Matala to Roumeli Oct 8, 2015

We left early this morning to the palace of Phaistos, an archeological site where the ruins go back to 3000 BCE.  In its time, it was the wealthiest and most powerful Minoan city in southern Crete. A little ‘history’: Zeus saw Europa hanging out on the shore with her friends and fell madly in love with her. He showed up on the beach as a white bull. She was captivated and climbed up on his back. He promptly spirited her to Crete. They landed in Matala. She bore him three sons, Minos became the king at Knossos and Radamanthis became king at Phaistos. Not sure about the 3rd…

We arrived when it opened and had the palace to ourselves. The views are among the most beautiful in Crete, at least according to the guide books… Before leaving, we found a corner to leave our mark in the form of some handstands and tree poses.
The rest of the group went on to hike the Samarian Gorge. Joan and I had decided to pass (I hiked it last year) so we went with our guides, Chris and Eric, in the truck and trailer with all the luggage and kayaks. The drive was beautiful, through the agricultural part of the island, through bright white mountain villages with lots of Bougainvillea in full bloom. We stopped for lunch in Sfakia, finally found some proper horta (sautéed wild greens, olive oil, lemon juice) cooked beets and orange sections, perfectly fresh Greek food. Then we headed for one of the best bakeries on the island to pick up cookies for the rest of the group after their hike. And so we could have some of the cookies…
Then it was time to board the ferry, with the truck and the luggage, with the trailer and the kayaks. Chris backed it onto the ferry with finesse, in perfect alignment. The ferry headed out and we learned what the sea is like when the winds kick up. We were in 9 ft swells, some of our luggage got soaked – we moved up to the top deck and still got sprayed. Eventually we made it to Roumeli. The ferry could not land at the regular dock, so landed a bit farther up the beach at a more protected spot. But the dock was tiny, the road from the dock, rocky, uneven and slightly washed out. We were lucky all we suffered was one flat tire on the trailer.
The ferry ended up waiting a few hours before returning to Sfakia. All in all an exciting morning.

Last evening in Matala, Oct 7, 2015

Tonight was our last dinner in Matala. And the last place we’ll be sleeping to the sound of anything but the ocean. We’ll miss the t-shirts  with peace signs and profiles of Joni Mitchell. I came close to buying one with a VW bus on the front. Gary and I had a beat-up red one, high on mileage and no parking brake. It would have been a sentimental purchase.
It’s close to the end of the season and places are beginning to wind down. There are still lots of tourists around, enough to keep most of the restaurants busy and the general feeling upbeat. We ate at another beachside restaurant where you go into the kitchen and pick out you food. They had the second best marides (fried smelts) I have ever tasted. The first best was at Karen Graham’s parent’s house in maybe 1972. We fried them in the middle of the night, squeezed lemon juice over them and sitting on the kitchen floor, polished them off like French fries.

Matala Oct 7, 2015


This morning’s yoga practice was about heroes. After all, we are on the island where, with the help of Ariadne, the Athenian hero, Theseus, slew the Minotaur. And after yesterday’s paddling we all felt a bit like heroes. It didn’t make verasana (hero pose) any easier, but with help, everyone did get up into hand stand.
We kayaked about 3 miles this morning, past Red beach, to a beach in a hidden cove. We took picnic lunches up to a one room place with a large shaded patio in front. Turns out to be the beach place of a local guy who loves it when people come and visit. He speaks Greek and German so there was not much conversation going. Them he brought out his lyre and played a few songs for us. I thunk he invites people so he can play for them. As we were leaving, a tour boat pulled in and I’m sure he was planning to play for them as well.
We rushed out as our guides checked the local ocean conditions and read warnings of violent swells. Turned out not to be, thank goodness. Still, we paddled back in record time in anticipation of possible rough seas. Joan and I found our kayaking rhythm and were not last in for a change.
The early return gave us a chance to nap before a late afternoon yoga class. One of the guys requested a flow class, so we went in that direction – as much as I am willing to go. Whatever you call it, it was a strong practice and not the restorative session we planned. Love that everyone kept up in spite of sore muscles from 6 nautical miles of kayaking n up to 6ft swells.

Matala October 6, 2015

This morning was our first yoga class. We met at 7am and practiced outside, by the pool. We started with the story of Apollo and Daphne. I always think of Bernini’s statue of them at the Borghese in Rome. Anyway, our tree poses were inspired. Then we were off in our kayaks to practice our ‘dumps and rescues.’ I’m in a double with Joan, and she did great for her first time.

That out of the way, (we all passed) we kayaked about a half hour to Red Beach. It’s the local nude beach and we were the morning’s entertainment. The surf was pretty high and the first kayak in rolled over. I was sure we might follow, but our guides brought us in like the guys on airport runways…”arm gestures sending us a bit to the left, back off during the wave, come in straight ahead”.  It was smooth and successful.
A few minutes later, our guides brought over a bucket of wet, gray clay. We covered ourselves and set out in the sun to dry. We washed off in the ocean, smooth and exfoliated, and paddled in the other direction for a late lunch. That launch was rougher and we took on a ton of water. Now we know how to pump out the kayak while at sea. By the time we set out to return to Matala, the  waves were pretty intense and we did some rocking and rolling. After another successful landing, we had a quick rest then left for a sunset hike. Our guide Eric was waiting up at the top with a spread of drinks and snacks. He played guitar for us as we watched the sun set into the ocean and Elana (another one of our 3 guides, and I practiced a few poses. Pretty wonderful day.
We walked over to dinner at a sweet restaurant where the head chef is a classic Greek yia yia (grandmother), short, squat, dressed in black and a killer cook. The whole family works there and she came out to share a raki with us before we left.