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interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
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Chapter Two: The Prewalk.
Part One: Velonado - Kato Rodakino
Thanks to Michael Maloney and Lala for pointing out the errors of some of my ways!


Saturday the 3rd of May 2003
Rude awakenings and the last hurrah!
So, where was I? No, really! Where was I? I had been somewhat rudely awakened by a sound resembling a trombone pressed to the lips of a four-year-old. What was a young child doing playing trombone in my bedroom? And at this hour! This hour? I prised open a sleepy eye - with some difficulty - and looked at my watch, from which the only information I could glean was that I still possessed a watch. The child ceased its cacophony momentarily; long enough for me to recognise the feeling of relief I get when Rex stops snoring. I looked across the room, and sure enough there was Rex, dead-to-world. So, if Rex was here, all I needed to work out was where "here" was. Slowly the jigsaw puzzle that was my fragmented mind on the morning of Saturday the third of May, began to piece itself together and recall the previous evening.

We had decided to eat at the hotel; primarily due to its proximity to our bedroom but also because we felt it was the proper thing to do. Mr Zographakis had been very hospitable and we wanted to show him that we appreciated it. We had eaten well that afternoon down in the lower village, so this evening's meal was not to be a huge feast, though somehow it managed to become one. I had meant to ask for a miso kilo (half litre) of "village wine", but had omitted the "miso" (I don't usually do things in halves, so my vocabulary refused to access the Greek word for "half" or at least I failed to enunciate it properly!). The arrival of a somewhat larger jug than I had expected, altered my choice of what to eat from "just a starter" (which I had already ordered), to a starter and a main course (pasta I believe; or at least it's a fair bet to assume so), as I felt I didn't want to be drinking too much and not eating at the same time (see I have my sensible moments too!). A fine meal was had before Mr Zographakis treated us to an extra litre of village wine and then proceeded to disappear and share a family meal, leaving us sitting there waiting to pay the bill. I have no idea why I felt it necessary to pay the bill that evening - we were, after all, staying in the rooms above - perhaps I had high-hopes of being up-and-away before the family Zographakis arose; fat-chance of that happening...ever! So, we sat and sipped and sipped and sat; I suffered an uncontrollable giggling fit, as we entered our third hour in this state of "waiting for the waiter". By way of apology for their prolonged absence, one of the Zographakis' (there are quite a number of them), brought us some melon and the obligatory tsikoudhia! Uh-oh! It would have been rude to refuse the wine or the raki, wouldn't it? Rude, but wise! Tsikoudhia and its effects, I have briefly documented in chapter one, and "village wine" is also matter of taste. My taste will become accustomed rather quickly to most things containing alcohol - as I am sure you have already learned - with the exception of gin! Retsina is a case in point. My father - a red-head Scot, who'd worked in various distilleries of the Scottish highlands in his youth - once told me how he had hated Retsina until he discovered how cheap it was and determined thenceforth to enjoy at least that aspect of it. Needless to say he also started to enjoy the taste very shortly afterwards. That's one of the great aspects of travel for me; sampling local produce quite often alters ones taste.

With my legs now out of bed I studied my feet and realised that they were demanding to be scratched. "Itchy feet". Not only is this a fine metaphor for the way I felt, but it is also a condition I suffer from when I am anxious - and I was anxious - though this itchiness may have been caused by one or more of the mosquitoes that had serenaded me that night! I headed to the bathroom and with rheumy eyes looked at the pasty-faced figure that had etched itself onto the mirror, mimicking my every move. I felt nauseous, both with anxiety and another feeling that I knew only too well; a hangover for which the "guilty" party had been the wine (not me for drinking copious amounts of it, note!) For the foreseeable future (two days as it turned out!), "village wine" would join gin on my list of "leave well alone".

I had promised myself that the latest I would rise would be 7.30AM, so what the hell was the time? I tried to see if I could obtain any more information from my watch than I had a few moments ago; I couldn't. As my vision slowly improved however, I noticed a wall clock which suggested that it might be 8.43AM. I stood up and decided to have a closer look at this clock, stumbling across the room as I did so, and stubbing my toe on one of the legs of the bed, what was far more painful though was that 8.43 had now become 8.44. Alarm! How could I have been so stupid? This was the day I had been planning for the past two years and now it had arrived I was nervous...no, terrified and to add injury to insult, stupefied from the excesses of the previous night too!

