Subscribe: King of Long Beach - Blog of Rob Woodard
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
back  bit  bus  coast  crete  day  feeling  good  greece  island  much  night  people  place  pretty  things  time  town 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: King of Long Beach - Blog of Rob Woodard


Rob Woodard Internet Diary Project

Updated: 2018-03-06T01:34:36.271-08:00


A New Level Mythos - Finally


It's taken a long time, but I finally have a new site--a new LEVEL MYTHOS. It's not quite done yet and will be expanding, but it's now good to go. It will be replacing this site and my old Level Mythos. I will leave this one up as an archive site for awhile at least. Hope to see you at the new place!



Hi Everyone. I just wanted to let you all know that I have a new site, which has he same name  as one of my earlier sites - Level Mythos. It's a combination blog and literary home page. It is designed to replace the earlier Level Mythos site, as well as this one.

I will be keeping this blog up as a kind of archive site and redirect for the next few months. I hope everybody who has enjoyed this site checks out my new one!

A Few More Lendas Photos - Sunset


Just some photos I took on a little hike I did the last evening I was in Lendas ...Lendas at the beginning of sunset (from the east)The east of Lendas at sunsetCoast east of Lendas looking westMore of the coast looking east of LendasCrumbling house at the east edge of the villageSunset Rob[...]

Lazy Lendas, Lazy Rob


Monday, July 30, 2013—Lendas, Crete, GreeceMy little trip to Lendas has turned out to be an extended stay—I'll be leaving Wednesday, which will make it nearly a full week for me here. I'm feeling a little guilty about this. Shouldn't I be exploring new places, climbing mountains, engaging in new forms of cultural immersion? No—that's me turning my life into a job again. The truth is I am tired and I needed (need) a spot into which I could settle for a while, do little besides, swim, sun, read, and generally gather myself together a bit (my illness took much more out of me than I'd realized)—and I found that here.             One thing I haven't being doing here, though, is writing. This is only the second time I've sat down and put down anything for the blog. The truth is there's not really much to write about (which is of course a good thing—that's why I came here: to sequester myself from any drama). So what have I been doing? Like I said: swimming, lying in the sun (both at the beach to the west of town, which is much larger and nicer than the one in town), poking around at the various archaeological sites (the town and much of the surrounding area is one big site, with components going back to Minoan time up thru Roman, etc.), and reading, Thoreau's journals and the Gary Snyder Reader (I always know I'm coming to the end of a trip when I feel the urge to start picking up American writers). Since I know that I'm going to Gavdos next I haven't even been making plans. Again, all of this is good—I feel much better than when I came here, both physically and mentally: I feel I've re-established my center in both respects …Lendas Notes:This little sliver of Crete's southern coast, like Gavdos island to the south, is classified by geographers as being part of the North African climate zone, not the Mediterranean zone that the rest of Crete falls into. This makes perfect sense. It's hot here, but it's a different kind of hot than the rest of mainland Crete: it's drier, starker, more rough and tumble. The landscape also looks different, much more desert like.The name Lendas comes from the Greek term for lion. I read something about the name being applied because the little inlet in which Lendas if found is supposed to look like a lion's mane or something. I don't see it. By that logic any crescent-shaped inlet, of which Greece has a great many, could be called Lendas—we'd be up to our eyes balls in lions. It explains the name of the Lions bar, though, which is found right in the village center …Tanned, lazy, but also getting a little antsy to move on: that's me at the moment (I actually got bored at the beach today, which is a rarity).Lendas from the eastWhere 'm staying. Love the barbed wire in this shot - it makes the place look like a little prison. Actually it's quite comfortable and the woman who runs it is very sweet.Part of a terracotta oil lamp I found on the surface of an archaeological site on the hill east of the villagePart of a floor mosaic at an archaeological site literally just above where I'm stayingHistory tumbled down ...Less prison-like view of my Lendas homeHarsh beauty of the region - Looking east from high up on the hill that marks off the western limits of Lendas Lendas from that some hillBeach to the west of LendasFresh archaeological pits to the east of the villageLove the way wave action has shaped this rock - it's turned it into a wave itself[...]

Plakias Turnaround?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013—Plakias, Crete, GreeceStarted moving west for the final push before I go home. I was planning on going to Lendas, a little village on the south coast of Iraklio province I like, for a few days. But even with leaving Myrtos on the 7:00 AM bus I didn't make it to Iralkio in time for that day's rare bus for Lendas. So I decided to maybe swing back around that place in my last days here, since otherwise I would have had to spend two nights in the hated city of Iraklio, which has got to be one of the least attractive urban areas in the whole Aegean. I'm beginning to think I made a mistake, though.I ended up in Plakias, mainly because I was hoping to catch a bus from here to Frangokastello. I quickly found out, though, that bus route has been eliminated, apparently a long time ago (my Lonely Planet guide would seem to be way out of date on this one). There's a little tourist boat that heads that way, but it hasn't been going out because of the wind. Which brings me to one of the reasons I wish I hadn't come here. Plakias lies at the mouth a huge gorge, which runs a long way roughly north south thru the Rethymno province. This gorge funnels all the hot inland air towards the sea, which means that it can get really windy by the coast. Since I've been here (I arrived about thirty hours ago) the wind has been howling day and night non-stop. This makes doing pretty much anything here a drag: hiking means getting blown off ridgelines, the beach is a swirling mess of sand, and even sitting in a taverna with a drink can be challenging (yesterday while having a coffee in a place just off the main road thru town I watched a gust of wind knock over a nearly full glass of beer—my coffee was in my hand, luckily). Basically since arriving I've been hiding from the wind and trying to figure out what to do next. More on that in a second.The other main reason Plakias doesn't thrill me is that it's frankly a kind of dull place. It looks nice and is certainly pleasant enough (the people who live and work here, as a group, are among the nicer people I've met in Crete), but it's basically characterless: it exists to serve the needs of tourists and therefore has little in the way of soul. It's of course also not particularly Greek—that's a big part of the blandness. It's another example of what I've taken to calling Beach Vacationland: the holiday spot that could be in any warm beachie place in the world for all it matters.My next decision is whether or not I backtrack to Iralkio and hit Lendas (I can easily make it there in time for the Wednesday bus) or head forward to Paleohora and then Gavdos. I'm leaning towards to former. Though I hate to backtrack, I also hate to miss getting somewhere I want to be. Plus, there's something special about Lendas—it exudes a kind of healing energy—and I'm feeling the need for some of that. I'm also not quite feeling well enough to tackle camping on Gavdos, especially since I want to spend four or five days there. I have ticket for the 7:00 AM bus to Rethymno and I can go either direction from there. So I may end of making my decision on the fly …Health Notes:Feeling a lot better overall, though still not 100%. I'd say I'm hanging out somewhere in the 85% range. Feeling slightly feverish now and then and I have a bit of chest congestion, which is new. Still completely confused as to what it was that knocked me down. Windy Plakias - I love this shot. First off it's so windy they're not even bothering to open the umbrellas. Secondly, those are my footprints. Everybody gets to make a fresh set because the wind just blows the old ones away ...[...]

