Our canyoning expedition down the River Kakodikianos from Mahia to Vlithias (see ‘Explore! – August 2012) was a memorable adventure, and one I think not too often repeated, but we never found the waterfall.

I’d known of the existence of a waterfall in the valley, with a deep pool below it, for many years, and intermittently tried to locate it. Supposed “friends” told me it was a secret and special place, and I suspect, possibly unkindly, that the directions they gave me were purposely incorrect. Only one thing for it – to continue following the river downstream from where we left off last time, and hope to discover it, rather like Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

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Leaving a car (with dry clothes) at Kalamos, 6km north of Paleochora, we drove the short distance into Vlithias, just off the main road, and parked in the platea. Michelle joined the previous team of Rick, Phil, Laura and myself, thus making a “Famous Five”, if you were a childhood fan of Enid Blyton’s adventure stories, as I was. Walking out of the village on the road towards Mahia, we took the first turning left, passing a tiny church/shrine on a winding track through olive groves. This reaches a point overlooking the valley, then leads down to the concrete bridge where we had left the river on our first expedition.

Being gentlemen, we insisted on “ladies first”, both to ascertain the depth of water, and to check for any reptilian presences in the river, or python-esque creatures dangling from the branches overhead.

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Petite Michelle disappeared at intervals, resurfacing with a loud and accurate translation of her native French “merde” ; squeals of delight from Laura indicated that a water-chute, deep pool, or maybe waterfall lay ahead, and that having temporarily dried off in the summer heat, we would very soon be wet through again.

On we went, through thickets of bamboo, below canopies of overhanging plane trees, the water fast-flowing then calm, shallow then deep, with Michelle ahead disturbing crabs, eels and an occasional bird. As one particularly placid section stretched ahead of us, I wondered idly if the poet Tennyson had explored here. “ A land of streams ! ” he wrote, “and some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke.” Like his lotos-eaters of old, and being modern-day ones, we “saw the gleaming river seaward flow from the inner land …. ”

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Eventually, an hour or so after setting off, an exceptionally loud shriek from Laura told us of a new discovery ahead. The river drops nearly 200m from our ingress above Vlithias to below Kalamos, and 4 metres of it was here, a vertical plunge from a rocky ledge into a pool of indeterminate depth below.

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….And there was Laura, threatening to leap off into it. “Courage !” cried the lotos-eaters. “Don’t jump !! ” cried we, less poetically, and scrambled down the steep-sided (west) bank to the shingle shore below. And there we enjoyed “an hour of glorious life,” not as Edward Whymper did on the summit of the Matterhorn after the first ascent, but swimming up to and under the waterfall, drying out in the sun, and relaxing with a picnic lunch which had remarkably stayed dry.

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The river below the waterfall was inevitably an anti-climax ; we reached a concrete bridge from where we could have climbed back to Vlithias, but continued downstream.

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As the gradient eased the water became more shallow and overgrown, progress more difficult and with less interest. At a small and precarious-looking wooden footbridge we left the river, and in the late afternoon sunshine meandered up on a widening track to Kalamos.

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At a guess, we had covered only 3km in over four hours, slip-sliding our way down the river. If you follow the route of “Famous Five discover a Waterfall”, do be aware of the dangers – water levels and temperatures can change, the valley is very steep-sided and escape from the river is difficult or impossible, and evacuation in the event of an accident would be a serious problem. To quote Whymper again : “ Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end. ”

[important]explore cover 2 transRemember, you can get a digital copy of the Explore! book detailing ten amazing walks within striking distance of Paleochora. Get your copy here [/important]

 

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Floria to Plemeniana

Even regular visitors exploring the Paleochora area may not be familiar with the small villages of Kribiziana, Koudouriana, Despotiko and Fragoudiana, although they will have passed through the larger villages of Floria and Plemeniana on the journey over from Chania. Here’s a fine walk which links the latter two, passing through the former four, if you follow me so far ….