I have strange hangovers; not just headaches and bleariness for me, oh no...it's far worse than that. I suffer from panic attacks. These can be of such intensity that anybody with any sense would immediately take the vow and never let a drop pass their lips again; so no abstinence for me! My introspective anger didn't help either; it never does, but I deserved this fury from the better-part of my remaining brain-cells. Over the past couple of years I had blagged and bragged; told everybody I knew - and others I didn't - at great length of my great plans to walk the "great island". In the warm light of this morning, what I feared most was that I had been lying to myself for all that time. Was I really capable! I certainly didn't look up for anything other than lying down. "Ah come on man, easy-peasy this'll be", a small voice told me; I hardly recognised that voice as mine and I am still not quite sure it was! Very shortly I would find out whether I could walk in a straight line - if at all - with a 15 Kg rucksack on my shoulders, though at least I had chosen a relatively easy first route. The direction would be pretty straightforward - Velonado to Rodakino, via Alones was mostly a southerly course with a soupcon of South-West thrown in for good measure - and I reckoned on six hours at the outside and a good chance for a swim at the end of it all. "That's the stuff, feel better already", I lied, as I stared at this shadow of my former-self and it stared back at me with red eyes, yellow skin, British teeth and no discernible upper-lip. Yep, my reflection looked better than I felt.

How he does it is beyond me, but the boy Rex had woken, dressed and was sitting on the balcony by the time I had showered and brushed my teeth, when only a few minutes before, hadn't he been fast asleep? We headed downstairs to where Mr Zographakis and a hearty breakfast of misithra - a goats' cheese that packs as powerful a punch as his village wine - and bread, greeted us. Mr Z is a man with many strings to his bow and a nephew who runs a hotel in Koraka - the beach resort a kilometre or so South of Kato Rodakino. Excellent, a place to stay. So with this information in our armoury, and bidding our host farewell - promising him that we would return in a month - off we set for Velonado. It was now past 9.30 and as much as I was looking forward to coming back to Argyroupolis, I hadn't meant as soon as we actually did! Ten minutes after setting-off we were back, Rex deciding that the needle of the petrol gauge pointing vaguely in the direction of "empty" was a bad portent. A look at the map, showed the nearest petrol station just East of where we had started, and like the prodigal son there I was, back, and grinning like an idiot, at the man whom I had just told I would "see next month". He confirmed that the petrol station was indeed a kilometre or so East of here and thanking him, we drove-off to find it. I liked Mr Zographakis, but knew that we would be seeing him again once the car's thirst had been sated, as this road  - with the hotel that he was sitting outside - was by far the most direct route to Velonado. I would have preferred to have driven back around Psiloritis rather than have to face the embarrassment of having to say "farewell" thrice, to anybody...even Mr Z, but Rex wasn't with me on this one, and neither was the clock. And so it was that we tooted our horn at our friend for the third and last time.

Beware, I shall be proffering - in graphic detail - the short-comings of the way-marking of the E4 throughout the forthcoming chapters, but for now, let's just say that Rex and I (his navigator!) had tremendous problems re-finding Velonado - a place we had visited from the very point we were driving from, not 24 hours earlier. Two wrong turns and a possible correct one, had there been a road to drive on indicated with horrible prescience, the problems I was to encounter later that day, but we did eventually make Velonado at around 10.30 in the morning and sat down for the second time in less than a day, at the "kafeneion".

The word "kafeneion" conjures up images of old men, sitting around playing their umpteenth game of tavli (backgammon), of the morning, whilst eking-out their "Elliniko cafe" (Greek coffee) - wherever you go in the Eastern Mediterranean, these small "silt-lined" coffee cups go by the name of the country they are being drunk in. Of course it was originally "Arabic coffee", but try telling that to a Greek, a Turk or a Cypriot. In these places a single cup of Greek coffee can keep elderly gentlemen happy for hours; a trick I would dearly love to learn (for me it is a down-in-one experience, but then again, so are most liquids, Perhaps it's learned with age, and if so, I'll let you know by the time I have finished writing-up the walk!). This place wasn't that kind of kafeneion at all. More of a roadside stopping-off point; there for the hikers of this world to rest their weary legs, or to fortify themselves with a shot or two of caffeine before the day's adventures begin. The "Happy Walkers" were back! This time there were a few English speakers among them and I left Rex to enjoy a pleasant chinwag (talk) with a chap named Clive, as I tried to find a "local" or two to quiz on the whereabouts of the "monopati (footpath) Epsilon Tessera (E4)". No luck. Either there was a conspiracy of silence or they had genuinely not heard of it. One chap explained that he was a "xenos" (foreigner) in these parts, and with a grin I asked him if he needed directions anywhere. His look was withering, so I suspected that he didn't. I rejoined Rex, Clive and the other walkers - who looked happier than I - at the cafe and inspected my itchy feet through my boots.