Myrtos Love / Ierapretra Bashing - Feeling Better


Saturday, July 20, 2013—Myrtos, Crete, GreeceFeeling considerably better, to the point where I'm getting a bit bored: I'm forcing myself to lay low because I know I'm not full speed but I'm close enough that doing little has become a job. I did manage to make it to a new destination at least. I'm now in Myrtos on the southeast shore of the island. This place is almost exactly what I expected it to be. But more on that later. I want to say a bit about the bus ride down here first …            It took a route that sliced thru nearly the center of the Lasithi province (which geographically amounts to roughly the eastern fourth of the island. The richness of the valleys and foothills I saw on Crete's eastern coast increased dramatically as we veered inland and south; I realized that I was seeing the edge of this part of the island's very productive agricultural zone. The olive trees were everywhere of course, as were all sorts of vegetable plots, plus some vineyards and other kinds of orchards; things were greener here that on any other part of the island I've been to, including the center of the Iraklio province, which was extremely productive, impressively so.             A we came out on the southern side of the mountains things became a bit less fertile, though there was still much more green than I've seen anywhere else on this island's southern shore. Soon, though, as were neared the city of Ierapetra, the greenhouses this area is famous for began appearing. One of the reason this city and the areas around it have such a bad rep is that these contraptions, frames covered exclusively it seems with stretched white plastic of some sort, as seen as being a major eyesore. I've seen these things in other parts of Crete but in nothing approaching the number they have around here. In small numbers they didn't bother me; I hardly noticed them, actually. Seeing them practically coating the coast here, though, I quickly came to the conclusion I agreed with their detractors: these things are pretty damn ugly. Still, the produce is almost uniformly good here and a lot of it is grown in these tents. Seeing that I've eaten and enjoyed my fair share of it I don't feel I have too much right to complain. That doesn't mean that I have to like looking at the things, though.  Nor does it mean that I have to keep entirely quiet on the subject …            Ierapetra itself also has a pretty bad rep: the tour guides pan it en masse and I've never heard any traveler have a good thing to say about it—for most of them it was a place you had to get thru to get to somewhere more interesting. After the bus came out of the hills we hugged the coast for a while to the east of the city (this area was surprisingly touristy and built up, like a mini, far less intense version of the coastal tourist strips in the north). Finally we came around and down a bend and could see Ierapetra. After being on little island and Crete's relatively empty east coast it seemed shockingly large. Lonely Planet calls it a dusty agricultural hub, or something to that effect. Later, as the next bus I took moved thru it to its western outskirts where the number of greenhouses increased exponentially, I could see where this description comes from (my guess is that this become even more pronounced on its inland fringe, which I did not see). What I wasn't ready for was the ritzy, trendy, and frankly lame-ass fashion tourist atmosphere I also would encounter.            I had to wait about two hours before the next bus left there to Myrtos, so I decided to wander the town a bit and track down something to eat. I couldn't really get too far, both because I had to stay relatively close to the bus station and beca[...]

Crash and Burn


Thursday, July 18, 2013—Kato Zagros, Crete, GreeceWhat a difference a few days makes. I don't feel like writing (again—you'll see) about what's been going on, so I've decided to just cut-and-paste from an email I wrote my sister and a few close friends.I'm writing a joint email because I'm hoping one of you might have some useful info for me. Something truly scary happened to me starting yesterday morning and I'm still trying to piece it all together. Yesterday I woke up with a rash on a big chunk of my body. It was especially bad on pelvis and the back of my thighs. It looked just like the reaction I get when I've run into poison oak (though it wasn't as itchy—at first). I've never noticed any poison oak here and the day before I was just at the beach with some friends of mine I met here two years ago—I was no where near any plants that could have done this to me. I noticed, though, that the lower sheet on the bed I'd been sleeping on had pulled up and about half the mattress was exposed. I concluded that there must have been something in the mattress that had produced this reaction. This seemed to make sense for two reasons. In the cheap places in which I usually stay the beds are old and have had God knows how many people sleep on them; they could harbor all sorts of things I could have reaction to. Also the rash, though worst where I previously stated, also was found on patches of my arms, hands, etc., as if only the parts of my body that had touched the mattress had been affected. Thinking I'd figured things out, I took a hot shower to get off whatever it was that was messing me up and went on with my day. A few hours later it appeared my guess was right—the rash seemed to be going away.Later I got on a bus heading south. Other than the rash I felt fine (I was actually feeling a touch run down, but I'd been feeling that way for several days). Later that afternoon, though, I noticed that the rash seemed to be coming back, on other parts of my body. Then that evening, while I was sitting in the room I'd just gotten, I started feeling feverish. By the time I'd made it back from getting something to eat a few hours later the rash had spread to about 75% of my body, was incredibly itchy, and my fever was raging. Soon I couldn't stand up without feeling like I was going to both heave and fall down. I also couldn't eat or drink anything, even water—I knew it would come back up.It's very hard for me to describe the rest of the night, mainly because I've never felt so bad before and I've never felt bad at all in this particular way. I don't know how high my fever was, but it had to be way up there. It was also a weird fever, in that it was dry as hell--I couldn't perspire at all. The only way I can think of to describe how I was feeling is to say it felt like my body was going explode into dust and blow away. Added to this was an exponential increase in how itchy I was. I know I can sometimes be a bit of a wus when I get sick, but this was of an entirely different order to anything I've ever experienced. For several hours straight last night I really thought I was going to die by myself in a little room in eastern Crete. I couldn't have even crawled for help if I'd had to ...This morning at about five the fever finally broke (though it hasn't left me completely) and the rash has be slowly diminishing, though it still covers at least 40% of my body. By about nine I could finally walk short distances without feeling like was going to throw up or land on my face. I've slowly been feeling better since then, though I still feel l worse than I've ever felt in my life outside of last night. The question I've been asking myself and now you folks is what the hell happened to me! My only symptoms were the high and very strange fever and the rash (the off stomach is probably just a byproduct of the fever), so I think this rules out any kind of virus or bacteria[...]

