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 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*.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.