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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 14: Aghia Roumelli to Soughia (again!).


Forgive the self-indulgence of this chapter, particularly the dialogue between Jean and I, towards its closure. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I last wrote here, and too many loved ones have passed to a better place in that time. SJ

I dedicate this chapter to two of the finest: Photini Constantinou; a woman beyond compare, and the great Cretaphile Tony Fennymore who helped me in so many ways; not least the history box that his name's linked to. So long...

Monday the 2nd of June
Only 24 hours from Soughia

I woke at precisely the time I expected I would, which was precisely an hour after I'd wanted to. At the third stroke, the time would be 6.30 AM, precisely. "Sto dialo!" (to the devil!) with all this stroking; time to leap into action. I felt surprisingly untroubled by this late awakening, and given that a mere five and a half hours ago, I had been studying my starters' blocks, as it were, troublingly unsurprised too! Jean had warned me that I would not be able to do this walk in a day, and whilst I was determined to attempt just that, I felt sure he was correct. I had with me everything a person could want for an overnight stay in the wilderness. Lorraine Wilson, in her excellent book, 'Crete: The White Mountains', times the walk to Soughia, as taking approximately ten and a quarter hours. This was if one knew the trail and didn't appear to take into account any "pit stops", or "oil changes", which I had every intention of taking, as frequently as I chose. Ms Wilson also states, correctly, that this walk is one where one shouldn't rush to reach ones ultimate destination, and to make it a "two-to-three day trek", time permitting. I had time. I had planned to meet with a couple of Interkritters - Ray and Lynne - as well as Virginia, on Tuesday or Wednesday, in Paleohora. I would give them a ring once I reached Soughia and, as that looked likely to be tomorrow, it would be Wednesday in Paleohora. I checked my water supply. Eight 75cl bottles, one "emergency" litre-and-a-half bottle, and my trusty flask, which was full to the brim of its one litre capacity; a total of eight and a half litres of water, weighing-in at a total of eight and a half kilos! I also had with me, two cans of lemonita. I sat on the balcony for a while and downed half of one of the smaller plastic bottle's contents, opened a lemonita, for the want of anything better to do, walked to the shower room, made myself thoroughly wet, returned to the balcony and necked the remaining half of the bottle's and can's contents, whilst sunning myself. This was the life! Wasn't it? All this absorbing absorption took the time beyond quarter past seven. I looked west. In contrast to the last attempt at this walk, I was more excited than nervous of this walk, but my subconscious still couldn't help but nag any particles of brain willing to listen. Somewhere behind the hills which obscured my view, lay Soughia. Would I find myself there tonight? Tomorrow? At all?

Taking my leave

I left the hotel at 7.30AM - it doesn't take me long to get-on-out, especially as the need for make-up was diminished by the fact that I'd be on my lonesome for at least 24 hours - and headed for the blue gate which marks the start of the trek. I was met on the other side of the gate's gait, by my farmyard friends of yestermonth, who, collectively, bleated, oinked and brouhahaed my arrival; I closed the gate behind me, but the animals remained off their hinges! Despite the warmth of the day - already in the mid 80s Fahrenheit (c.30 Celsius), at a guess, this early in the morning - I'd placed around my legs a pair of tracksuit bottoms, as memories of "Killer-Stinging-Nettles-From-Outer-Aghia-Roumelli" (great film, not so wonderful in reality; feel free to compare and contrast!), had come flooding back, in a very itchy way indeed! Prepared, as I was, I started the climb, north, and lost myself in the beauty of the day, and my surroundings. A hop and a skip later, and there I was... lost in my surroundings. Well, lost is somewhat of an exaggeration, but I was not exactly where I should have been, at this juncture. I'd somehow wandered too far west and found myself at the bottom of a cliff face. It was an easily rectifiable problem, involving a 90 degree turn, northward, but I realised that I needed to keep my wits about me, today. Heavens, even last time, with no knowledge of the route, I'd managed to find the correct path! Never mind, eh? I was in one of those unbearably chirpy moods that descend upon me every now and again, and I needed to put a bit of misery back into my walking. Up I went! Whistling songs of triumph and disaster. Chatting up the goats.