Back on Crete - Pigadia Notes / Sitia Interlude


Sunday, July 14, 2013—Sitia, Crete, GreeceSitting in the bus stop in Sitia. It's 2:40 PM and I'm waiting for the 4:00 PM bus south, to Palakasto; I just got off the ferry from Karpathos, hit the ATM, got a little bite to eat on the run, and then  headed over here on the chance that I could catch a bus without too much waiting. I was planning on spending a couple days in Sitia, checking out some things I've missed around here, but I got a message from some friends of mine from Paris that this is there last night in Crete before heading home and that they were just down the road. So I thought I'd hang out with them while I have the chance.                        I suppose I should backtrack a bit, as I haven't made an entry since I was in Diafani. After my time was up there I caught the tourist boat down to Pigadia in the south of Karpathos. Because of the times the ferries run I was stuck there for about two-and-a-half days. I wasn't in the mood for a little solitary time so I didn't do much beyond taking a couple of short local hikes and reading. This was just as well, given that there really isn't that much on that part of the island that really interests me that I haven't seen yet. Pigadia itself is a pleasant but fairly bland little tourist town (that seems to be getting more upscale—there are some fancy-ass hotels popping up just outside of the main part of town, along the beach). It's got pretty much all the same touristy stuff going on that other towns of its kind practice, but it's low-key about them and overall it was a nice little rest stop for me (though I wish it could have been just a day or so—I'm entering the last three weeks of my trip and time is starting to seem quite precious.             Pigadia does have a pretty decent little archaeology museum, which I checked out. As island museums go it's definitely not in the league of, say, Nisyros', but it does have a nice amount of Minoan and Mycenaean stuff, both of which really interest me. There explanations are pretty good too. The museum was just a bonus, though. Like I've said, I really just needed a little bit of down time (I seem to hit these walls about every three weeks). What made this work out especially well is that Pigadia is cheap: rooms there go for nearly half of comparable places in other part of the Dodecanese (I saved ten euros a night from what I was paying in Diafani for a bigger place with a kitchen, which my digs up north lacked). Now that I'm feeling refreshed, though, I'm glad to be out of there—I'm really itching to explore some new places in Crete, to be back on the road in a more proper sense.            Speaking of which, my itinerary for the last few weeks suddenly took shape in my head while I was hanging out in Pigadia. I’m going to spend the next seven or eight days exploring some fairly far-flung places on the east coast, Kato Zagros (which also features a major Minoan archaeological site) and then Xerokambos a little out there beach area that I'm going to have to hike 10km from Kato Zagros (the busses don't run that far). My only goals in these place, besides checking out the Zagros archaeological site, is to swim and maybe to some light hiking (my ankle and knee really need some time off); I really just want to get very laid-back for this coming week. After these two spots I'll do one of two things. After hiking back to Kato Zagros I will catch the bus to Ierapetra a city on the southeast coast. If the busses don't run that way (and I don't think they do) I will head back to Sitia and get the bus to Ierapetra from there (if I do this I will probably hang out a day or so to check out the aforementio[...]

A Few More Northern Karpathos Photos


My beach (from the water)

Into the pines 2

La Gorgona Restaurant - My Diafani hangout

Northern Karpathos - A Darkness on the Edge of Town?


Tuesday-Wednesday, July 9/10-2013—Diafani, Karpathos, GreeceBack in Diafani. This is one of the odder places I've been to in Greece, which is part of the reason I made sure revisit this place this time around—even though it  disturbs me in certain ways I'd really like to figure this region out. I'm not sure overall how much I like it here, by which I mean northern Karpathos. A part of me is drawn to this place, while another part of me feels a bit trapped once I'm here; it feels like a place ruled by the past, a past that hasn't served it all that well then or now, and when I'm here I feel partially forced into this past. OK, I realize that what I've just said might seem more than a little bit cryptic (and tangled grammatically). Let me see if I can explain what I'm trying to get at …            Karpathos is a pretty big island, but I think what determines certain aspects of it culturally is not its size but its shape: it's a long island, with a wide southern end that more or less tapers after a certain point as one gets farther north and then starts to widen again at the top; it's a bit like a vase with a fairly fat base and a bell top. The southern half has always been more open to the rest of the world, whereas the north has, until relatively recently, been cut off from, well, most things; the road that now runs north south has only been completely in the last several years, and I'm not sure if it is yet completely paved. The people up here are different from those I've met anywhere else in Greece. The local dialect is different (I'm told it still contains remnants of ancient Doric Greek, but I know nowhere near enough Greek to know if this is true, though the way people speak up here does seem to have a different flavor than in any places I've been in this country). People dress differently here as well, in that, with the older women at least, the old-fashioned country dress of black dresses and head scarfs accompanied by more colorful embroidery is still quite common. This is no quaint backwater, though, as the tourist guides say—there's a darkness here, which is connected to the people's past, as symbolized by these types of traditions. The trouble I have is putting my finger exactly on what this darkness is—it comes to me thru a vague, yet complex set of feelings that I can't quite account for materially.            First off, northern Karpathos is a wild place: big rough pine-covered mountains meet the sea with coastlines of few beaches, let alone much in the way of substantial inlets or safe harbors: the mountains generally just disappear under the sea. Traditionally it's been a place for farmers and fishermen. Both are still here, but trips into the hills reveal how much of the land has been abandoned—miles of old field terraces dominate whole valleys, which are now home to little besides the inevitable goat flocks (wild goats too are found in the high hills, living a life that's so much more beautiful and I'd argue worthily than that of their domesticated lowland cousins). Now this describes a lot of Greece I've seen and even more that I've read about, and it alone cannot account for what I see and feel with the people here, the vibrations I've run into here and nowhere else in this country . There's a loneliness I've felt while hiking the mountains of this part of the island, a loneliness which seems to have seeped into the villages, like the mist that sweeps across the mountains even during the warmest months. It's more than loneliness, though. There's an undercurrent (at times slight, but always present) of hostility here, maybe even contempt. There are far fewer of the warm smiles here that I routinely encounter in other parts of Greece, th[...]

Some Halki Photos


Just thought I'd throw out a few Halki photos. I've actually been on Karpathos for 5 days but haven't felt much like writing. Expect a text post from here in the next day or so ...