A running friend from my former UK life was here in June, setting up a holiday venture in Paleochora (see www.oppositesattractholidays.co.uk ) and eager for an early morning walk. Leaving a car at ‘O Milos’ taverna in Plemeniana, we jumped on the ‘bus (7.15am from Paleochora) for the remaining 12km up to Floria. And then straight into the cafenion for coffee.

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Floria, like Kandanos and Kakopetros, is a “Martyred Village”, and suffered badly in the aftermath of the German invasion of Crete in 1941. Two monuments on either side of the main road, one Greek one German, record the losses of both countries, and on the latter is engraved (translated) : “While mourning the dead we seek friendship with the living.” The cafe has a folder of fascinating wartime and post-war photographs.

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Leaving the cafe, we turned left (NW) on the road marked ‘Sassalos 7’, but very quickly forked sharp left, rising away from the village. The surfaced road soon becomes a rough track, winding out of the valley. Ignoring branches either side, we climbed to a distinctive fork, at 1.5km from Floria, and turned left. The track ahead leads to Milones and Aligi. Nearby is a deep crater (inevitably with dumped debris), and above it a memorial to a Cretan partisan, presumably killed here.

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Another 1.5km, rising slightly, brought us to the ‘phone masts, and a nearby concrete trig pillar, 724m a.s.l. Superb views from here, including the sea on both sides of the island, as well as huge areas of inland Crete.

That trig point looks quite "Roman"

That trig point looks quite “Roman”

An even rougher track heads south from the masts, with broken ground crossed to reach it. We left it to the right after some ten minutes, (before a huge isolated boulder), following a fence over the crest of the ridge, then very steeply down the other side. A track of sorts is rejoined at the foot of the slope, which winds down above a ravine, and then becomes wider. Easy walking down the valley now, although there are three ‘stock-control’ gates to unwire and pass through.

The road passes below the first village, Kribiziana, now uninhabited, reached by a narrow track left, opposite a water tap. Further on, the road becomes surfaced at Koudouriana, below which is the church of Sts Peter & Paul.

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Unbeknown to us, it was the “Saints’ Day”, and a small group of people were celebrating the occasion. “Elate!” they called, “come and join us.” Shaking hands and giving us the traditional ‘feast bread’, they wished us “Chronia Polla”, or ‘many years’. The eldest, Thanassi, invited us to his home in the next village for coffee, impossible to refuse, and an often-met example of Cretan ‘filoxenia’, or friendship to foreigners. The 16th century church was beautifully decorated for the occasion, and the whole experience just delightful.

Icon decorated with flowers

Icon decorated with flowers

We enjoyed 40 minutes hospitality with our new friends in the next village, Despotiko, with iced coffee and “hand-made lemonade” pressed on us for the next part of our walk, further on along the road and then a left turn into Fragoudiana. Once through the village, the road appears to end, but a grassy track leads on, through olive trees to join the main road at Dris, passing the former village school en route.

The quiet main road leads to Plemeniana in 3km, but there is a more interesting way. Cross the bridge, then go almost immediately left, on a road rising between houses, and later alongside a valley with a shallow stream below you. After some 10 mins (not before), when the roads bends round almost 180 deg, look for a rough track up between olive groves to the right. Keeping right, below and between the trees, eventually reach a narrow path left, between bushes, the start marked by a large stone ‘cairn’. In only 60m this joins a wide track, with an overhead plastic water pipe. Go right here down a long winding track, avoiding any side turnings, to reach the little village of Terediana where you turn right, to again meet the main road, and a short step back into Plemeniana.

Eels sign at Milos Cafe

Eels sign at Milos Cafe

We deserved and enjoyed cold drinks at ‘O Milos’, or ‘Eel Cafe’, under shady plane trees above the river. Just thirty minutes and 14km later, before the day became too hot, we were swimming in the Libyan Sea, having – to misquote Rudyard Kipling – “filled the unforgiving minute, with four hours’ worth of distance walked.”

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– Don’t forget , Bob Tait’s Explore! book is now on sale detailing some amazing walks in the close proximity of Paleochora. Click on the book cover below for more details…

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