chose Platanias (a little west of Chania) as base camp, knowing this place would be packed
with tourists and that we would have some long drives to get to the
mountains we had set our eyes on. But on the other hand, we could enjoy
civilization and a convenient infrastructure.
The morning flight left 7:25am on May 8
from Vigra airport, and rather than getting up in the middle of night to
get from Gurskøya to Vigra, we chose to camp near the airport. The idea
was good, but the consequence was terrible. After spending the night on
a very awkward hump, I woke up with a bad back and a terrible headache
that just didn't want to let go.
in Chania in
the afternoon, I was half dead and vaguely observed Anne obtain the
rental car and driving us to the Porto Platanias hotel. Once
settled in, Anne had to be my (unqualified) chiropractor, and I asked her to do as
many serious heart compressions on my back that she possibly could.
Her efforts paid off, and I was gradually returning to life as I know
While I rested, Anne had found a most excellent restaurant high above Platanias, and once I was back amongst the living, we went up there. We were heartily welcomed by the owner, and had a great evening in a restaurant that the majority of the tourists would never find. After dinner, it was time to call it a day. Mt. Ida - 2456m and the highest mountain on the Crete - was on the agenda for the next day...
was fairly OK when I woke up the next morning, and we started to prepare
for the trip to the Nida plateau and the hike to Mt. Ida. In short, we
reached the top - as well as 3 other 2000m tops in 6h:20m, covering a
distance of almost 20km and ascending 1500 vertical meters. The total
driving time must have been at least 5 hours, and it was pitch dark by
the time we reached Platanias. The hike took its toll, and my headache
was back in full already on the way up the mountain.
Anne once again had to be my chiropractor, and based on the number of ugly (yet good) sounds from my back, she saved my week. And I am forever grateful.
The trip report has already been released separately on westcoastpeaks.com, and can be found here.
a long day in the Psiloritis range the day before, we chose to have a
"resting day". Anne's chiropractor exercises seemed to have
paid off, and I felt quite fine.
We drove to the Gramvousa peninsula to hike the highest top - Geroskinos, and a small navigational misunderstanding led us onto a rough dirt road that gave me the creeps. After driving 10km on this dirt road, we were directly below the mountain and chose to park.
From what I could see
from the trailhead, I got a strong feeling that we would not reach
the summit. But now that we were here, we at least had to give it a try.
We followed a fence up to the ridge, passing a poor sheep (or goat) who had died, stuck in the fence . What a terrible way to go! Once on the ridge, we got the small islands northwest of Gramvousa in clear view. We were - without a doubt - at one of Crete's finest viewpoints.
Upon reaching the north top (approx. 600m), it became clear that this was the end of the road for us. We had a big wall ahead of us, and the ridge we had followed just went straight into it. Driving to the other side and ascend this mountain again was not an option. We decided to try another mountain instead.
we returned to the car, we noticed that one of the tires was flat. My
first thought was if we could fix this ourselves. My second thought was
"nah - I'm not that lucky", and this turned out be a correct hunch.
The spare tire was under the car, along with the car jack. So far, so good. A one-armed wrench was found in the trunk, but there was no way I could get any of the nuts to turn. Despite the poor road, a small armada of small cars were passing, and a couple stopped to help. But the nuts stayed stuck!
We then called the rental company for help, and it took a good while to make them understand that the nuts were stuck. It took even longer to make them understand exactly where we were.
hours later, two guys from the rental company showed up - with a
four-armed wrench. This was the proper tool for the job, and the tire
came off. Even better - they had brought us a new car! And a much better
one than this worn down
They wanted us to come along to the nearest petrol station to fill up the car they took over. One interesting feature with the old car was that a full tank displayed as 3/4 on the fuel gauge. We tried to explain this, but they didn't understand. Arriving at the nearest petrol station, an elder woman filled up the tank. As the guys noticed that the tank was only 3/4 full, they gave her a hard time. It was time to end this quarrel, so I pointed at the gauge and yelled BROKEN! The matter was settled, and we could move on.
we drove to the Rodopos peninsula - a bit further to the east and
closer to Chania. We considered doing the highest top, but this meant driving
on yet another dirt road. Having developed a low tolerance for Crete
dirt roads, I proposed we should hike the top directly above the point where the paved road
It was a short hike, but the view from the top was excellent. Back at the car, we met a local and asked him to write down the name of the top. The guy wrote KOYBAPA, and the hotel receptionist later translated this to KUVARA.
stopped for water and ice-cream in Rodopos - a quite
sleepy village just below the mountain. This was where we
learned that extra tips could result in free cookies (of
variable quality). We left with a feeling that we were the only
customers of the day...