House in Halki for sale that I was checking out

Inside my comfy house

Mr. Kanny Cornflakes - A weird (looking and tasting) Italian brand

Knights of St. John castle remains

Cool twin beaches below the castle I couldn't get to
Crumbling  Horio

Halki and Parting Halki


Friday, July 6, 2013—Emborios, Halki, GreeceA little after nine at night. I'm sitting on the balcony of my room. I've just watched the sun finally set (or the light from the sun slowly fade, to be more accurate—the sun actually sets behind me). It's hard to describe the peace of this vantage point at this time of day. The rugged hills of Halki and the uninhabited island that protects its little port look both unbelievably substantial and somehow unreal at the same time; they're like rock as mist and mist as rock. The wind has died down so even at the top of the hill (where I'm at) I can hear the water lapping against the dock and the boats. I can also hear the motors of the little fishing boats that head out each night. There are also the sounds coming from the restaurants and bars that line the waterfront: gentle sounds: people talking and laughing, not blaring music or anything even vaguely rushed. Earlier I got to watch Rhodes bathed in this vanishing light. The mountains in the area of Rhodes facing me are very green (especially by Greece standards), but the tops appear to be completely devoid of plant life; they are vaguely red crowns of dirt. When the sunset hits these bald tops this vague red becomes soft and luminous, which give them a strongly painterly feel … Turner meets Greece, something indescribable like that …Hiked down the coast a bit today (my ankle hurt, but not as bad as I feared it might). I made it to this nearly deserted town called Horio, above which is yet another Knights of St. John castle. The town's fascinating because here and there people are restoring houses. Most, however, seem to have been crumbling for decades. I'm not sure of the dates, but this island was almost abandoned at one point. Apparently the water just ran out. A few people hung on. A lot bailed out, many to Florida (there are little plaques commemorating work done on the island as gifts from its Floridian offshoots and I keep hearing conversations between Greeks that go back and forth between Greek and American English—Greek Americans coming “home”). It wasn't till the tourist boom of the 70s this place came back to life. It's hard to believe that anyone would want to recolonize the interior here, though. It's some of the harshest, driest areas I've run into on any of the islands I've visited; it's amazing that the (many) goats here can even eke out a living. But a few people at least want their old homes back (or maybe to resurrect their ancestor's old homes). I wish them luck, even though I don't fully understand their motives …Hiked up to the castle. It's in the process of being restored. Still, after scrambling up stone paths, temporary wooden walkways and some trails of my own making, I found a way to the top. It's pretty much like all the other Knights of St. John castles I've been to, but the views were spectacular. Especially interesting were these two really cool little beaches I could see, which existed back to back on a little neck of land that let out to a big round peninsula. I decided to try and get down to these for a swim, but I couldn't figure out how. I took a dirt road out of the town that looked promising but it just shunted me off down the coast. Heading down directly from the castle was a non-starter: it was perched on nearly sheer cliffs. I looked around in search of some trails with no luck. So instead I just hiked back towards Emborios and went for a swim at the touristy Potamos Beach, a great strip of shelving sand, but a touch too crowded for me (I went there the day before and felt kind of like I was in a place that was being slightly overrun).Tomorrow (at four-thirty in the morning!) I'm catching the ferry south, to Karpathos. The person I was supposed to meet there, an Italian friend [...]

A Little Niche Called Halki


Thursday, July 4, 2013—Emborios, Halki, Greece Left Nisyros. The boat stopped at Tilos. The island was drier than I expected; it looked liked a differently-shaped Leros. I hate leaving an island unexplored (I'd probably stop at all of them if I had the time and the money). But as I've said, the main reason I would be going there would be for the hiking—and the mountains there looked very challenging. Given that the current state of my ankle makes stairs a challenge the gnarly ridgelines I saw from the boat are out of the question.Now I'm in Halki, a little rock of an island off the west coast of Rhodes. What can I say about this place? Not much so far. All I've done is find a place to stay (more on that later), wander around the port, and find a place to eat dinner, which I'm doing now (in an Italian restaurant, for a change). OK, what I do know. This island is small, a big rock with a village. Emborios, the village, is picturesque to the point of being ridiculous.: it's like they created a postcard of it first and then built the town to match it. A crescent of brown, scrubby, desperately dry hills. A little port town clinging to their base. Boats of all sizes in the water, bobbing gently thru the perfect summer air, in the blue-green water, so striking against the brown hills that surround it … Rhodes, massive Rhodes looming in the distance …Halki is a hip day-trip from Rhodes, but once the transport boats have gone home it's just a relative handful of travelers and the locals (fishermen and the people who work in the restaurants, guest-houses, etc.) Tomorrow I'm going to explore the island on foot (ankle willing)—there' really no other way to get from point A to point B on this little place …I'd heard that getting accommodation here can be a bit difficult this time of year: there aren't that many places to stay and they tend to be booked in advance. Like I do everywhere, though, I just came in cold. Still I managed to quickly get a place, which has turned out to be a good deal (considering what I' getting for my money). I was wandering up the hill from the port with my pack on, looking slightly bewildered (which I've discovered is a great way to attract the pension owners) when a young Greek-Swedish guy (yes, such creatures exist) came up to me and offered me a room in his family guest-house. The deal I got is more evidence that tourism is really down here. Basically I'm renting a really nice two bedroom house(!) for only thirty five euros a night. Normally I'd guess they could get between seventy and a hundred for this place in good times. I'm spending more than I like to for a place, but like I've said, I'm getting more than my money's worth. Plus, with the kitchen its got I can eat in a bunch and make up a lot of the money there. So all in all things have worked out really cool in this regard …Don't know how long I'm going to be here. Tomorrow will determine that—if I still believe there's more to see after that I'll hang around another day. The length of my time here also depends on the ferry schedule and my next destination, which is either back to Rhodes or down to Karpathos. Fate and the ferries might have more of a say in this than I do …Emborios, the port at HalkiEmborios - View from my balconyResearch materials[...]

Nisyros - Simply Wonderful


Wednesday, July 3, 2012—Mandraki, Nisyros, GreeceTook the boat over from Kos to Nisyros two mornings ago. It was a good move: I had pretty much had my fill of Kos. Nisyros has turned out to be quite a nice stop. I came here, like most people do, to check out the semi-active volcano at the island's heart (which I did—it was interesting, if not mind blowing), but I'm glad I've stuck around. It's a truly beautiful place. Due to the the rich volcanic soils the island's very rich—its inland areas are teaming with plant life, both of the wild and the domestic variety; it's even more lush than Kos. It's also got a great climate. Due to it's small size (it's probably only around a quarter of the size of Kos) even inland you catch the coastal breezes, which are pretty strong, to the point where my first night here, when I was eating at a little restaurant right on the water, I felt the need to throw on a pullover because things were getting a bit chilly. It's also a very rugged island. I went hiking yesterday and found myself in an absolutely beautiful gorge, which, despite its rugged nature, was also one of the most fertile places I've been to in Greece. The hills there were lined with very productive terraces and on the way there I passed all sorts of different types of crops growing (plus of course many goats and sheep).The town I'm staying in is the island's capitol, Mandraki. It's one of the cooler little towns I've run into in Greece. It clings to a very narrow, mostly rocky, coastal strip and climbs a fair way into the mountains. In regards to its layout it's your typical windy Greece village, but there's just something really nice about the place—it gives off a wonderful vibe. It's got its tourist shops, but not that many of them and the restaurants attract as many locals it seems as they do travelers. It's especially nice here in the evenings. Each morning/afternoon day-trip tourist boats come in from Kos so people can see the volcano. Once that's done they hang out in town for a few hours before they go back. For these hours Mandraki becomes a bit of a zoo, crowded with all the tourists who don't have the imagination to come here on their own, minus a tour company. When these uninteresting people bail out in the afternoon, though, the town becomes the laid-back, good vibe place I've been describing. I like it so much that I've been considering staying another day. But other destinations beckon. Besides, it's better to stay somewhere too short of a time than be there one day too long …Nisyros Notes:This island has THE best regional archaeological museum I've ever run into. Fantastic displays, well explained—I walked out of there (after two hours, even though it's not that big) really feeling that I had a pretty good handle on the prehistory/ancient history of the island (and to some extent the region). I'm thinking of going back again today while I'm waiting for the afternoon boat …Also, above the town, there are remains of the ancient wall surrounding ancient Nisyros, which goes back to classical times. It's reputed to be the best preserved city wall from that time in all the islands. Cool stuff …Yesterday, for the first time on this trip, I had to abort a hike about halfway thru because my left ankle was hurting too much for me to continue. I have had problems with the ankle for years, but yesterday was one of the worst flareups ever. This concerns me because my next stop is supposed to be the island of Tilos, which I'm going to mainly because the hiking is supposed to be great. There. Hardly seems any point in heading that way if I can't hike, though …Later in the day on Nisyros …Bought a ticket for Halki. No point in going to Tilos if I can't hike[...]

