Sunday, June 30, 2013

Patmos - Double-Edged Beauty

Wednesday, June 26, Skala, Patmos, Greece
Patmos. Still air, humidity. Heat. Kind of like a cross between the Island Greece I've been experiencing and what I've always imagined Mississippi would be like in the summer (but not quite that oppressive).

I'm camping at a campground called Stefanos, just outside the island capitol/port of Skala. This is easily the hottest, most consistently humid place I've been in the Greek isles; it doesn't really even cool off that much at night. I woke up this morning at around six and for a while just lay there atop of my sleeping bag looking out thru the white mesh of my tent. A lot of the camping spots are separated by stands of bamboo. Between this and the hot still air (no morning freshness at all), the place seemed swamp-like, malarial (adding to this feeling was the slight head cold I've picked up). Strange feelings. Not particularly happy ones. This was the first morning I've woken up and really didn't want to be where I was …
All of this ties into my generally confused feelings about this island—it's not quite what I expected and overall I'm not enjoying it all that much. It's a beautiful place, greener than all of the others I've visted. The light is different here too: it's richer, more varied: hues of pink and orange crowding out the lemon yellows that dominate places like Crete, for example. It also has nice beaches, still as ponds, tucked deep into inlets, rich pale greens, deeper blues … But there's a cultural vibe here that's rubbing me the wrong way—the place is a little snooty, while also being a touch conservative. There seem to be more rules here than other places in Greece I've been too (when I'm saying this I'm not quite sure what I mean—I'm dealing more with general vibes more than anything I can quantify). There seems to be too much money here, both local and imported (it reminds me a bit of a little Greek Santa Barbara). Fancy yachts in the harbor poking my inner Marxist. Cruise ships anchoring off shore, dumping off tourists (including many Americans, who I otherwise rarely run into in Greece) so they can shop in town, buy the same crap they can get pretty much anywhere (is this all these kinds of travelers experience of the islands they visit?). Bah! …

Yesterday I had what turned out to be terrible idea. I decided that it might be interesting to explore the island on bike, so I rented one (for 4 euros a day). I quickly discovered, though, that the mountains I had to cross were way too steep. This combined with the heat made things pretty miserable. Including about an hour and a half stop at a beach on the north eastern shore, I was out with the bike for about six hours. Despite the fact that I drank a lot of water, I was completely dehydrated by the time I turned it in. I was also exhausted. The dumb thing is that the inclines were so nasty I probably ended up pushing the bike for a bout a third of the distances I covered—I paid money for the privilege of pushing a bike! Still the downhills were stunning and it was a good work out (both the hills I rode up and those where I had to push). I WILL NOT be doing that again, however. Not unless I find myself on a relatively flat island …

Leaving here tomorrow, beginning my southward trek. Not sure where I'm heading yet. Leros, the next island to the south seems interesting, quiet, laid back, comparatively empty to what I'm experiencing now. I'm also thinking of just plunging into the touristy aspects of these islands, just to experience it full on, which would mean going directly to Kos, which looked ritzy, but also absolutely beautiful from ferry (it stopped there on the way to Patmos).  Not much planned today. Think I'm going to hike up to the old acropolis above the city. Maybe I will also go to an inland town called Hora, which looks like it could be interesting. But again, the heat is making me lazy: I could just find a cool place and hide today …

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the stupid night I had in Rhodes Town on the way here. The ferry from Kasos got in at about two in the morning. It was a Saturday night and Rhodes Town (on the northing tip of the island of Rhodes), which is a major party destination, and it was going off: bad, Euro-electro disco was pouring out of bar after bar and drunk people were staggering everywhere. But every potential place to stay was locked up tight. So I ended up hanging out with this Chinese-Australian girl (very cute) who came in on the same ferry, mainly because we both just needed someone to kill time with. Forever it seemed we tried to hunt down places to stay and then we finally settled in at an eatery that stayed open till four. After that we just hung around the town waiting for daylight, for something open up (which didn't happen till even later than usual because it was a Sunday). I didn't get to bed until about nine that morning. Long, weird, sleepless night. Half fun (because of its weirdness factor mainly) and half annoying …

Around the Harbor in Patmos

Home Sweet Home

My Patmos Rest and Recreation Area

More Patmos Photos later. I'm doing this on battery power and I'm almost out of juice ...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