On our way back to Platanias, I suddenly remembered that we had left the key to the hotel parking in the other car. Another phone call to the rental company led us to Aghia Marina - east of Platanias. The people at the rental car office were smiling, finally being able to put a face to this guy who had been calling all day. After a small chat, I left with the key and a strong warning against taking their cars onto 4WD dirt roads!!
was now time for a proper mountain again, and the plan for the day was
Páchnes - the
second highest peak on Crete. As Páchnes was only 3m lower than Mt.
Ida, we figured it would make sense to go there, in case one day these
mountains switched place on the ranking...
The trip report has already been released separately on westcoastpeaks.com, and can be found here.
It turned out be a long day in the mountains; 42km and 9,5 hours on foot, in addition to 1800 vertical meters. The skin under my feet didn't cope, and our plans for other 2000m peaks on Crete got effectively cancelled.
Yet another beautiful morning on Crete, until I tried to stand on
my feet, and yup - this was indeed to be a sightseeing day. We drove to the
beautiful Falassarna beach, where a
coastal rock caught our attention. We asked
about its name at the local tavern, and
Kastri was the answer we got.
After lunch at the tavern, we went over to Kastri to see if there was a way up. At first, it looked quite impossible, but halfway up a route suddenly appeared in front us. After a short scramble, we had the perfect view towards the beach and the Gramvousa peaks. Besides the fact that the cliff rock was razor sharp, I will always remember the goat who seemed to defeat gravity...
we went down to the beach for a swim. The water felt a bit cold at
first, but the temperature turned out to be quite comfortable. The swim
got interrupted by 3 kids who had a direct course towards our
clothes - including our wallets and cell phones. We pictured a
grab-and-flee scene, and hurried back.
We got back just as the kids passed by, but they were probably just there for a swim. They left their towels and jumped into the water. I looked at the 1000m long (and practically empty) beach, and wondered why on earth they absolutely had to pick this spot...
We continued our west coast tour
towards the south. It was fun to drive along the winding roads and see the
"back-country". Above Cape Mouros, we noticed a small mountain top with antennas
on top. A service road was leading up to it, and I figured my feet would stand
the last walk for the day.
In addition to the antenna, there was a small chapel (Aghia Iliás) on top. We had a pretty good view towards the west coast from here, and according to my GPS and the GPS map, this top would qualify as a perfectly good mountain top (primary factor = 100 metres or more). Now I was in a real good mood.
drove to the Kefali village, where we had lunch and a nice view towards
the mountain we'd just visited. The lady at the tavern said the mountain
was called Profitis Iliás. We understood
that naming mountains in Greece is done differently than we're used to
After a nice goat meal (local goat!), it was time to get back to the hotel. We passed the Topolia gorge on the way home. The road was rather spectacular, carved into the cliffs, with tunnels and traffic lights! Man - so much to see and too little time...
Another sightseeing day, and we
drove up to the Samaria Gorge - perhaps the most popular tourist
attraction on Crete. This gorge is 13km long - among the longest gorges in
Europe, and always crowded in the tourist season. It would of course be nice to
have done the walk, but there was no way my feet would carry me all the way.
Besides, having done Barranco de Argaga on La
Gomera in January, we were in no acute need of gorges.
It was nice to see Páchnes (- the reason why I could barely walk...) across the valley. We bought a couple of maps at the visitor's centre and drove on.
top was Sougia - a dozy village by the south coast - once a popular
hippie hangout. A few tourists had found their way down here, but remote
as it is (relative to Chania) it was indeed a quiet place. We had lunch
at a tavern and I felt I was getting a bit restless. We'd seen so many
nice tops along the way, and we still hadn't been to any.
We drove up to
Koutsogerako - a tiny village above Sougia. I wanted to see how far
up the mountain the road would take us, but the road stopped in the
village. I'm not sure if tourists have ever been up here, because an old
man couldn't stop staring at us. He yelled and waves at us (smiling),
but we didn't understand anything. His wife came along and waved too. I
think they wanted to invite us to dinner, but we politely declined. We
gave them a Norway calendar and drove on. I Wish I knew what exactly
went on up there...
