Today our plan was to hike the Samaria Gorge, Crete's second most visited sight. Unfortunately, it was closed until May so we had to find another plan. We still wanted to do some hiking and thought it would be fun to find another gorge. We found Agia Irini, which is nearby the Samaria Gorge, and it's open all year. Our villa is located on the northern coast of Crete and the gorge is located near the southern coast, meaning we had to drive width of the island, which was only about 30 miles. What we didn't think about was that we were driving the width of the most mountain filled island ever. The Googlemaps we searched before leaving said it would take us 1.5 hours. Not too shabby, we got this.
We packed our things and armed ourselves with a map and a general idea of where in the world we were going. THREE HOURS LATER, we arrived at our location. Now let me tell you a little bit about what happened during those 3 hours. First off, we got lost more times than I can count. We started off taking the wrong 'National Road'. There is an old national road and a new national road, we were supposed to take the new one but ended up on the old one. It wasn't too bad of a mistake, they were both generally doing the same exact thing.. the old national road was just a bit more.. hair-pin turn filled.
Our drive did not get any less mountain-y for the next couple hours. The views were astounding and we were soaking it all in! I've never seen so many olive trees, goats, or sheep in my entire life. At one point we were going through a small village and there was a herd of sheep right in the road, at least a hundred! We slowly kept moving forward while they ran around/away from us BAAAA'ing the whole way with their little bells around their necks clanking.
We stopped and asked for directions more than a few times, but it was worth it! While we were at one of our lost points, we stumbled upon this older man and his wife. The conversation went a little something like this.. BHW: 'Hello. Do you speak english? We are lost..' Old Man: 'Where you go?' BHW: (points to map) Old Man: 'Ah, ok.. first you want to ...--' His wife: (interrupting and pulling something from the back of the car) 'Give them cake!' BHW finished his conversation with the man and we got in the car, thanking them both for their kindness. And we were back on our way, with directions, and cake. It was homemade lemon poppy seed, and it was fabulous.
Our drive lasted another hour or so after this conversation until we reached the village of Sougia. This is where the gorge we wanted to hike ended, we decided to park the car there and hike for a bit. The beach area at Sougia is pristine! After our unexpectedly long drive we sat on the beach and ate our lunch we packed before the hike. The weather was sunny and warm with a slight breeze. When we were ready to hike we asked a man at a local taverna where the the gorge came out at so we knew where to start our hike. He informed us that we actually should drive back out about 1.5 miles and park there, that's where the end actually is. We hopped back into the car and found the correct location.
The gorge was beautiful and I'm fairly certain we were the only people hiking through it at that moment. The cliffs on either side of us stretched towards the sky, keeping us in the shade for most of the hike. We hiked for about 1.5 miles and then turned back, we didn't want to drive through the mountains in the dark. The drive home was MUCH faster than the drive there. We were a little more familiar with the roads, and most of it was downhill.
Once home we ate at a hotel right near our villa. We were the only people in there for the majority of the time and I'm fairly certain we're the only Americans in all of Western Crete. There have been a few other 'tourists' but none of them have been American yet.
At our wedding we had the guests vote on where they thought we should go for our honeymoon, and they voted Greece! So, 11 months later, we are finally making the journey! Turkey and Greece, here we come!