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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 Five: To Chrisopigi...to Chrisopigi...to Chrisopigi!!!


Awful things happen. That's just the awful truth. Awful things tend to happen when one is least able to cope with awful things happening. The following few thousand words were awfully difficult to write, so please excuse the awful writing:

Thursday the 15th of May
To Chrisopigi.
Best not to lay plans
There I was, sitting outside the Harkiolakis hotel in Ziros, with nothing other than the occasional car and an even more occasional comment from my friend, to disturb the peace. I sat and considered my options for the day ahead. As far as the walk was concerned these were pretty straightforward. Walk to Papagiannades, cross the valley towards Kato Kria via Vori and on to Chrisopigi. It was 9AM and if I started soon, I could check out the accommodation options in Chrisopigi - of which I doubted there would be any - and, if necessary, be whisked off somewhere completely different by the nearly departed. Rex would be leaving me soon and that date was getting closer by the second.  I wanted to share as many special moments with the boy as possible. My rucksack contained the technology to allow me to sleep out the night, but Rex (and car) was a desert island luxury that I wished to use whilst I could. What I was dilly-dallying over was whether or not to visit the site of Praisos (occ. Presos), North-East of Chandras, before starting the walk. This is a place that I had visited by chance in 1989, when tramping after the legendary colossus that was JDS Pendlebury (you'll have to wait until the next chapter for some snippets of his 1928 walking hints to Eastern Crete, sorry!). Praisos is an interesting place with an air of mystery surrounding it. Three acropolis' make up the site, which was destroyed by the Ierapetrans (people of the southern town of Ierapetra) in the 2ndC BC, around 100 years before the geographer Strabo wrote of Praisos, as the place that the 'Eteocretans' resided. The Eteocretans (or "true Cretans") were supposedly from the same stock as the bronze age Cretans, dubbed  "Minoans", by the British archaeologist, Arthur Evans. The epic poet Homer (8thC BC) makes mention of the Eteocretans, as one of the five peoples inhabiting Crete at the time of the battle of Troy (13C BC). The air of mystery concerns a set of inscriptions found here in the late 19th C, by the Italian archaeologist Frederico Halbherr, and dating back to around the 4thC BC. Nothing unusual in that. Neither is there anything unusual in the script. Greek characters are used. Only it isn't in Greek, if you catch my drift. The script is Greek, but the language is not. If these people were latter day 'Minoans', had they retained their own language? And is it possible that it was the same language as that on the early to mid 2nd Millennium BC Cretan script, known as 'linear A'? The language of the later 'linear B', has been "proven "to be Greek. Could the unknown language found on the 'Linear A' tablets have survived the various transitions that Crete went through, for over 1000 years? Fascinating stuff, but seeing that both the Praisos inscriptions and 'Linear A' are, as yet, undeciphered, it is impossible to say whether or not they are related in any way. (* bibliographical footnote).  Praisos is well worth a visit if you are into 'spirit of place' I am a great fan of this part of Crete. It's strange how the "untouched"  West of the island is now a magnet for tourists, presumably trying to avoid each other, but the "spoiled" East, always leaves me with a feeling that I am the first tourist to have trodden there. This island is multidimensional. It would take a lifetime to do more than scratch the surface of all it has to offer. After much procrastinating, I decided against a visit to Praisos, not least because procrastinating about whether to visit Praisos had already cost me an hour and a half, and so it was that at 10.30AM, I was driven by Rex to Chandras, and a cup of coffee later, off I set for Chrisopigi. I reckoned on being there at around 4PM, and confidently advised Rex of my expectations. When will I learn? The E4 restarts round the papagianadesback of a church and quickly heads West. I was in a quixotic mood, aided by the giant wind-turbines that blot/enhance (delete to taste) the area, and on to Papagiannades (pictured from the road leading to Vori). It took no longer than an hour to get to the village of Papagiannades. The main road swings round the village, but that can be avoided by cutting though a back street which deposits you at a kafeneion, on the main road, saving you fully five minutes! A few people sat inside the kafeneion and wished me "kalo dromo" (literally "good road"), for which I thanked them for their thoughts with a cheery "efharisto" (thank you). And cheery the boy Tsaksonakis most certainly was. Very cheery, indeedy, in a quixotic kinda way!