The route up, was easier than the last time I'd been in this particular neck of the woods. Possibly because of the little knowledge I had, but more likely due to the fact that I'd spent the last month walking, and was far fitter than I had been back then. It's quite a steep climb, north, before one hangs a left (west), and the graduation is less severe, but continues in a mostly upward direction. A couple of times I stopped, just to take in the scenery and reduce my pack weight by taking a few sips of water. I reached the "gorge"  I'd suspected was Klados, last time. What could I have been thinking? Yes, it was a gorge of sorts, but, having seen the Klados variety, from a state of suspended animation, and disbelief, this was like comparing a gnat to a wandering albatross! Round the "gorge", on its north side, I went; just like I had last time. Apart from the earlier "walk into the side of a cliff" debacle, I was very much on track, as I found myself on the west side of the "gorge". A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; this I know, but I was confident I could find my way to where the walk would begin to descend into the Klados gorge, or better still, onto the beach which marked the bottom of said gorge. Unsurprisingly, not a soul was seen for the two and a half hours it took to get to the point I'd reached the last time I'd attempted this walk. I looked up at the hillock above me and remembered past mistakes. Whilst at times steep, this walk involves no mountaineering, and once one starts heading south, towards the sea, one should keep going, even if one can't find any sign of a path; one should not, repeat NOT, come over all Edmund Hillary!

Downwardly mobile

I had arrived at the point where I'd seen the E4 pole on my return journey, last time. That time I'd wandered  in a mostly westwardly way, before spending a few hours amusing the local goats, whilst dangling from a precipice above their favourite gorge. What a lark, eh? Cairn stones mark the way to the hill's edge. How high this particular hill - more of a cliff-face, really - is, I know not, but it took over an hour to get down its side, and then a fair bit of winding is to be enjoyed at its bottom. The good part is that the beach is of the "extremely wide and quite long" variety, and is practically unmissable on the way down; the whole descent being marked with a plethora of E4 poles, some of which would have been better positioned during the earlier part of the walk, methinks!  Bearing in mind that I now knew that I had to get down onto the beach and walk its length, its size acted as a very handy beacon, though my impatience to reach it, caused its usual problems. Birds circled above and the sea shimmered below, throwing shards of refracted light off the limestone land and back towards Libya; blinding this unwary walker with its intensity and beauty; tempting same walker to take a dip in the waters, some 25 miles below (actually it's probably no more than a quarter of mile downwards, and the sea a further quarter of a mile outwards, but a similar result would await those taking a plunge; not a recommended or healthy pastime!). This was splendid, but I was determined to keep my eyes open, and my two left feet, firmly affixed upon terra firma! Firm ground can be deceptively liquid, when one isn't concentrating. In the time it takes a hare to breathe (or the distance between the sides of a hair's breadth, depending on your choice of metaphor!), one can find oneself approaching ones destination rather more quickly than one might wish. Eyes down, ladies and gentleman. Stare at your shoes. Any would-be beholder of beauty can do this whilst stationary! When mobile, pay attention to where you're going. As you may have guessed from this little caveat, my senses had been straying from the path, and with me within, my 'Brashers' had slid the last 18 inches, rather than walk them. A short distance, but an object lesson in the dangers of abstract walking! "The joy is in the journey", wrote Homer, or Cavafy, or both, but my very own Ithaca was down below, and I wanted to be there as soon as possible. However, I managed to slow myself down enough to almost enjoy the descent. There's a little concrete well before one clambers onto the beach; it was as waterless as I'd been led to believe it would be. One thing I'll add at this point - this is the way to walk the walk, so to speak. East to west, rather than the other way round. The climb from Klados to the top of this hill, is very steep, and it's certainly not easy from there, with a knee-jerking, downhill path, leading into Aghia Roumelli, awaiting!

