summer will be more than welcome.

Here’s a short, enjoyable, and circular walk close to Paleochora, which will fit in with KTEL bus timetables, or is just a 15-minute drive away. Take the 12.00pm bus to Kallithea (Kakodiki), or park just after the long bridge as you enter the village. Aim to be back for 5.15pm, to pick up the bus leaving Chania at 4.00pm. That’s ample time for a route of around 10 km.

Start here …

Start the walk left of the “O Filoi” cafe, 100m back towards Paleochora, and don’t be confused by the road signs !

Confused …

The road winds up into Beilitika, where an important monument by the old schoolhouse translates as : “ In 1897 the Treaty of Surrender of the Turks of Selino who weresurrounded in Kandanos was signed and we were freed after 3 centuries of slavery.” *

Monument

Continue on, through olive trees claimed to be 2000 yrs old, to reach modern Agia Triada church, with the far older 13thC Mihail Arhangelos, almost certainly locked, nearby.

Olive tree c2000 yrs old

Fork left here, dropping slightly, then around the hillside (keep left at a fork which leads up to Meniana) to reach Armi.

House at Armi

Below Armi’s few houses, the road loops down to join the main Chania road ; turn right for just 100m, then before the bridge, go left, passing the now-defunct cement works, in another series of loops to reach the river (Kakodikiano) below Sfakos. Flowing below walnut trees, the shallow river makes a perfect picnic place to while away half an hour. Then onwards and upwards, to reach a junction, and at nearby Ag. Antonios is a tap with good drinking water inside the gate.

Agia Triada church

Michael Archangelos

Turn left here, following the road for 2km into Mahia, and don’t be disappointed to find the cafenion closed – it has been for many years! A few metres further on, take the track left (look for the ‘red diamond’ sign) winding down into the valley, passing below rather precarious rocks (with badger setts below) to reach a fine stone bridge, steeply arched, and just wide enough for donkeys and their loads. A strong earthquake in October 2013 damaged the masonry, but it survived, and hopefully it will be here for many more years. A picnic table, rather neglected, may tempt you to linger awhile by the riverside.

Stone bridge

It’s possible to follow the river downstream from here, during the summer months – an adventurous and exciting “canyoning” or gorge-scrambling expedition, with many cascades, pools and waterfalls, one 2m high, before egress below Vlithias lower down. But the ravine is steep-sided, escape far from easy, and evacuation in the event of an accident would be difficult. See “Explore” – August 2012 and August 2013.

River at Sfakos

Cross the bridge, to join a wider track, and turn left, rising steadily above the valley. Ignore two side turnings (right), and (only) when the track levels out, look for a third, marked by stone cairns (please add another!) A “sting in the tail” here, with a steep climb to Papadiana, keeping left of a wire fence, the path leading to a house (unoccupied, pass to its right), and on to a second, this one inhabited.

Finish here !

Above is the main road, where you turn right for a final 500m, across the bridge, and into the colourful cafenion to wait for the bus to Paleochora, or on a little further back to your car.

* Read more in Mick McTiernan’s History article – “The Battle of Paleochora.”

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Gavdos Island

“ One of the pleasantest things in the world is going on a journey,”
wrote English essayist William Hazlitt, “ but I like to go by myself.”

I don’t agree entirely, as sharing experiences with others seems an integral part of travel, but for various reasons, I spent three days alone last May on the island of Gavdos. I’d been several times before, once memorably on friend Mike’s yacht, when we circumnavigated the island, anchored two nights in Tripiti bay to explore ashore, then headed to Loutro. Another, equally memorable, was one November, when rough seas delayed the ferry home to Paleochora, resulting in long lonely nights in a tent with diminishing food supplies.

The 4.5 hr voyage to Gavdos was not without interest. A high sea at the ‘Skala’ meant the ‘Samaria’ left from the Marina, causing confusion, and similarly at Sougia, necessitating a D-Day type landing on the beach. Then more placidly to reach Karave port slightly late, nearing 2pm.


Climbing steeply away from the harbour, and taking a path to Korfos bay, the scent of the pine trees was pervasive, much of the island covered by Cretan cypress, juniper and Calabrian pines.

Gavdos map board

Gavdos has a well-marked network of trails and footpaths, perhaps the best being from Korfos to Tripiti, at the far south of the island, where I would camp for the night. But a sad sight met my arrival, the beached wreck of a boat which had brought 151 immigrants ashore in April 2015, refugees from Syria, Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and Eritrea, including 40 unaccompanied children. Happily all survived, and 6 Egyptian trafficers were arrested.

Later, wooden debris made a fine fire on the beach as darkness fell. Next morning, a climb to the huge wooden chair high above the three-arched promontory, which marks Europe’s most southerly point, and off on a track along and high above the rugged west coast to Vatsiana.

Tripiti cliffs

 

I anticipated a stop at Vatsiana’s small ‘kafenion’, but found it closed ; Maria waved, calling “We’re not open for summer yet, but I can make you coffee, come on in.”

Vatsiana cafe

We chatted for half an hour, Maria, originally from Athens, telling me her two children were two/thirds of the primary school roll, and despite recent developments, their house still had no main water supply. Very much dependent on summer tourism, the remainder of the year would be difficult.

The day becoming warmer, I walked into Kastri, the island’s ‘capital’, on the chance of buying more bottled water, and a bonus – a late lunch of salad and eggs (plus water) at ‘Gogos’ taverna. Then along another marked path through the pines to Ambelos, passing close to Gavdos’ high point of 364m, and through two long-abandoned settlements of Pateridon and Fragediana. The latter, I thought, would be a nice place to camp later, and so it proved.

But first to Ambelos, and the path below to the long beach of Potamos bay, deserted now but thronged with visitors in high summer.

Potamos beach

Eight km distant is the uninhabited islet of Gavdopoula. A long but rewarding day’s walk ended with the tent pitched inside the ruined walls of Fragediana, and sufficient calories on the Gaz stove to replenish the long day’s exertions.

Camp nr Kastri

Next morning, breakfast in Kastri, then a delightful easily-followed path north over to Sarakiniko, the beach totally empty except for tavernas making preparations for the coming season. And from there back to Karave, well in time to relax and enjoy cool drinks before the 45km voyage over to Agia Roumeli, and from there along the coast home.

Footnote

Gavdos measures c. 8.6km x 6km, and covers 32 sq. km. Its name originates from the Roman governor/commisioner Marcus Orbilious KLAVDOUS, and became ‘Gavdos’ during Venetian times. St Paul was blown past here in a storm in AD 64 (ref. Acts 27). During the Middle Ages some 8000 people lived here, and even in 1914 the population was 1400. Now it has dwindled to less than 50 permanent residents, although (bizarrely) the 2011 Census records 152. The Anendyk ferry runs twice-weekly from Paleochora in summer, and also from Chora Sfakia.

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