Packing it in. Crete.

    The Gorge Walk.

    To come to Crete and not walk through a gorge or ten would be to miss out on an important part of the island’s physical make up.

    Although the island is only 35 miles across at its widest point, its mountains are high with many peaks over 2000m.

    Deep gorges lead down from the mountain ridges. The majority of the stone is porous grey limestone so there’s no water unless it has rained recently, or the snow is melting. 

    This makes for great walking. Blinking hard going, but worth it.

    In the last few months we have taken on many gorges. We’ve seen flowers we’ve not seen elsewhere. We’ve had eagles and vultures wheeling above us. And once we were accompanied for a few miles by a large herd of goats.

    GorgeLife. Hard, even for goats.

    Rouvas Gorge.

    On Saturday 30 May we woke at Votomos Lake above the spring water town of Zaros. It’s a peaceful haven of green. Huge carp nudge terrapins in the spring fed water and day trippers come for the café and a few photos.

    Cruising’. Terapin. Votomos Lake.

    Few of them venture to the Rouvas Gorge.

    Up to the edge of the café all is calm, there’s well watered grass, comfortable outdoor furniture, a smiling waiter waiting to tend to your every need.

    Immediately beyond the café there is a steep shale path that promises sweat, scratches, aching muscles, vertiginous drops and utterly stunning views that will be hidden from everyone else.

    The trek up to the little church of Agois Ioannis is only 10kms. That doesn’t sound bad, but there’s a warning hidden in the expected time required – 4.5hrs. We had no illusions about making it to the church. 

    No country for old men.

    We set out planning to get to a look out point a couple of kms from the top, and by then the way was very hard going. 

    At times the path is extremely narrow, with loose shale under foot and a drop of a hundred metres or more. You daren’t look down. There are occasional safety barriers that are worse than useless. They’re completely rotten and likely to snag you with a rusty nail. Yet somehow you feel better with one between you and the drop. 

    “I can see the top. And I’m not going there!”

    On a stronger day I’d like to do the full walk. Today though we were delighted with what we did. In the afternoon we were happier still to join those civilised folk at the café for fava, Greek salad and the best chips we’ve had in ages.

    Monastery with a view. Rouvas Gorge.


    Half an hour of continuous descent later we were parked up harbour side at Kokkinos Pirgos and strolling among the beautiful and carefree youth on the beach.

    We had promised to eat in the van. That’s hard when the sun’s shining and the cafés are luring us in.

    BeachLife. Kokkinos Pyrgos.

    Agia Galini.

    A week before lockdown two tired and hungry Wanderers arrived in the port of Agia Galini to eat a superb Sunday lunch. The La Strada restaurant looked like it hadn’t changed in decades and the old boys who run it were happy for us to move our table into the street to follow the sun. There were few cars, and when one came along we simply carried the table out of the way, then back into place.

    We wanted to go back there. We could see the town along the coast from our spot in Kokkinos Pirgos and the drive took less than half an hour, but alas La Strada hasn’t emerged from lockdown. We hope the old men are OK.

    Favourite boat. Agia Galini.

    Kostas on the seafront was busy with locals and served us well. 

    The evening was made by an hour or so at a true local’s backstreet hangout with beer, raki and a meze of boiled eggs, cucumber, strong little olives and a fava like paste. 

    “€10 please.” “Are you sure that’s enough?”

    Plastic free.

    Last winter I ranted often about the littered state of the Peloponnese beaches, and the Greek attitude to finishing whatever and leaving the packaging right where the last mouthful was taken. We did what we could to clean up, often filling a large bin bag and taking it to a skip.

    Plastic beach. Elafonisos.

    It has been better this year. It feels like there has been a majority shift in attitude, but litter is still a huge problem.

    This week the government has announced that it will do something about it.

    In twelve months it will ban all single use plastics, starting at its own facilities.

    That is a huge step!

    The Greeks put every item they buy into a plastic bag, then put that plastic bag into a plastic bag.

    Plastic bags will go.

    The Greeks are mad for coffee. The shift from the old style cup of sludge to the modern frappé is almost complete. Many Greeks seem unable to drive without a takeout frappé in one hand and a phone in the other. They have even reduced their smoking because they don’t have enough hands. 

    Coffee cups litter for miles around every urban centre.

    Coffee cups will go.

    So too will plastic food packaging. It’ll be a challenge for the food producers, but one that they know is coming and will help prepare them for other countries.

    Water bottles. Water bottles will be interesting. You see many people wheeling trollies from supermarkets piled high with nothing but bottled water. I can’t think what the bottling plants will do, but as many are owned by Pepsico and Nestlé I’m sure they’ll find a way.