The Walk Begins
I am not sure of the catalyst, but all of a sudden and without warning, I was walking. It was 11.25 AM, and in my own inimitable bent-over-double-shuffle way, there I was, on-hoof. I felt - and probably looked - like a toddler, with the expectations and fears of those gathered at the roadside cafe aiding my advance, as they cheered and applauded...silently. With these lofty thoughts, I heard my first genuine words of encouragement.  "Hang on a minute" shouted Rex and asked to borrow my camera, to take a picture of "Tsaksonakis" (my Cretan nickname), as I at last put my best foot forward. "See you between four and five this afternoon", I confidently advised my friend.

The thrill of the first few steps had a splendidly cathartic effect on me; this was it and I was actually doing it. I have no idea how many hundreds/thousands of times I had envisaged this particular moment and when it finally arrived it felt like the albatross - which had been decomposing around my neck for the past two years - had finally been lain to rest. My rucksack contained enough clothing to "see me alright" for a month, but I had taken a mere one and a half litres of water with me. Now that is stupid at the best of times, but especially when its 25c in the shade - of which I would have none (!) - and you know it's just going to get hotter! My justification for this was that my five hour walks in England, rarely had me drinking half that quantity and I was expecting this particular walk to be no more than six hours at the most, with water available - either from natural sources, or at Alones the only village I would pass through - on route. I had supposed that I would need no more than a litre of water for this little trek, and I had taken 50% more than that. I had supposed erroneously!

The path out of Velonado heads West. Within two minutes of the "kafeneion", there is a break in the road which takes you in a South-Westerly direction. This is the path I chose and if you wish to follow the E4, I can tell you from now, and without fear of contradiction, that it's the wrong one!  From these generally correct beginnings, the path swings round to the East and for a while takes you North-East. I had heard all about the mysterious ways of the E4 and so chose to ignore the fact that I was heading rather rapidly towards Psiloritis, and thus quite clearly in the wrong direction. Rising to 2456 metres (8058 ft), Mount Ida is pretty hard to ignore and after approximately twenty minutes of satisfying but sweaty walking, I was closing-in on Crete's tallest mountain, at the rate of...well, my walking pace, I suppose. I was about to return to Velonado when a friendly shepherd (Michaelis) and his son (Nikos), stopped me. "Where are you off to?", Michaelis inquired. I am a good liar, and the word "Psiloritis" nearly slipped out - that being the blindingly obvious direction that I was travelling in - but I wanted to get to Rodakino by mid-afternoon and I didn't want to have to retread my path to obtain that goal. "Rodakino", I said. "You are going the wrong way" came the helpful reply. "I know..." I replied unconvincingly, but I did know...there was an enormous great mountain dominating the skyline and telling me so. "...Can I get there this way?" I asked. "Yes!" replied Michaelis.

Thank-heavens! Michaelis proceeded to direct me, but as my Greek is not as good as it should be and my understanding of the Cretan dialect, only half as good as "not as good as it should be", I didn't quite catch every word he spoke. Instead, I tried to translate what he had said three sentences ago whilst nodding "intelligently" at the stream of words that followed. It's a problem knowing enough Greek to be able to converse, but not enough to have deeply-meaningful conversations and believe me this conversation was "deeply meaningful", or at least to me it should have been. As I was busily trying to work out whether his allusion to "Gatsos", was the Greek poet or a derivation of katsakoudhi (little goat) or maybe the Greek word for dressing a scald, Michaelis continued and so did the inner workings of my brain. (Michaelis gestured) "...No, why would he be discussing poetry with me", I thought. (Michaelis pointed...)..."scalding...sounds possible in this heat I suppose, but that suggests boiling water. Is there an underground sulphurous spring here?" (Michaelis drew to his conclusion...)  "Now, 'goats', that's a possibility, but why little ones...?"  By the time Michaelis had described - quite possibly in minutiae - which way to travel to reach my ultimate destination,  I had decided that "goat" was the most probable translation of the word he had uttered in his first sentence, and missed any subsequent hints and tips, which probably ran to many. "Sorry, how does one get to Rodakino from here?", I asked. A withering look followed, not unlike the one I had received from the xenos in Velonado; I smiled and patted him on the back and pleaded an English sense of humour. How we laughed. How I wished I was capable of listening more attentively!