Kos - A Final Fragment


Monday, July 1, 2013—Kos Town, Kos, GreeceMade it to the beaches on the southwest coast of the island today. They are nice—they are big by Greece standards), sandy on go on forever (12 km, according to my Lonely Planet Guide). They were also pretty touristy, 5 euro umbrellas everywhere. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, though. Description made it sound like it would be a like a smaller version of the north coast of Crete: endless restaurants, hotels, and tacky souvenir shops. It was much wilder than that, though. Basically the beaches were backed mainly by fairly rugged scrubby mountains, featuring large swaths of junipers; the beaches reminded me of the much smaller ones on Gavdos. As I feared, though, the wind was up a bit, which made things a touch less enjoyable than they'd have been on a really good day. Still, I enjoyed myself. It was nice to get out of town, if nothing else …Overall, though, I'm burned out on this island. It's just was too touristy here. It's been an interesting experience (which I've handled a lot better than I thought I would), but this is not why I come to Greece ...[I got side-tracked and never got back to this entry—so I'll leave it a it stands.]Paradise Beach, Southern KosWalking east (more or less) from Paradise BeachWhile hiking in Kos I came upon this derelict Jewish cemetery. It obviously hasn't been looked after in a long time: it's full of weeds, headstone have fallen or been knocked over, etc. I have run into several of these in Greece and they never fail to tear at my heart. The reason of  course why they're abandoned is that the Nazi killed or drove off most of Greece's Jewish community during World War II.  The sorrow of these places is immense to me. I really don't know how to deal with it: they simply represent too much pain and loss to be processed ...(Really) Creepy statue of Hypocrites I ran into on Kos[...]



This might help orient people reading this ... I'm on Halki (just above Rhodes) as I post this.

More Kos


Sunday, June 30, 2013—Kos Town, Kos, GreeceDidn't get out to the beaches today like I planned, for a couple of reasons. First off, I forgot that it was Sunday, which means a restricted bus schedule. I also wasn't feeling so hot when I woke up. I drink so little these days that my big night out—three drinks—actually left me with a mild but very persistent hangover, which meant that I got a late start and was moving pretty slowly. I decided instead to hike 3 km inland to a famous archaeological site called Askipieion, which is associated with Asclepius, the god of healing. It was also the site of a medical school where Hippocrates’ teachings were followed. It was a pretty interesting place. It was very hard to understand what I was seeing, though. Greek archaeological sites, even big important ones like this, tend to be very poorly explained. The site goes back to Minoan times and was used for various purposes right up until the early Christian era. Mostly what I was seeing was a jumble of material going back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC to later Roman times; like I've said, though, untangling what I was seeing was pretty difficult. I did get a lot of good pictures, though, to use to try and figure things out later. I also can use some of the shots in my archaeology class this coming semester …The site aside, I glad I went there for the walk: it gave me a chance to explore a tiny bit of this island's inland areas, which are considerably different than those of the other islands I've been to. Like Patmos, this is a very rich island; it obviously has a lot more water that most of the Dodecanese. Other than this generally richness, though, it doesn't look at all like Patmos—the landscape is softer, more rolling and the colors are different. Patmos has the orange pinkish hue about it, whereas this place is more about saturated yellows; it reminds me of deeper, more intense version of parts of coastal central California (it's as if this place demands to be painted in oils whereas watercolors would render California more accurately). Like Patmos, though, light is a huge factor here: in both places it seems to have substance all its own; it's almost like another thing, trees, water, light … It seems like something you can reach out and touch, feel slip thru your fingers …Since it has a lot of water it's not surprisingly more wooded than other islands. Even on my short walk today, which only got into the foothills, I was running into pines, cedars, junipers and other species I wasn't sure of. There are also more wildflowers here than other places in these islands (I bet this place is amazing in this regard in the spring when everything is in bloom). There also just more plant coverage in general. No place here I've seen (and I've seen a lot of the coast from the boat that brought me here) has that scrubby patchy look of Leros and so many other Greek islands I've been to. Though I've only seen the edges of the island's agricultural regions, based on what I have seen, this looks like a great place to be a Greek farmer. My guess is that the agricultural productivity here has got to be many fold a lot of the other islands … (More on this subject later. Tomorrow I'm going on my beach trip, which will have me cross a big chunk of the island. I should have much more info by tomorrow evening …)Notes: Tourist Crowds of KosLast night I ate dinner at an outside table at a restaurant that was in the very heart of the tourist region, in one of the narrow twisty alleys of the old town. The tourist throng was amazing, in both their numbers and their movements. Only in Waikiki at the absolu[...]

Kos - First Impressions


Note - I'm posting from cafes etc. with Internet connections that are slow - too slow for pictures, for the most part. I'll post a mess of photos as soon as I stumble upon a better connection or someplace where I can plug in and my lame battery is not an issue.Saturday, June 29, 2013—Kos Town, Kos, GreeceTook a hydrofoil here today. Those things are fast!—I made it here, even with a stop in Kalymnos, in only about an hour and a half (they're also kind of expensive, 21 euros). I found a room just off the main part of town for thirty euros a night. This price includes breakfast. Given this, it's not a bad deal, especially considering how expensive this island is reputed to be. Even so, I will no doubt be spending more money here than I want to—the island just exudes expensiveness.Back to the place I'm staying. It's one of those wonderfully weird Greek guest houses that can only be stumbled on by accident or by its proprietress (it's always older women who run these things) coming and grabbing you when you at the docks (which is what happened to me here). My room is this tiny little thing with two double beds a wardrobe and an old TV jammed into it. It's little balcony opens out onto the balconies and back windows of several other buildings, all of which are closely packed together. The bathroom is down the hall—and it's pretty amazing. It a combo bathroom/laundry room. Next to the toilet and the big American-style tub (huge by European standards) is a large washing machine. What's really bizarre it that they've got the washer draining into to toilet—there's a pipe with soaping water attached to the bowl (they've actually altered the bowl so the pipe can sit in it when the cover's closed). The place has also got thin walls and the rooms these odd doors, the top of which are smoked glass. When these doors are shut, even as quietly as possible, the whole building seems to be rattling. Added to this, the walls in the hall, the laundry room, etc. are adorned with Byzantine religious iconography. Almost as a kind of counterpoint, my room features an erotic photo of a pretty model-type couple embracing (so tasteless that it's almost pornographic). On the wall across from this is a needlepoint of young lovers embrace with a sunset backdrop. Amazing …          I got in pretty early today, a little after noon. So I've had plenty of time to wander the town. It's a typical Greek island city, pretty, but really not all that different from, say, Hania or Rhodes Town (structurally it's nowhere near as interesting as those places). It is newer. A big earthquake leveled the place in 1933 so it lacks a lot of the old Venetian architecture and twisty alleys found in other Greek cities (though it does have the remains of a Knights of St. John Castle right in the middle its waterfront). Because of this is feel more spacious and relaxed. Still, it's filled with stalls selling the same old stuff you can get anywhere in these islands, as well as tourist restaurants that might as all have the same menu. The town is loaded with archaeological sites (two of which I explored today), but it's beaches look very mediocre (they're also fairly crowded—I seem to be back into the German tourist zone). So far I'd say this place is a mixed bag …I feel like I've pretty much seen everything that interests me in town (unfortunately the archaeological museum is closed down, indefinitely). So tomorrow I think I'm going to take a bus to check out the beaches of the southwest of the island, either that or one on the north coast. I'm going to be [...]