Mobiley Upwards

Meanwhile, back at the bottom, I sat down on the secluded beach and drank from my flask. So far, so good. I'd made it here in four hours, give-or-take a few minutes, which put me exactly on Lorraine Wilson's time-line. This had included a couple of breaks; a luxury for some, a necessity for me. Almost immediately, my 'phone rang. This came as a bit of a shock.I'd had trouble enough getting a signal way back when Rex and Virginia had seemed so intent on disturbing my misery, high on a hill with a lonely goatherd, somewhere back there. I looked up, and allowed myself a self-satisfied smirk! That had been three and a half weeks ago. Now,all of a sudden, here I was, miles from anywhere and talking to my mother as if she were standing next to me. Everything was fine and dandy in dear ol' blighty, I'd been delighted to learn. "Me? Oh, I'm on a beach at the bottom of the Klados gorge...Yes, I would have an ice cream for you, but there's a distinct lack of vendors in the vicinity!" My mother left me to my own devices and I looked at my mobile with growing admiration.  I pondered on how the signal could have been as clear as a bell down here, miles from civilisation, but not "up there", an hour and a half's walk closer to the very same civilisation! "It's not rocket science" I thought, before an image of a Vodofone satellite, hovering above, sprung to mind, and I decided that it probably was rocket science after all, and I really shouldn't be troubling myself with matters of this gravity. My brain had neither the mass or energy for such density!

I Don't Want to Spoil the Party...

Besides, I now had a new distraction to amuse me. A small boat on the horizon was becoming larger and on a collision course with my beach! Firstly, I could just make out a "small fishing boat" in the far distance, then the near distance, then the fact that it wasn't a small fishing vessel, at all, as, one by one, I counted  a dozen or so people on board, all of whom looked, distinctly, like the revelling types to my eyes, even if I were yet to see the whites of theirs. The distance was now around 400 metres. I felt a beach barbecue coming on, and I couldn't be having with that. They'd probably have nothing suitable for vegetarians, so the sneaky thought that this could be an opportunity to share in what could be my final chance to eat something wholesome, today (I did have that tin of dolmadakia a lemon, an onion and some assorted nuts in my pack, for tonight), was pushed to the back of mind. They'd be here in five minutes, and whilst the beach was large enough to accommodate an Ibiza sized rave, it just wasn't big enough for the 13 of us; last supper, or not!

...So I'll go...whoa-a!

I should have been in no hurry, having decided that this would be a two-day trip, due to my delayed start this morning, but I leaped to my feet and headed gorgewards, nonetheless. The path picks up again on the west side of the gorge's mouth, some 100 metres - or so - in, and from there its all plain-walking -  in a rather perfunctory sort of way -  to the next in our long-running series of gorges ("are we there yet Dad?")! The path, though worn or non-existent, at times, is still pretty easy to follow. One heads up, down, up again (the Hokey Cokey may always have seemed a pointless dance, but, all of a sudden, you'll realise its earth-thumping significance: "you put your left leg in, your left leg out; in, out, in, out, you shake it all about...", pretty much sums this stretch up..."whoa-a..."; which leg you use, depends on the direction you're travelling, of course!); strays inland, turns around ("whoa-a..."), but stays relatively close to the coast, for a couple of hours, before a building can be spotted on a hillside to the south-west. Further twists and turns are necessary to reach this hamlet, and there are a number of rocky bits - which one can be certain used to have a path attached  - below ("...knees bent, arms stretched...!"). I had been warned of such instances, but I had no trouble circumambulating the missing pieces of path. Besides, I'd spent a month trying to follow the E4; here at least one can see a logical route, even if the path is no longer with us; better to mourn its loss, than to never have found it at all! And so say all of us ("Raa Raa Raa...")!

Tripiti Tripping

I should be approaching the second of the gorges soon, and sure enough, within a few minutes, I reached a house, replete with mule and water-well. The well had a metal grate over it, which was locked, and a metal gate in front of it, which was equally locked. I am sure I could have extracted some moisture from the well, had I wished, but to date, I had drunk less than a quarter of my "stash", and, besides, the well's contents didn't look like it would do me a great deal of good, health wise, covered as it was with insects of differing species, doing the sort of things insects do: skimmers the breast-stroke, ants the front-crawl, beetles the back-stroke, and butterflies...well, use your imagination! The mule had been studying me, from a distance, and I decided to enter into a rather one-sided conversation with the animal, about the weather and such things, before we both tired of the monologue, and I made my way to where I believed the bottom of the Tripiti gorge should hang out. The topography here is splendid. Rocks shaped by millennia of taking a battering from the wine-dark sea. Part man-made, mostly God-made, this was a truly breathtaking landscape to be a part of.

