Crete: day 4
Giorgios Drakoulakis brought us to the head of the Samaria Gorge at 8 am and we started down the Xyloskylo (the wooden steps). This is the steepest part of the hike with a wooden railing and in some places, wire mesh overhead to protect from falling rocks. These precautions protect the hordes of tourists in flipflops who gallop down the gorge without stopping to smell the dittany. Needless to say, we slowed down enough to enjoy the view. That being the point.
Rather than give you a list of facts and figures (that's what Wikipedia is for), I'll let my camera do the talking.
Hundreds of cairns mark an early turn in the trail. Cairns upon fallen trees. Cairns upon cairns.
The kri-kris of the Gorge are endangered. Perhaps they should be more leery of humans.
At the bottom of the gorge the walls are only 3-4 meters apart.
Two kilometers beyond the end of the gorge is the village of Agia Roumeli. It's a tiny place: four or five hotels, as many restaurants, and a few stores that sell postcards, sunscreens, and towels. Most gorge-hikers book a day package: leave Chania before sunrise, drive to Omalos, hike the gorge, swim at Agia Roumeli, ferry to Sfakia, then bus back to Chania in time for dinner. Not our style.
We opted to spend the night in Agia Roumeli. It was a very quiet place after the last ferry boat left...just what we were looking for.
a post-hike snack overlooking the black stone beach
The difficulty of hiking the gorge isn't because the trail is hard to find, or super steep, or offers no shade. It's difficult because it's 16 kilometers, ALL DOWNHILL. Hmm...you say...all downhill doesn't sound so bad to me. Trust me, any motion, repeated constantly for six hours, will take its toll. After a few hours' rest our calf muscles seized up at the smallest movement; simple tasks such as standing up or climbing stairs were so painful we had to laugh at our own pathetic-ness.
And so, after supper, we limped up to bed.