Leros Thoughts


Friday, June 28, 2013—Alinda, Leros, Greece Realized today that I've hit a bit of a wall. Like I mentioned in my last entry, yesterday I felt like I really needed a day to recharge. Today I've been feeling the same way. I woke up today, after about nine hours sleep, feeling totally wiped out. I knew it was going to be a minimalist day from then on out.I did manage to climb the hill up to Pandeli Castle, which looms above the over side of Alinda Bay. It was interesting. The bulk of the castle was destroyed at various times, so most of what's up there is a reconstruction but it felt pretty authentic. More interesting than the castle itself was the museum next to it. The museum is culturally only tenuously connected to what had gone on with the castle. Mostly it houses examples religious iconography, which were quite interesting, mainly because the guy working in the museum explained them really well. He was a Greek-American from Texas, so he understood how to translate Greek Orthodox traditions for outsiders. Other than the museum all I managed to do was buy a boat ticket for Kos (I leave tomorrow at 10:20 AM).I really haven't seen much of this island, just the castle and the towns strung along this part of the coast. Normally this would bug me, but I hadn't really planned on coming here anyway. Also, based on descriptions of this place and what I have seen there's really not that much that interests me here: I'm using this island mainly as a relatively inexpensive pit-stop. That said, if I had a bit more money to burn, I wouldn't mind staying here a couple more days, mainly because I haven't quite figured the place out and I don't like leaving mysteries behind me. That said, I do think I get why this isn't exactly a hot destination: it doesn't have the wildness and breadth of someplace like Crete, while it also lacks the glamor, facilities, and style of places like Rhodes and Kos. It feels off the beaten path, but not necessarily in a good way …  Today the wind kicked up, making it a pretty lousy day for the beach (which is mainly what this place has to offer). Because of this there hardly seemed to be anyone around. Or at least that's what I thought was going on. To save money I ate in again tonight, taking advantage of the rarity of having a kitchen. After eating an early dinner and then taking an unexpected nap (I just crashed), I decided to head out and get a drink somewhere just to get out and mingle. Alinda, though, was empty; it's a Friday night and virtually every restaurant and bar was deserted or nearly so—and this is the tourist center of the island. I'm beginning to think that a lot of the people I saw on the beach yesterday were local Greeks who didn't come out today because of the wind. If my observations are correct, this place is really dead. I wonder if this is because of the state of the European economy or is this place always like this (I doubt the latter seriously: there are too many restaurants, hotels, etc. to have arisen for no reason). Some of the businesses here are closed. Maybe this place is really hurting. Or maybe things don't get going here till later in the summer. It was so dead that I decided to buy a beer and head back to my guest house. I didn't want to sit in some bar literally by myself …Onward to Kos …Pandeli Castle (or maybe the Castle Anthrax - "In the name of King Arthur open the door ...")[...]

Patmos From Leros and Leros


Thursday, June 27, 2013—Alinda, Leros, GreeceLeft Patmos at about two this afternoon (it’s a little after five now), on a local catamaran, (as opposed to the big inter-island ferry). Still annoyed by Patmos. As I've mentioned there was just something a little off-putting about the place, despite its great beauty. Spend my last day there hiking up to the old acropolis (of which there’s almost nothing left except some fragments of square-cut stone block walls). Then I hiked up to Hora, a town over-looking the port of Skala. It’s mainly famous for an old, massive monastery (which looks more like a Knights of St. John castle than a religious building). It was a great walk, fascinating environmentally: it’s such an abrupt rise in altitude that only a few minutes into my hike (which I did partially on trails and footpaths and the main road) I found myself in a forest, which was dominated by pines and featured cedars, scattered junipers, and eucalyptus (dumb imported Australian trees)—it amazes me how quickly the plant communities can change on these islands. The monastery turned out to be closed by the time I got there. This didn't bother me too much, as religious stuff interests me almost not at all (though I would have liked to examine the architecture of the monastery, which looked really cool from the outside); I mainly went for the hike. I did wander around the old twisting medieval streets of Hora for a while, which was interesting. The place was a touch too touristy for me, though, so I was only there for an hour or so before heading back down to Skala.Overall I'm pretty torn concerning my Patmos experience. On one hand, it might be physically the most beautiful Greek island I've been to. But culturally it had almost nil to offer. Greek, British, French, Italian, and some American tourists crowding narrow town beaches. Over-priced mediocre restaurants—nothing original about any of them (they might as well have had the same menu). Scooters and cars forever zooming past you (lay your head on a town beach and they move by literally feet from your skull). It’s almost as if the place culturally cancels out its immense environmental pluses …* OK, Leros. Like I said, I just got here a couple of hours ago. All I've done is find a place to stay (a really cool place, big, with a kitchen for only twenty-five euros a night) and wander around town, and get some stuff at a supermarket to make some dinner). Basically this town is one of three that hug a little section of the island’s coast. Alinda, in fact, might be the narrowest Greek town I've been to: it literally clings to the marginal beach that rims Alinda Bay. Though it’s just the next island over, environmentally this place looks much more like Crete than Patmos: the lemon yellow light has returned, as has the drier, more rugged landscape. The town feels a little like a low-rent version of Patmos, though: the same narrow strip of sand, basically interchangeable nightclubs and bars, traffic forever zooming by … There’s not all that much I came here wanting to see. Apparently this island has one of the cooler medieval castles in the islands (which is saying quite a bit, because there are a lot of good ones around here). I plan on checking that out tomorrow. I’m also going to look over the towns to the south. I may stay another day or so after that if I can find some cool, more far-flung beaches. If not, I’ll be off the following day. To where I’m not yet sure. I will keep moving south, though (I've decided to give the small[...]

