My third and final Chania day I had decided to devote to hiking the Samaria Gorge. I’m not really ‘into’ hiking, I don’t particularly seek it out and when describing what sort of traveller I am would probably never mention hiking. However I do like walking and nature and am fit enough that missing the opportunity to do this wasn’t going to happen. I had read up on how to do it and decided to self guide using public transport. Fortunately the day I planned to go was right around the time the bus company added in an early bus for the high season so I was able to get away nice and early.
I had planned well, decent hiking shoes, lots of band aids and blister pads as back up, water, bananas, hat, sunscreen, sensible clothes and camera. I had a love hate relationship with my camera the entire hike. My camera is quite heavy and many times I wondered why I had taken it and not just used my phone. It wasn’t until a couple of months later when I was processing the RAW images that I was glad I had taken it. The photos here are from both my phone and camera.
The hike is about 16km, 13 through the gorge and then about 3 to Agia Roumeli, the beachside village where the ferry leaves for the trip back.
The first leg is a bus ride from Chania to Omalos. It takes about an 90 minutes and drops you at the entrance to the gorge where you can buy your ticket to hike and some breakfast. We were pretty much the first bus there. Plenty of tour buses followed soon after though.
The first couple of kilometres are pretty much downhill. The paths are rocky and uneven and a lot of pressure is transmitted to your toes, even in good shoes. The views were amazing but you had to make a conscious effort to stop and take them in. While walking, focus had to be on the next footfall because of the uneven ground. There are regular stops where you can fill water bottles and rest. And, yes, I probably shouldn’t have stopped to take a photo of the walk fast sign! It was pretty obvious too why there was a cage over part of the track.
The downward path continued for a couple of kilometres. I should say that estimates of how long the walk should take run upwards from 4 hours. Those estimates don’t take into account stopping every 5 minutes to take several photos. I took much longer.
This first downhill part took me about an hour, simply because of how often I stopped. It was truly too beautiful to walk by quickly. Note the local ambulance transport service on standby.
After about an hour the track flattened out a bit and the walk along riverbeds began. By this time I had already stopped to pay attention to blisters. Watching people walk past in converse type shoes and even sandals, I wondered what state their feet would be in by the end of the day. The hike settled into a pattern of crossing river beds, some running, some dry, and hiking up and down banks on either side. I started to notice some distance markers which were great motivation. The day was warming up and any shade was appreciated.
Eventually, about 3 1/2 hours after I started, around 11am, I arrived at the halfish way point at Old Samaria Village. Time for a rest, some food and drink, new layer of sunscreen and ewww, I smell awful, going to have to burn these clothes! Legs tired but must photograph old buildings, I really am my own worst enemy some days.
Just on the edge of Old Samaria Village was a small church, because this is Greece and there isn’t anywhere you can’t find a church. Actually there were at least two, the second hiding up in the trees.
By this stage I was experiencing a combination of enjoying the exercise, loving the scenery, hating my heavy camera, wondering why the hell I was doing this and deciding how exactly I would actually burn my clothes at the end of the day. And who had the energy to build all the rock piles?!
Carrying on past the 8km mark it really flattened out into a wide river bed, and the shade pretty much disappeared.
Then finally, the gates. The narrowest part of the gorge. And time to pat myself on the back for making it this far and try to take a not awkward looking selfie while trying to not look like I was trying to take a not awkward looking selfie. About 5 1/2 hours into the hike at this stage. And several hundred photos as well. Any care about how long it took long since abandoned as I made sure to absorb every last bit of this beautiful day. Still planning to burn my clothes though.
The rest of the hike proceeded quite quickly as the gorge widened towards the exit. The pink flowers and sound of flowing water just delightful.
From the exit it was a 3 kilometre walk down country lanes to the sea and the village of Agia Roumeli. You could take a bus but I’m stubborn and wanted to walk the whole thing.
I finally arrived in Agia Roumeli about 6 1/2 hours after I set off on my hike. I was drenched in sweat, it had been quite a warm day, but was now clouding over. I headed straight for the water to get my shoes off and feet cooled down. The beach was very gritty and pebbly but at least the water was cold. The remainder of the afternoon was spent having
cheese pies a bite to eat and checking out the small village while waiting for the ferry to take me to Sougia.
I’ll confess to not loving Agia Roumeli. It may well have been a combination of tiredness, the weather clouding over, the beaches I am used to in Australia and my general disinterest in beaches in general. It seemed to not have a lot of character, but it did start to rain while I was there and I didn’t get a good chance to properly look around. The cheese pies were excellent though!
From here it was a matter of waiting for the ferry to Sougia, a lovely, albeit wet and windy, ferry trip along the southern Crete coastline, and a bus trip back to Chania, via Omalos. All in all a very long but very satisfying day.
A quick look at Sougia.
It was after 9pm when I finally got back to Chania, after leaving at around 6. Time for my last dinner in that beautiful city and a good sleep before packing up and heading to my next destination. I was so tired that I ate at the taverna right outside my door. Potatoes in a graviera sauce were divine. I was surprised that the raki here actually didn’t taste like rocket fuel. Because it was mastika. Much nicer.
Happy to report that Cornelius is still safely travelling with me.