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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...
Home Chapters History Boxes
Chapter Three: Four Days of Rest.
Part One: Soughia and Chania.
With special thanks


Once again I have divided this chapter into two parts, due to its length. Part one covers the night we spent in Soughia, and the two days in Chania; part two will be the trip to Kato Zakros - where the walk begins - via Malia, Aghios Nikolaos and Siteia. These four days-off,  probably constitute the most important period of my whole stay.



Friday the 9th of May 2003

My head hurt! Well, what did I expect after last night's excesses? I struggled out of my bed and on to the room's North-facing balcony...hold on! Last night? I promised you a

résumé of last night's activities, didn't I? Well, if truth be told, I can't remember much of what happened, but you know me; always game. Herds of majestic wildebeest...no, that's not it...oh yes...Soughia by moonlight:

The Night Before
The water-taxi docked, and Yiorgios (Rex tells me that our driver's name might have been Michaelis, but, for the sake of continuity, I'm sticking to Yiorgios), offered the three of us a lift into Soughia town, in his more conventional variety of cab; a journey of no more than a couple of hundred metres. Even I could manage this on foot without getting lost. I attempted to pay Yiorgios for services rendered, but he said he'd see us later. And so it was that I was led to the hotel Zorba, where Rex and Virginia had booked the three of us into a treble room for the night. Excuse me for being a misery-guts; the euphoria I had briefly felt earlier, had all but vanished. I dumped my bag and without further ado, off we set to forget the day's experience. Well at least that had been my intention. Rex and Virginia, on the other hand, decided that my moral-fibre needed a bit of stiffening. They escorted me to the bar that they'd spent the best part of the afternoon at. The bar Santa Irene can be accessed from the road or the beach  Here I could drown my sorrows - or myself - and maybe get run-over too! Most of the patrons Rex and Virginia had spent the best part of the afternoon with, were still there, and greeted me like their long-lost and rather stupid brother. "Oh, bother!

I was quite a celebrity; the one that had got lost on the walk to Soughia from Aghia Roumelli; a trek so straightforward that locals walk it three or four times a week just to "stretch their legs". My legs were skilfully pulled, in a metaphorical kinda way, of course. Not that I didn't feel that I deserved this gentle ribaldry, I had lost all sympathy with myself somewhere over there... I looked East, but in the increasing darkness, the rolling hills revealed no clues as to the painful nature behind their seemingly gentle make-up. Tsikoudhia was drunk. A lot of tsikoudhia was drunk. I was drunk, or at least becoming so. I smiled thinly at well-meaning comments and entered into a conversation with the local policeman, asking if I could borrow his gun. How we laughed! We started talking about his hobby. Or at least I think we did. Model aeroplanes were the subject of debate. This conversation stretched my knowledge of Greek to previously unknown heights, and as pleasant as it was, I decided that I just couldn't do justice to my friend's air-fixation. I turned to thrash-out matters of high-commerce with the newly arrived Yiorgios. I thrust €35.00 in his general direction, and downed another tsikoudhia. I was informed that I had made a "lathos" (mistake), and that it was €35.00 each way. I was a bit miffed by this, in all honesty. Yiorgios was a nice enough chap, but surely, if our nautical adventure were to cost more than the advertised price of a single trip, shouldn't a "cheap-hour-return" have been part of the deal? For once in my life I was not up for an argument, besides, the trip had been worth every lepta (cent). I paid the ferryman. A few other bars were hit; a few more tsikoudhias were imbibed, but still my mind refused to forget the horrors that I had experienced today. In the long term this would be a good thing; tonight it was a burden from which I could not escape, however much I tried. And I tried. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the balcony of our room in the hotel Zorba; it was the following morning...
The Morning After
My head hurt! Well, what did I expect after last night's excesses? I struggled out of my bed and on to the room's North-facing balcony (if you stay at the hotel Zorba, or for that matter any other hotel in Soughia, do try to get a South-facing balcony; the sea makes for a far better view than the hinterland!), I ached from head to waist. I emphasise these particular parts of my body, because they exclude the very parts of me that should have been incapable of any movement at all: my legs! OK, I'd had a good night's sleep (it was past 10.00 AM by the time I had risen from my pit), but surely, if I were to be in pain, my legs should have been suffering the most, shouldn't they? Defies logic, but they felt as if they were ready for a walk back to Aghia Roumelli; the rest of me most certainly wasn't! Rex and Virginia were nowhere to be seen, so I went to find them. I had a brief wander around the town of Soughia, and decided I'd return here one day...by ferry-boat!

