For me, one of the best things about Crete in winter is walking in mountains and through gorges. I’m lucky to have a friend who loves to find new routes to explore. Back in January four of us muffled up and set off on a leg of the Y shaped Astrakiano gorge complex in Heraklion prefecture. This stark photo is one of the few I took, it was too cold to keep taking my gloves off.
A few weeks later another couple joined us to walk the Koynabiano ‘arm’. This proved a laugh a minute especially as the six of us had to crouch, crawl and hack our way through fallen trees and stands of bamboo. Along the way we passed many watermill remains so we knew it must have been a busy route at one time.
By the time we made our third expedition we had a spring in our step to match the weather. This stretch was beautiful, and the easy the walking made it a great pleasure. Good job we didn’t step on these Woodcock orchids nestled among the grass at the path edge.
Terrapins swam by the huge rock although they took a dive as soon as I pointed my camera. Brave Phil tested the aqueduct to make sure it was safe to cross then paused midway to listen to the frog chorus below.
So, why did I name this post the gorge that nearly beat us?
Part four in May was stupidly done on a day when freak temperatures soared to August levels. Yes it was forecast, but we didn’t quite believe it and assured ourselves that gorges are shady so we’d be OK. Well we lived to tell the tale but we are NEVER doing that final section again…
Our day started at a place called Kaki Raki, (Bad Raki) perhaps that was an omen. We soon reached this cool pool with sunlight illuminating dust fairies as they flitted about. As the path wound down our spirits were high.
Previous battles with overgrown paths had nothing on the jungle we found. Of course in the cooler weather we’d worn many layers, now skin on bare arms and legs were slashed by thorny bushes, sharp bamboo, and trailing brambles. Shame the two men chose this as the first day to walk in shorts!
A pool edged with flat rocks provided a good place for our lunch. This frog fascinated me. He let bees and insects climb over him and then…gulp they were gone.
Almost as soon as we left this spot the path disappeared without trace. We scrambled along trusting Phil’s handheld sat nav. I took no photos on the next section as we teetered along an overgrown precipice, I think all of us stumbled at some point. The only good bit on this stretch was finding an abandoned orange orchard that gave up a few woody fruit.
When the path headed up we found ourselves wading through Cretan Ebony. Hot, tired and dehydrated I had a ‘hot flush’ and I found it impossible to cool down. I frightened the others by fainting so they pushed me under a scrawny tree for shade while Hilary fed me chocolate.
Emerging near the car, three hours later than expected, we passed a pool of stagnant water. Startled terrapins dived away as I plunged my arms in. I didn’t even scream when someone used my hat to bail water over the back of my neck.
The saying, ‘All’s well that ends well’ was certainly applicable. Once safely home, refreshed and showered I decided it had been a fun day, but not one to repeat.
That said, I’d certainly do the third section again.
If you’d like to read more about this gorge visit My Crete Guide. This is one of my favourite websites and as well as describing the area it provides a map. Just don’t be fooled where it says paths are well maintained!
Photos from walk 2 courtesy of Hilary Dawson
My photos from walk four were sprinkled with editing magic by John Sykes who shares my better photos HERE.