More Kasos - Impression Improving, Field Notes

Friday, June 21, 2013—Fry, Kasos, Greece

I almost made it to the top of my mountain. I carried out my plan of going straight up the drainage I tested out yesterday. This turned out to be surprisingly easy: it only took me about an hour to reach all the way to the rock dome which topped the mountain. The reason for this is there weren't really any tough spots—there were plenty of toe- and foot-holds and the drainage really never got very steep, even as I neared the top. Once I got up to rock dome the drainage petered out. After that I couldn't go much higher. I tried a number of different routes but I kept running into sections that would have essentially had me doing free rock climbing. I wasn't quite prepared for this for a couple of reasons. First off, the routes up I saw that might have worked would have been mighty sketchy if I tried to head back down them. Secondly, I was on my own: if I injured myself up there I had no one to help me. If I'd had a climbing partner I probably would have tried for the summit. Fifty-fifty as to whether I would have made it (I couldn't see what the final ascent would have been like from where I ended up).

Once I made it back down I saw that the drainage just to the east the one I tried might have given me a better chance to make it to the top. It petered out into a saddle between peaks and might have provided me a more do-able way to the top (it might have also been a dead end, though, which would have left me topping out at a lower elevation than I made using the drainage I'd chosen). All in all I'd say today's hike was a great success: It was a good work out, I got some great views, and I showed, for the second time this trip, that my back country knowledge is still sound—I know how to go off trail safely and efficiently. 

 All this said, the countryside here isn't anywhere near as interesting as what I've hiked on other islands (Crete, Gavdos, and Karpathos): it was very dry and uniform, and unlike Crete (especially) the plant communities didn't change much as the altitude increased—there were mostly just changes in the percentages of what I'd been seeing down the sea level. As with everywhere else I've hiked in Greece there was also very little in the way of animal life. There were insects of course—including a species of dragon fly I don't think I've run into before—but not much else. I did see a few legless lizards, though. These are such weird animals. You'd think you might mistake them for snakes, at least at first glance. But that's not really the case, mainly because they are shaped and move like lizard—it's only later that you notice that they don't have legs. I tried to get a picture of one of them, but they were too quick: even though I had my camera handy they were gone long before I could get my hands on it, let alone set up a shot. I saw one of these lizards on Karpathos my last time thru. But I think the ones I saw today were of a different species: their coloring was different and they were a lot faster than the one on Karpathos (I could have touched that one if I'd wanted, it moved that slowly). I need to learn more about these creatures when I get home—they intrigue me.
Getting to the point where I'm almost glad I came to Kasos. I still think if I had it to do over again I would have given this island a miss, but I think I've managed to have a pretty interesting time here. As I've said before, the people are awfully sweet (if a bit reserved) and when I combine this with a good hike it's hard for me to complain too much. Still, I'm looking forward to getting to Rhodes. I don't plan on spending much time there: it's too expensive, big, and touristy for my tastes (I'm mostly heading there to get a ferry connection farther north).  But I really would like to see Rhodes Town again. Last time I was there I was having massive social anxiety problems and really couldn't take the place in right. The Knights of St. John castle was pretty amazing, as was the medieval architecture in general. I'd like to wander thru it in a better frame of mind than last time. The town also features what may be my all-time favorite restaurant It's a touch more expensive than I'm accustomed to, but I get way more than what I pay for—the food and atmosphere are thoroughly wonderful. I'm not very good at spending money, but I have no qualms occasionally throwing down some bucks for top-flight eats: life's too short to be a cheapshit when it comes to this sort of stuff …

Not sure where I'm going from Rhodes. I will check if it's possible to go straight to Patmos from there and if so how long that would trap me on a ferry. If that's not feasible the island of Symi will be my next destination …

Beginning to wonder if there's an unacknowledged bedbug problem in Greece. I'm being overcharged in this hotel, but one of the good things is that I've got an air conditioner, which means I can shut the room up at night and avoid the mosquitoes that have been attacking me since I got here. The problem is I've been waking up all bit up, mostly on my back; to the point where in some places I have so many bites that these areas have become defacto welts. The windows are shut tight, so I don't see how this could be mosquitoes. I had a similar problem last time thru, when I was in Lendas, in Crete. Tonight I'm going to try wearing a t-shirt to see if that helps. Whatever is going on it's unpleasant: I scratch the bites so much in my sleep that I'm bleeding in several spots. No fun …