Patmos - Double-Edged Beauty


Wednesday, June 26, Skala, Patmos, Greece Patmos. Still air, humidity. Heat. Kind of like a cross between the Island Greece I've been experiencing and what I've always imagined Mississippi would be like in the summer (but not quite that oppressive). I'm camping at a campground called Stefanos, just outside the island capitol/port of Skala. This is easily the hottest, most consistently humid place I've been in the Greek isles; it doesn't really even cool off that much at night. I woke up this morning at around six and for a while just lay there atop of my sleeping bag looking out thru the white mesh of my tent. A lot of the camping spots are separated by stands of bamboo. Between this and the hot still air (no morning freshness at all), the place seemed swamp-like, malarial (adding to this feeling was the slight head cold I've picked up). Strange feelings. Not particularly happy ones. This was the first morning I've woken up and really didn't want to be where I was …             All of this ties into my generally confused feelings about this island—it's not quite what I expected and overall I'm not enjoying it all that much. It's a beautiful place, greener than all of the others I've visted. The light is different here too: it's richer, more varied: hues of pink and orange crowding out the lemon yellows that dominate places like Crete, for example. It also has nice beaches, still as ponds, tucked deep into inlets, rich pale greens, deeper blues … But there's a cultural vibe here that's rubbing me the wrong way—the place is a little snooty, while also being a touch conservative. There seem to be more rules here than other places in Greece I've been too (when I'm saying this I'm not quite sure what I mean—I'm dealing more with general vibes more than anything I can quantify). There seems to be too much money here, both local and imported (it reminds me a bit of a little Greek Santa Barbara). Fancy yachts in the harbor poking my inner Marxist. Cruise ships anchoring off shore, dumping off tourists (including many Americans, who I otherwise rarely run into in Greece) so they can shop in town, buy the same crap they can get pretty much anywhere (is this all these kinds of travelers experience of the islands they visit?). Bah! … Yesterday I had what turned out to be terrible idea. I decided that it might be interesting to explore the island on bike, so I rented one (for 4 euros a day). I quickly discovered, though, that the mountains I had to cross were way too steep. This combined with the heat made things pretty miserable. Including about an hour and a half stop at a beach on the north eastern shore, I was out with the bike for about six hours. Despite the fact that I drank a lot of water, I was completely dehydrated by the time I turned it in. I was also exhausted. The dumb thing is that the inclines were so nasty I probably ended up pushing the bike for a bout a third of the distances I covered—I paid money for the privilege of pushing a bike! Still the downhills were stunning and it was a good work out (both the hills I rode up and those where I had to push). I WILL NOT be doing that again, however. Not unless I find myself on a relatively flat island … Leaving here tomorrow, beginning my southward trek. Not sure where I'm heading yet. Leros, the next island to the south seems interesting, quiet, laid back, comparatively empty to what I'm experiencing now. I'm also thinking of just plunging into the touristy aspec[...]

More Kasos - Impression Improving, Field Notes


Friday, June 21, 2013—Fry, Kasos, GreeceI almost made it to the top of my mountain. I carried out my plan of going straight up the drainage I tested out yesterday. This turned out to be surprisingly easy: it only took me about an hour to reach all the way to the rock dome which topped the mountain. The reason for this is there weren't really any tough spots—there were plenty of toe- and foot-holds and the drainage really never got very steep, even as I neared the top. Once I got up to rock dome the drainage petered out. After that I couldn't go much higher. I tried a number of different routes but I kept running into sections that would have essentially had me doing free rock climbing. I wasn't quite prepared for this for a couple of reasons. First off, the routes up I saw that might have worked would have been mighty sketchy if I tried to head back down them. Secondly, I was on my own: if I injured myself up there I had no one to help me. If I'd had a climbing partner I probably would have tried for the summit. Fifty-fifty as to whether I would have made it (I couldn't see what the final ascent would have been like from where I ended up).Once I made it back down I saw that the drainage just to the east the one I tried might have given me a better chance to make it to the top. It petered out into a saddle between peaks and might have provided me a more do-able way to the top (it might have also been a dead end, though, which would have left me topping out at a lower elevation than I made using the drainage I'd chosen). All in all I'd say today's hike was a great success: It was a good work out, I got some great views, and I showed, for the second time this trip, that my back country knowledge is still sound—I know how to go off trail safely and efficiently.  All this said, the countryside here isn't anywhere near as interesting as what I've hiked on other islands (Crete, Gavdos, and Karpathos): it was very dry and uniform, and unlike Crete (especially) the plant communities didn't change much as the altitude increased—there were mostly just changes in the percentages of what I'd been seeing down the sea level. As with everywhere else I've hiked in Greece there was also very little in the way of animal life. There were insects of course—including a species of dragon fly I don't think I've run into before—but not much else. I did see a few legless lizards, though. These are such weird animals. You'd think you might mistake them for snakes, at least at first glance. But that's not really the case, mainly because they are shaped and move like lizard—it's only later that you notice that they don't have legs. I tried to get a picture of one of them, but they were too quick: even though I had my camera handy they were gone long before I could get my hands on it, let alone set up a shot. I saw one of these lizards on Karpathos my last time thru. But I think the ones I saw today were of a different species: their coloring was different and they were a lot faster than the one on Karpathos (I could have touched that one if I'd wanted, it moved that slowly). I need to learn more about these creatures when I get home—they intrigue me.            Getting to the point where I'm almost glad I came to Kasos. I still think if I had it to do over again I would have given this island a miss, but I think I've managed to have a pretty interesting time here. As I've said before, the people are awfully[...]

Kasos Thoughts


Thursday, June 20, 2013—Fry, Kasos, Greece Kasos. The southern-most island of the Dodecanese, just north of eastern Crete. I got here last evening. I've purposefully have delayed writing anything about this place, mainly because I was feeling very reactive when I stepped off the ferry—I felt as if I'd made a big mistake by coming here. I decided that I wanted to get to know the place a bit before I said anything. I've been here almost twenty-four hours now, though, and I think it's time to put down some of my thoughts. I got off the ferry last night here in Fry (pronounced like “Free”), the island's capitol (population 270, according to Lonely Planet) and my first instinct was to jump into the harbor and make a swim for the ferry that was pulling out. The place looked sleepy in all the wrong ways, run down, drab, lonely. There aren't too many places to stay here, so I grabbed a room at the Hotel Annagennisis (their spelling, not mine), which is right on the waterfront and I thought pretty decent looking. Like I said, there's not much in the way of accomodation here, so not surprisingly, the place is a touch expensive (thirty euros a night), especially considering it's way off the beaten tourist track. But it's turned out to be a pretty good place, luxurious by my standards—I have air conditioning and a TV. After dropping off my bags I began to explore the town. There isn't much two it: a handful of homes and businesses, and a small port. I immediately felt there to be a mournful quality to the place. Abandoned buildings in the middle of town, including one that I could tell used to be a school house. Broken windows. A tiny little beach next to the port strewn with trash. Brown harsh hillsides surrounding the the town—none of the olive groves of Crete; old field terraces, long-since unused rising two-thirds of the way to cloud misty mountain tops. Heavy, hot air, despite the ocean breeze …The only good thing, I thought, was that the ferry would be back to take me away from here on Friday, less than forty-eight hours away. Then, later, the woman who runs the hotel I’' in told me that it wasn't actually coming until Saturday, that the information I'd gotten back on Crete was wrong (a common occurance in Greece, I've discovered, which sometimes can be charming, but in this case felt tragic). To distill all this, I wanted out of here from the word go. But I was stuck here for a while and so I decided to make the best of it. I cleaned up a bit and headed over to Mylos, a taverna right next to where I am staying that Lonely Planet said was pretty good (like accomidation, there’' not much in the way of eats here). The food was good and people who ran the place turned out to be quite nice. Actually most of the folk I've dealt with here seem quite nice: they're pleasant, if a bit reserved: it's like they’re really not used to outsiders here and don't know quite what to make of people like me (I think I was the only non-Greek to get off the Ferry, though I've seen a handful of tourists here since then). After eating I went back to my hotel feeling a bit better about the place.  My guide book said there really wasn't much to do here, that it was just a kind of quirky out-of the-way spot (that's why I decided to come here—I've had good luck in Greece when I've gotten a bit out of the main travel routes). They did mention that there were a couple of beaches on the north coast to the east of town. So this morning I d[...]