A tad of poles

The main road heads in a Southerly direction and I needed to be going West. I looked for a path which would take me to the village of Vori, and within five minutes found a right (and correct) turn. If you are take this track, look out for another turning after a couple of hundred metres to your left. This takes you through the village of Vori papantelis(pictured looking towards the West). There is an E4 sign indicating that this is the correct path. Unfortunately it is only visible from the opposite direction, unless you happen to turn your head whilst passing it. I of course missed it completely (I was becoming far too good at this "missing the sign" lark, without the need for hidden poles!) Instead, I frolicked in the olive groves for half an hour or so, before somehow finding myself back on the main path. The olive-oil of this area is among the best in the world, reportedly; not surprising given the scope for experimentation that the glut of trees allow. It is here that the E4 signs begin to have a bit of a laugh with you. As you walk straight down this one and only path, you are greeted by yellow and black poles at regular intervals. There is a right turn by a water cistern about half way down the path, and the E4 sign there is useful, but I must have counted 10 of these way-marks on the road down, pointing out the "bloomin' obvious"; i.e. "stick to this path". I knew I had to stick to this path, which was taking me in a south-by-south-westerly direction. I also knew that at some point I had to veer dramatically West. But where? I reached the bottom of the track and a two pronged fork in the path; one went straight ahead and the other at a 45 degree angle to the first, and to its right. There were no signs indicating which of these paths to take, or indeed whether I may have already come too far. This worried me. I had passed a number of right turns since I had last spotted an E4 pole or sign, and wondered if I shouldn't have taken one of these paths. I left my bag at this juncture - and junction - and continued on the path, to see where it ended. It ended at an olive grove. Oh joy! Well, ended would be an over simplification, but it looked as if the trail that I could just make out, was merely there for easy access to these groves. I decided to go back and give one of the paths that I'd seen earlier, a try. I wandered aimlessly up three of these paths. Thrice I was denied. All ended at a flowing river - and a glowering Jackson - with ramshackle buildings, possibly permanently deserted or maybe only used during the olive gathering season. Surrounded by olive trees and with the river whispering in the near distance, I sat down for a sip or two of water.  As I did so, I disturbed an enormous bird. I was just too slow in removing my camera to get a picture of it. Now, I am no expert on ornithological matters, but I have sworn to tell to the truth - so help me God - and the truth is that this light brown animal, could only have been a pterodactyl (which isn't a bird at all!)...or a stork...or...well, it was a very large bird indeed! Yes it was! And that's the truth of the matter. I should have taken a photo! This is also true. Had I taken a picture of the pterostork thingy, the 'chaos theory' would have kicked in and the events for the day ahead would have been altered, most probably for the better. It couldn't have been much worse! But I digress. I walked back to the fork in the road, and took a road less trodden. This was the direction I wished to be travelling in, but this road too, ended abruptly at a disused building. Once again, I walked back to the fork in the road. This time I would have to take the road that I had originally been on, and see if there wasn't a way round this particular collection of olive groves. I was feeling thoroughly frustrated. Why for heaven's sake had there been numerous signs telling me which way to go, when there was little choice other than to go in the direction that they indicated, and now...and now when I needed directions, there was not a sign to be seen. I rounded the olive grove. The path got wider. This was more like it. At the end of this path I would come to a 'T junction' in my path; this I could see. Just before reaching that junction, I saw an E4 sign. Way hay! All the signs it would appear, assumed that one was walking in the opposite direction from the one I was travelling in. I only saw this sign because I was looking back, making sure that I knew which way to return if necessary. The path I was on now ended and I had a choice of a left or right turn. To the left there was an abandoned village - just visible - with a beautiful looking Byzantinesque church, and to the right, the road looked like it swung round in the direction I wanted. The river I had seen earlier, passed under this road, spilling over onto to it. I entrusted my bag to a posse of tadpoles at this point and followed the road to see where it would take me. I was delighted to learn that it would take me to Kissamos-Kastelli, should I stay on it for long enough, for there, round a bend in a road, was another of my beloved E4 poles. I returned to my bag. The tadpoles had been worthy of my trust, and so I sat down and enjoyed their company for a while, whilst studying a map or two and drinking what little water I had left in the flask. I thought about refilling the flask from the river, but realised that this would be difficult to achieve, without taking a few of my tadpole friends out of the selective breeding process (Rex would tell me later that only one of these million little black creatures would survive to full froghood; the others would feed on their siblings, until there was only a single one left; riveting stuff!).

