I’m often asked about the E4 route between Sougia and Agia Roumeli – how far it is, how long will it take to walk, and especially its difficulty.

Answers : around 18km, taking 10-12 hours, which might be completed in a long day, but better to overnight on Domata beach, and it’s by far the most difficult walk locally, short of treks in the White Mountains.

The first part of the route, from Sougia to Profitis Ilias, is  described in our guide “More Walks from Paleohora” * after which comes a steep 45-minute descent to Tripiti, from where, last October, we began the rather harder second part along the coast and over to Agia Roumeli.  We took the “Samaria” ferry to Sougia, and later a pre-arranged water-taxi with Captain Yiannis (tel: 6973220472) to Tripiti, the rolling 45-minute journey on his small boat making me regret the cooked breakfast at ‘Omicron’ an hour earlier.

Capt Yiannis boat

Tripiti

With no easy landing at the foot of Tripiti Gorge, we jumped ashore, and walked slightly inland to visit the memorial, unveiled in May 2013, to mark the 70th Anniversary of the final evacuation of Allied forces from Crete.  On the night of May 7th _ 8th 1943 the Royal Navy ship ML355 came here from Egypt under cover of darkness, and took off some 60 British, Australian, New Zealand and Cypriot soldiers, along with several Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) agents and Cretan refugees.  Many of the Allied servicemen had been sheltered by Cretan families after the Battle of Crete in 1941, and the plaque reads : “To honour the people of Western Crete for the sacrifices they made … erected in gratitude by the families of the evacuees.”  **

Tripiti memorial

After a pause to reflect on events here all those years ago, we set off around the coastline (impassable in rough seas) to Sedoni, the beaches there tempting us to relax and swim, but with “miles to go before we sleep”, we pressed on.

The waymarking is good, but you need to be vigilant looking for E4 black/yellow painted rocks, and occasional (and gradually disappearing) poles.  After an hour or so, the path drops almost, but not quite, to sea level, then crosses a steep, eroded and exposed section not for the nervous.

Above Domata

Then the path rises again to a point overlooking the Kladou Gorge, before a necessarily careful descent to beautiful Domata beach, which we reached after just two hours ; fifteen seconds later we were floating in the turquoise waters possibly unique to this part of the Libyan Sea.

Domata beach

Now comes the hard part !  “Does the road (path!) wind uphill all the way?”  wrote Christina Rossetti.  “Yes, to the very end …”  Or at least to a high point of 520m, with very little respite en route, just frequent stops to gaze and admire the view below, and see the path disappearing “onwards and upwards”.  Through a pine forest, around the head of a ravine, contouring around the mountain side, gradually losing height, and soon Agia Roumeli comes into view, far below.

The 300m drop down a steep-sided gully, often on loose stones, is difficult on tiring legs/knees, but probably worse in ascent (though I’ve never tried it.)  Halfway down we watched the ‘Samaria’ depart (west) and the ‘Daskalogiannis’ (east), meaning that Agia Roumeli would be peaceful and almost empty that evening and the following morning (and if you’ve not experienced it, you should …)

Finally comes an airy traverse, again not for the faint-hearted, of only around 200m, but with the beach alarmingly 100m below, and much space below our feet.

Ag Roumeli

Safe on ‘terra firma’ – and the greater the firmer, the lesser the terror, if you follow me, we made for the ‘Calypso Hotel’, and a warm welcome from my old friend Andreas Stavroudakis, with (what else?) a large, and much appreciated ‘raki’, well-deserved after our walk of 6.5 hours from Tripiti.

*  ‘More Walks from Paleohora’ available from “To Delfini” bookshop in the village
**   A similar memorial at Sklavopoula, see “Explore” – June 2015

 

 

 

 

 

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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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