I spotted Virginia in a local fish restaurant and joined her for a coffee. The Greek waiter was having a conversation in Virginia's native tongue; German. I asked for a coffee in Greek and he replied in German. I looked at Virginia for assistance and she translated. He was asking me where I was from. "Eimai apo tin Anglia" (I am from England), I answered him directly. He replied in German. I was perplexed and linguistically challenged. "Den milao Germanika" (I don't speak German), I said. That's not strictly true; I can order a beer in German (thanks to a friend, I also know the German for 'duck billed platypus' - "das schnabeltier" - somehow, I just couldn't fit this into the conversation); I can order a beer in most languages, but all I wanted at this moment was a coffee. Oh cruel fate! The waiter seemed incapable of switching languages, so I asked Virginia to order me a coffee. This she did and having drunk it, we spied a loitering Rex, and were ready for the off.

To Chania

VirginiaOur journey to Chania was pretty unremarkable, though we did stop-off for a bite to eat in Kampanos (I am relying on a dim and distant memory here), close to the top of the Aghia Irini gorge. When I say "a bite", in my case I mean it quite literally. The food brought out was fabulous; local cheese, a jar of honey and an omelette of quite dazzling colour. I tried to eat, and I felt hungry, but I just couldn't face the food once it arrived. I tried to conjure-up images from my childhood, of starving Biafran children with horribly distended stomachs; the ones that my father believed would help me enjoy tripe and onions; that didn't help then and it didn't help now. Rex and Virginia (pictured), devoured the offerings, as I watched on, guiltily. 

For me, the strangest part of the drive to Chania, was that I had totally forgotten what it was like to sit in a car and watch the landscape slip by. It had been just a few days since the last time I was in this position, but it felt as if it were years. I had become used to the scenery moving at my walking pace. Rex is a careful driver, but I felt like a co-driver on a rally. As he drove, Rex told me of his journey to Soughia and the wait that he and Virginia had endured the previous day. Once again, I'll let the boy type for himself:

Rex types his mind...

Didn’t we have a wonderful time the day we went to Soughia?

I’d sort of abandoned Stelios after Virginia and I had left him to his own devices in Chora Sphakion. He didn’t really need me for this coastal jaunt and it looked straightforward on the map. Despite my experience of the first day of the walk, it still hadn’t got through to me that the lad was directionally challenged. Anyway, this looked pretty easy. All he had to do was walk up the coast keeping the sea on his left. Recovering from sunstroke or a bad olive, I took the lovely Virginia back to Chania for a couple of days of not doing much before driving back across the island to meet Stelios at Soughia.

The remarkable thing about Crete is that, although it is a pretty big island, you can get from anywhere to anywhere else in about three hours (Rex here has presumably forgotten our eight hour drive, through the mountains, in the dark, with me at the wheel, from Myrtos to Chania, in 2001! SJ.). In the case of Chania to Soughia, that includes a half hour stop for an 'Ellinikos' (coffee). Driving along in the little hire car, Virginia and I were suddenly surprised by a giant grasshopper that bounded through the open roof. Virginia is particularly scared of anything that flies or crawls, having had a nasty nip from a scorpion a few months before and having suffered the decimation of her wardrobe by moths. For a minute or two, the thing sat on the dashboard above the steering wheel looking like an extra from War of the Worlds. Honestly, it was the size of a large crayfish or a small lobster. “It’s an eater!” I said to Virginia. This must have upset it, because it leaped into the well of the car and hid in the silliest place you can imagine, hanging upside down from the underside of the handbrake. We pulled over and Virginia, very bravely, helped me liberate the beast. I still think we should have roasted it.