I've all but stopped drinking beer at home (gluten issues, plus I'm just kind of over it). I'm noticing that after a hike I crave one of the light, salty lagers that are pretty much the only type of beers this country produces. I had one after my hike today, Hellas Pils. It's a brand I haven't run into before and it's definitely the worst beer I've had in Greece: it's a little harsh and has a kind of weird aftertaste. Still it was cold and tasted damn good after several hours hiking up and down a mountain in the hot sun.

Reading Lawrence Durrell's Reflections on a Marine Venus, his memoir of his time spent in Rhodes. I read it years ago and really liked it. I brought a copy with me and have been saving it till I got closer to Rhodes; I'll still be reading it when I get to that island tomorrow evening. It's interesting what reading material works on the road. A Durrell book on Greece is of course an obvious winner. But I've also been reading (and just finished) the first two volumes of W. Somerset Maugham's collected short stories. He's a writer I probably wouldn't touch at home, but his breezy tales of far-away lands (far away from his homeland of England) work really well when traveling. Been seeing Penguin paperbacks of Homer in the mini-marts and souvenir shops. Seems a little spot on to read (or in my case reread) Homer here, but I could definitely see myself dipping into the Odyssey (if not the Iliad—too dark and sad) soon …

As I've mentioned my room has a TV (a real rarity for me, given the types of places I usually stay when in Greece). I've been playing Greek soap operas, Oprah type shows, and news programs in the background (I have the volume really low) when I've been in my room, mainly because since I feel I'm getting overcharged I want to get my money's worth. Plus it's fun. It reminds me of Mexican TV back home: bleached blondes in ugly obvious clothes who look more trashy than pretty leading gossipy discussion about celebrities. It's like being home, except it's been translated into Greek. Watched some Greek comedy show last night. There wasn't an audience or a laugh track, though, so I wasn't quite sure even when I was supposed to laugh. Seemed annoying, kind of like a Greek version of Hee Haw or something …

Looking Down the Drainage I just went up

Just before my upward progress was stopped

View from above

Noticing a trend here

Kasos Thoughts

Thursday, June 20, 2013—Fry, Kasos, Greece

Kasos. The southern-most island of the Dodecanese, just north of eastern Crete. I got here last evening. I've purposefully have delayed writing anything about this place, mainly because I was feeling very reactive when I stepped off the ferry—I felt as if I'd made a big mistake by coming here. I decided that I wanted to get to know the place a bit before I said anything. I've been here almost twenty-four hours now, though, and I think it's time to put down some of my thoughts.

I got off the ferry last night here in Fry (pronounced like “Free”), the island's capitol (population 270, according to Lonely Planet) and my first instinct was to jump into the harbor and make a swim for the ferry that was pulling out. The place looked sleepy in all the wrong ways, run down, drab, lonely. There aren't too many places to stay here, so I grabbed a room at the Hotel Annagennisis (their spelling, not mine), which is right on the waterfront and I thought pretty decent looking. Like I said, there's not much in the way of accomodation here, so not surprisingly, the place is a touch expensive (thirty euros a night), especially considering it's way off the beaten tourist track. But it's turned out to be a pretty good place, luxurious by my standards—I have air conditioning and a TV.

After dropping off my bags I began to explore the town. There isn't much two it: a handful of homes and businesses, and a small port. I immediately felt there to be a mournful quality to the place. Abandoned buildings in the middle of town, including one that I could tell used to be a school house. Broken windows. A tiny little beach next to the port strewn with trash. Brown harsh hillsides surrounding the the town—none of the olive groves of Crete; old field terraces, long-since unused rising two-thirds of the way to cloud misty mountain tops. Heavy, hot air, despite the ocean breeze …The only good thing, I thought, was that the ferry would be back to take me away from here on Friday, less than forty-eight hours away. Then, later, the woman who runs the hotel I’' in told me that it wasn't actually coming until Saturday, that the information I'd gotten back on Crete was wrong (a common occurance in Greece, I've discovered, which sometimes can be charming, but in this case felt tragic).

