Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crete: A Road Trip to Remember

We’ve left our little ‘red wagon’ at the Athens airport, flown to Crete and picked up our new wheels. . .another teeny, tiny car, which, we’ve decided, is the best in which to travel the rural roads of Greece.  (And with gasoline nearly $8 a gallon – these teeny, tiny cars get great mileage.)

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Our teeny tiny car came in handy today as we took one of our favorite road trips high up into the mountains behind the port town of  Chora Sfakia, where we are staying on Crete’s southern shore. We were headed to Anopoli, another small town, and then on to Aradena, a virtually abandoned township a couple of kilometers beyond it.  Come along for the ride, but buckle up – this isn’t for white knucklers:

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I took this photo at about midpoint of our journey, that’s our little town of Chora Sfakia towards the right side of the photo.  Because The Scout is also The Driver here (manual shift cars)  I had time to count the 38 turns, a mix of sharp hairpin spinners and to take photos of the animals that like to rest on those curves.

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We were heading into the south coast’s rugged and beautiful interior country; a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

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We limited our ‘hiking’ to a stroll through the olive groves that surround Anopoli,  – once such a bustling place that it minted its own coins – today, it  is a starting point for a number of hiking trips.  Two kilometers further down the narrow road we crossed the Vardinogiannis Bridge, a single span of wooden beams and steel frame some 138 meters, or 455 feet above the Aradena Gorge. Just wide enough for our teeny, tiny car!

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Cars cross the bridge slowly, almost hesitantly, the majority are driven by tourists who venture here – either sightseeing or en route to do some hiking  into the gorge. The noise that reverberates throughout the area when a car crosses those beams sounds similar to a series of explosions re-echoing through the gorge.

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The gorge is not only popular with hikers, but the bridge – according to the guidebooks – is a popular bungie jumping point – and holds the distinction of being the highest such point in Greece. (No thank you!)

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Those two highlighted spots on the  right of the photo above are parts of the trail that leads into the gorge. I have to admit that once again we wish we had packed shoes suitable for hiking. . .as these gorges are far too inviting. (And for you ‘boomer’ travelers out there: a majority of the hikers we’ve seen here sport varying shades of gray or white hair so there really are no excuses for not hitting the trail!)

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There’s a lone cafe to the side of the bridge and on its menu was “mountain tea with honey’. We’ve seen that in rural areas and finally gave in to curiosity. . .and now are hooked on this magnificent tea made from plants/herbs/flowers gathered from the upper reaches of the area’s White Mountains or Lefka Ori, It is served with a hearty dollop of locally made honey.

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Crete's White Mountains

We’ll head a bit further west on this southern coast of Crete, overlooking the Libyan Sea when we hop the ferry on Friday to Loutro for Easter weekend. Sorry we’ve not had the time to tell you more about the places we’ve been but we are trying to keep you along in real time and we’ve been on the move for the last week.  I’ll fill in some of the gaps when we are back home and basking in the afterglow of the trip.

Hope you’ll stay with us as we move on after Easter to . . . well, we don’t know where we are going after the weekend.

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We’ve considered staying in Crete a bit longer, or heading to Thessoloniki in the north of Greece, or returning to The Mani or to Poros Island or perhaps Mykonos and Santorini. . . or perhaps, Egypt. No joke.  We are ‘sort of’ in the neighborhood . . .and we’d still have time for a few nights in Istanbul.

We don’t know where we are going.  If you are up for the suspense of traveling where the winds blow us, stay with us!

Map picture
Linking up today with Budget Travelers Sandbox, Travel Photo Thursday.


  1. Oh how wonderful - love Mountain tea and local honey... how special this trip has been - thank you. Kalo Paska! Fxx

  2. Hello Jackie and Joel:

    What extraordinarily dramatic scenery. And so very varied. You are clearly, in the teeny tiny motor car, having the most wonderful adventures on Crete, an island we have never visited and so we are particularly interested in all that you write and show. We very much hope that you will continue to have fun.

    Kellemes húsvéti únnepeket!

  3. Lovely scenery, Jackie. Looking forward to the next instalment...

  4. Hi Jackie,

    How surreal it seems that you are on the island and I am here, in Toronto! Seeing your beautiful photos of Crete's many wonders and natural attractions made me feel quite homesick for its unique magic! I am particularly missing the poppies, and the weather, (as it snowed here the other day), not to mention my daily afternoon walks around the village, where the air is infused with bouquets of sage, rosemary, thyme and chamomile that dot the hilly terrain in clusters. My lilacs, ('paschalies', in Greek, and the flower that shares its name with Easter), must be blooming about now.

    Looking forward to all your adventures and appreciate your updates. How wonderful that you are there for the Easter festivities and church services when the island and its people are especially spirited with peace and joy.

    Kalo Pascha!


  5. When you've finished musing on your next port of call -- you could always head back to Loutro?? Cases are out, lists being prepared, boarding cards at the ready! Tell you the amusing tale of the laptop bag when we see you.
    Don't get too near the bonfire! Kali Anastasi.

    1. Loutro is lovely today and we've already patrolled its waterfront checking for signs of changes or the wonderful regulars we expect to find here. Loutro will be difficult to leave but we do have way too much more Greece to see before we leave so will likely be moving north, instead of heading out to Cairo.

    2. Where ever you decide to go, we will enjoy your 'tales from the road'.

  6. Oh gosh, I adore Crete. We were on the north side and drove over to Chania. I really want to go back one day so you should do all that you can to enjoy it for me :) Did you find the driving to be really strange? Everyone drove on the shoulder of the road!

    1. Thanks for visiting today Adelina - hope to have you here as a regular! And yes, our first time in Crete we kept wondering what the drivers were up to when driving on the shoulder of the road. . .it now seems 'sort of' normal! And we do adore Crete as well!

  7. The 38 bends sure make for an adventurous drive. The view from the top is spectacular. Love the sheep photograph :)

    1. Thanks much Jan for the comments. It isn't a drive for those who don't like road trips, that is for sure!

  8. Great highlights of your roadtrip. Love the atmosphere in the outback and the pictures.We will be visiting Perth & WA in May..and Pinnacles & Cervantes will part of our trip.

    1. Nicole, thanks for the comments! I look forward to reading about your trip to Australia; we were there last year and enjoyed the taster we had of Sydney. But the call of Crete and Greece brought us back here this spring. ..we hope to get 'down under' again in the near future.

  9. Crete looks amazing. Enjoy your Easter weekend - where ever you end up!

  10. I"d be passing out some motion sickness meds if we were driving down that twisty road. It's so nice of the animals to add to the challenge by hanging out there watching you make your turns. I really like the pop of color of the poppies, too! I can't wait to find out where your travels take you.

  11. That road is one that made me gulp! Reminds me of the switchbacks in the Canadian Rockies. I would love to drive this, but no stick experience. Any chance that they rent automatic cars? Do they have warning signs for the bridge? That noise could put someone into a tail spin! :) Love the sound of that tea! Happy Easter!

  12. Hi Jackie, thanks for taking us along on that spectacular road trip. I like the teeny tiny car. So cool and so fun, and so green! That road is certainly not for the faint of heart by it is absolutely breathtaking. Love those adorable animals and pretty flowers on the road. But I can't believe you passed on the bungee jumping!!:) I think that it's wonderful that you don't have a plan after the weekend. It's such a beautiful luxury. But I'm excited to know where you will end up. Happy Easter to you and Joel! Take care.

  13. Looks like a particularly lovely part of the world to explore. I think having a little car is brilliant for maneuverability. Love the bright splash of colours with the poppies.


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