Hillocks and Pillocks

Returning to the road, I followed it through a lunar landscape for half an hour or so, keeping my eyes peeled for any signs that would take me over the hill (as it were) now clearly visible, to the South West. I can only assume that what I was treading on had been a water course of some sorts. Perhaps this had been a river-bed when the village I had seen was still inhabited; the river now diverted to more immediately deserving villages. Perhaps I don't know what I am typing about, but this was a very strange topography indeed. Away in the distance a rocky hill protruded. This, I was pretty sure, was the hill that I needed to cross. Time was getting on; it had passed 1PM, but I felt certain that I could still make Chrisopigi by 4PM, if I could only find the correct path. Every now and then I saw E4 signs. Almost all of these were in a position as to make them entirely superfluous to requirements. "Yes I know I am on the correct path", I grumbled. "Just let me know when we come to a fork". I came to a fork. Nothing. Not a sign of a sign. I guessed left; correctly as it turned out, and after much to-ing and fro-ing, came to a hillock. From the direction I was travelling in, this little hill looked to be the place to cross. There were two paths onto it. I left my bag where I stood and took the first of these paths. It ended in an olive grove. I took the second of the paths. It ended in an olive grove. Feeling every inch like a pillock on a hillock, I sat down and studied the landscape. I was certain that I had to cross that ridge somehow, but where? I looked southwards, and could just make out the sea shimmering away in the distance. Looking at a map, I decided that what I could see would be somewhere around the Makriyialos area. That had been where Rex was heading for this morning. It was not the direction I wanted. I resumed my study of the terrain. It reminded me of the wilds of North Scotland. Not as green, but with coarse heather, ready to rip unsuspecting walkers' boots to threads. I am an unsuspecting walker; ask anybody! That's when I saw it. To the South-West, screwed to a rock, a yellow and black sign. At least it looked like a yellow and black sign. I removed my camera from my bumbag and focused-in on the rock (my binoculars were, by this time, totally superfluous to requirements as the 8X optical zoom on the camera was close to being as powerful a lens and was far more easily used to focus in on objects). Yes, it was an E4 sign alright. Excellent! I carefully replaced my camera where it lived, and headed for the sign. Once there, I studied the landscape; I couldn't see another sign. This one was stapled to the rock, and looking at it directly, it may have been indicating that I should follow its direction, and cross the hill to its West. I had made this mistake on the walk to Soughia. Why would the sign be indicating that? It had been hardly visible from the direction I had come, so surely it was there to indicate that I should carry-on heading south and cross the hill, to my right, later. I was confused ( I am easily confused, ask anybody) but decided to follow my intuition. I continued in a South-Westerly way, steadily climbing what had turned from a mole hill into a mountain. I had no great trouble getting to the top of its ridge, by which time I realised that I must have come too far and that I should have taken the more direct route earlier. Curses! Oh well, not all was lost...yet! I rang Rex to inform him that there was little chance of me being in Chrisopigi at 4PM, and to meet me there at 6PM instead. I then took a short break. It was glorious up there. Not even a goat to disturb the peace, though ample evidence that they had the ability to get here if they wanted; surrounded by this evidence it would appear that goats are afraid of heights! To the East, I could just make out the village of Lithines, and to the West, what I believed was possible Kato Kria (or possibly its smaller, though more elevated cousin, Pano Kria). I knew that I should be heading in that general direction, but avoiding both places on my way to Daphni and my ultimate destination, Chrisopigi. There was a road on the other side of the hill; one that I was convinced I should be on. But how to get onto it?  Below me (East) a gorge cut through the terrain, with a couple of buildings attached to its side, and a splendid looking church away in the distance. The sea glimmered to my south and I experienced perfect solitude as I drank in the moment and some water. I took a photograph or three, before heading back to the last E4 sign that I had seen. This time I decided to drop down the side of the hill that I was on and take a closer look at the gorge. The hillock that I had twice walked onto earlier this afternoon, came into view, and this was the perfect landmark. If I returned to it, I could pick up my trail again. The gorge itself was terrifyingly precipitous viewed from this distance. I decided not to get too close to its edge and made my way back to the E4 sign. Vertigo is not something that a person planning  mountain walks should feel, but you'd be surprised how many do. Really you would!  I looked at my options. Surely there was only one way that I could get over the ridge. Was that an E4 pole I could see above me? I couldn't tell. I decided to get a better look, with the help of my the technological miracle that was strapped my waist. I reached for my camera.  It had been 3.45 PM by the time I returned to my landmark. Most timings during this walk, I have taken an educated guess at. Not this one. It was now 3.47 precisely. I shall never forget three forty seven, on the afternoon of Thursday the 15th of May, so long as I shall live. I felt for my Nikon camera case attached to my 'bumbag' around my waist, and upon finding it, found that it was empty!