To distill all this, I wanted out of here from the word go.

But I was stuck here for a while and so I decided to make the best of it. I cleaned up a bit and headed over to Mylos, a taverna right next to where I am staying that Lonely Planet said was pretty good (like accomidation, there’' not much in the way of eats here). The food was good and people who ran the place turned out to be quite nice. Actually most of the folk I've dealt with here seem quite nice: they're pleasant, if a bit reserved: it's like they’re really not used to outsiders here and don't know quite what to make of people like me (I think I was the only non-Greek to get off the Ferry, though I've seen a handful of tourists here since then). After eating I went back to my hotel feeling a bit better about the place. 

My guide book said there really wasn't much to do here, that it was just a kind of quirky out-of the-way spot (that's why I decided to come here—I've had good luck in Greece when I've gotten a bit out of the main travel routes). They did mention that there were a couple of beaches on the north coast to the east of town. So this morning I decided to check them out. The coast here is mostly sandstone outcrops being eroded by some surprisingly strong wave action. Once I got out of town and passed the island's little airport (which for some reason was surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence, which would look quite Soviet in a cooler environment) the road began to run right along the coast, along a sandstone shelf, which was strewn with garbage. Past this a ways I came to the first beach. What a depressing sight. It also was strewn with trash, along with a handful of sad looking chaise lounges and umbrellas, which seemed to be thrown out there kind of randomly. Next to it was a little stack shop. The snack shop was open, but there was no one on the beach. 

 I kept walking until I got to the other beach. It was a little cove that one had to hike down to a bit from the road. It also had a lot of trash on it. The water was also too rough there to safely swim (I could see the undertow and a rip current from the cliff above the beach). I kept walking to till the road ended a little ways away. There I found a monument, it seemed to war dead. The plaque was all in Greek, but there were two dates on it: 1824 and then another one in the 1990s. I assume that the first date is what's being commemorated and the second the date when the monument was erected. 

All long this walk, to the inland side of me, I passed ruins of old buildings farm terraces, churches, etc. That's what gives this island (or at least this part of the island) such a down vibe. At one time this place was very successful, with a large shipping fleet (so large that the Turks felt the need to crush the place before going on to take over Crete) and a strong agricultural base. Now, though, most of that is gone—this place is almost the definition of a depressing backwater. I'm not sure exactly what happened here. Did they never really recover from the Turks all those centuries ago? Did there used to be more water here? Were there political or environmental changes elsewhere that left this place off the main economic lines of the islands? Again, I don't know. But what I feel I'm seeing is people who have regrouped into something without much future. This place is too dry and beachless for any kind of tourist trade and a whatever allowed it to create all those now unused farming terraces (be it environmental or poltical) is long gone and not likely to come back. As I took all this in I began to decided that this is the first spot I've been to in Greece that I truly wished I'd avoided.

Still, I had to make the best of it, I told myself. I can just hole up in my hotel room and catch up on my notebook, read, make plans, relax for a couple of days. It wouldn't be exciting, but it would be restful and with air conditioning I could shut up the place each night (like I'd done the night before) and not be eaten alive by mosquitos for a change (I'm really bitten up right now). I came up with an idea beyond this, though. I decided that seeing if I could summit one of the island's little misty peaks might be fun, and would certainly take the better part of the day. So I decided to do a little test hike on my way home.

I just had my Tevas on, I had only a little water on me and no food, and had started too late in the day for a hike of any significance, so I wandered up a little dirt road that let up into the mountains, just so I could get an idea as to whether or not such a hike was feasible. There really are no trails, but there are lots of old farming/goat paths that lead pretty high up. There are also some rocky drainages that make a relatively straight path up the mountains that look pretty do-able, at least at low altitudes (I went up one of these for about twenty minutes just to see how it would go). Long story short, I think I'm going to spend tomorrow trying to get up a mountain. And if I can't do that I should have an interesting hike at least. It's something do, if nothing else, on an island that features precious little entertaining.

