“If you missed this boat, you may never get another one ….” With apologies to Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boys, who were heading for San Fernando all those years ago. For the past twenty-five years or so, the Gialinakis family have been operating the daily (in summer) ferry service between Paleochora and Elafonisi. On so many occasions Lynne and I, alone or with friends, have walked along the E4 path from Krios to Elafonisi, where the boat was moored, ready to return us to Paleochora. And several times the ‘Elafonisos’ carried our bikes there, and we cycled back home inland via Elos, Strovles and Plemeniana.
At the end of October, knowing the boat was nearing ‘retirement’, friends and I drove to Krios beach (cars to be retrieved later), and set off west along the coastal path.
The first part of the walk, around 45 minutes to Vienna beach, is detailed in “Explore!”, November ’09, with a description of the tiny inlet and its history.
From here the path, clearly marked, rises steadily, passing right of a distinctive shrine built on a rocky outcrop. This is to Agios Nikolaus, the patron saint of sailors, and rather fortuitously the ‘Elafonisos’ sailed serenely below us on calm waters. A stormy sea in January is spectacular from here!
Soon the path levels, drops slightly, and crosses an exposed slope where vertigo sufferers may go slowly (or sprint!) the 10m back to more ‘terra firma’, lesser terra on firma ground if you follow me.
The turquoise lagoons and Elafonisi ‘island’ are now in view, as the path rounds the headland to reach the chapel of Agios Ioannis, much restored and re-painted in recent years (and sadly, with vehicle access on a rough track.) Just 100m inland, among oleander bushes, is a spring of cold water, which tastes rather ‘earthy’ but is quite safe.
From the chapel, the path contours around the hillside, crossing two shallow gullies. The waymarking is good, but needs to be followed carefully to a rather intimidating descent to a long beach, full of driftwood and other assorted debris, but a good place for a rest and late morning snack. Crossing to boulders on the far side of the beach, we picked up the path through and occasionally over these, climbed to a prominent E4 marker post, then turned left down a dry watercourse, scrambling over white marble slabs into the riverbed which leads down to the sea.
Although attractive, the little beach here is shallow and prone to spiny sea urchins, and the beautiful Kedrodasos or Cedar Beach is just a few minutes away, where, to move Yeats’ lines here from Innisfree, there is “water lapping with low sounds by the shore.” This area of coastal dunes and Juniper trees has been classified as a “priority habitat”, now conserved and protected under a 4-year project (2009-12). See www.junicoast.gr for more details.
The water is fringed with Elafonisi’s famous pink sands, the reason for which, according to legend, is the appalling event which took place at Easter 1824. Some 850 Cretan women and children were in hiding on Elafonisi island, to avoid being transported as slaves to Istanbul. Discovered by Turkish soldiers, they were all massacred – and the sea still holds traces of their blood. In actual fact, the colour is due to the millions of fragmented sea shells.
We swam, ate our picnic lunch, and relaxed awhile before continuing on sandy paths through the pine trees, passing several small bays, and crossing huge rock slabs to reach the ‘Elafonisos’ mooring. More about Elafonisi itself, best visited during the winter, another time. The ‘Elafonisos’, possibly for the final time, left at 3.30pm, giving us superb views of the walk we have enjoyed on so many occasions. Apparently both the boat and business are up for sale, and so possibly, and hopefully, the ‘Elafonisos’ may be back with us next summer. If so, then “may God bless her, and all who sail with her …. ”
With a 366% increase in entries from last year and with correct entries well into double figures (ahem), there was great excitement in the ‘To Scolio’ cafenion in Anidri when the wonderful Georgia drew the winner …. who was (drum roll, please) ….. Sheila Kouvaritakis. Sheila wins the €10 voucher to exchange in ‘To Delfini’ bookshop, Paleochora. Congratulations, and thanks to all other entrants.