Between a Rock and a Soft Case

I am a good person to have around in a crisis. Given a problem such as what to eat this evening and I will fluster with all my might; tell me that my house has burned down and I'd worry that the novel that I'd been reading, had gone up with it. I took this situation in my stride and decided that the particular stride I needed was a 'double quickstep' in order to retrace the ones of the past half an hour. I had probably dropped the camera within a few metres from where I was. Before doing this, I checked the contents of my rucksack. I had last checked this, this morning, and yet I was amazed at the useless objects that I had with me. Maybe I had placed the camera in there the last time I had stopped, high on the hill in the distance. I hadn't. Retracing my steps was not as difficult as it might have been. I knew the last time I had used the camera was on the ridge a half an hour's walk from where I now was. If I had left the camera there, then I was more of an idiot than I had previously thought, but it would be simple enough to find that spot, wouldn't it? I kept my eyes peeled as I walked back towards where my camera and I had last held each other. I was sure I would find it, but this, would of course, delay the walk by as long as that took. Returning to the top of the gorge, I made an effort to scour the countryside, but if truth be told, it wasn't much of an effort. It was clear to me what must have happened. I must have left it where I'd last taken a photograph, and that was up on the side of the hill above me.  I climbed the hill, trying desperately to remember the view I'd had when taking these photos. The area of the hill, was considerably larger than I had remembered it being, and it was a further couple of hours before the scenery matched my memory. I looked at my watch. It had passed 6 PM. There was not a hope of me making Chrisopigi tonight. I rang Rex. I relayed to him my sorry tale and told him that I may well spend the night here. Poor Rex was already ensconced in Chrisopigi, and not particularly enjoying the experience. He was glad to hear that I was OK and that he could get out of the place. He suggested that I should head back to Papagiannades. He knew where this was and he could give me a lift back to Vori tomorrow. I reckoned on another 30 minutes of searching before I made my way back. I made my way back. Chrisopigi was no more than two hours West of here and if I could get back to this point tomorrow morning, I could have as long as eight hours searching time. I walked back in the same direction I had come this morning. Knowing the route helped and I was back at Papagiannades within 90 minutes. I met Rex at the kafeneion I had passed that morning. I was upset but not distraught. I would find that camera if it killed me; my major concern was that the object of my desires, would be alone all night!  We asked about accommodation options in the village of Papagiannades. There were none, so we decided that Makriyialos (occ. Makrigialos or Makri Gialos, etc.) would be the best place. Rex had spent most of the afternoon here, and had decided that he liked it. He had spent an hour in Chrisopigi and had taken an instant dislike to the place, or rather the residents thereof (apparently he'd had difficulty ordering a Greek coffee in the kafeneion). I was glad that I had Rex with me. I was glad I hadn't needed to spend the night in Chrisopigi. If Rex didn't like the place, neither would I. I placed my rucksack in the car and closed the boot. This action elicited a sickening crunching sound. I re-opened the car's boot and found that the compass I had tied around the arm-strap of my rucksack, had been caught between the boot and the door which I had just slammed shut, with my bag playing "piggy-in-the-middle". Instead of a compass, I now had shards of glass and a bent needle which pointed at me accusingly. An angel was watching over me. An angel that really hated me. I decided not too dwell on my latest loss for too long. Surely, I could find a replacement compass in Makriayialos. It was my camera that I needed to find and find it I would!  It had been a number of years since my last visit to Makriyialos and things had changed quite a bit. The villages of Analipsi and Koutsouras are almost indistinguishable from Makriyialos - especially the former - which they surround, creating a sprawling holiday resort, with quite a bit of charm and some nice beaches. I was extremely hungry, but first things first. Find somewhere to stay. Despite the time of year, this proved to be more difficult than we had thought. Three places were "full", before we found the romanticaVilla Romantica (pictured). We rang the doorbell where the owners Katerina and Giannis Theoharakis live, and were told that there was a twin room available. "Poses nichtes" (How many nights?) we were asked. "Mia" (one), I replied. The cost would be €40.00. It was a nice room, but I thought this to be slightly expensive. I considered the chances of finding a room tomorrow at Chrisopigi, and deciding that these were slim and that Rex was not a fan of the place, asked how much it would be if we spent tomorrow night here as well. The price dropped to €35.00 per night; and if we spent three nights here? It would be €30.00 per night. I thought ahead of where I was supposed to be in two days time: Vasiliki is close to Pacheia Ammos. It was extremely unlikely that there would be accommodation in Vasiliki, so we would probably have to make our way to Pacheia Ammos  instead. Why not stay here? It was decided. We booked three nights at the Romantica. A nice place with a nice name. Romantic was not how I felt, however, despite Rex's presence. Nevertheless, my friend and I shared a candlelit dinner down the road (I have shared more candlelit dinners with Rex than ever I did with my wife, which might explain why I am now a bachelor!), and away from the main seaside tavernas. I was still convinced that I would find my camera, but I had already lost a day, and I was trying to work out how to recapture it. The first of my "dopey days" (days where I had planned to take a day off from walking) was planned for when I arrived in Archanes. There was a lot that I wished to see there, so I didn't like the idea of losing that rest period. Oh well, I would sort that out when it came to it. What I couldn't afford to do was to lose another day. I was about to lose another day!