Sitting in Sitia


'Wednesday, June 19, 2013—Sitia, Crete, (2:00 PM) Catching up . For whatever reason(s), I haven't felt like writing anything lately, not even quick notes. I think this is a healthy sign. I have a tendency to turn everything in my life into a job. During my last Greece trip keeping a diary essentially became another form of work for me—I began to feel that I had to do it. Maybe my current attitude means that I finally am beginning to  learning how to relax a bit … OK, a fair bit has happened since I last wrote. First off I'm now all the way in Sitia, in northeastern Crete. I'd been planning on coming here to catch the ferry to begin the Dodecanese part of my trip, but I've made it here a bit earlier than I'd planned. Why this is so is a fairly long story. I'm not sure how interesting of a one it is, though. I was hanging out in Sougia relaxing a bit and getting lazy even. Because of the later, I was also feeling like it was time to move on. My plan (which was changing almost from hour to hour, so don't try and figure it out from my previous posts here) was to get down to Gavdos for a few days, come back to mainland Crete, and then start heading east to Frangokastello, an area I missed my last time thru Greece. But I fucked up, mixed up the boat times, and missed the boat from there to Gavdos. There wasn’t going to be another boat going from there from Sougia for another week and the ones from Paleohora and Hora Safakilon arrive at Gavdos in the middle of the night. Now Gavdos is backwoods—it doesn't really even have much in the way of lighted public spaces—and setting up a camp there in the dark was not something that thrilled me. So I decided to hit to head for Frangokastello and hit Gavdos on my way back home (I fly out from Hania). I've mentioned that Frangokastello is one of those places that I can never seem to get to from where I am. It's outside the south-coast boat routes, so my options were to go Hora Safakilon and then hike there (about five or six hours on the trail, I estimate), or go to Hania, from there get a bus to Rethymno, and then take a couple more busses from there. I choose going to bus route, mainly because, even though it would have me covering more ground, between the time lag on the boats and the hiking time, the busses would be quicker (and easier). So I made my way to Paleohora, crashed there for a night, and then caught the 7:15 AM bus to Hania. By late that morning I was in Rethymno. Then things got confusing. It turns out that my guidebooks are grossly out of date when I comes to the Frangokastello bus routes. Apparently the only way I could get to there by bus involved heading back to Hania and taking a couple more buses from there. I won't go into the details—I’m not even fully sure how it happened—but apparently the people at the Rethymno bus station sold me a ticket to a route that no longer exists. It took me about three hours there to figure this out. By this point I was over it—I had no interest in heading back to Hania and trying to sort things out there. So I decided to deal with pesky Frangokastello on my way home. Then I bought tickets to Iraklio and then Sitia.  I ended up getting in here about ten o’clock last night (I left Paleohora at 7:15 in the morning). So it ended up being a long annoying day, a slowly unfolding, but ultimately minor glitch … Some other changes: My original plan upon heading into to Dodecanese was to go s[...]

Hiking Around Sougia


Sougia's another one of those little southwest coast towns that are nestled into the surrounding mountains. It's more my speed than Loutro - it's got a tourist infrastructure, but things are far more laid back and ragged here. The beach is pretty nice - though the sand-to-stone ratio could be better - and there's some great hiking.Yesterday I went on a pretty gnarly little hike. I started off on the E-4 to Lissos (an archaeology site). Then I noticed that I'd actually jumped from the E-4 to a local trail (the trail markers went from the black & yellow of the E-4 to red). The trail wasn't in my book and I had no idea where it went, but I decided to stick with it, just for something different. It ended up going inland, more or less north. It was pretty challenging to begin with, then it got really hard when it basically shot straight up a high ridegline. This turned out to be really cool, because once I made it about halfway up there I started seeing endemic Cretan mountain plant species, some of which are pretty rare (I wish I'd have thought to take pictures of more of them, for identification purposes later).Like I said, the terrain was pretty tough, but the real problem was that the trail was poorly marked once it started to rise and for big patches really wasn't a trail anymore - the rare trail markers were really marking a theoretical trail at this point. I've discovered that in this part of Crete it's really easy to go off trail - but this was especially bad. As I went up I kept losing the trail and had to spend a fair amount of time reestablishing myself. I hadn't really planned on a long hike that day (my left ankle, always a problem, was pretty sore from the hiking I'd just done out of Loutro), and I could tell that the trail was either going to keep going inland, maybe deep into the mountains or it was going to curve around the big drainage I started off in and descend into it from the other side. If it did the later that probably meant at least an eight-hour trip. I definitely didn't want to do such a major run (like I've said, my ankle was hurting and I also didn't have enough water with me for that). So I decided to double back.This turned out to be a problem. The trail was marked in ways that were designed to be seen going up, not down; it became impossible to stay on the trail. The main issue in these situations in Crete is that there often isn't really any difference between the well-established parts of a trail and the many goat paths that criss-cross the mountains. Even if you're really paying attention it's almost impossible not to get sidetracked on them. Well that's what happened to me in a big way. Somehow I really lost the trail, to the point where reestablishing it might have taken hours.I decided the best and quicker thing to do would be to just go down the ridgeline off trail and head for a side drainage that I'd been more or less running parallel to throughout the whole ascent. From there I could make it back to the main drainage where if nothing else I knew I could eventually pick of the E-4. Back in California I probably wouldn't have tried this, mainly because drainage bottoms tend to have so much biomass they're often impassable. But there's so little water here I didn't think that would be a problem.I turned out to be right: the drainages were pretty clear and it took me less time that way than trying to find the trail again. But, man, it was a[...]