Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Greatings from Paleohora--Hiking the E-4 to Limmos

Tuesday, June 14, 2011—Paleohora, Crete, Greece

Arrived here in Paleohora almost forty-eight hours ago, taking the bus down from Hania. The town is pleasant, a little beachside hub, a kind of gateway to Crete’s southern coast. It’s also pretty much like most of the beachside areas I’ve been in: plenty of restaurants and hotels/guesthouses to cater to the travelers and not all that much else. The coast surrounding the town is spectacular, though, which is the real reason why I’m here.

Yesterday I explored the coast in a huge way by going on one of the gnarliest hikes of my life. I took the E-4 trail (which starts in Portugal and picks up again here in Crete) along the coast to see an archaeological site called Limmos, which has materials dating back to Minoan times. The hike out to the site took about four hours—and they were some of the best and hardest four hours of my life. The trail (I feel like putting that word into quotes) a challenging series of ascents, descents switchbacks meandering thru the scrubby hills, ridgelines, and cliffs that make up this part of the coast. Below me the whole way was the blue-green Libyan Sea lapping and occasionally slapping into all many of little rocky inlets, coves, and whatnot. Very dreamlike, at times magical.

Though beautiful, this trail is also extremely difficult going by the time it hits the coast east of Paleohora. Hot, rocky, steep, and unrelenting might be the best series of words to describe it. Four hours on this devil’s staircase completely kicked my ass—and I still had four hours more time on it heading home! On the way back I got so hot (dangerously so—I felt the medical need to lower my body temperature.) that I hiked down to a tiny patch of beach and took a much needed dip into the surprisingly cool waters of this part of the Mediterranean. When I was ready to leave I found that my feet had become so swollen and blistered that I could barely get them back in my hiking boots. I was still a couple hours at this point and the rest of my hike home turned out to be a truly painful slog. Despite the fact that I wanted to get home, heat and fatigue forced me to make another stop, at Andry Beach, which is about forty-five minutes out of Paleohora. There I slammed a 500 ml Mythos beer at the snack stand (one of the most deserved beers of my life) and then went for a swim. Later I had the same problems before only worse when I tried to put back on my boots, but I finally hobbled home to Paleohora at 7:00 PM—after leaving at 9:15 AM! (That’s a lot of ridgeline hiking and sun, people.)

This morning I could barely walk. My ankles hurt. My knees hurt. My little toes on each foot are now little more than blisters and there’s a huge blister on my left big toe as well. From the knees down, I’m a mess, in other words.

Still I wouldn’t change a thing. The hike was so staggeringly beautiful that it was worth it. I’m also glad I did it just for the physical challenge of it (I didn’t like all the wimpy pronouncements I’ve been making about the heat, distance, and terrain in my recent diary entries). I feel that I am now over the hump, as far as hiking Crete goes, that I can handle pretty much whatever this place throws at me. It feels good to know that I can still kick as on the trail if I have to …

As for Limmos, the archaeological site I went to see … Meh … Another poorly kept up up under-interpreted site. Worth the hike mainly because the hike to it was worth the hike.

Today, not surprisingly, is a recovery and relaxation day. This morning I went to the market and then spent an hour and a half in an internet café down the street from where I’m staying uploading dairy entries and photos (I still couldn’t get the videos to go up, though). Now I’m back at Andry Beach lying in the sun and writing. Add reading and swimming to what I’m doing now and that will be my day. I really couldn’t do much else even if I wanted to, which I do not—I’m way too blown out in every way from yesterday’s hike (just making it here from town was a rough go).

Tomorrow I’m off on a daytrip to Elafonisi, this reputedly amazing beach area on the southwest coast of the island I’ve been trying to get to for a while now. After that I don’t know. I’d like to head out to Gavdos, an Island about 50KM to the south of here, but the next boat out isn’t till Saturday. I’ll probably start further explorations of the coast east of here—but by ferry, not on foot! I’m not sure if I want to relocate to any of these places or just do day trips from Paleohora. I’ve got a nice inexpensive room here I don’t want to give up and daytrips from this location are, for the most part, totally doable.

The internet café I went to today was run by a nice English woman and we got into an interesting conversation. She’s confirmed my suspicions that tourism is way down this summer. She etsimates that there are only a third of the people that would typically be here this time of year. That’s a huge hit. Thank you Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barrack Obama and all the other un-democratic crony capitalist Wall Street ass-licking faith-based bought-and-sold power scum bags for ruining the world, for turning everything into one giant shell game that has collaped upon us all. Fuck you, you fucking fuckers …

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