To Chrisopigi.
Friday the 16th of May
Camera Obscura
I awoke early this morning. Not crack of dawn, no, 8AM (ish). Hey, that is early! I took the short trip to the local supermarket which was remarkably well stocked with almost anything that a tourist might require. This tourist required iced tea, coffee and yoghurt; despite the temptation, I decided could do without a snorkel and mask at present and I most certainly did not require a disposable camera! I wondered exactly where I had disposed of my Nikon Coolpix 5700 and became even more determined to rescue it from the elements and prying, high-flying goats! I checked some of the local shops for the possibility of obtaining a replacement compass. The Greek word for a compass is 'pixida'; of the six places I deemed likely to sell such things, in Makrigialos, two knew what a pixida was, and none stocked one. Oh well, I knew where I was going today. At least I think I did. Back at the Romantica, I forced a yoghurt down my throat and prepared myself for the day ahead. We jumped into the car at around 10AM and headed back to Papagiannades. He's a grand lad is our Rex. Arriving at Vori, I released my seat-belt, with a view to head for the path that was becoming too well-trodden. Rex was having none of it. Despite being under-insured in the car's tyre and "bottom" department, my friend insisted on boldly driving me down to where no car had gone before; well, not in the past couple of days, anyway. Actually, it's rather splendid around here. The scenery changes in instalments, and I'd ordinarily highly recommend this walk. I just wouldn't necessarily recommend to do it on consecutive days! We reached the olive grove in five minutes rather than the 20 it would have taken me on hoof. Rex parked the car and in his 'hush-puppies', gingerly trod in my giant footsteps. Rex wasn't equipped for this terrain. He looked cool and groovy, but walking boots and goats' legs are minimum requirements. If the rocks don't get you the heather will. I looked back at my friend. He was languishing some way behind, not aided in his choice of footwear, as brambles and thorns tried to swallow him whole, and once or twice managed to obscure the boy from view. As I reached the rock with the stapled sign attached, any problems of finding the correct route were solved as a tiny figure approached from the point that I believed to be my ultimate escape route. Rex caught up as the other chap came closer, his minute frame became somewhat larger, until towering over me, he introduced himself. Pieter was his name. A Belgian chap who was discovering the East of Crete, and had with him one of the very maps that I had brought of the E4 route. I chuckled sardonically as Pieter looked at his map from every conceivable angle; trying to match it with his environs. He had little idea of where he was. In exchange for information about how he had arrived here, I showed him the way to go, as it were. Trust me dear reader. I'd had ample opportunity to discover exactly where I was; thanks to my new found friend, I'd found out how to get to where I was going. Or at least which direction it lay. I left Rex to his own devices, which was something akin to slow-by-stop-start-slow. It wasn't his fault. He'd just turned up at a fancy dress party in the wrong gear. I looked back at him and realised what a great friend this man is. It was me that was the idiot. It was me that had lost the camera. And yet here he was, or at least, there, some way below me, dutifully plodding on; parts of him were being scratched that - at his age - had no right to be, as he ploughed through yet another thicket, following the thickie! I decided to text Rex. "Stay", I wrote. "Woof" replied Rex, gruffly.

