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Trip Report Minor Trip Report: Crete - Agiafarago Gorge & Beach

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This is just the start of a full trip report that I will be writing later. I am finishing this bit from our suite's veranda overlooking the caldera in Santorini . . .

Sometimes I read reviews of a place or activity & I wonder if the reporter even went to the same place. It would seem that a vacation 'high' or amnesia boosts people's enthusiasm & they tend to overlook the bad. Of course, the the polar opposite is true as well, with people bitterly complaining about some negative aspect. Visiting the Sistine Chapel comes to mind . . . but I digress. Anyways, the reviews of this activity don't seem to jive with reality - as we discovered.

Aside from the northern beach sprawl & visiting archeological sites, gorge trekking is a prime activity of a visit to Crete. The Samaria Gorge has almost become a 'must do' for visitors. Well, I read a lot of reviews about this adventure & it quickly became apparent that this strenuous all day walk was not a good fit for us. With trick knees, 60 year old out-of-shape bodies & with one of us exhibiting a terror of slipping & sliding down a mountainside, there was just no point. I know, I know, some of you will pipe in that 80 year old grandmothers in walkers can do it backwards with blindfolds on but we weren't going to. But we heard from a UK couple staying at our agro-resort - the Eleonas - about an easy gorge walk with a stunning beach at the end. And just a 20 minute walk! Ha ha ha ha. They lied.

Anyways . . . the setting of the beach at Agiafarago (aka Agia Farago or Agiafaraggo) is gorgeous, snuggled in a magical high rock wall cove with the blue waters of the Med (actually the Libya Sea at this point, I believe) lapping peacefully on a pebbled shore. It is located near Matala in the SW corner of the Heraklion prefecture.

The drive in starts south of Sivas from the Odigitria Monastery. The winding dirt road is narrow (1 1/2 lanes) & it is very bumpy with lots of ruts & washboard sections. The switchbacks are easy going in but they can be challenging on the way out (going up). There are no guard rails. After several kms you will reach the 1st parking area which is a 45 minute walk from the last parking area - which is a 30 minute walk from the actual beach. Of course we didn't know most of this before we started. There are no signs except for a small one on a blind curve that seems to tell you to turn right into a yawing precipice. I had to get out of the car to ensure that there was an actual road. Once confirmed, we turned down an even narrower track that swung down to parking lot # 1 after a kilometer. This is just a wider rocky area with numerous cars pulled to both sides of the road. Be aware that your car rental is NOT insured for off-road so decide what risk factor you are comfortable with. I was very hesitant about the clearance on our low slung Audi A3 convertible, so we parked & walked from here. It was a hot & dusty trudge up & down, following the oleander-lined river in the bottom of the gradually narrowing alley. We passed a house - still occupied - and a small deserted farm on the way. While this last section of the one lane road to the final large parking area is mostly fine, there are a couple of nasty rocks in areas which could easily take out a muffler or a diff. Cars were pulled over at numerous spots with other people obviously thinking enough was enough as well. You exit this last parking area at a very narrow gate. I heard two German guys ahead of us laughing about Americans not being able to fit through it. There might be some truth to this. The final gorge walk is quite nice, with multiple paths winding through the oleanders & the stoney river bed, passing an abandoned chapel in the last stretch, all the while with cave-adorned towering rock walls narrowing on both sides. A herd of goats were grazing off in the brush with their clanging bells adding to the spell. In the wet season this area would be challenging - if not impossible btw.

Your reward at the end is the beach. Of course, the cold hard reality is that the actual beach is stone & tidal mud with a bit of sand mixed in. And the sea-rounded black stones are very, very hot in the midday sun & quite painful to walk on & exceedingly uncomfortable to get in/out of the water without water boots. But it was still pretty special.

The walk out was cruel with the sun beating down on our weakening bodies. We sat in the car with the AC on full blast for 15 minutes to recover. And we skipped a visit to the monastery because we had simply run out of energy to do so.

Additional warnings: Take water - there are no facilities whatsoever. And don't park under the trees because the goats are known to climb on cars to graze on the leaves above. We saw 2 goats circling a Suzuki Vitera neatly parked under a tree.

Ian

PS I will post some a picture link to this report later & a full Greek trip report in the coming month or so.

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