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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

My Frugal Greek Vacation, Crete Day 5, Samaria Gorge


Yesterday I had quite a day. Originally we'd planned on going to the pink beach in Elafonisi, but because of bad wind, we decided to ditch that. Samaria Gorge is a hike that is really special to Crete, and in fact, is the longest gorge in all of Europe, and has some amazing sights, but we hadn't planned on doing that because Vera isn't physically capable of doing that hike, but she decided to send me on it anyhow without her. And I'm so glad she did, because it was absolutely amazing, stunning, and breathtaking.

However, I chose this picture of a T shirt I saw being sold at the end of the hike to be the header of this post... for reasons you'll see clear further down.

My day started really early with a taxi into the city center, to catch a private bus to Samaria Gorge at 6:10 am.


I intended to sleep along the way, but the view was so breathtaking that I wanted to take it all in.



The drive was through the white mountains...


One of two mountain ranges in Crete.


The distance we traveled wasn't so far...


But because of the mountains, the roads were windy...



And the going was slow...


The lighting added to the spectacularness of it...


And I took so many pictures out of the window of the bus....



I couldn't possibly share these all...


Sorry for overloading...


...This is already after deleting the pictures that I wasn't going to use


To be honest, I usually am more of a fan when things are really green...


But I still loved the view even though there wasn't so much green...


Our guide, Thomas, was warning us that it was not an easy hike. Its a full day hike, sixteen kilometers from start to finish, and warned us that it was not for people with health issues or for people with bad knees or otherwise out of shape people. He said it wasn't going to be an easy hike and if you didn't have good shoes, skip it. Try it out and if you can't manage the first 20 minutes, to turn around and go back because it won't be getting any easier. The people next to me on the bus were telling us that he was scaring them off. One person that I know of decided not to continue because he came with sandals, not sneakers. 


The entrance to the national park cost 5 euros, and it wasn't part of the cost of the trip.

I have anxiety issues, and my anxiety rears its head when I am hiking, alone, because I'm worried that something will happen to me and no one will know about it. So I tried to find myself a hiking buddy, and found a middle aged college professor from Brazil, who was in shape and an experienced hiker, but didn't plan on hiking too quickly, and it served me well.


 The interesting thing about this hike is that, because it was long, it had many different types of views, and so many different things to see. Each part reminded me of something else. Someone commented to me that I shouldn't try to compare things to other places, and just enjoy them as they are. But I do like comparing, because then it actually gives me more enjoyment.

The first part of the hike involved going down a really steep and rocky path, in a pine forest. The views reminded me so much of what I expect the Alps look like in the summer.


 I've never been to the Alps yet, but it is on my bucket list....


So maybe this doesn't quite look like them...


But I don't really care, because I enjoyed every second of it...


Gorgeous, no?


The biggest problem is you couldn't take in the view as well as hike at the same time, because it was really steep and really rocky...


And there were only rails some of the time. The rest of the time it was just sheer drops...


So you really had to watch your step, otherwise you'd fall.

I fell a lot. Mostly because of rocks slipping under my feet when I stepped on them. Each time I got back up and just kept walking.


At some point the scenery changed, and instead of reminding me of the Alps, it started reminding me of hiking in the Allegheny mountains in upstate New York, where my family would camp yearly.


It gave me this huge dose of nostalgia...



 I saw peer pressure hard at work here. There were spots with sticks and stones piled up, and as each person passed, they added either a stick or a stone to the pile...

No one knew why they were there... not my hiking buddy, not the people in front of us...


And I was wondering why... and thought it was strange... but of course I added a stone to the pile as well...

People are odd...


Occasionally there were fountains with spring water where you could refill your water bottles, as well as bathrooms (flushing! not outhouses!!) and picnic tables.


Fortunately I was warned about the bathrooms in advance, that there might only be squatting toilets, as that was all there was along the trail. (This bathroom was not the one along the trail, but a similar idea.)


Our guide mentioned the three biggest rest points along the way, the first at 4 kilometers, the second at 7, and the third at 11, and gave us a time we ideally should reach each one. My hiking buddy and I got to the first rest stop a little later than recommended, but we managed to get there so we weren't the last from our group.


For a while as we were hiking down the mountain, we were able to hear water...


But didn't know where it was coming from...


Eventually the path met up with a gorgeous creek...



And this reminded me even more of my camping days in the Allegheny mountains, where we stayed at a camp ground called Creekside...


It was so idyllic and peaceful...


But unfortunately, one of the park rules that was annoying...


Is that we weren't allowed to put our feet in the water...


Because the water was used for drinking... 


But we still were able to enjoy the water...


Because it gave off a nice breeze...


Not to mention very relaxing sounds...

Eventually, shortly before the second checkpoint, my feet were starting to get really tired and because of that shaky... and for that reason, I ended up slipping and falling for the "final time", this time scraping up my knee really badly... I managed to limp to the check point, a little old village called Samaria, after which the gorge is named, that was abandoned when it was made into the national park...


After sitting a little bit and relaxing, I noticed also that my right ankle was definitely sprained. I'm not sure which fall did it, or if it was a culmination of all my falls, or if that final fall just damaged it, but it hurt me to put any pressure on it at all. At this point I really didn't know what to do, because my hiking buddy was so nice and sweet, but I didn't want to make her wait for me because I'd be hiking even slower because of my injury.


But she was so sweet and said she didn't mind waiting and going at my pace, even if it meant going really slowly. And she helped me find a fallen stick which I then used as a walking stick, which helped me balance more and keep pressure off my busted ankle.