I had managed to pick-out pieces of the conversation and promised myself a reread of Gatsos' "Amorgos" once I got home. To paraphrase Michaelis: the path swings round the mountain which was to our South, taking you to the other side in three shakes of a little goat's tail and from there-on, it's all jolly straightforward, (though beware of sulphur springs and/or itinerant poets). Problem was, the goats weren't for shaking (far too fleet-footed), and by the time I was on the other side of the mountain the hands on my watch (now visible), showed that it had passed 1PM. Away in the distance I could see a path heading South-West which appeared to run parallel with the direction of the one that I was now on. That must be the "E4" and I can only assume that it appears slightly after the path I took just outside Velonado. I had a wee (short!) break; five minutes and a few sips of water. I was running late here and wanted to be in Rodakino by six at the very latest.

Poles and Vaults
Another hour or so of walking deposited me in the rather nice village of Alones. A gentleman of uncertain age and charming toothless smile, stopped me and asked where I was going . He had been in the merchant navy throughout his earlier life, but now in his 80s - I was now informed, though he looked not a day over 60 - was chatting to walkers and sending them wherever he wished! "Rodakino", I replied. "Ahhh, Rodakino." I was regaled with past stories of Rodakino from this wonderful gentleman, though his idea of how to reach it was very much at odds with mine and the maps I had with me. Yes I know I have already given the makers of the various maps to Crete a hard time - and I have hardly begun with that particular theme - but Rodakino was South of Alones...clearly South...almost directly South with a tad of West thrown in, and not North-West, which my new-found friend seemed to believe it was. I looked at one of my maps. The road he was directing me on was the road to Rompado, which is not far from Velonado, my point of departure almost three hours before. Maybe it was my pronunciation; either that or he could have been thinking that I was driving and needed to take the road, but this would also have been the wrong direction, so I let it rest. I wondered whether this was the right time to bring up the "E4" and did anyway, just before my brain reached the decision that it was probably not a good idea at all!  "Ahhhh, the "E4" he muttered and regaled me with stories of a theme thereof, though he was somewhat taken aback when I informed him that the "E4" was a footpath and not a car. I liked this chap, but felt that if I'd mentioned East Barnet I would have heard stories of "derring-do" about the place from whence I came, so salt was taken with the old salt, regrettably as it turned out, without water!

For want of a better route, I walked in the general direction that my friend had waved me, desperately looking for a Southerly path. Nothing! For a while, I thought I may have found one but it petered out within five minutes and with a heart heavier than my rucksack, I headed back to Alones. Darkness falls at this time of year at around 8.30 PM and I absolutely had to be in Rodakino by then, though I was beginning to wonder "how"? It had only just gone 2PM, so I had plenty of time at my disposal, but was beginning to wish that I hadn't drowned my mobile 'phone. Rex needed to know that I was extremely unlikely to be in Rodakino at "between four and five PM", as I had assured him. Just East of the church on the main (only!) road in and out of the village there is a house with a clearing visible, which looked as though it may have been hiding a path. "Well, I might as well have a look", I thought, more through the want of a better plan than any belief that this was going to have a more satisfactory end than the path I had just tried. However, this looked promising; the path continued, crossing a river bed and it seemed to me that it was following a direction not dissimilar from the one that I wanted to be heading in. I took my third water-break of the day - the second had been just before I had reached Alones -and sipped my allotted three mouth-full's of water. The river-bed was virtually dry and what liquid there was, didn't look drinkable, so I made sure to reserve my limited water supply, just in case the rest of the day continued as it had begun. The bottle was emptying at an alarming rate! Had it sprung a leak? It appeared not, but I only had the spare 75cl bottle left and at this rate I would have a serious water-shortage before I reached my destination. I thought of walking back to Alones, though there had been no obvious source of water there and it was now siesta time so even my friend the sailor would be tucked up in bed. I sat and ruminated, wondering whether I was on the right trail and if I wasn't, how could I find that trail?  Then, I saw it. Like an oasis in a desert...a pole...a yellow pole...a yellow and black pole...an E4 way-mark pole!! I felt as if I had finally lost my virginity! Way hay!!!

e4.gif


An oasis, as it turned out, would have been a far better thing to have found, but for now I was thrilled-skinny! I had - a little over three and a half hours since setting-off from Velonado - found the E4. Photographs were taken, my left hand took hold of my right hand - neither of which had any idea of what the other was doing - and shook it, as if greeting a long-lost friend. I was tempted to return to Alones and awaken my elderly gent, but instead elected to ruffle my own hair and slap myself on my backpack. Oh happy days, oh happy moments. I had been lost, but now I was found. The path was clear, straight through the mountain in front of me, clear as anything could be, even the maps showed this.

