North from Ravdouha, by kayak

After what seemed weeks of summer winds (typical for Paleochora in August and September), the Meteo forecast promised a calm Monday with still waters, perfect conditions for a long-planned kayak along the west coast of the Rodopou peninsula.

And an accurate sea forecast is essential here, where wind speeds and directions can change swiftly – remember it took Odysseus ten years to return home to Ithaca after the Trojan Wars!

I have total respect for the sea, and a little fear, and recall reading words of wisdom of a fisherman from the Aran Islands, off Ireland’s west coast : ” A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn’t; but we do be afraid of the sea, and we do be only drowned … now and again. ”

Ravdouha sign

Ravdouha beach, tucked into Kissamos Bay, is 65 km (40 miles) from Paleochora, though it seems longer, and of course slower, with a kayak on the roof-rack. From Ravdouha village, where there’s a roadside viewpoint with a panoramic vista over Kissamos Bay to Gramvousa, the road plummets 200m down to a small shingle beach with a pier, an easy launching site. There’s little here – a few sun-beds, a shower, and nearby cafe/taverna ‘Neratzia’ – but that’s enough*.

Ravdouha beach

 

Wind Force/Beaufort 1 meant an almost “mirror” sea, and easy kayaking close to the rocky shoreline, above which the steep slopes of Rodopou are largely barren. A deep ravine, marked on the map as ‘Kako Faragi’ (bad gorge), passed after an hour or so, at the far end of the sweep of Amighdhalia Bay, seemed to fall directly from the skyline 700m above, and probably has never been climbed (or descended.)

Kako Faragi

 

Across the bay, boats were taking hundreds of visitors to spend the day at (over-rated I think) Balos; on my side, a kingfisher skimmed past, and on a rock (of course) stood a Blue Rock Thrush.

Just ahead was Akrotiri (Cape) Nisi, a rocky 30m pinnacle almost island-like in appearance, hence the name, beyond which lay Agios Pavlos beach, and after nearly two hours at sea, a welcome landing place.

Off Cape Nisi

 

Despite its idyllic location, it was sadly disappointing; getting ashore wasn’t easy, over sharp rocks and slippery stones, much more difficult under any other conditions. And the ‘beach’ was largely covered in assorted debris, mainly plastic, washed up by westerly winds.

Ag Pavlos beach

But, a ten-minute walk away up the hillside, was the quite beautiful little church of Agios Pavlos, as remote as anywhere in Crete, the door unlocked, and frescoes glistening gold in the sunlight. What possible reason was there to build a church (maybe Byzantine) here?

Agios Pavlos

 

Inside Ag Pavlos

 

With swimming not possible, there was no reason to linger, except to enjoy a selection of ‘kalitsounia’ – cheese and spinach pies, fuel for the return journey. As predicted, the wind had risen slightly and was now from the north, giving slight assistance. In the afternoon sun, the mountains of Western Crete rose silhouetted blue-remembered and grey in the far distance.

Not a bad way to spend a day, and on the drive home, the old ‘Bangles’ song came into my head,
” Just another Manic Monday… ”

Footnote: For non-kayakers, there’s a waymarked coastal path from Nopigia to Ravdouha beach, described (Walk 3) in the Rother Walking Guide to Crete. It takes around 2 hrs each way, passing several beaches and churches, with excellent views over Kissamos Bay.

*Editors Note: For those in the area wanting a swim and a good meal, just a little further along the road to the south brings you to a small shingle beach with a sheltered natural “swimming pool” area bordered by rocks – ideal for kids. There, you will also find the most wonderful and recommended “Waves On The Rocks” taverna which serves very high-quality Cretan dishes and fresh seafood. There are also some rooms to rent here if you want to be “off the beaten track” for a night or two.