Not only that, when we got to a really rocky section that had lots of larger rocks all over, which meant my ankle was twisted every time I put it down, she'd point out the path of least resistance to me...  and hold my hand when the terrain was really difficult and the stick wasn't doing enough...


Eventually we got to the actual gorge itself...  And here the sheer sides, reddish dirt, and water at the bottom strongly reminded me of when we hiked in the Grand Canyon...


Unfortunately from this point on I didn't take many pictures, and I less enjoyed it, because I was just trying to make my way through the rest of the hike, with an ankle that really hurt me, and every step was in pain, and I was mostly just looking down, trying to plod one foot in front of the other...


I did get lucky and got to spot a Cretan wild gazelle called the kri kri, but we weren't allowed to stay there long, because apparently the gorge is a place where there are a lot of rock slides, and the kri kri specifically are what cause these, so we needed to not be under them. (They usually come in a pack. So if we saw one, others would be there too.)

Speaking of which, I saw a sign that amused me. (Sorry, no picture.)

It said "Danger. Falling rocks. Walk quickly." Seriously? Because you can out walk a rock slide?

At some point I just couldn't walk anymore and I went to sit down. A guide from a different group saw me, checked my foot, and wrapped my foot in an ace bandage, and told me to try to walk as much as I could, but once I couldn't anymore, to stop in the shade and wait for Thomas. A person from my group passed me, saw me on the ground, and offered me his trekking poles which he wasn't using and so I used those and tried walking some more. I was warned not to rest too long unless I had no choice, because moving keeps the blood flowing to the area and makes it less painful, but once I take a break it will stiffen up and be more painful. So keep moving, even if its slow.

At a certain point I felt bad, because I was keeping back my hiking buddy so much, and even though she was ok with it, I felt guilty for making her not go at a regular pace, and I insisted that she go ahead. And then I walked a bit more, and then waited when I was just in too much pain.

When Thomas came to where I was, I asked him what I could do. I was hoping, to be honest, that I'd be able to ride out the rest of the way with the mules that they kept for emergencies, but since I could walk, even though it hurt me, that wasn't an option. Thomas gave me ibuprofin, and I walked. And it hurt. And then he gave me more when I asked, and from then on I managed to keep going. I was going slowly, but I managed. It took so much self work for that. I was building myself up, telling myself that what I was doing showed my strength, and I was discovering hidden reserves in myself that I didn't know existed, and that it was just showing me my mettle. I did a lot of praying, I'll be honest. And a lot of just plodding forward, one foot ahead of the other... And finally I got to the third and last checkpoint.

After a small break there, I continued on, knowing that I just had 1/4 left... and it was relatively easy going at that point. Easy comparatively, anyhow... 


It was at this point where I noticed how much it reminded me of yet another childhood favorite, Euclid Creek Park reservation... And I loved it...


The hard part was that the path kept on crossing the creek many times, and the bridges were these rickety wooden bridges that felt like they could tip over at any moment. And the trekking poles were pretty useless there as well... 


But I managed and made it across, and eventually the bridges were more stable. Finally I reached the end!!!


At this point there were another 2 kilometers to the village of Agia Roumeli where our hike was officially over... But I saw this sign for a bus that could take me the last 2 kilometers for only 2 euros. And I said that I did enough. I hiked over 7 kilometers with a sprained ankle. I pushed myself farther than I thought possible. I overcame so many hurdles. And the only reason to walk the last two kilometers instead of taking the bus would be pride, and that was a silly reason when I was in pain. So I took the bus and I was glad I did.


The town was small and quaint and cute and filled with many tavernas and bed and breakfasts...




But the best part was a beach!


After a long hot day walking, I was able to chill out in the beach. And yes, even with my injury I managed to make it there early enough to be able to swim.

The beach was filled with black pebbles instead of sand...


Eventually it was time to leave there and take the ferry to the town of Sougia (pronounced Sooya). It was a requirement to take a ferry because that literally was the only way to leave this town. No roads leave it.



 The ferry leaves just twice a day, and cost 10 Euro per person.


It was a stunning 45 minute ride...

 
...and the scenery was breathtaking. 


The water was so blue...


And is officially called the Libyan sea.


And since there were no roads anywhere, the nature was completely unscathed.
 

I loved the scenery so much that I kept jumping up to the side of the ferry to take pictures, despite how much my foot hurt, because I needed to capture the beauty...



It was like a postcard brought to life.


Stunning, no?


Sorry for such a large photo dump, I just couldn't pick my favorites.


 Actually, I take that back...


These were my favorites. 


There were many more I took and didn't share...


 The serene scenery was just a perfect end to this all...


And eventually we got off at Sougia, and got onto our bus for the 2 hour ride back to Chania.

It was a truly spectacular day. Even though I ended up getting injured, and even though the day cost me 27 for the trip, 10 for the ferry, 5 for the entrance fee, and 20 more for taxis, so a total of 62 Euros for this day, it was still worth every cent of it.

These are memories to last a lifetime.

But still, that picture at the top, the t shirt that said I survived Samaria Gorge? 

Absolutely. 

Have you ever been to Samaria Gorge? After seeing these pics, would you like to?


2 comments:

  1. I hiked Samaria Gorge at the end of May. In May the first bus leaves Chania around 7:45 so I only started at 9:15. I did it by myself, at my own pace, and took several breaks just to read a little in beautiful spots. At the beginning I went slow because of the steep steps, then I went slowly because the scenery was so stunning, and finally I went slowly because my feet wouldn't move. I got to the ferry 5 minutes before it left and that evening I said never again! But six weeks later I definitely would.

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