Did I say "straight through the mountain"? Well, this is a possible route, but not the one I chose. Oh no, not I. Up, up and away I soared. Like an eagle...an eagle that had decided to walk... that had decided to walk and carry a 15Kg rucksack on its back and a 75cl bottle of water in its claw, in case it may need to moisten its beak in the hours ahead. A really stupid eagle!

Remember "Eddie the Eagle"? Eddie was a myopic ski-jumper, who was actually far better than he looked at doing what he did, which was a blessing, 'cause "good" was not something he looked at all. What he did was launch his frame from a ramp, some 60 metres through rarefied mountain air, landing with a thump on a snow covered landing below. The fact that everybody else went that extra 20 metres was really not the point; our Eddie was a brave man and despite his withered look (had he been to Velonado?), was quite an athlete; just not quite a good enough athlete.
Got the sympathy vote, did our Eddie, oh yes, got the sympathy vote all right! The goats up here weren't the sympathetic kind. Could bleat for Greece this lot and it appeared that a small minority of these nasty bleaters were following me from a great distance, as I headed upwards.  It was almost 3PM; what fun the next couple of hours held. Did I just say "next couple of hours"? Well make that nine and a half hours; it felt like nine and a half weeks! I just kept going...and going...and going, and by the time I was too tired to go any further, I realised that this fool on the foothill was neither half way up nor half way down the side of a mountain which was very likely to be far taller than it was willing to reveal. The maps had the crest of Mount Krioneritis - for that was its name - at 1312 metres (or in old currency, just over 4300 foot; around 30 foot lower than Britain's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis), but this wasn't an exercise in mountaineering was it? That's what gorges are for isn't it? To cut through mountains such as these? Every "peak" I arrived at, hid another one behind it and I was growing increasingly tired and irritated with life, the universe and goats (especially goats!).

It wasn't just the the goats or the climb that were bothering me however, more the fact that this ascent had so far taken me three hours; it was now 5PM and I had fully expected to be in Rodakino by this time, at the very latest. As my mind ruminated upon this, another pleasant thought sprung to mind, namely, "what goes up must come down...", and seeing that I needed to get down to sea-level, this could be a very long way down indeed! My brain sent messages to my legs. My legs accelerated! My muscles started complaining; my mind - a great complainer in its own right - told my weary body that the best way to get over this, was to get over this, as it were - as quickly as possible! This cycle of events went on and on!

How, I'll laugh about it all one day. I am fully aware that if I did this walk again it would take me less than half the time. The problem had become speed/ascent multiplied by three kilos per square goat (oh yes, I was making sense by now). Feeling the strain, I stopped every few seconds; sat-down every five minutes, and moaned; and sweated; and cursed; and sulked, as the goats looked-on. "When does this 'little' mountain reach it's peak?", I wondered as my fit reached its own simultaneously. The answer to the question was 7 o'clock! That's when I finally reached the top of the "hill" and found the church with its bell-tower and NO WATER. There had been a lastiko - that is to say a black pipe, which feeds the olive trees with water - running in a parallel direction to mine during most my ascent with just the hint of a promise that it would be attached to a tap, once I reached the top. Now I found its source, but sadly not a tap. I was by this time, totally out of liquid commodities, other than the three sip-full's I had spared for an occasion such as this. I drank greedily, or at least tried to, but before I knew it, I realised that this sucker had sucked his last drop. "Fear not!" I consoled myself "You are over the worst", and this was confirmed upon rounding the peak. There below me, some way away, were the twin villages; the Rodakinos, upper and lower.