Thoughtless

The waves played with a dinghy, bouncing it about like a toy. As I turned inland towards the Tripiti gorge, the dinghy's owner greeted me; or rather he didn't. He'd been outside a large white building - in which he probably lived, a few days a year - for reasons completely beyond me. Now, I shouldn't imagine too many people do this walk - despite what Rex's friend in Soughia had claimed all those chapters ago - so I was somewhat taken aback, when, just I was bracing myself for a chingwag with this chap, he looked away, as if trying to pretend I didn't exist. This suited me fine. From my experience of the fashion the people who own smallholdings at the bottom of the Tripiti gorge prefer, at this time of year, I couldn't say I was impressed. O.K. I only had this chap as a frame of reference, but white string vest and off white y-fronts, in which he was hanging out, so to speak, was a look I could have done without seeing. Signs in various languages, attached to a metal fence, in front of the house, warned those who may pass that no water can be found here, "so don't ask, or dogs will bite your bum", to paraphrase. I'd got the gist; besides, I was in a position of being able to sell him water had I wished, so I hurried past in a very laconic fashion indeed. This mutual trappist behaviour seemed to spark something in my sartorially challenged comrade, and he indicated with a grunt, that he wished for communication to open. I was asked where I was going, which seemed blindingly obvious to me, but I granted him the answer "Soughia", and was told that I was going the right way about it, which seemed equally obvious. I must admit to being suddenly very disappointed with myself. The chap was only trying to make conversation and what else could he have asked me?  I thanked him for his help and guidance, and answered his next question, with "Epta-mesi to Proi"  ("seven-thirty  in the morning", was the time I'd left Aghia Roumelli), to which I was informed I was making good time. I suddenly liked this man. Many a time, I'd have liked to hang out on the streets of East Barnet, wearing only pants and sting vest, but just hadn't the courage. I thought of putting my rucksack aside and talking of deeper, more meaningful things, but I had Soughia on my mind, and it was only just beginning to dawn on me that I could be there tonight...possibly.

Fortless

It was knocking-on four PM as we waved our farewells and I headed off. According to Lorraine's book (forgive my familiarity, but she was my only friend out here!), there should be an old Turkish fort somewhere around here, and I should head for that. "I see no fort", I thought. I took a break, in the gorge's mouth, and poured some water into my own. A small house was visible from the where I sat, perched on top of a hillside. No way on earth could that be a Turkish fort. So, where was the fort? The "small house"  lay in the general direction in which I wished to travel, and guided by a series of cairn stones, I headed for it. Looking back, I reckon I should have taken the hill's outer extremity, as the terrain may have been firmer underfoot, but I didn't. The direct route was the one for me, and I struggled up the scree covered hillside, slip-sliding-away, in much the manner as I'd done - albeit in a downward direction - on the "road" to Rodakino, on my first walk. It was tough going, in truth, and when the going gets tough, I get going, faster. Scree flew everywhere. I'm good at that! It's a talent! I was getting nowhere, slowly!  I felt as if I were a hamster on a treadmill. My cheeks puffed out and I made ridiculous squeaking noises - the type only heard before, whilst facing a mirror in Chania - as I approached the top, millimetre by millimetre.

The "small house" was getting larger. It may have even been a large house, though definitely not a Turkish fort; oh no;  this much at least, I was certain of, dear reader. I reached the Turkish fort (for that was what it was!), about half an hour later. I studied the place for a while, and would have taken a photo if only I'd had the means!  I really wish I'd bought another disposable camera for this particular walk; or, better still, not disposed of my Nikon, somewhere close to Chrisopiggi!  There aren't that many pictures of the terrain, between Aghia Roumelli and Soughia. This was the only part of the walk, which I managed quicker than described in Ms Wilson's book; probably because it was the only stage in which I didn't take a break; though it felt for most of the climb, I'd been nigh-on stationary! I like my breaks, and once at the fort, I took the opportunity to do what I liked. A cigarette was lighted, followed by another. Stupid habit, I know, but when perched upon Turkish forts...