Pandora's box-camera

It took me an hour to find the exact spot where I had taken the photo. Something glistened, and it wasn't the distant Libyan sea. Was it gold? Did I care? All I wanted was my camera. Had I found it? A thrill of excitement coursed through my veins. It was a packet of sweets that I must have dropped yesterday. I came down like a brick thrown off the nearby gorge. Gold would have been a fine thing to find; a packet of sweets was some way down the list. I don't stay down for long. If I had found the sweets, then this is where I had rested yesterday; a time and a place where I knew I'd still possessed a camera. I ate a sweet. Time flies when you are having fun; it also flies when you are desperate to be on the move to somewhere else. A cursory look at my watch informed me that I had been stuck up this hill for over five hours! It was now past 3.45 PM. I was in a similar position to the one that I had been in yesterday, at precisely the same time. I promised God that I would become vegetarian if he only allowed me to find my camera. God wasn't fooled.  "O.K., I'll become tea-total"...for tonight.."for a week?". My God drives a hard bargain. I forsook my God and tried to retrace the route I'd taken back to that rock with that E4 sign, yesterday.  You know how it is, just as the probabilities start to run out on you, the slightest possibility suddenly becomes compelling. It was obvious. There was no way that I would have allowed myself to have left the camera on the mountain side. Something must have snagged my case and taken hold of the strap attached to the camera. But where? I looked at the route back to the the rock with its E4 sign, where I had first discovered my loss. I looked at the square mileage that lay before me. The camera was definitely not on this hillside. That was for sure. I rang Rex. I would give this "Nikon in a haystack" search, another two hours. Poor Rex. He was discovering a sudden interest in botany. He had little else to do. "O.K. mate", was the only thing that he could say. "O.K. mate", said Rex. I spent the following two hours checking every rock, desperately looking for a large black object in every overgrown thistle. I had lost a day, and still I had to get to Chrisopigi and on to Vasiliki to be only one day behind schedule. I thought of my itinerary and wondered whether I could afford to lose a second day. What I couldn't afford was to lose the camera. I had taken close to 60 pictures already (for the uninitiated among you, this little card, would allow me to take approximately 150 pictures; all I needed to go with it was a digital camera!) and I had another in the camera case still around my waist, software which would be no use without the hardware to put it in);  the idea of losing those along with my camera was anathema.  I would go back with Rex tonight. I would return here tomorrow and do what I should have done today. Find that bloody camera!

Looking back, I now know why Rex can remain as quiet as he does for as long as he does. He thinks. He doesn't string random thoughts together and bleat them out in no particular order. He thinks. I thought. I thought long and hard. "You alright mate", Rex asked as we sat in a taverna on Makriyialos pretty waterfront. "Eh?", was all I could say. How I had got here was a mystery. Rex and I were sharing another candlelit dinner! I had decided that I would have to make Chrisopigi tomorrow. But first I would spend another whole day looking for the AWOL camera. I needed to buy a new torch and a compass first, and to this affect it was decided to head for Ierapetra, just West of here, the following morning. I slept the sleep of the afflicted that night. We could and should have taken up the option of using the air-conditioning system, which we had been offered for an extra €5 per night. Every mosquito in the neighbourhood took it upon themselves to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. I'd show 'em. Mosquitoes like me. The feeling is not a mutual one. I wouldn't hurt a fly, but tomorrow, I would commit genocide against the mosquito population of Makriyialos. I added mosquito repellent to the list of things to buy in Ierapetra. Rex was oblivious to all this. He was audibly asleep. Seventy six trombones led a parade of at least that number of "mossies", dive-bombing me from undetermined heights. It was 2AM. I decided to try out my sleeping bag on the veranda outside. I knew that my high-pitched friends would follow me, allowing Rex an undisturbed sleep. This they did. I am not too worried about the affects of being bitten by mosquitoes. No, it's the noise they make as they pass your ears that gets to me. "Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikkkkoooon", they mocked, as I drifted in and out of sleep. I tried burying my head in the rucksack, but it was a warm night and I had to keep coming up for air. The mossies knew this; cunning critters!
To Chrisopigi.
Saturday the 17th of May