The Great Descent
"Scrambling", that's what I like to do; it's the child in me. Ignoring the ancient road that skirted this side of the mountain (see picture),
click to enlarge
That's Mt. Krioneritis in the distance!
May I never see that mountain again... until the next time!
I decided to take the direct route down.  Below me I could see where the road would emerge from its bendy way, if I chose to walk upon it. Talk about circuitous! It would take me 15 minutes to walk each and every one of the dozen or so twists and bends that I would have to encounter on my way into Rodakino. No, far better to go down the way I had come up; i.e. straight! Bad move Jacko, me ol' son. This was a dry ski slope, covered in scree. I descended Eddie-the-Eagle-like, though with far less dexterity and with my rucksack propelling me forward (or downward!). Well, at least it was quick. It had to be, hadn't it? Three times I dropped what seemed like a 1000 metres in a very undignified manner. Twice I picked myself up, dusted myself down and started all over again. By the third time, I decided to be a little more careful as parts of me were coming off on the mountain-side and whilst I had little use for some of these parts - which after all would grow back one day - I could do without the pain. I looked Rodakino-way and there it was. Almost exactly where I had left it before starting on this slippery-slope. I looked for the segment of the road I had seen before I had set off on this mission improbable - the one that would have taken "fifteen minutes to walk!" -and there it was, almost exactly where I had seen it half an hour ago, or perhaps slightly further away! Was I falling up-hill? Could this be possible? "Newton, thou knoweth nothing!!!", I cursed.


If I'd thought that I'd had a few problems thus far, I had seen nothing yet and I was shortly to see even less! It was getting darker by the minute and it was also becoming obvious that I wouldn't get to the bottom of this long-and-winding-road before the sun had fallen behind the white mountains. Eight-thirty was my cut-off point and that time was rapidly approaching. It had gone half past seven when I finally reached the path that I had chosen not to walk!  "Everything's OK", I told myself. I had a torch, so I would be able to follow the path and so long as I didn't veer off it and its surface didn't deteriorate too much, I would be able to plot an arrival plan. Just so long as I didn't leave this road. This road, that ended at the coastal road leading into one of the Rodakinos. I knew this to be true, as I had met up with a shepherd, in one of the ubiquitous four-wheel off-road vehicles, that every Cretan seems to own. He had assured me that the old road that I had eventually joined ended up in Rodakino. I was just mustering the courage to ask whether he may have any water in his cab, when he drove off, leaving me high and dry! So, just stick to this road; under no circumstances leave it. The road quite clearly was heading in a South-Westerly(ish) direction and that was the bearing that I wanted. There were three "paths" - leading to God knows where - to my right and at the far side of one of them I could just make out a - now illuminated - Rodakino. My road continued South-West until all of a sudden it didn't! What I had assumed to be the end of this path and a joyful union with the main coastal road, wasn't any such thing. In what little light there was, I checked my compass, and yes, the path definitely headed East!

I am a firm believer in the old adage of "feeling the benefit". My eyes were becoming accustomed to this ever-diminishing light and as I fumbled in my bag for a better-scale map, I decided to leave my torch where it was for the moment. Wait until I really couldn't see before using it, that way it would be as if my path was floodlit; so in the bag my torch remained, or at least so I thought. I followed the road - despite it taking me away from my chosen destination - for about ten minutes. That's when it began to bear North-East and I just couldn't bear that! This was just too much for me. I was now travelling in absolutely the opposite direction from the one I needed to be heading. Straws and camels were springing to mind, when I suddenly remembered the three tributary roads that I had spotted a little while ago. Surely these were the ones I should have taken. After all, they seemed to head in the correct direction and so back I trudged. My mouth felt like it had swollen to three times its normal size; my lips were as dry as a bone and I knew that this was not the time for experimentation, but I could imagine the road I had been travelling on, going all the way back to Alones, and I knew there was absolutely nothing other than a mountain in-between here and there. It was now nine PM and time to illuminate the situation, so I reached in my bag for my torch and there it was...not! "Don't panic", a small voice pleaded!

Telling myself not to panic, always has the opposite effect on me. Any small fibre of my being which was not already in a state of high anxiety now jumped at the cue and decided that this was the time to be just that. I fumbled in my bag, throwing objects d'useless everywhere and looking for my torch. Why the hell was I carrying four t-shirts, a pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts, six pairs of socks, pants (not telling you!), two pairs of shoes, and other items such as these - plus a couple of things which I couldn't make out at all - when all I wanted was a torch and enough water to fill a swimming pool, or at least enough to fill my 75cl flask! I knew that I had no water, but now it appeared (!), that I no longer had a torch, either. Where was it? I trundled back to the place where I thought I had last seen it, and sure enough there was evidence of my having blotted the landscape here. My camera recharger was on the floor; I know this 'cause I stepped on it. Well that was useful. All I needed was a power-point and I could recharge the camera...which had a flash...had a flashlight... A flashlight! Aha! that's the thing to do. I got my camera out and took a couple of dozen (24) photos of the ground, hoping to illuminate the earth enough for me to find my torch! How ridiculous was this situation? Not a hope. I had never experienced darkness this absolute before. There was no moon to speak of and only the vague hint of artificial light from somewhere "over there"! I was almost blind as I took the first of the three "roads" that looked as though they headed directly into the thriving metropoloi of the Rodakinos. I took a picture of my watch and by looking at the viewfinder, discovered that it had gone 10PM I tried all three roads.