It's extraordinarily pretty around here. Maybe it's just the remoteness of it all. Some people come to Tripiti from Soughia, as part of a day trip, but that is for hardened walkers only, as it would be at least a six hour round trip, without breaks. I was en-hoof again, and with the evidence of Ms Wilson's book, and that of my good friend down in Tripiti, I was suddenly convinced I could make it to Soughia tonight. Not for long. The scree had taken its toll, and after a further hour or so of foot-stomping, I felt suddenly very tired. I tried to slow myself down. Failed. Stopped for another cigarette. Decided that I'd stay here the night. Decided I wouldn't. Got up. Sat down again, as if performing some strange ritual dance. I came to the earth-shattering decision that I may as well carry on until the sun had descended, and seeing that I was looking westward through a forest of pine, I had a good hour and a half,  yet. The nearer I got to Soughia, the fewer steps I'd need to take tomorrow. I now knew I wouldn't be there tonight. Time for one last cigarette.

No Smoke without Fire

As a child, on holiday in Athens, I'd been playing with matches with my sister, Alison, and Georgios, the son of family friends. We'd been in a garden surrounded by pine trees, and were just inventing game number 26 of interesting things to do with a a box of 52 matches, when a militant group of pine needles decided to play their own game with us, and spontaneously combusted from underneath. Now, this was the best of games...until other pine needles needlessly decided to join the fun, and before we knew it, we in the middle of a forest fire, albeit of the common garden variety. This had been in Athens, circa 1969. The fire-brigade were called, and the police came to assess the situation and threaten my father with a personal audience with that nice Colonel Papadopoulos, should such things be allowed to happen again. Needless to say, my sister and I were demoted to the doghouse, figuratively speaking of course, but, as they say, "that day I learned something". Dry pine needles and matches do not mix. Thank goodness I had a cigarette lighter; I lighted the cigarette and started to make plans for this evening's al-fresco experience. It was a pity I wouldn't get to Soughia tonight, but I was happy -  and prepared - enough for this not to be a problem. Stubbing out the cigarette, extremely carefully, I rose to my feet. The nearer I got to my destination, the better. I pootled on, singing a happy song. It was  6.30 PM, and I'd give it another hour.

The Look of Love

Quite often, when tired, I'd play mind games with myself. Increasing the distance in my head, whilst knowing it was only half that distance in reality. This was different. I had no idea of where Soughia lay. Headlands could be seen, and I estimated the village of my desires was, possibly, after the sixth such peninsula, and then some. The path is well way-marked; mostly with cairn stones, but the occasional black and yellow E4 sign would rear its head, either attached to a pole, or painted on rocks. There's a bit more inland winding to be had, before the path becomes just that. A proper path, running adjacent to the sea. Another hour of walking completed and I started to count down the moments until I could drop my rucksack and myself, and set-up camp. I needed a good night's sleep, and kept walking until I found a suitable place to lay my head. I came to a small plateau, covered in the Cretan variety of grass, which is made of sterner stuff than I was used to at home, but this was the place for me. Perfect! Flat, relatively comfortable, open, and here! I looked away in the distance, and decided that Soughia was somewhere "over there" - hidden behind a peninsula or six - and this was as good a place as anywhere to spend the night. I was probably not much more than an hour away from my destination, and I was extremely pleased with today's efforts. It was a quarter past seven, give or take, and if this were to be "home" for tonight, I could get a very early start tomorrow, and be there in time for breakfast, or at least by breakfast time. There was still enough sun-light to read by, and opening a tin of stuffed vine leaves, chopping a lemon in half, and peeling an onion wouldn't take five minutes. So, nosebag and a good book, until the sun dropped behind North Africa. Sounded good to me. As I've said before, there is a communication problem between my brain and my legs. Whilst thinking all the above, I were still tromping  in a predominantly westerly direction, and just as my feet finally got the message to stop, my brain decided to go off on a tangent of its own, sending a message for my eyes to "LOOK". My legs had stopped, but my heart had quickened. There, below my mini plateau - my would be reading room, restaurant and bedroom with open-plan en-suite facilities - was something I had really not expected to see. At the end of a path, heading down in the general direction of the coast, was a building. Next to that building was another, and as I scanned the terrain, I saw a whole cluster of others; freshly whitewashed and looking for all the world like a village. There is no village between Aghia Roumelli and Soughia, so what was this I saw before me? I was confused. My brain, being almost as slow as my anarchic legs are fast, eventually caught up with the information on offer. Had I taken a wrong turn and found myself back at Aghia Roumelli? No, I was looking south-west. This could only be Soughia. No, surely not! But it had to be. I studied the path, and decided it would take no longer than 30 minutes to descend. I was already a minute or so into my descent, before knowing that I'd made the decision. All of a sudden, my legs, so tired a few minutes ago, felt as if they were ready for a marathon. Utter elation and the adrenaline coursed through my entire being. For all the joy of the occasion, I couldn't help but worry that I wouldn't find accommodation; that the place would be booked-out. I checked these thoughts, and decided, I didn't care. I had almost reached my personal Mecca, and there was a beer down there, with my name on it! "But what if the bars are closed?" I still had that bottle of brandy, from Spili. I'd be alright, whatever Soughia had to offer!

