There are many villages in western Crete located amongst impressive landscapes, but very few as dramatically situated as Roka.  It’s 41km from Paleochora, an hour’s scenic drive through Sassalos (either via Kandanos and Floria, or more easily though Aligi and Milones), then on through Malarithos and Sfakopighadi.   Leaving Sassalos, stop and look down into the deep Porofarago or Halasses Gorge, the most impressive and difficult gorge in the area ; more of this later in the year.

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With snow and low temperatures on the mountains, and water flowing down many of the gorges, early in the year is a good time to visit Roka, and maybe climb the ‘mountain’ – Trouli  – which rises dramatically above it.   We first went there on a blisteringly hot day one August, with no more intentions than to look around.  There is no taverna or cafenion in the village, but two Greek ladies who confirmed this invited us to sit in their shady garden, and made us coffee, so perhaps there is.

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On our next visit, finding nothing written about the ascent, we took climbing equipment just in case. “Is the climb difficult?” we asked a group of young men at a house by the ‘platea’.  “Not difficult, but not easy ….,” they advised us, “keep to the right, then go left.”  And so we set off.  The way is obvious enough, through some occupied and many ruined houses, rising to ‘Ancient Roka’, and what must have been a huge settlement during  the Byzantine era (330AD – 1204AD), possibly even earlier.  The area must have housed a considerable population, and the ‘fortress’ above provided safety and security.  The site is fascinating, but why no history available for such an important heritage?

Ancient Roka

Ancient Roka

We chose a route through the rocks above, which became alarmingly steep over sharp limestone blocks, with even more alarming views into the Rokas Gorge way below our feet.  With much relief we emerged onto the rounded summit, scrambled over more rocks to the highest point, 267m, and relaxed to enjoy the views, possibly the finest in NW Crete.

The view to the north

The view to the north

The two peninsulas of Gramvousa and Rodopou stretched away to the north, Chania and Akrotiri distant, the White Mountains hazy, with areas to the south more familiar to us.  Just 50m almost vertically below us, but seemingly far more, was Roka village and our car.

The view to the south

The view to the south

Whilst I was taking photographs, and contemplating (and not relishing the thought of) how we would get down again, for our route up had been more than a little scary, Laura found the correct way.  Marked intermittently with red paint dots, the direction slants left from Ancient Roka ; we had climbed far too high before beginning to ascend.  As we’d been advised, it’s still not easy, care is needed with hand and footholds, and some might like the security of a rope, especially near the top.

The correct way down

The correct way down

Back below Ancient Roka, we followed the signs and path, and spent the afternoon exploring the Rokas Gorge, which leads up to the larger village of Deliana.  More about that too, in this year’s “Explore” series  –  what a lot you have to look forward to !

The winner of the 2013 Christmas Puzzle was Eeva Koskela, from Finland, but now resident in Paleochora.  Commiserations to those unlucky in the draw, and to those with the incorrect answer (the remaining gorge was ‘Kritsa’.)

 

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Bob’s Christmas Quiz 2013

Visitors come to Crete for many reasons  – the climate, beaches, welcoming hospitality, the ‘Mediterranean diet’ of wonderful taverna food, spring flowers, and for walking, especially through the spectacular gorges, which vary in difficulty from an easy stroll to technically demanding, requiring climbing equipment and expertise.

I’ve no idea how many gorges there are in Crete, and I doubt whether anyone knows exactly, though I’m sure the number must be well into triple figures.

Aradena gorge Deliana Gorge (1)

The most easterly is ZAKROS – the “valley of the dead”, with ORINO, the “butterfly gorge”, also in the far east.  Close to Sitia and Ag. Nikolaos are CHA and KRITSA gorges, with ABA  and ARVI to the south, near Agia Galini.

 

 

 

South of Rethymno are MYLI and PRASSANOS, with DIKTAMOS and THERISO close to Chania.  Most gorges are located on the south coast, many ending at the sea. P4110926

East of Sfakia are IMBROS, ASFENDOS, KALIKRATIS and SFAKIANO, and to the west, between there and Agia Roumeli, are ILINGAS, not to be confused with the more difficult ELIGAS gorge, ARADENA and the ever-popular SAMARIA…..  P7250985

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moving west, towards Sougia, are TRIPITI, KLADOS and KERATIDIA, with KAMBANOS,
AGIA IRINI, PRINES and FIGOU all inland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Paleochora area are the SPINA, ANIDRI, PERDHIKI and ROPANAS gorges, and in west Crete are ROKAS, TOPOLIA, MESAVLIA, also known as DELIANA, SASSALOS and KALOGIROS, with KAMBOS gorge (see ‘Explore’ October 2013) the most westerly.

Of these 36 gorges, 32 can be found in the wordsquare, vertical, horizontal or diagonally. When you’ve found them, 26 letters remain unused.  Circle these, then read left to right, top to bottom, to spell out another three.

Which is the one remaining gorge?

Pop your answer and details in the form at the bottom of the page. The prize is a free copy of the Explore! book (or a gift voucher if you have already bought it) Winner will be drawn from a big cooking pot at The Old Schoolhouse Cafe in Anidri on 1st January 2014 by the nearest beautiful assistant (probably Emily). Good luck!

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