Two of these roads petered out into nothingness (what the hell were they there for?), and the last ran past a church - or at least I think it was a church, I couldn't see, you see - before ending in a somewhat alternative way to the other two. As I felt my way in the darkness, I could just make out the street lights of Rodakino, and considerably cheered by this, pushed-on. The next thing I knew, I was in mid-air for what seemed like an eternity but couldn't in fact have been more than a split-second. I landed with a thud, four foot (1.3 metres) below where I had taken-off from. I knew immediately that I had broken my leg. My left knee screamed at me in painful fury and just as I was about to answer it with a yelp of my own, cramp set in. Both calves were contorted into shapes that I couldn't have imagined they could make. I wanted to cry, but my body just couldn't spare the water and besides, I was incapable of making a noise, my throat and mouth being far too dry. I sat there in abject misery and realised that this is where they'd bury me...if they ever found me. It was now half past ten and this enforced stop suddenly became the best thing that could have happened. My broken knee-cap made a remarkable recovery and the cramps decided that they just didn't have the energy to continue. That was when I heard it. A sort of hissing sound. I have no fear of snakes, especially on an island that has no poisonous varieties other than the cat-snake - which is venomous, but keeps its fangs at the rear of its small mouth, and is therefore practically harmless to humans; you'd have to stick your little finger down its throat to get a nip out of this little kritter!

Anyhow, I recognised this sound. It was similar to the sound that a lastiko, being filled with water makes. I forgot my pains and shuffled and slithered towards its source, and found...a source of water! This time, I did "drink greedily". I had no mind for how unclean this water may be, I just stuck the pipe in my mouth and allowed the contents to (slowly) trickle into me. I knew that I shouldn't be drinking too quickly but believe me, given the chance I would have swallowed the contents of a small reservoir in seconds. A gushing torrent this was not, however; when I say "trickle", that is precisely what it did. It took over five minutes to refill my 75cl water bottle and 15 minutes to fill me (not in that order), but I was deeply grateful. I illuminated my watch with a cigarette lighter I had found in my bag, and discovered that it was now 11.05PM. I decided to follow the road I had been on two hours beforehand, wherever it should lead me. I was still desperately dehydrated but I could do previously unthinkable things, such as whistle and with a song on my lips, off I limped. It took just under an hour to reach the unlit main road, half of that time being taken up going in the same "wrong" direction, as before. This time however, I was not to be tempted by any of the tributary paths that tried to lure me. I hurt from top to bottom, in fact my bottom hurt more than anything other than my knee, which had started complaining again. By the time I saw the road, I was practically out of water again and trying to ignore my aching body, pressed on. I glanced at my watch, but could no longer see it; memories of this morning's escapades came flooding back. I would estimate that it took no longer than 20 minutes to find Rodakino from here and shortly after entering the lower half of the village I found a taverna (shut!) and a telephone. I needed a drink. Of anything. But first things first, ring Rex.

Rodakino to Koraka
Before my free-falling episode, I had been more worried about Rex than I had been about myself. He had no idea where I was; knowing only that I should have been wherever he was, at least seven hours ago. He'd be beside-himself with worry, wouldn't he? Finding a public pay-phone and remarkably having the means to work it (I had bought a phone-card in Rethymnon and it was still in my wallet!), I rang his mobile, the number of which I had carefully jotted down earlier that day. Not carefully enough it would seem. "The number you are dialling has not been recognised", I was told. I tried again...and again. No joy. Well, I knew where he should be. So I would just have to try to get there and hope that he was waiting for me.