The journey down to the coast took fifteen minutes longer than I'd envisaged, due mostly to my attempts at liberating any credit my mobile phone may have had left. I sent a group message to friends and family; some in England some a mere 20 miles from where I walked. The message was to have been short, and whilst it did only consist of the one word: "Soughia", it was a word I liked so much, that I thought it deserved lengthening. "Soughia ya ya ya ya  ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya ya!!!", I thumbed in, tripping over rocks and bumping into passing street furniture - such as trees and, later, streetlights - as I did so. Thirty people were randomly selected from my address book (very few of whom would know what I was typing of), and off the message winged.

The first thing I did, upon arrival, was to book a room for the night. Again, given the benefit of hindsight, I would have booked two nights. It was a lovely, clean room in the 'Santa Irene' apartments. This was the hotel which was related to the bar, at which Rex and Virginia had spent an afternoon getting thoroughly squiffy, on my first attempt at this walk. The same bar without which (it's an outside bar!), I had met some of the characters who make up this charming tourist resort, and some who just invent stories of epic walks.

Tresses

I recognised the lady behind the bar, from my last visit. She had a fine head of hair; pleated in Rastafarian style. What was that style called? Aardvarks...Aeronauts...Dreadnoughts....Dreadlocks! "Dreadlocks", I mumbled aloud. I found her incredibly cute! She found me staring and muttering "dreadlocks"at her!  She also recognised me, but couldn't remember from where. She asked if I were "gnostos" (famous), and I almost allowed myself to slip into the fantasy world my mind was rapidly creating, before admitting that I'd been here a month ago, and that I was the pillock who'd needed to be rescued by Rex and Virginia, with the help of Yiorgios  ("Michaelis" to Rex), the magnate of Soughia's diverse taxi ranks! Besides, I didn't need fantasies. I sat at a table, adjacent to the beach, somehow with a beer in my hand. Now, how had that happened? My earlier adrenaline rush had now been overtaken by a feeling of utter calmness and contentedness, bordering on bemusement!  My mobile throbbed in my pocket, indicating that a message had been received. My sister, Alison, was delighted for me, though not 100% sure why. I replaced the phone to my pocket, just as it vibrated again. A message from Jean. "Congratulation, mon brave", I  knew it would read. "Yes, but did you walk?", is what actually how the message read. I laughed aloud, and for long enough to get strange looks from those gathered at the bar. "Yes!", I replied. "12 and a half hours from hotel to bar". Two more messages came through. One read "what?", the other I can't remember, but it was of a similar theme, before the phone vibrated into action, indicating communication of the more conventional kind. I looked at the display. Jean was on the other end of the line. "Yo, bro", I said, for reasons beyond me, then and now! "Well done", he replied, and asked me where I was in Soughia. As I have said before, Jean knows the place very well, and is the webmaster of the village's very own website. I told him where I was and was told to walk over the road and introduce myself to Nikos at the bar 'Lotos', diametrically opposite where I sat. Jean would call Nikos and ask him to fetch "Stelios", whatever he chose to drink, on the house, as it were; on Jean's tab, anyway. This was a wonderful gesture.and one whose wheels I would set in motion, once I could get myself going! I couldn't move. My wheels had come off! I still had the last remaining half mouthful of beer in a once iced glass to finish, and felt I could have remained here forever! Muscles a little tired; brain a little befuddled! Brain sent message to legs, legs told brain to sod off! Brain agreed and sent alternative message to legs. Legs moved, changing from a somewhat groin-numbing over-the-leg posture, to a somewhat less constricting, over-the-other-leg position. I fancied a beer, but this would either mean me getting out of the most comfortable chair in the world, or using my vocal chords, neither of which were particularly appealing options. I knew, then and there, I was stuck here, possibly for life, and, incredibly, the next thought I had, was in Lotos' bar over the road!

