The only written references I’ve seen to the Kladou Gorge, west of Samaria and Agia Roumeli, which originates below the summit of Kokinovari, 1694m and ends at Domata beach, advise never to attempt a descent without a guide, for – “ this is one of the most dangerous and inaccessible gorges of Crete ” – and I’ve never met anyone who has done even that.
My friend Andreas Stavroudakis from the Calypso Hotel in Agia Roumeli, who knows the area as well as anyone, suggested a walk of 1 to 1.5 hours from the coast, saying the limit of exploration was on reaching a vertical and unassailable wall at Letzara. Another reference insists “the only way to see part of this natural sculpture is to walk upside down (sic !) from the beautiful beach Domata.”
Domata is a strenuous four-hour walk from Agia Roumeli (see Explore ! June 2017) but only 5 km (and much flatter) by kayak, which is how we arrived there. It took us an hour, passing several ‘Spilies sto Marmaro’ – small marble caves – then the attractive strand of Fournoti beach. This is home to the rare and endemic “hypericum aciferum” plant, and also several tiers of bee-hives ;I once landed to search for the flower, but made a rapid exit, pursued by bees … The Mediterranean here is the Libyan, or South Cretan Sea, a vast expanse stretching to North Africa ; sitting in a single 4.5-metre sea kayak always brings to mind the Breton fishermen’s prayer for safety – “the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small …”
Rounding Cape Kalotrividis, we drifted through brilliantly clear turquoise waters, stretched legs at Kalogeros, then paddled on the short distance to Domata.
Behind the shingle beach is an area of soft dark sand, and above that the vertical wall of conglomerate rock, topped by pine trees, gazed at, admired and photographed by thousands of ferry passengers, though few will ever come here. A projecting slab gave us protection from the sun and any possible winds, and a short “siesta” before the next part of our expedition.
As the afternoon cooled, we set off into the Kladou Gorge.
Intially wide and boulder-strewn, with no path or way-marks, in twenty minutes it narrowed, then widened again, then became narrower still, to just a few metres across, with some easy “scrambling” necessary in places.
Steep walls towered above us, as impressive as any gorge in Crete, pine trees clinging impossibly to sheer faces.
After 1.5 hours, at c. 600m, with Kokinovari peak high above us, we turned round without reaching the 150m rock wall at Letzara, which may have been ten minutes away … or an hour or more ….
Descending, we collected quantities of rain-washed pine logs, which together with driftwood from the beach made for a pleasant evening by the fireside, with reminiscences from days gone by (and some ‘raki’ ..) ensuring a reasonably comfortable night under the stars.
Possibly the raki, but Neverland was just visible .. “second star to the right, and straight on til morning ….”
We woke early to a perfect dawning – “ Up from the eastern sea, soars the delightful day …”
Housman at his best. Leisurely English breakfast tea with boiled eggs, then back afloat, and unhurriedly along the coast, past little Sedoni beach to land at Tripiti, and visit tiny Ag. Nikolaus chapel and the Evacuation Memorial (see Explore ! – May 2018)
Getting ashore at Agios Antonios (Hareis) proved too difficult, the rocky harbour there intended for small craft rather than low-in-the-water kayaks, so we continued on west into Sougia. Time there for late lunch at a favourite cafe, then relax and swimming whilst waiting for the “Samaria” to return us to Paleochora, arriving there soon after seven o’clock in the evening, having filled the previous unforgiving thirty-six hours with full distance exploring, along a spectacular part of Crete’s southern coastline.
A Decade Of Explore! Contest Winner
Last month we celebrated 10 years or Explore! with a contest.
We asked people to solve a cryptogram puzzle. This was the sentence to be decrypted
RSWYG JCSPB HV ICJJAC JCSPB, MBC PBHXPC XR
The answer, of course was “Sandy beach or pebble beach, the choice is yours”
The lucky winner, picked at random is…
Catherine Dawson of Otley, UK.
Congratulations to Catherine! A Crete puzzle book will be on it’s way to you.
If anyone wants to get hold of the Bumper Crete Holiday Puzzle Book, it is available to order from Amazon here: