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.

Roumeli to Lutro by Kayak

Another perfect morning in Crete. There is one road and almost no cars in Roumeli. From here on, we see hikers, kayakers and folks on ferrys. We practiced yoga facing the sea, and had breakfast at the same seaside patio as dinner last night. We’re all getting better at drinking Raki, and we’ve stopped saying there is just too much food. Now we just eat and enjoy.

We packed up our things and left Roumeli this morning. Going from Inn to Inn, we are totally taken care of. We put out our luggage, and it magically appears at our next inn. I suspect our guides and drivers are working while we sleep. I’d say they are little angels, but they are all grown, strong and beautiful young men.

So here a note about the E4 European long-distance path. It starts in Spain, goes through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungry, Romania and Bulgaria before ending in Greece. Part of it lies on Southern Crete, which is why I mention it. Most of the tourists we see are hiking, many of them French. I still don’t understand how we look bedraggled all day, and the French look perfectly dressed and coifed, even mid hike…

For the next few days, we’ll be kayaking along the E4, parallel to our hiking friends.