Self Explanatory


One long, hot-ass road

Sitting in Sitia

'Wednesday, June 19, 2013—Sitia, Crete,

(2:00 PM)

Catching up . For whatever reason(s), I haven't felt like writing anything lately, not even quick notes. I think this is a healthy sign. I have a tendency to turn everything in my life into a job. During my last Greece trip keeping a diary essentially became another form of work for me—I began to feel that I had to do it. Maybe my current attitude means that I finally am beginning to  learning how to relax a bit …

OK, a fair bit has happened since I last wrote. First off I'm now all the way in Sitia, in northeastern Crete. I'd been planning on coming here to catch the ferry to begin the Dodecanese part of my trip, but I've made it here a bit earlier than I'd planned. Why this is so is a fairly long story. I'm not sure how interesting of a one it is, though.

I was hanging out in Sougia relaxing a bit and getting lazy even. Because of the later, I was also feeling like it was time to move on. My plan (which was changing almost from hour to hour, so don't try and figure it out from my previous posts here) was to get down to Gavdos for a few days, come back to mainland Crete, and then start heading east to Frangokastello, an area I missed my last time thru Greece. But I fucked up, mixed up the boat times, and missed the boat from there to Gavdos. There wasn’t going to be another boat going from there from Sougia for another week and the ones from Paleohora and Hora Safakilon arrive at Gavdos in the middle of the night. Now Gavdos is backwoods—it doesn't really even have much in the way of lighted public spaces—and setting up a camp there in the dark was not something that thrilled me. So I decided to hit to head for Frangokastello and hit Gavdos on my way back home (I fly out from Hania).

I've mentioned that Frangokastello is one of those places that I can never seem to get to from where I am. It's outside the south-coast boat routes, so my options were to go Hora Safakilon and then hike there (about five or six hours on the trail, I estimate), or go to Hania, from there get a bus to Rethymno, and then take a couple more busses from there. I choose going to bus route, mainly because, even though it would have me covering more ground, between the time lag on the boats and the hiking time, the busses would be quicker (and easier). So I made my way to Paleohora, crashed there for a night, and then caught the 7:15 AM bus to Hania.

By late that morning I was in Rethymno. Then things got confusing. It turns out that my guidebooks are grossly out of date when I comes to the Frangokastello bus routes. Apparently the only way I could get to there by bus involved heading back to Hania and taking a couple more buses from there. I won't go into the details—I’m not even fully sure how it happened—but apparently the people at the Rethymno bus station sold me a ticket to a route that no longer exists. It took me about three hours there to figure this out. By this point I was over it—I had no interest in heading back to Hania and trying to sort things out there. So I decided to deal with pesky Frangokastello on my way home. Then I bought tickets to Iraklio and then Sitia. 

I ended up getting in here about ten o’clock last night (I left Paleohora at 7:15 in the morning). So it ended up being a long annoying day, a slowly unfolding, but ultimately minor glitch …

Some other changes:

My original plan upon heading into to Dodecanese was to go straight up to Patmos, the farthest north island I want to visit, and then island hop my way back down to eastern Crete. The problem is there's no airport there and taking a ferry straight up would be long boring haul (if it's even possible—I’ve yet to track down this info). So I've decided to island hop my way up, hitting the islands I for sure want to visit (and those I have to because of the ferry connections) and then hit secondary places on the way back down (if there's time and I have the money). 

Sitia. An interesting little town. Very much a locals town: it revolves around the needs of the locals, not travelers. Most of the travelers that are here seem to come from other parts of Crete. Non-Greek tourist sprinkled in lightly, like salt. But the people here treat travelers well—they're polite and helpful. A healthy situation here over all, I'd say …

I also like the size of this town—it's big enough to be interesting, but is nothing approaching overwhelming. If I were ever to come here and live for say a year, to write a book or something and learn Greek, I might pick this place as a base. The only problems would be that it's a bit isolated and eastern Crete in general, for reasons I can't really explain, seems a bit lonely to me, like it's outside the mainstream of the rest of the island. Or maybe I just like the vibe of the western part of the island better, where I've spent most of my time here.

Every thing you need while waiting for a Greek Ferry

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hiking Around Sougia

Sougia's another one of those little southwest coast towns that are nestled into the surrounding mountains. It's more my speed than Loutro - it's got a tourist infrastructure, but things are far more laid back and ragged here. The beach is pretty nice - though the sand-to-stone ratio could be better - and there's some great hiking.