As we approached Temenia, a cool
mountain top appeared in front of us. A signpost said YPTAKINA, and this was
later translated to Yrtakina (or Hyrtakina). Yrtakina was an ancient city, and
"according to" Greek naming conventions, the mountain would get the same
We chose a rather steep ascent route, and it wasn't obvious that the would find a way up on this side. After a short, but very exposed scramble, a small gully (or cleft) had to be crossed. This was an YDS 4 crux, and darned fun!
The remainder of the route to the top was trivial, and yet another Crete top (the 7th in 5 days) was in the bag.
was fun from beginning to end. In addition to the fun ascent route, we
also picked a very cool descent route which included huge boulders and a
fun forest with lots of interesting stuff.
Back at the car, we weren't sure about the mountain name, so we stopped at the tavern in Temenia to ask. It's very hard to describe "what is the name of that mountain" with just arms and fingers, and the owners of the Taverna didn't seem to fully understand. I pointed towards the mountain and said "Yrtakina ???", and this was the trigger point. They nodded and repeated "Yrtakina, Yrtakina.." And then they wanted to show us the direction...
I got a bright idea and picked up the camera from the car. After showing the pictures, the situation was under full control. The man explained lively to his wife and an elder woman who apparently was his or her mother. The name Yrtakina must have been repeated 10 times. With a proud mine, the man pointed at himself and then up in the air, probably to say that he was a mountain man too...
As a courtesy, we decided to buy
some beer and water. They seemed to be very concerned regarding the beer, and
the woman kept turning an "air wheel" to say that drinking and driving was not a
good idea. So how do you say "no worries, we'll not be drinking until tonight"
with arms and fingers?
In retrospect, they were probably not used to the concept of "take away" either, and we tried to resolve the situation with 2 Euros in tips. This resulted in more waving. Two large pieces of cake were now brought out from the kitchen, and it was clear as daylight that we had to sit down and eat. The whole event was utterly amusing, and after finishing ALL of the cake, we were at liberty to move on...
had already begun to enjoy this type of vacation - car sightseeing with
an occasional mountain top here and there. I was in no particular to
rush to get home (I normally get quite restless after one week of
vacation), and could easily spend another week like this one.
There were so many impressions, and so much to see. I made up a short list of things that repeated itself everywhere we went;
Our last hiking day on Crete, and my feet still didn't allow for
any big mountain projects. Thus - yet another day of sightseeing. As we had
covered nearly every road on the western side of Crete, we decided to go to
Drapanos (500m+) - a small top on the peninsula east of Souda bay.
In short, we never made it to Drapanos, mainly because of a road that was private property and fenced in. Hiking in shorts was just not compatible with off-trail terrain, and after wasting hours on this silly mountain, we drove down to the beautiful Almyrida beach where Anne finally could snorkel. It looked fun and I should have come along. But a) my feet had band-aids all over and I didn't want to get them wet, and b) I was so pissed off over Drapanos that I could easily forget to breathe...
might have tagged the pictures with "snorkling" - without the 'e'. Sorry about
Anne enjoyed the waters at Almyrida beach, I started looking at a
potential hike to a mountain directly above Chania. On a Crete roadmap,
this mountain name seemed to be called Zourva.
Once Anne returned, we packed our gear and headed in the direction of Zourva. Over the week, I had become a certified Crete driver, and really enjoyed driving around on the island. Except for a short leg between Chania and Platanias, there are only two lanes on the western side of the island. But for all practical purposes, there are four.
Newbies (or those with
really slow cars) are advise to drive on the road shoulder, while the
rest of the traffic runs in the middle of the two lanes. Both ways
require focus, as; a) the road shoulder may end without a notice,
or b) there is a newbie in the opposite direction who does not
understand these rules, and the car overtaking him/her is now in your
Near Malaxa, we located a narrow
road that took us in the direction of Zourva. When the road turned into a dirt
road, we parked and continued on foot. We passed a house with a broken gate, and
got a slight scare when four dogs came running towards us - barking loudly. A
short instruction from inside the house made all the dogs stop in an instant. As
this seemed to be the only way back, we didn't exactly look forward to the
return hike. An Englishman we had spoken to the day before, had warned us about
dogs. In a pack, they can be quite threatening.
We made it to the top of Zourva (our 8th and final top), and had a very nice view towards Chania/Hania. Upon descent, the gate by the house had been fixed and the dogs were no longer a threat.
Later on, we returned to Platanias and spend the last evening in the same way as our first - in the small restaurant, high above the town. On the next day, we flew directly back to Ålesund, and the journey was quite smooth.
I sincerely hope I get a chance to return to Crete and explore the east side of this beautiful island.