If ‘Explore !’ – April 2017 didn’t persuade you to visit Gavdos, and you’ve still not been, some paths and beaches I discovered on a recent visit may well tempt you. The current “Samaria” ferry schedule (May – October) departs Paleochora on Monday morning at 8.30am, reaching Gavdos (via Sougia and Agia Roumeli) around 1pm, returning from there on Wednesdays at 2pm, giving ample time for walking some of the waymarked trails on the island. Alternatively, Weds/Monday allows a longer stay.
This time I wanted to explore the north-west of the island not previously visited, so, on arrival on Gavdos, I walked up from the harbour at Karave, above Sarakiniko, and on to Agios Ioannis beach, totally deserted in early May. Slightly breezy, I erected my tent for two nights under the shelter/shade of a cedar tree, close to the sea.
“Home” organised, I crossed the long sandy beach, and took the path up and over to Lavrakas, where there’s a small resident year-round population, and a deep well of clean water close to the sea.
Just enough time to climb 90m, on no path that I could find, to the little white hilltop chapel of Agios Ioannis, then a quick descent and back home, collecting enough driftwood for a small fire, and watch the sunset over Gavdopoula, 9km away, and the snow-capped White Mountains, nearer to 50km distant
Next morning, an early start for what I believe in retrospect to be the best walk on the island. Back east, above the shingle beach of Fetouve, then right on the surfaced road up towards the Heliport, passing en route Agios Pavlos, built to commemorate St Paul’s landing on Gavdos in AD 64. At a higher road junction was an Information Board, helpfully indicating “You are Here”, and showing the route through the Kedres cedar forest down to the coast (see the image at the top of this post). First towards Chamourio, then through a gate onto the path itself, reaching Agios Nikolaos, the oldest church on Gavdos, half an hour later.
The shady path below, an ancient link with Agios Georgios further down, is exquisite, redolent with strong-scented pine and delicate herb aromas. Before the second church are freshwater springs, which in winter at least become a small river reaching the sea near Lavrakas. I really didn’t want it to end, but “all good things …” and I reached the coast all too soon, at cliffs overlooking Pirgos twin-beaches. One seems unattainable, only accessible by boat, but I scrambled down to the more southerly, sat on a sun-bleached log, and not in any any hurry to move on – “siga siga” – let my thoughts wander …
It’s widely believed that sea air, and close proximity to the waves, are therapeutic for numerous maladies and illnesses both physical and mental, and highly recommended by Hermes Diaktoros, the Greek detective :
“ My prescription is simple. Find a place by the sea which pleases you – a sandy beach, a
promenade, a quayside if you like boats. Then sit down there and watch the sea. I
recommend three or four hours at a time, and the treatment must be taken daily.
Within a month, most of your ailments will be cured. “ *
The path continues around the rocky promontory of Stravolimni to Lavrakas, where I refilled the water bottles from the well, and so returned to Agios Ioannis. I had met no-one all day – in high summer there would be many hundreds of visitors camping on these beaches.
During the night the wind increased, and as I packed away the tent, noted a slight swell and ‘white horses’ out to sea. Walking the length of Sarakiniko beach, I should have seen the ferry approaching from Agia Roumeli …. and reaching Karave, the harbour and quayside were ominously deserted. Only Litsa, owner of the taverna and mini-market, filling rice and herbs into vine leaves to make ‘dolmades.’ “Boat ?” I asked, less than optimistically. “Tomorrow,” she replied. “Maybe coffee and kalitsounia ? ” I continued, and not relishing walking out and re-erecting the tent, added “and perhaps a room ? ”
It’s not uncommon for visitors to Gavdos to be marooned on the island for several days or longer (Odysseus, you’ll recall, was there for seven years ..) and many return flights from Crete have been missed as a result. So take “plenty of money” with you, and “some honey” may be useful in emergencies. I read the afternoon away (remember to take a book too) and later enjoyed a simple dinner in the taverna, which of course included Litsa’s freshly-made ‘dolmades.’
A hive of activity next morning told me the boat was on its way ; pick-up trucks were awaiting deliveries, mini-vans and the island bus bringing passengers and anticipating new ones, and noisy motor-bikes just coming and going. Departing exactly on time, I settled in the shade of the “Samaria” upper deck for the five-hour mini-cruise back to Paleochora, watching the islands recede into the distant blue yonder. Goodbye Gavdos ….. until next time.
* ‘The Feast of Artemis’ – Anne Zouroudi – The Mysteries of the Greek Detective