Yesterday I went on a pretty gnarly little hike. I started off on the E-4 to Lissos (an archaeology site). Then I noticed that I'd actually jumped from the E-4 to a local trail (the trail markers went from the black & yellow of the E-4 to red). The trail wasn't in my book and I had no idea where it went, but I decided to stick with it, just for something different. It ended up going inland, more or less north. It was pretty challenging to begin with, then it got really hard when it basically shot straight up a high ridegline. This turned out to be really cool, because once I made it about halfway up there I started seeing endemic Cretan mountain plant species, some of which are pretty rare (I wish I'd have thought to take pictures of more of them, for identification purposes later).

Like I said, the terrain was pretty tough, but the real problem was that the trail was poorly marked once it started to rise and for big patches really wasn't a trail anymore - the rare trail markers were really marking a theoretical trail at this point. I've discovered that in this part of Crete it's really easy to go off trail - but this was especially bad. As I went up I kept losing the trail and had to spend a fair amount of time reestablishing myself. I hadn't really planned on a long hike that day (my left ankle, always a problem, was pretty sore from the hiking I'd just done out of Loutro), and I could tell that the trail was either going to keep going inland, maybe deep into the mountains or it was going to curve around the big drainage I started off in and descend into it from the other side. If it did the later that probably meant at least an eight-hour trip. I definitely didn't want to do such a major run (like I've said, my ankle was hurting and I also didn't have enough water with me for that). So I decided to double back.

This turned out to be a problem. The trail was marked in ways that were designed to be seen going up, not down; it became impossible to stay on the trail. The main issue in these situations in Crete is that there often isn't really any difference between the well-established parts of a trail and the many goat paths that criss-cross the mountains. Even if you're really paying attention it's almost impossible not to get sidetracked on them. Well that's what happened to me in a big way. Somehow I really lost the trail, to the point where reestablishing it might have taken hours.I decided the best and quicker thing to do would be to just go down the ridgeline off trail and head for a side drainage that I'd been more or less running parallel to throughout the whole ascent. From there I could make it back to the main drainage where if nothing else I knew I could eventually pick of the E-4. Back in California I probably wouldn't have tried this, mainly because drainage bottoms tend to have so much biomass they're often impassable. But there's so little water here I didn't think that would be a problem.

I turned out to be right: the drainages were pretty clear and it took me less time that way than trying to find the trail again. But, man, it was a total bitch getting thru the scrub brush and, especially since it was a steep run and underfoot was mostly broken stone; I went down four times, once really hard into a very prickly bush. All in all it was fun, a neat little adventure. My legs are a bit scratched up and my socks were so filled with prickles and the like that I decided to just toss them out - they weren't worth the hassle to clean. But other than that no complaints.

Lower Drainage - West of Sougia

 Beginning the Ridgeline Ascent (It was tougher than this looks)

A Species I want to Identify (Plus it's just a pretty shot)

Looking into Sougia from the West

Loutro Photos

Been bouncing around the southwest coast of Crete, Loutro and Sougia mostly. Been alternating between some fairly challenging hiking with lounging on the beach. Haven't felt like writing much.

Loutro is one of those little resort areas that used to be a fishing village, which are basically carved out of the base of the mountains. It's very pretty, but kind of dull. It's also a little too fancy for my taste (it wasn't too expensive, but I bet the prices go way up when things start getting busy). Still it was very pretty, relaxing. Not the most interesting clientel (mostly middle-aged Germans). You also have to hike an hour a way to get to a decent beach - and it's only decent, not great.

Speaking of hiking, I did hike the E-4 trail from there almost to the next town to the east, Hora Safakilon (I went about 3/4 of the way, but then the trail, which moved thru some beautiful but harsh scenery dumped out on a concrete road that went the rest of the way in - no point in hiking that). Also hiked the other way on the same trail, thru what's got to be some of the driest, harshest land on the island. Stunning but spooky ...