 

Just like any other journey on Crete, this is a spectacular drive: climbing up the valleys into the mountains; the pretty villages with spectacular views down gorges and across snow-capped peaks; the drop down to the sea on the other side. Soughia itself, like a lot of coastal resorts, is T-shaped. The road runs up to the coast and then stretches out either side along the beach. Here you find the usual cluster of bars, tavernas and hotels and a very strong sense of community. We found a suitable room for the night with Michailis at the hotel 'Zorba', then went for an early dinner or a late lunch and I called Steli. At first he was optimistic. He just had one gorge to cross and he would be here. A little later he was unsure where he was. Later still he was definitely going back to Aghia Roumelli. I decided to hit the beer and relax. I wasn’t going to get myself worked up into another panic. There was still an hour or so of daylight. Virginia and I met a man called Yiorgios - or was it Michaelis? - who was introduced as the local walking expert. He knew every rock on the cliffs personally. He had a letter of introduction to the most important goats. He had walked from Chora Sphakion to Paliahora in six hours – at night – blindfolded – backwards. After several attempts and a lot of breaking up on the phone, Yiorgios/Michaelis and Stelios finally had a conversation. As a result, Stelios decided he was definitely returning to Aghia Roumelli. I made several more attempts to talk to him but he seemed to have found a part of the cliffs where there was no phone signal at all.

Back to the beer.

But I had reckoned without the persistence of the lovely Virginia. She found another man called Michaelis (or Yiorgios; at about this time, everyone we met was called Michaelis or Yiorgios), who ran one of the bars we had been drinking at as well as the local supermarket, a road taxi, and the water taxi. He would take us to collect the misdirected one in his boat for 70 of Monsieur Chirac’s finest euros. I rang the lad. No reply. This was pointless. Michaelis needed to know by 8.00 because after that it would be too dark. There was every possibility that Steli hadn’t even made it back to Roumelli. It sounded like a lot of money for a 40-minute boat ride.

Back to the bar.

But I had reckoned without the persistence of the lovely Virginia. At 10 past eight she came and grabbed my hand. “Come on. We’re going.” She’d managed to contact the lad just as he was climbing past the last goat.

The drive round the headland in the fading light remains in my memory as one of the magic moments of my life, with Michaelis/Yiorgios pointing out the various gorges that Stelios had never made and finally the shallow valley where later I was to learn the boy had spent a frightful three hours clinging perilously to a near horizontal cliff face above a perilous four-foot drop." (It was bloomin' great deal higher than four foot, SJ!

Rex Anderson.

Chania
Rex and I dropped Virginia off at her flat in Kato Daratso, slightly West of Chania town, and the pair of us headed for Chania itself; Rex parked the car in our usual spot, somewhere round the back of the Nautical Museum.  Before leaving the car, I sifted through my luggage, I still couldn't find my address book; it was becoming increasingly clear that I must have dropped it on the walk to Rodakino. My address book contained all the 'phone numbers of people I wished to contact whilst in Crete, just in case I did something stupid, like drown my mobile 'phone for instance. I had added some of these 'phone numbers to an online address book, just in case I did something stupid like drown my mobile 'phone and lose my address book! Oh yes, I know myself well. I had prepared myself for most eventualities. All was not lost We set-off, on foot, to the hotel Amphora on the waterfront.

Amphora Hotel

The Hotel Amphora
A number of the hotels here are of original Venetian design. Some of them, such as the hotel Amphora, are on the Venetain harbour. Cheaper hotels are available, but where else in the world could two people stay in relative luxury - with a view to die for - for €90.00 a night? The hotel Amphora has fabulous rooms, and Rex and I had managed to get one with a balcony overlooking the Venetian harbour. I had booked two nights at this hotel a few months earlier. It had always been a place where I'd wanted to stay, and I wasn't disappointed. The entrance is hidden round the back - the second parallel road of Theotokopoulou street - and this took a few minutes to find. Once there, a few steps need to be negotiated, before you arrive at the reception. We were greeted by Anna, the lady whom I'd communicated with all those months ago. She showed us to our splendid room, and left us do our own devices.