    This is a grand gesture, and after the success in containing corona we have to hope that it might just work, and catch on across Europe.

    As I write.

    Suddenly I’m surrounded by nervous tinkling sheep. A flock of several hundred are being moved from their night time safety to their grazing on the hills. They stink, but they’re lovely and their music is the soundtrack of the Greek countryside.

    “Let’s take the kids for a walk.”

    Roadside flowers.

    Low coastal roads are lined with gaudy oleanders, mostly pink, occasionally white.

    In the mountains broom holds sway, its yellow flowers bright against the fresh green rain washed stems.

    There’s often an overlap. A riot of colour against the dull greens of the drought tolerant olives and carob.

    In the hedgerows it’s the turn of the taller plants, and most are shades of mauve and purple. 

    Jasmine and honeysuckle sweeten the air.

    The hedgerows now tower over my head. Largely purple.

    Nikiforas Fokas.

    Right now we’re pretty central in the country. High in the mountains where those dull greens have given away to brighter vines, and a number of potato fields.

    Our views reach for miles, including to the sea, and this would be a paradise were it not for the flies. Thousands land on you when you stop moving. 

    I can write outside now because a strong wind has got up, it’s a tad chilly, but that’s better than being buzzed off.

    Nikiforas Fokas. The view. The flies.


    During lockdown we cycled everywhere unless the crazy mountain winds were howling. 

    I filled the van with diesel in early March and then hardly used it for ten weeks. I haven’t gone so long without buying fuel for any of the years that I’ve owned a car. How ironic then that the price should drop to a level we haven’t seen in decades. It’s less than a pound a litre most places, so when more was needed we filled ArchieVan with Shell Super V Power Angry diesel in the hope that there’s a grain of truth in the advertising claims about its engine cleaning abilities. I feel proud of our incredibly low resource consumption.

    No one got rich selling us fuel. Tzermaido.

    Kalyves. O Mitsos.

    In January and February Kalyves became our unofficial base. The place we’d come back to. We ate out a bit. There was a call to arms in a restaurant and every man ran out into the street grabbing chairs, bottles and other available weapons. They ambled back in, there was no fight.

    We stocked up on more unusual requirements (fennel seeds, mustard too). We swam. We showered. There was even a decent loo.

    So yesterday returning to Kalyves felt a bit like coming home.

    New coat for an old dog. Polly at Kalyves. Thanks Sam.

    Thanks to a recommendation from a friend we went to a chicken grill place that has tempted me every time I walked past. 

    O Mitsos is basic, really basic. They sell grilled meat, great chips, beer and not much else. And it’s fantastic. Two of the staff are stick thin, the rest enjoy the product too much, all are fuelled by nips of Raki each time they pass the bottle. 

    Two dinners, two beers, €12.

    We’ll be back.

    Long legs and hot chicken. O Mitsos. Kalyves.

    You could just sit on the beach…

    This first full week back on the road has brought home the incredible variety available on Crete.

    In seven days we have travelled less than 150 miles. We started at a mountain lake, walked a gorge, then drove down the road to sample beach life. We had a night in port, spent another on a central mountain with incredible views untroubled by anything but flies, then returned to quaint Vamos. By then it was only Tuesday. We visited old friends in Kalyves and lay on the beach, we finished up hot in beautiful Chania.

    Kokkinos Pyrgos. Generally basic. Except this show off pad.
    Dragons fly late in the mountains. Nikiforas Fokas.
    The roadside shrine, where no one comes anymore.
    Mountain van. Nikiforas Fokas.

    14 Replies to “Packing it in. Crete.”

    1. Anita Franks says: Reply

      How lovely. It’s like being there with you. I should have been in Kalives next week eating at that chicken shop 😢
      Which port are you heading to – Souda or Kastelli Kisamos?
      Looking forward to next blog.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply


        Thank you!

        It would be a great time to be in Kalyves. There are nowhere near as many English as usual!

        The chicken shop was excellent. We went twice.

        We hoped to stay in Xania over the weekend but it was too hot so now we’re on a little beach on the peninsula above Xania with a good breeze. It’s called Kounoupidiana There’s a strange town at the top of the peninsula called Stavros that we like and we’ll head there tomorrow.

        The trouble with the van is that if there’s no shade it just gets hotter and hotter. We’ll go back to Xania though, I promised dinner at a favourite restaurant to the west of town.

        We love getting blog comments.

        Thank you!