Closure
Ierapetra8AM again. I took a wander down to our local shop and bought some yoghurts. My ears were red. I blamed the mosquitoes for this, but in fact it was as a result of where I had slapped myself unconscious last night in a fruitless attempt to remove just one of these pesky insects from the evolutionary cycle. I had never liked Ierapetra. This was partially due to the fact that I just thought of the place as a dusty old town, but the main reason was a failed attempt, some years ago, to get a boat from here to Kato Zakros, as I had been advised I could. I couldn't! This was entirely the fault of the person who'd advised me; and mine for believing him, but I still blamed the town for it. Neither had I forgiven the people of Ierapetra their unprovoked(?) attack on Praesos, a mere 2,200 years ago! We have long memories, we elephants. And long noses too. On subsequent visits, I had always driven around, or straight through the town. Now Rex and I were at its centre, and I was becoming quite fond of the place. I entered a sports shop. No, they didn't sell compasses, but at least they knew what a 'pixida' was, and happily advised me of where I could find one. I followed their advise and directions and, without the aid of a compass, found a camping shop and bought two compasses and a small torch. The staff in here were friendly. Everybody here was friendly. I returned to the sports shop and bought a pair of shorts that had taken my fancy; more as a "thank you" for the advice offered previously, than any desperate need to add to an already overcrowded suitcase. Don't ask me why I do these things, but it was worth it. These were very nice people to do business with. Rex and I decided to have a coffee before setting off on that well driven trail back to Vori. We sat in the main square and looked at the people as they passed. Fabulous. Serendipity. If I had not broken my compass, I wouldn't be here now, and may have avoided Ierapetra forever. Now, I can hardly wait to return. This is not the most immediately attractive town in Crete, in fact it's one of the ugliest, but it has a vibrancy and a charm all of its own. It is an interesting place to visit, with an historical legacy that brims to the overflowing. Everybody here has a smile for you, and I needed as many smiles as I could collect at this point in proceedings. I now officially like Ierapetra. Yes I do. We drove back to Vori, and from there, down the path to the abandoned village. We arrived back there just before mid-day. I would look for my camera, either until I found it, or 5.30 PM arrived, whichever happened first. At 5.30 I would have to abandon hope of finding it. I had a little under six hours to scour the countryside. I scoured the countryside. I followed my well-trodden path, back and forwards, between the gorge and the E4 sign. Ordinarily it would have been a 20 minute walk between these two places, but scouring takes time. Believe me! By my 10th attempt, it was 4.45 PM. I spent a further half an hour checking an area where waist-high branches could have snagged the camera. I abandoned hope! Worse, I abandoned my camera! I tried to pull myself together, I failed. I felt as if I had lost a relative. "Jesus wept!"; at least I'd found something. A commonality with Him upstairs!  I headed West over the ridge. Once on the other side, the scenery becomes superbly photogenic. Well, of course it does. It just had to, didn't it? I kept checking my bum-bag, as if miraculously my camera would be hiding in there. The river I had seen from the hillside had to be crossed, and with the help of superfluous E4 signs guiding the obvious route, I followed the path onto a road and headed West. Daphni was the village I was aiming for. At a three-pronged fork in the road, the E4 signs disappeared again. "Oh, thank you very much". About a half an hour and a stiff climb later, I came to the village of Kato Kria. This wasn't where I wanted to be at all. I sat down and watched a Cretan badger (Melesmeles-Arcalus) doing what Cretan badgers do (scurry about, seemingly aimlessly on a roof top, allowing one ample time to take a sneaky photo of it, if only one had a camera!) for a couple of minutes, before regathering what little energy I could muster, and taking the long and metalled road to Daphni. I was thoroughly fed up with the E4, and continued on this tarmac road, past the small village of Daphni, on a heading for Chrisopigi. Approaching Chrisopigi, the E4 runs parallel with the road. At this point I never wanted to see the E4 again; nevertheless, I decided that I may as well follow it into the village. Heaven knows why! After about ten minutes of pleasurable walking, it rejoins the road that I had left and it's a further quarter of an hour walk to Chrisopigi. Rex was there waiting for me. Funnily enough, and despite my friends reservations about the place, I quite liked the look of this village. it reminded me a little of a place I had visited in New Hampshire, in the USA once. The road was straight and the houses were set off from it. There were plenty of trees here too, and not just ones promising olives in the autumn. Rex knows that I am a blithering idiot; we have, after all, known each other for over 20 years and billions of blitherings; the vast majority issuing forth from that big mouth of mine (you have known me for merely 100,000 words and even you know that I am not the sharpest tool in the box!).  Rex also knows that there is a time and place to call an idiot "an idiot", and that this was neither the time nor the place. On the way back to Makriyialos, we stopped at the charming village of Stavrohori. Now this was worth it. I needed a beer. Rex complied. We found a little kafeneion and watched the locals for half an hour or so. Opposite the kafeneion sat an elderly gent on a 'settee'. which had once been the back seat of a bus. His daughter drove up in an expensive car and out she got replete with the old chap's grandchildren. Pictures can paint a thousand words, but I didn't have a camera, neither would I have invaded their privacy even if I had. The old gent was desperately trying to give his daughter some money so that she could enjoy herself and perhaps buy a small house for her children too. The daughter was too polite to point out that €20.00 doesn't buy a lot of land around here, but her father was having none of it. He may have been the Howard Hughes of Lassithi for all I know, but I suspect that he was merely a pensioner who counted every lepta. Here he was, throwing himself in front of the car as his daughter tried to drive off without the money. Excuse me for sounding patronising, but it was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. The views from up here are fabulous. Orino (see following chapter) is a village famed for its views, but as our old gent quite rightly observed: "it aint got what we've got", and I'm telling you now, he ain't wrong!