How I see Chania

Chania is an absolutely magical place. What immediately hits you is the sheer beauty of the place. Crete's second city is inexorably linked to its diverse and - at times - torrid history. Winding narrow streets, within which it's practically impossible not to get lost; marvellous tavernas, ("Tamam" - situated in what was once the plunge pool, adjacent to the now defunct Turkish baths, during Ottoman times - is my favourite, but there are plenty of other excellent eateries); superb architecture; splendid people; great museums; Chania is an absolutely magical place. What you see now, however, is not only there due to the grace of the Venetians. In the 1960's this majestic city, was nearly ripped apart. What you see now, was a hare's breath away from being bulldozed to death, as developers attempted (and almost succeeded), to convince the powers that were, that modern hotels were what holiday-makers wanted (there is an example of one of these follies, opposite the "hand" monument, from where my friend Tony Fennymore begins his guided tours - see below for Tony's thorough and excellent historical dissection of the city). Thankfully, local pressure groups - both Cretan and ex-pat - managed to stop this wanton destruction, and Chania remains one of the Mediterranean's great beauty spots. The Venetians themselves, were not particularly nice people to be ruled by (the succeeding Ottomans were a breath of fresh air in comparison, and we all know how the Cretans felt about them!), but whilst they may not have been liked, they did know a thing or two about art; especially architecture. So too - though to a far lesser degree - did the Ottomans. A feature of the harbour (East side), is the white, domed mosque (of the Jannisaries). Until recently, this building was used as the local tourist information office). Tony has pictures of the mosque, replete with minaret. The Nazis were to blame for this decapitation, as they blitzed this city during WWII. Well, what would they have done with all this useless beauty? Two other mosques can still be seen, though with practically no Muslim population in Crete (30,000 Muslims were thrown out during the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923), they are now purely aesthetic.
SJ

Blue Notes
A note from Tony Fennymore greeted us; he wanted to meet-up. I 'phoned him and arranged to meet in half an hour at his place. It is always a pleasure to meet Tony; he and Rex got on like a 'house on fire', allowing me the necessary - though rare - luxury, of saying very little. They talked about jazz...and jazz! Ordinarily I would have thrown my two lepta into the equation, despite knowing precisely nothing about this genre of music, but I just didn't have the strength. I sat on Tony's balcony and quaffed at a rather large glass of wine. I had all the energy of a sloth...on valium...in hibernation season. I had no energy! Tony leads guided tours around the city of Chania. I know more about Chania than anybody in the world; or at least I thought I did. I was later to join Tony on one of his short tours (1.5 hours), and I was to learn more about this fabulous city in this short time, than all the months I had lived here - or hereabouts - in the past. I'll allow Tony to explain further:

HISTORY BOX No.4
AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF CHANIA
by Tony Fennymore

Chania has always been, and still is, a living, working Greek city. Recent archaeological excavations in the area of the ancient acropolis (now known as 'Kasteli' - Venetian for 'castle' - and the site of the Venetian Rector’s palace) have revealed evidence of human habitation from Neolithic times (c.4,000 B.C.), on through the Greco-Roman period and right up to the present day. These 6,000 years of civilisation make Chania one of the oldest and longest continually occupied sites in the world. In and around the city the influences of Neolithic, Minoan, Mycenaean, Dorian, Classical and Hellenistic Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian, Turkish and modern Greek are exposed to the eye like a slice of multi-layered history cake; a true kaleidoscope of architectural styles and building techniques.

Chania lies on the site of the ancient settlement of Kydonia and according to legend was founded by King Kydon, the son of Queen Pasiphae (wife of Minos) and one of her ex-marital lovers, Apollo. This place name (Ku-do-ni-ja), occurs on Linear B tablets from Knossos and is also mentioned in many ancient literary sources. The Greek and scientific name for the quince is also apparently derived from this name and Crete is credited with being the homeland of this fruit. The importance of these early, pre-Greek inhabitants is emphasised by Strabo and confirmed by Homer who writes of the Kydonians as one of the indigenous people of Crete. The city of Kydonia is mentioned by Herodotus and Strabo who considered it to be the third most powerful state on the “Great Island”; after Knossos and Gortyna.