    2. Gillian Cooper says: Reply

      Hi guys
      Luv the blog again you must spend so much time writing don’t know where you get all the info
      Create sounds to be a very small island but so much stuff to write about on such a small island
      Polly looks good she will feel much better and cool
      The weather has turned here raining blowing the rain is good for the garden
      Fingers crossed the sun will soon be back
      Stay safe
      Hugs to PP
      Luv D&G💕🍷🍸🍹😎

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        thanks Gill
        We’ve enough heat for everyone here.
        We had to move on today as there was no shade in the town.
        Now we have a pleasant breeze and we can enjoy the sun rather than cursing it.
        I hope it doesn’t rain for long.

    3. Annette Armitage says: Reply

      Just read your lovely blog waiting in the rain outside Morrison whilst Martin does our shopping. It transported me to a place of beauty momentarily 😂 should have been in Mykonos last week, but hey ho, we’ll make it next year. Love to you both x

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Hello Leeds.
        You sent Martin shopping? Isn’t that risky, Manchunians love spending money….
        Great to hear from you. This must be the best time to be in Greece, most things are open, but there are few people. Being English does stop few folk in their tracks though.
        We’ll see you before too long.
        Love to all. KC

    4. Well at least you are on the move again, which to some extent we here are too, naturally this fact did not escape the attention of the weather controller, who immediately turned down the gas a few notches and the shade temperature dropped in my garden from 25c mid to late morning to 6c at the same time next day, followed by rain and high winds, it is June after all!

      Fuel is an interesting one, I cannot speak for diesel at all, but using the fancy Shell and BP in the TR does give me an extra few miles per tank, but not enough to cover the extra cost, however they were designed to run on a higher grade than bog standard anyway. My late friend Dr Joe Penney that, I mentioned to you when you were here, had diesel Range Rovers and he said it helped with the emissions and improved the MPG too.
      The current bonus of course is the price; I recently filled the tank of heating oil at a fraction of the price I paid last year for the same quantity, the only downside is it has fired up with this current weather!

      Stay safe and enjoy your travels.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Good to hear from you.
        Blimey, that’s a temperature drop! Mind you, as we bask in near 30 degrees here there’s still snow around.
        The smart, or at least expensive, fuel is a con really, but on the diesel it’s mostly about engine cleaning. The Passat (250,000+ miles) would occasionally go limp on us and while VW would recommend an expensive flush and new injectors, the independent garages always said to use a few tanks of the expensive fuel. It seemed to work, but then in the later years I was more gentle with it.
        It’s great that you had an empty heating tank when the price was low, perhaps you should build a little fuel bunker and buy a lifetime supply…
        All good here, challenged by the heat at times, but in no rush to travel north.

    5. Keith Giddens says: Reply

      What a blog! It was like being with you for a week. And those gorges. Wow! Not sure my decrepit old knees would take the strain….especially on the downhill route. The photos are wonderful and really help us to follow ( and enjoy) your adventure. Polly looks a bit like Amanda after her first shearing! Elegant and imposing. Back home Boris seems to have lost the plot with hordes of trippers descending on our beautiful homeland whilst the vast majority of residents continue to follow the guidance and stay close to home. There seems to be no real plan and there will be further misery ahead. Liz and I continue to walk locally, garden and polish dear old Ethel in the hope that we may be able to take to the high road sometime soon Very doubtful though! Would be wonderful to see our grandchildren who we have not seen since Christmas. Hey ho. Love to you both.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Thanks Keith.
        Good to hear from you as always.
        Yes, it sounds like it’s time for them to throw up their hands and admit that it’s up to people to be cautious, but that the government has given up.
        Maybe take Ethel down the Cot for the weekend…

    6. Gail Holman says: Reply

      Saved your blog to read on a (rainy) Sunday morning with coffee in hand and A dog on My knee. The simple pleasures are the best.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Morning Gail
        Ah, that sounds good.I think it’ll be a while before we see another wet Sunday, the temperatures are rising. When it does rain it comes in a massive storm that terrifies the pooch. For now she’s happy with a cooling swim before breakfast.
        Best wishes. Kelvin.

    7. Rachael Smart says: Reply

      Love this blog. Your walk looked epic and the sort of challenge I’d relish at the minute. I’d still kill for your sea swims.

      1. Kelvin Collins says: Reply

        Great. I’ve got an excuse to write to you. I wanted to mention Sebastian Barry. I’m rather taken with Irish writing. Yesterday I started The Secret Scriptures. Time and again I have to stop, read back over a paragraph, and wonder at the beauty of his writing.
        And the sea. Sea swimming is potentially boundless, and so I count my strokes to ensure I go far enough, but not too far. Generally two hundred right arm strokes out. And whatever it takes breaststroke coming back. The counting clears my cluttered mind and I think of nothing. It’s an escape. It also means that I can stand the heat for the next hour.

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