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Once upon a time, after a stressful spring and summer, Lynne and I booked a package holiday with UK Freelance Holidays, to “quieter Crete”, in a place we’d never heard of – Paleochora –  and stayed a week at Olive Tree Cottages, just outside the town. Lynne’s plans to cook wonderful vegetarian meals were abandoned when we discovered the Third Eye restaurant, and we enjoyed leisurely breakfasts at the Chania Bar (now Almyrida cafe) on “our terrace over the sea.”

We relaxed, swam at nearby Keratides beach, walked along the coast and over the cliff to deserted Anidri beaches (no road then), and, a week being far too short, vowed to return. Which we did, and the rest, as they say, is history …..

Now, nearly thirty years later, I’m still here (and so, sadly, is Lynne) and I’m still exploring. Olive Tree Cottages are still available for rent (though independently, not with Freelance), and from close to there, now, is a waymarked path (in fact the original route down from or up to Anidri, the road through the gorge was only engineered and built in the 1950s.)

This makes a more pleasant and interesting walk than 4 km up the surfaced road ; there’s a choice of two ways to approach the village, and an optional climb to the hill-top church of Profitis Ilias. From Anidri, after refreshments or lunch at ‘To Scolio’ taverna, a descent of the Anidri Gorge to Ianiscari beach for a swim, and later a walk alongside and above the sea back into Paleochora, makes a day’s excursion that’s hard to better.

Start by walking east out of town, past Chalikia (‘stony’) beach, on above ‘camping beach’, and when the road swings left up to Anidri, turn right across the bridge to the entrance to Olive Tree Cottages.

Campsite beach

The path begins just 20m from here, waymarked in orange*, through a “gate” in the fence.

Steep initially, pass some TV aerials after which the gradient eases across the hillside, high above Keratides beach.

Climbing…

Climb again, on an old stone ‘kalderimi’, when the path soon levels out to reach an olive grove, another gate, and join a wider track leading up right. Frequent pauses on the ascent will allow you to enjoy views to Akrotiri Flomes – cape “crocodile” – over to Paleochora, distant Gavdos, and maybe watch the “Samaria” ferry passing far below.

Soon after the track bends left, waymarking leads right, and it’s decision time. Ahead leads easily (1.6km) to reach the surfaced Anidri road, turning right for 400 m into the village, and ‘To Scolio’ cafe.

The alternative climbs the hillside, through and initially alongside a fence, winding between rocks, well-marked throughout. ‘Explore !’ – January 2013 – kept to the ridge crest and reached the stone pillar on the summit at 302m ; this path is lower (and much safer). Eventually it descends, over loose stones and earth, to meet another track at the pass/col above Anidri gorge.

Choices…Left for Anidri or Straight Ahead For The Chapel

More decisions here ; left to join the route describe earlier and so into Anidri, or ahead (marked) for a steep climb to Profitis Ilias church, but a descent into the gorge is inadvisable, despite a path indicated on some maps. If you choose the climb, the views are rewarding ; a “bird’s eye” look down into the gorge for the brave, and over Anidri village, much-extended and developed over recent years.

Profitis Ilias

 

Anidri view 1995

 

Anidri view 2018

 

A meandering path leads down towards Anidri, where you face a final decision – which way to return to Paleochora ?

But you can decide that over lunch or snacks in ‘To Scolio’ …

*EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE. As mentioned in the article, this path is waymarked with orange paint. This was done because it formed part of a Sougia – Paleochora cross country run held in the spring of 2018.

Whilst some waymarking is useful, unfortunately this waymarking was done in an overly excessive manner.  Even on sections where there is only one possible path because of fences and vegetation to the sides, there are often several large florescent orange paint marks (sometimes several in less than a couple of meters). It is particularly ugly up through Anidri gorge. In fact, it is akin to seeing those meaningless spray paint graffiti squiggles on fine old Venetian houses (and even on archeological ruins) elsewhere on the island. The fact it hasn’t been cleaned up is a bit like leaving litter behind.

It is sad that the people who did this were not “named and shamed” and forced by the council to re-trace their steps with paint stripper and cleaning materials to get rid of their vandalism. What do you think? Have your say in the comments…

 

 

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