During the post Minoan/Mycenaean period i.e. Dorian/Geometric/Archaic/Classical and Hellenistic periods, Crete is very much part of the known Greek world, but remained on the periphery. Kydonia (Chania) assumed a prominent role in various inter-island wars and alliances; even defeating Marcus Antonius ( the father of Mark Antony ) in his invasion of Crete in 71 B.C. and later taking the lead in the resistance against the subsequent successful Roman invasion in 67 B.C. which was lead by Quintus Metellus (afterwards called Creticus).

From 67 B.C. Crete is linked with Cyrenaica (in North Africa) to become a single province of the Roman Empire with its capital at Gortys. With the split of the Empire in 330 A.D. the island becomes part of the eastern empire – the Holy Roman Empire with control from Byzantium/Constantinople. However, in 824 the island is seized by ex- Saracen/Andalusian Arabs under the leadership of Abu Hafs Omar thus ending what is known as the Byzantine I period. Crete does not become part of the Byzantine Empire again until 961 when it is recaptured by the famous Byzantine general, and later to become an emperor, Nikiforas Phokas.This is the start of the Byzantine II period in Crete which continues until 1204 when the most glorious city in Christendom, Constantinople, falls to the 4th Crusade. The sacking of Constantinople by the “Belgian yobs” was, of course, engineered by the Venetians who had coverted the wealth of the Byzantine trading empire for many years.

For services rendered, one of the Byzantine princes had given Crete to Boniface of Montferrat who was a Genoese, sea captain. Preferring mainland territory, this “pirate” sold the island to the wily old Doge of Venice for only 1,000 silver marks and for the next 465 years, Crete is a fundamental part of the Venetian trading empire in the Mediterranean. The Venetians renamed the island “Canea”; an Italian/Latin version of Chania which had for several centuries before been the name of this town. In 1252, the original city was rebuilt on the site of the acropolis and was known as “Castello Vecchio”. As can be still seen today the encircling wall was strengthened using many blocks of stone from the ancient Kydonia.

In 1266 (some sources say 1263!), Chania was captured and plundered by the Genoese who were great rivals of the Venetians. They held onto it until 1285 when the Venetians won it back again. It was again fortified in 1336 and later in 1538 in accordance with the plans drawn up by Michelle Sanmicheli in 1536. This military architect from Verona was also responsible for the fortifications at Rethimnon, Heraklion, the island of Rhodes and many other Venetian colonies. These fortifications were the height of military architecture for their day incorporating a moat 200 ft wide and 50ft deep which ran all round the 6 km of the town, with the sea and the rocks abutting on the northern side. The fortifications took some 12 years to construct using a regular labour force of over 30,000 people!

During the long period of occupation, the Venetians built so many fine private and civil/military structures in “La Canea” that the town enjoyed the reputation of being known as the “Venice of the East”. In 1609, a Scottish traveller, William Lithgow, wrote “Chania is a large castle (meaning the fortification walls) containing some 97 palaces in which the Rector and other Venetian gentleman dwell”.

However, on the 22nd August 1645, these ambitious and apparently inpregnable fortifications fell to the Ottoman Turks after a seige of only two months. The Turks settled in and set about repairing the fortifications and converting churches and monasteries into mosques.

Eventually in 1849, the Turks made the city the capital of the island. 

The Seraglio was also in the city and travellers in the 19th century reported a community of Africans and Arabs at the edge of Chania which must have had a generally exotic atmosphere.

Following the Greek War of Independence which commenced in 1821, the islanders began a series of rebellions against Turkish rule. Such revolts were put down harshly by Turkish and Egyptian forces culminating in the massacre of christians at the Monastery at Arkardi. This act of defiance aroused Europe-wide sympathy and with the killing of the British vice-consul in Heralion it finally brought about the expulsion of Turkish troops in 1898. All Turkish troops were withdrawn from the island and the International Forces moved in under the aegis of the then Great Powers. Prince George became High Commissioner and Chania retained its honour of being the capital of Crete when the Cretans eventually achieved “Enosis – union with the Greek motherland – and on the 1st of December 1913 the island was united with Greece with the Greek flag being raised for the very first time on Crete in the Firkas fortress on the harbour in Chania by Eleftherios Venizelos and King Constantine. The town lost this capital distinction in 1971, when the seat of administration reverted back to Heraklion which was a far more logical capital both from a population and geographical point of view being at the centre of the island.