Naming

"Yiasas, onomazomai...er..." ("Hi my name is er..."!),  I remembered the name of the barman to whom Jean had asked me to introduce myself, but I was having a tad of trouble remembering my own. Salvation was at hand, as Nikos was not the name of the first person I staggered into, allowing me the luxury of the 30 seconds it took for the barman to fetch him; and for me, a fresh start. Fully composed, now..."Hi, my name is Stelios, what's yours?", I asked Nikos, who was fully aware I knew his name, as he'd just been told by old whatshisname, over there, that there was a weird, and shifty-looking chap "...asking for Nikos"! "Pull yourself together man!", I admonished myself loudly, but I wasn't entirely sure whether I'd said it aloud, and just as I'd decided all was lost, Nikos replied that his name was Nikos, which was damn good of him. "Yes I know", I said, before I could stop myself, or the furrowed eyebrow giving him the most quizzical look. "My Name is Stelios, what's yours?", "Nikos", "Yes, I know!"  These few words had passed between us, and yet Nikos already knew he was dealing with an idiot of the first order; and the idiot just stood there, looking...idiotic, for want of a better place to hide or a less apt demeanour. Things didn't get any better. I felt like a twit, and when I feel like a twit, I act like a twit. The staff here were fabulous, but I had become so self-conscious, I felt I should apologise for breathing. Talking of breathing, I realised that I'd taken a 30 second break from this essential exercise, and I really should make an effort to start again. I made for a table and sat down, spilling my beer and kicking a chair as I did so, A loud twang filled the air, and to compensate, I grabbed hold of the chair and knocked it against the table, spilling more beer! I knew not where to put myself. When in doubt blame others! I gazed at the chair, the table and the beer, and gave them all an accusatory look and a stern lecture in etiquette! The staff of Lotos' tried to ignore my chastisement of their furniture; or may not have noticed. Depends on which particular level of paranoia I'm suffering when looking back at that fine moment. Jean phoned again, and I told him that I had ordered the finest champagne to be found east of Champagne itself, which worried the boy for a few seconds, as this place served it!

Cyberman

Before eating I headed for the internet cafe, attached to Lotos' bar; it seemed like years since I'd used one of those new(ish) fangled computer thingies, and my typing was not what it ought to have been. There were a few messages on the Interkriti message board, from well-wishers, wishing me...well, I suppose!  I found myself truly touched, but I suspect you already know that! I am thrilled to say that I have managed to trace one particular thread, started by Jean, and  informing everybody that the rumour of my death had been ever-so-slightly exaggerated. Sorry for this blatent piece of self-interested nostalgia, but here's Jean's message and my reply from a day that will be with me forever:

From the Interkriti Message Board, Monday the 2nd of June, 2003:

Subject: SJ update
Posted by : Jean
(chan530-a152.otenet.gr --- 62.103.255.152)
on Mon Jun 2 20:37:22 2003
Posting :
Stelios has just made it to Sougia, walking from Agia Roumeli. He's shattered but in very good spirits.