Candles and Bulbs.

Rex and I were on nodding terms as we drove back. My brain wanted to say something but my mouth, for a change, refused the challenge. Once at Makriyialos, I was treated to a (candlelit!) meal. We ate in almost total silence, punctuated with the occasional smile, less illuminating than the candle. The waiter us offered a glass of tsikhoudia. Well, why the hell not. It was shortly after having downloaded the glass into my system, that a flashbulb lit up in my head. I had a plan! A cunning one too! Tomorrow's walk was to be from Chrisopigi to Vasiliki. I was pretty sure that there was nowhere to stay in Vasiliki (more's the pity, it's a lovely little village), so we had planned to stay the night in Pachia Ammos, just North of there, that evening. What was stopping us staying at Aghios Nikolaos instead. Aghios Nikolaos with its cosmopolitan restaurants, its plethora of hotels and its shops. Its camera shops. OK, I had lost the pictures on the flashcard within my camera, but I still had the case and another 256Kb flashcard within.  For some reason, my credit card company believes that I may, one day, wish to go out and buy a Rolls Royce (albeit a second-hand one) such is the credit limit I have been granted. I would buy another camera, and to hell with the expense. I ran this past Rex. After much debate, with me allowing Rex almost a full sentence of input, it was decided that I would replace the camera, but only with an identical one; if I could find one. I may be able to get the money back from my travel insurance, but I would not settle for an inferior camera. A Nikon 5700 or nothing. It was decided. What a decision. I felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and with a whistle on my lips, a spring in my step and a can of insect-repellent in my hand, off I headed to obliterate as many mosquitoes as possible. "Oh, happy days are here again...

Further reading: 'Post-Minoan Crete (BSA Studies no. 2) Chapter Two; 'From Minoans to Eteocretans, the Praisos region 1200 - 500 BC' by James Whitley and for those with a good library, The Annual of the British School at Athens; Number 8. Session 1901-1902; chapter six: 'The Pre-Hellenic Inscriptions of Praisos' by RC Bosanquet (father of the British newscaster, Reginald, for those old Brits amongst you). Back to text^
Stelios Jackson's sponsor :
The Hellenic Bookservice - Britain's Greek (and Latin) bookshop. Est. 1966
© Stelios Jackson & interkriti

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