We had each identified our top three things we would regret not seeing or doing on this trip. One of mine was Santorini, and now after being there twice I hoped to never return again. Heather picked hiking the Samaria Gorge in Crete. I spent the first weeks of our trip dreading the hike and hoping she would change her mind. I have always had bad knees and worried I would be able to do it. I never told Heather this but in the end the hike and memories surrounding it are a highlight from that trip. Since then I try to include a hike in each of my travels and have never been disappointed by the effort or vistas.
Our ferry was late arriving in Crete. All of the buses had left and we had to get to the other side of the island. Our schedule for the hike was tight, leaving it at the end of our trip. 24 hours. That’s what we had to find a place to crash for the night, do the hike, and then catch an 11 hour ferry ride back to Athens and our flight home. Taxi it was.
Typical of our experience in Greece, our driver heard our plan and became very concerned about our timeline and decided he would help. The hike we knew was slated as a 6 hour hike. If we wanted to be done in time to fit our schedule we had to catch the bus heading up to the summit of the hike early in the morning. We were visiting weeks before tourist season and there were very few places to stay. I can’t recall why, but Crete was the only place we didn’t have pre-arranged places to sleep.
Immediately arriving in Chania, our driver took us to his friend’s place. There we stood in a vine draped courtyard while three men, the taxi driver, his friend, and his friend’s father, assumingly discussed where we would stay in their mother tongue. That moment stays with me. It was night. The sky was black. Cement, vines, and Greek surrounded me. I thought it couldn’t have been more perfect.
It was decided: Heather and I were to stay in their hostel still closed for the season. This was not to be the last time I was astounded by their generosity and kindness. We set the alarm and crashed for the night.
In the morning we walked to the bus station, ready to start our day. Although uneventful, the bus ride left many foreigners woozy with motion sickness from the hairpin turns up, up, up narrow roads. When we arrived we took no time starting the hike down, down, down stairs for hours, covering 1,250 meters. I watched my feet as much as the majestic view.
Marching ahead of Heather, she let me set the pace. I giggle now when I think of how fearful I was of my knees and there I was hiking down a gorge with a gal who had had a knee surgery and was wearing a knee brace.
We stopped at the midway station with many from our bus. An older German man had fallen somewhere along the climb and had torn up his hands. Doctoring him up with band-aids and antiseptic gel we started on our way again fearful of seizing up and not being able to go further. I was sore, sweaty exhausted, and having the time of my life. We passed mountain goats, men with donkeys tasked to help those who couldn’t make it, boulders, foliage, and imposing mountains.
We arrived at the most beautiful beach on the Libyan side of Crete. I can’t recall if it was truly the most beautiful beach or just very welcoming after that grueling 5 ½ hour hike. That’s right; we completed the hike a ½ hour shy of the 6 hours. Proud of ourselves and utterly exhausted we changed, with little care for modesty, into our swimsuits on the golden sand. We were eager to refresh in the crystal blue Libyan Sea.
I still beam as I recall us laughing to the point of bursting as we were beaten around by those vigorous waves while our German friend floated by with this bandaged thumbs up. Nothing had ever felt so good.
On the ferry back to Athens we lay on our top level bunk beds listening to the family below us sleeping, thanking God for the wonderful day and the people we had met. The father who owned opened his hostel to us the night before had been at the bus station anxiously waiting for our return and cheerfully saw us off. Somehow in that 24 hour period he had become our Greek father.
This memory was taken from my novel in progress and was inspired by Theme Thursday's prompt of Sand.