Only eighteen years after the Treaty of Lausanne and the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey, the island was again invaded, but this time by the Nazis. The city was heavily bombed in WWII and the worst damage was in the district of Kasteli in which were concentrated the most important public and private buildings of the Venetian and Turkish periods. The Allies lost the Battle for Crete leaving the island to be occupied by the Nazis for the next four years. On the 8th of May, 1945, the Nazi Commander of Crete, General Benthag, received orders from Admiral Donitz at Elensburg to surrender to the Allied Forces H.Q.. By this time the Nazi forces had retreated to the area of Chania and were completely surrounded. So, on the following day Benthag was taken to Heraklion by plane from Maleme and from Heraklion airport he was driven by car to Villa Ariadne at Knossos to sign the “unconditional” surrender document.

Chania still retains the island’s highest judicial authority - the Court of Appeal, and houses the Art and Architecture Departments of the University of Crete. In addition to the impressive Venetian walls, there is the Historic Museum and Archives and also the Archaeological Museum (footnote) which is housed in the cathedral of a Venetian monastery built by the Franciscans and is, without doubt, the finest example of Venetian ecclesiastical architecture on the island. The Naval/Maritime Museum is situated at the entrance to the Firkas fortress being the original purpose-built Venetian garrison; the Byzantine Museum is located in the former monastery church of San Salvatore and the “Agora”- the covered Public Market Place which is a large structure built in the shape of a cross and modelled on the great market of Marseilles and dating from 1913.

In recent years, the Synagogue of “ETZ HAYYIM” has been completely renovated. The jewish presence in Crete is very ancient and dates back to the 4th c B.C. – not long after the conquest of the Near East by Alexander the Great. By the time of the Roman conquest of Crete (67 B.C.) there were Jewish communities in most of the important cities of the island. The Synagogue of Etz Hayyim could well be the oldest surviving synagogue in Greece – along with that of Rhodes.

Today, Chania is the island’s second largest city with a population of 70,000. However, it  may be thought of as two cities – the old and the new; with the old still enclosed within the Venetian fortification walls and the new Chania growing up along the plain behind the harbour and gradually absorbing the earlier suburbs such as Halepa.

A man who tires of Chania, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, is tired of life.

Chania vibrades with life and yet still retains the intimacy and personality of a village, but with all the amenities of a modern city."

Tony Fennymore
(Chania, December 2003)


Magnificent. Cheers Tony; SJ




Saturday the 10th of May 2003

My memories of the previous night, were - once again - befuddled! I know that at some stage Rex and I met up with my friend Adam whom we invited to join us the next day; that Virginia had joined us; that we had gone out so that I could watch Rex and her eat; that I was desperate for my bed and that the chances of me walking the island had sunk from slim to less than zero. This morning I felt mentally far more attuned, but physically, I had sunk further into the mire. I had been looking forward to meeting-up with my friend Jean (he's 'Jean' as in Jean-Luc Godard and not as in 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', much to the confusion of a number of regular Interkriti message board users!). As well as the sougia.info site, previously mentioned, Jean is the webmaster of west-crete.com; one of the top sites to Crete. Our place of meeting was to be my old stomping-ground of Kalathas, on the Akrotiri, just East of Chania (this was the place where I'd spent three months, back in 1989, reportedly studying archaeology, but for the most part, doing what most students do: partying; I throw great parties, even when I am the only person attending!). I had told Jean that we'd see him at the taverna on Kalathas beach at 1PM. Kalathas is a mere 20 minute drive from Chania, but on the evidence of this morning's activities in the bathroom department, that would require stopping the car at least ten times. I shan't dwell on the messy details. Needless to say, I had caught Rex's sunstroke! Virginia arrived just before mid-day, with a hat bearing the legend "Nivea", which she placed on my head; Adam arrived just after Virginia, and off we headed.
How Stelios Got His Groove Back.
Somehow I managed to survive the trip to Kalathas. Jean was on top form, though he claimed to have become unfit during the unusually wet winter that Crete had undergone this year. Looking at him, I decided that I would have had to have spent a year in a gym, six hours a day, seven days a week, to begin to approach his level of "unfitness". Jean has a cracking sense of humour and is a fine anecdote teller. In my fragile state, I didn't thank him, as he told us of the time that he'd got caught up in a Presidential procession in Holland. Somehow his battered Fiat had found itself squeezed in-between the limousines, and the Dutch police could do nothing other than salute the entourage - replete with Jean, now waving at the assembled spectators - as it drove past. This would have been excruciatingly funny at any time, but now, it was almost more than my central nervous system could stand. Not for the first - or last - time that afternoon, I headed for the gents.