View From My Room in Loutro

E-4 Trail West of Loutro

Coast East of Loutro - Notice the E-4 cut into the side of hill

I'm Pretty much done drinking beer in my life, but man this one tasted good after hiking

Next post - Sougia.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Saturday, June  8, 2013—Paleohora, Crete, Greece
(7:50 AM) 
Still jet laggy—fell asleep again early (around 9:30 PM) and was up at around  4:40 this  morning. Sitting in a taverna having coffee, ate in the room. Here mainly to use their “free” internet—I need to alert people back home that I made it to Crete OK …
            Had a shock here when I arrived here in Paleohora—the place is empty. I’d say tourism has dropped between 70%-90% since I was here roughly at roughly the same time of the year two summers ago. I’m getting a nice education as to what the world’s economic systems are doing to Greece—ripping its financial heart out. These islands depend on tourism to provide their people with a decent living. The situation is very grim …

Paleohora morning. Tavernas with a handful of people sitting outdoors drinking coffee, mostly locals, it seems. Cars, motorcycles, and scooters intermittently going by. Little dogs running around (some of which I recognize from my last trip here). Cool weather by summer standards, high 70s to mid-80s. Cooling breeze. A bit too much breeze—the boats out of Paleohora are not running because of the high seas. This leaves me with a decision: hang around here for a few more days mostly lying around the beach till I can get to Gavdos or start my planned hike east along the south coast, towards Frangokastello. Very much leaning towards the latter …

Monday, June 10, 2013—Paleohora, Crete, Greece
(8:00 AM)
Sunburn. Every trip it has to happen once—a consecration of stupidity. Staying out of the sun today. Wondering if I can still hike to Sougia tomorrow—perhaps as much as eight hours under the hot sun. The plan is now to hike to Sougia, then to Agia Roumeli, then to Loutro, and finally Hora Safakilon, from which I plan on catching the boat to Gavdos. Once I’m thru with Gavdos I’ll catch the boat back to Hora Safakilon and hike to Frangokastello. Then … off to Sitia to catch a boat or maybe a plane (eventually) to the northern Dodecanese, all the way to Patmos. Then I plan on island hopping my way back to Crete and exploring the eastern part of the island before I head back over to Hania and then home.

Southwestern Cretan coast—mountains meeting the sea. Little coastal shelving—tides don’t mean much here. Marginal beaches, eroded out of hillsides and cliff walls. A quick descent into cool green-blue water leading quickly to darker, much deeper water. Drought tolerant vegetation holding onto hillsides—deep root systems—browns, filmy greens, ripe plumb purples. The bleating of goats and sheep. How do all these living creatures survive? All seems waterless, save the sea …

Monday, June 10, 2013

Back in Greece

Friday-Saturday, June 7-8, Hania, Crete, Greece 

Hellish trip in. Typical long, boring flight from L.A. to Frankfurt, Germany. Layover there of about three hours. Three-plus hour flight to Athens. Then I got stuck in the Athens airport for a little over 19 hours! New Version of Dante's inferno: Hell is an airport from which your flight never takes off. Crappy expensive airport food sucking away all your money. No place to sleep (you're unable to sleep anyway). Fake, recycled air slowly doing a number on your sinuses. A list of flights and times on the big board, but yours never comes up (or it keeps getting delayed). Light "jazz" coming thru the airport speakers, filtering thru the scene, broken up by bland voices in Greek and English telling you not to leave your bags unattended. This is it - this is your life (of more accurately, your death) ...

Found a cheap room (by Hania standards - 25 euros) in one of the twisted alleyways just off the old Venetian waterfront (sitting on its balcony right now with a cup of Nescafe (a pretty nasty substitute for real coffee - don't quite get why Europeans like it so much) and some Kalamata olives left over from last night's makeshift dinner (they go as horribly together as you would expect, but I don't want to carry the olives with me or waste food). 

I hadn't slept in two days, so after getting my room, yesterday evening I went to a nearby market, grabbed some food, ate, and then crashed hard at about 8:00 PM, to the sound of the gentle tout of the taverna across the alley (just a handful of feet from my bed), the passing foot-traffic in the alley, and voices, Greek, French, American ...

Later, early morning ...

Twisting gentle alley. Soft early-morning air, not yet hot. Bird sounds, distant but everywhere. Few people up. A group of French women (a little too loud for this time of day) arriving at the little taverna (more a coffeeshop really) just below where I'm staying. The sound of an espresso machine. Spoons clinking on glasses, cups. Wonderful early morning Hania - I almost don't want to leave. But I know that the heat will come soon, along with tourists moving thru the alley. So it's an early bus for me, south, to Paleohora ...