We arrived at Balito Hotel at around 2:00 pm and the friendly owner who called herself Greek Mama showed us a couple of rooms. We chose a beautiful apartment with kitchen, tv, a/c, big bed, and huge balcony that faced the sunset. Turns out you can’t go wrong with rooms in Greece, the place was huge and spotless and only cost about $32/ night. About twice more than we like to spend on rooms but well worth it for the cost. The first day there we just hungout by the pool ate a gyro dinner at a local restaurant, and watched some tv on our couch before calling it a night.
The next morning we woke up at around 9:00 am and made ourselves a nice big breakfast as we have done the entire time in Greece. Bacon (impossible to find in the Middle East), eggs, baked beans on toast for me, and yogurt, fruit and eggs for Dariece. Always accompanied by espresso cafe au lait’s, which I have to admit are instant, but still delicious.
We left around 10 am and headed for Elafonisi beach on the southwest corner of the island. Elafonisi is famous for its pink sand. When we arrived we were surprised to see that hardly any of the rose colored sand remained. Years of sand thieves and tourist shops selling the unique grains have depleted the supply to a few streaks near the shore line.
The beach however was beautiful. Crystal clear water rimmed the many sandbars that snaked there way out to Elafonisi Island. We just walked in ankle deep, turquoise sea for a few hundred meters to the island itself. The weather was cloudy and overcast most of the day but it broke up at around 3:00 to reveal the true beauty of the beach.
A beach is like a flower in that way, its true colors only shine through when kissed by the sun. The minute the clouds parted we grabbed the cameras and took some pictures before the sky converged once more and began to rain. We ran back to the car and headed back to our apartment where we drank wine, ate feta and tzatziki and bread, and watched tv until bed time.
Day 3 on the west end of Crete we headed out to beautiful Balos Beach. Again the clouds loomed overhead with an ominous darkness that occasionally poured rain on our tiny car. But again when we arrived at the beach the sun parted the clouds only for about 30 minutes, just long enough to swim and take some photos of one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.
Hiking down to the beach from where we parked the car we could see the deep blue of the Mediterranean and its beautiful rocky shore. But when we came around the last bend on our 2km hike we finally saw what we came all this way for and it was truly breathtaking. The cliffs tumbled down to the sea, revealing a sliver of perfect white sand that cut through the emerald bay.
The narrow sandbar had nothing but a few umbrellas and chairs and we were literally the first people down to the beach. We never get tired of stunning beaches and this one was one for the books. Unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy it long because once again the clouds came and began to soak us on our walk back up the hill to the car.
Day 4 started early, really early, at 6:30am we caught the bus from Hania to Samaria Gorge. When we arrived there was only our bus load and a few other tourists at the mouth of the gorge where we bought our tickets and began the hike. The morning mist was just lifting from the dew soaked valley as the sun peaked up from behind its massive rock face walls. The morning was perfect and was the only time when we had any sort of space between us and other tourists.
We stopped at around 10 for some brunch near a small waterfall just off the trail. That’s when the hordes arrived. Hundreds of hikers from all over Crete descended on the path and we all became ants in a row making our way to the colony. In this case the colony was the town of Agia Roumeli at the end of the hike.
The hike retained its beauty, but lost its serenity, as we followed the path, heel to toe with other hikers, down to the valley floor. A large part of the draw for any hike is being in the peacefulness of nature and enjoying the sounds and smells of it around you. This hike was polluted with chatter, yells, and cigarette smoke from the hundred or so other people on the trail at any given time.
It was frustrating always trying to pass or be passed by the other hikers and although we thoroughly enjoyed it and found some peace slightly off the trail, it was mostly ruined by the crowds. When we reached the bottom we were a couple hours early so we had to wait for the ferry to take us back home. We sat in a little restaurant and rested our EXTREMELY tired legs while feasting on a Gyro Pita (pork skewer with lettuce, veggies, and yogurt wrapped in a pita).
Exhausted, we sat watching the sky close in and again the rain poured down playing a tip-tap melody on the tin roofs of the tiny village. By the time we got home we could barely move and retired to bed after a long shower.
When we woke up the next day our legs were extremely stiff, a 6 hour, 18km hike straight down a few thousand steps will do that to you. We slowly made breakfast and packed up all our stuff and made our way east to Herisonisos to return the car. The man we rented it from, Demitris, was extremely nice and didn’t even look over the car for damage and he even drove us to our hotel.
The whole way there I was watching the gas light-which had been on for about a half hour already before he got in to drive us back to Hotel, LaLuna. Surprisingly the little go-cart made it without sputtering out although I’d be surprised if he made it back to his little shop without having to refuel. At $2.40 / litre I wasn’t about to put a drop more than I had to in that thing!
We spent 2 more nights at LaLuna where we relaxed and hungout by the pool, and enjoyed cooking our own meals for a couple more days before finally packing up our bags (properly) and boarding a bus, to go to the ferry, to go to Rhodes Island, to catch another ferry to arrive in Marmaris, Turkey around 24 hours later.
A typical travel day for us and actually ended up going quite smoothly. As we got off the boat and took our first step onto Turkish soil the excitement of another place woke us from our half slumber the minute we smelled the fresh air of a new adventure. For the next 4-6 weeks we’ll see what Turkey has to offer.