I headed down towards the coast. It had passed midnight so nothing would be open. As I started the descent, I noticed out of the corner of an eye, another taverna; this time with the lights on. What trickery was this. I was desperate for water and here I was being tempted by a vision. I had lost any trust in any of my senses and very nearly ignored this apparent mirage! I decided I may as well give it a go; it was after all a mere 50 metres away, so off I trundled, hoping that if the lights weren't a figment of my imagination; that there maybe somebody inside willing to pour, poor dishevelled me a glass of water. I approached the door and saw a group of people inside. No, two or three groups. Was it possible? Was the place still open? To my eternal gratitude it was indeed open. As I entered the place grew hushed. "Albino" muttered one of the assembled. OK I was pale and exhausted, but that pale? I found the proprietor who looked at me with a mixture of caution and pity in his eyes. "Water", I tried to say. "Please", I attempted to add with a throat so dry I could hardly hear myself. I opened my wallet, making a point of flashing as many credit cards as I had on me (one!), thus demonstrating that I was willing to make this a commercial transaction. A bottle of water was fetched and a glass. I sank into a chair, shattered. The clock on the wall had the time at 12.15AM. This was truly miraculous. I hadn't for one moment imagined that any place would be open at this hour in a village as remote as this. I made a point of not guzzling-down the water - which had come in a 1.5 litre bottle - but failed, spilling half the contents of the first glass over my battle-scarred wounded knee. Thankfully the five minutes spent in this taverna had already made me somewhat of a fixture and the dozen sets of eyes that had followed my every move upon my arrival, now had other far more interesting things to look at, such as packs of cards. I felt enormously embarrassed for some reason but overwhelmingly grateful. My vocal cords having recovered, were able to ask for a "lemonita" (a lemonade which tastes like a lemonade!) and a beer. Oh I know, I shouldn't have, but I was suddenly feeling almost human. My host declined my offer to buy everybody in the place a drink, much to the disappointment of a couple in card school number two, situated by the far window. The beer and lemonita arrived and I took myself to the toilet. I couldn't have passed water if my life had depended on it. No, it was a mirror that I needed.

 

If I had thought that I'd looked rough when I awoke that morning, the reflection which  stared back at me now, showed what a vision of beauty I had been compared to the mess that was my reflection. I could see what they had meant by "albino" too. I was covered in salt. My hair - including eyebrows - was white with it; my shirt which I could have sworn had been blue when I had put it on that morning, was now a chalky colour. I returned to my table and finished-off my various drinks. It was now past 1AM and time to find Rex. The taverna was closing anyhow, when it occurred to me that I may not be able to locate either Rex, or the hotel he was supposedly staying at...or Koraka itself for that matter. Would they be open at this time of night. The sign on the taverna door mentioned "rooms". In fact upon second glance at the sign, I saw that the "taverna" was in fact the restaurant of an hotel. "The Hotel Saint George". Tricky one this. I would dearly have loved to have stayed here tonight, but I had a Rex to find. I approached the owner of the taverna (Petros was his name), and told him my sad tale. He was not too happy at first that I had chosen to stay elsewhere that night, but once I had explained the situation he offered me the perfect solution. He explained to me where Mr Zographakis' nephew's  hotel was situated, but offered me the option that should I fail to find it open (Koraka/the hotel/Pandora's box; what did I care?) I could come back, knock on his door and a room would  be found for me. What a gent! I was shocked to find my tear-ducts were working again.

I needed to find out the situation down at the coast quickly, and so it was that I hurried-off to Koraka. There are quite a few hotels down here and as I passed one of them leading to the beach a car pulled up behind me. I had seen this very same car travelling in the opposite direction some seconds earlier. The driver now called to me. "Are you Stelios?", Was I?   Yes! "That's me", I replied. "Your friend has been waiting for you." said the driver. My luck had changed. This was a fabulous place with people quite literally going out of their way to help. "Jump in", I was told.

Now forgive me for this - hybris I think it's called - but I had set-off from Velonado, over twelve hours before, and I was no more than half a kilometre from my ultimate destination. As tempting as it was and as much as my weary body protested, there was absolutely no way that I wasn't going to walk this final stretch. I apologised profusely and thanked him for his extremely kind offer, but I was going to walk to that hotel if it killed me. With a shrug and directions to exactly where the hotel was, my kind-hearted friend left me. I had a little trouble finding the correct hotel, but spotted our car outside and a light on inside, which suggested signs of life within. There were two men sitting at the bar and a gentle tap on the window brought the proprietor (Mr Zographakis' nephew, Vardis), out to greet me and buy me a beer. Just one I had...honest...and a great conversation with the two chaps, who had been genuinely worried about me. Talking of "worried"; where was Rex? He'd be out of his mind with anxiety. With apologies for terminating the conversation I asked to be shown to our room. Approaching it, I heard a familiar sound. A small child was playing trombone! I opened the bedroom door, and there he was; my friend, asleep and snoring!



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