Roumeli to Loutro Oct 9, 2015

 

Every morning here we get to practice as the sun is rising. After a short class, today was a paddling day. The sea was like glass, the temperature perfect and we were happy to be on the water. I was particularly pleased as I promised my group that the sea would be calm on this side of Crete. We paddled out and hugged the coast for about 45 minutes, putting in at a little beach where is is thought that St Paul landed. Just above the beach is Agios Pavlos, an 11th century Byzantine chapel dedicated to St. Paul.
Near the chapel is a taverna where we had fresh squeezed orange juice. Love that place. Our next stop was a longer paddle to Marmara Beach, a perfect hidden bay with cliffs to jump off of, water caves to explore and, perched over the water, the award winning cafe where we had lunch. We ordered way to much, left way too full, then spent most of the afternoon alternately swimming, napping and watching the E-4 hikers come and go.
When we left, it was a short paddle to Loutro, one of Crete’s most beautiful seaside towns. We are here for 3 nights and I am so grateful to be able to return a second time. Paddling into the bay takes my breath away. And not because I’m tired. Like most of the coastal towns on the southern side of Crete, Loutros closes down at the end of October. So we are almost the last of the tourists. There are no wall to wall people to push through, and there is no rush to find space at restaurants. It is easy to find time to talk to the hotel restaurant owners and staff. I only mention this because during the summer months it is jammed with people.

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.