In between these trips to powder my nose, I was quizzed on the walk thus far. I was avoiding - the best I could - any mention of the Ag. Roumelli to Soughia part, when Jean mentioned the Ag. Roumelli to Soughia part! "You didn't manage it, did you?" How did he know? "How do you know?", I asked. "It's impossible to do in a day", replied Jean. Oh no it's not. I may not have been able to remember any specific details from Lorraine Wilson's book, but one thing I could recall was that she clearly states that it is possible to do in a day. Jean had a copy of the book at home and off he went to fetch it. On his return we read the introduction to that walk:

"...on the E4 trail, this walk can be done in one very long day, if you are familiar with it...There aren't many places like this left - make the most of it by planning a 2 or 3 day trek..." Two or three days? I couldn't remember reading that. All in all Ms Wilson reckons on 10 and a quarter hours, but of course that is not allowing for any stops, and is reliant on you knowing the route. I had not known the route. "...Especially avoid walking this route alone, because of the inaccessible remoteness..." I had attempted to walk this route alone! I go by the nickname "Dopey"; are you beginning to realise why?

Jean had walked this route, but over two days. Jean is a professional walker. He takes hikers into the white mountains (including mount Pachnes, Crete's second tallest mountain), and he maintained Ag. Roumelli to Soughia was nigh-on impossible to do in a day, without prior knowledge of the path. So what had I been thinking? What hope did I ever have of achieving this, when two of the most experienced walkers on the island advised against it. Something stirred inside. Something that didn't need a trip to the gents to sort out. One day I would walk from Aghia Roumelli to Soughia, and I'd do it in a day. This would be some time in the distant future, but it was the very inspiration that I'd needed. The idea of walking Crete had, all of a sudden, become a challenge again, and not the purgatory that it had been over the past two days. We departed, with me apologising for my state of health and Jean making me laugh for the umpteenth time that day. He wasn't to know this, but my friend had just put the groove back into Stelios.

Arriving back at the hotel, I had a siesta. We were meeting-up with my friend and namesake, Stelios F tonight, and I wanted to be up for it. The time of the meeting had been set for 7PM and just before that time, I was awoken by Rex. I asked him to go ahead whilst I tried to make myself presentable. This I was incapable of doing. I had brought the original (1865) copies of Captain Spratt's, 'Travels and Researches on Crete', to lend to Stelios whilst I was walking the island. With these two volumes in my hand, I left the hotel and walked to the Meltemi bar, next to the nautical museum, where we had chosen to meet. There is accommodation here too, with a lovely view over the Venetian harbour. I'd stayed here a few years back, with my friend Shoel, and - along with the taverna 'Mini' - the bar is my preferred meeting place in Chania, due to its position. Adam, Virginia and Rex made up our number, but I am afraid that I was not in a fit state do anything other than give the books to Stelios and return to the hotel.

It was 8.30 PM. I read for an hour before taking 40 winks; each lasting a quarter of an hour...

Stelios Jackson's sponsor :
The Hellenic Bookservice - Britain's Greek (and Latin) bookshop. Est. 1966
© Stelios Jackson & interkriti

Die Zwei Brueder Pension, Matala
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