Jean

My reply came once I had finished annoying Nikos and staff, and if it reads like a barrel-full of monkeys typing whilst under the influence, that's just the way it was:

Subject: Re: SJ update
Posted by : Stelios J
(ath-nce03.hol.gr --- 194.30.220.167)
on Mon Jun 2 22:21:04 2003
In Reply to : SJ update
posted on: Mon Jun 2 20:37:22 2003
Posting :
...talking of spirits, thanks for the drink mate, remote-round-buying is a new one on me and I thank you. The guys at "Lotos" Soughia, send their regards too.

As for the walk, well...that's that one put to bed! This was my one total failure during my stay so far. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and today, armed with just that, I set off for the second time in a month to the walk that I had been dreading for the previous two years. Not that it is necessarily that tough (it is, but only in a blood, sweat and tears kinda way!), it's just there is no "get-out-clause", other than to admit defeat (other walks are close enough to roads, or alternative routes that one can take, but not this one and some of the ones that Jean takes).

The first time I tried to do this, the goats above Klados gorge learned my name, so long did I spend up perched on the sheer cliffs, bleating with the best of them, above the ravine in an attempt to scale its heights, something I believe not only to have been particularly stupid then, but with hindsight and a sneaky look over my right shoulder today, nigh-on impossible.

So, today I tried a more conventional route, ie THE route and came up trumps. That's not to say that this didn't hurt at times, 'cause it did, but I wanted this and was more than willing to spend the night out if necessary, armed as I was with eight litres of water. It didn't come to that (though it almost did!), and the feeling of elation on reaching Soughia was and is fantastic.

The walk fits the "don't try this alone" category, but I am too stupid to take that sort of sensible advice without at least giving it a go. However, I would recommend anybody trying Aghia Roumelli to Soughia to take a friend; preferably one with prior knowledge of this walk and a mobile phone, just in case your sense of direction is as challenged as mine.

The previous failure helped in a perverse way. I had a little knowledge and armed with that combustible commodity, I set off at 7.30 this morning, arriving in Soughia just after 20.00 this evening. I love this place, then again, the way I feel at the moment I would probably give Ronnie MacDonald a kiss, so I shall not wax too lyrical just yet.

Paleohora tomorrow and Wednesday, and then the West coast for the following 5 days. Easy-peasy really. Only thing is, I don't take to easy-peasy too well, preferring instead to follow the mystical and at times mythical path we know as the E4.

I have so far met so few people that I knew-of before hand, but my thanks go to Alexandra and Bill, to Donna, Chris and Mandy, Rex and especially to Virginia, for putting up with my ways and the mysterious movements that accompany them ;-}

For those I have yet to see and those that I shall be revisiting next week, I look forward to it, and for those that are not fortunate enough to be in Crete just yet, look at the bright side and pour yourself a glass of water...these small things are an utter luxury to we dopey ones at times, though today I was left with four litres of the stuff to cart into town, you just never know do ya?
Filakia
Stelios J

End Piece

Time was marching on; I left the internet cafe at around quarter to eleven, and stumbled down the road in search of a nosebag. I ate at the 'Livikon' taverna, and had a fabulous meal, or at least a morsel or two of it. Frankly, I was exhausted, in the most mellow of ways. It wasn't merely the after affects of the walk, it was partly due to the absolute elation when compared and contrasted with my last attempt, and may have had a thing or two to do with whatever had passed between glass and stomach, these past few hours. I wanted this moment to be captured forever, but knew my bed needed to be hit, and soon. I remember nothing else. Not paying for the meal (surely I would have!), not the short walk back to the hotel; not even the self-congratulations I must have allowed myself. It must have been around one AM by the time I finally hit the sack, and maybe as many as 10 seconds later when aardvarks and dreadlocks invaded my unconsciousness. Even the wonderful Ian McEwan failed to tempt me with tales of Turkish winds under strong, partly sunlit, oaks...

If you have enjoyed any part of this walk, to date, please read 'The Golden Step: A Walk Through the Heart of Crete' by Christopher Somerville.



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