Explore's Cat Morrissey recently went walking in Crete.
As l threw pieces of bread into the trout tank watching the fish swim speedily to their snack, l laughed to myself. What a funny place to be – staying on a trout farm in the Zaros region of Crete.
Thinking back, the week had been full of surprises, having had little expectations of what a week’s walking in Crete would offer me, l had been thrilled to discover how lush the Samaria Gorge was.
Not all rocky and barren like l had imagined, but mountainous, green, lush, some areas of woodland, some areas of dry rock. At times we were sheltered heavily by the trees above and then within minutes would be out under the blistering heat.
The point most people enthused about - ‘The Iron Gates’ - was somewhat of an anti-climax. A few minutes before we arrived, a heavy downpour started and so, distracted by trying not to let sun cream run into my eyes, l almost missed the most famous part of our walk that day. Suffice to say, as l was soaking wet and concentrating on not slipping on the wet rocks beneath me, l didn’t get to appreciate this section for all its glory.
Reaching Ayia Roumeli was a huge pat on the back for me. With very little walking experience under my belt, the Samaria Gorge had been a real challenge and one l was thrilled to say l had now accomplished. I celebrated with the others in the group with fruit salad, an ice cream and a beer. A perfect way to end the day. Or so l thought!
Because soon after we were to board a ferry and 45 minutes later arrive in the Greek version of heaven – Loutro. A tiny village set into the side of a mountain and only reachable by boat. This was the peace and tranquillity the group had been craving. Little white houses with blue roofs – similar to the houses l imagine you would find in Santorini. For the next two nights, Loutro would be our Nirvana.
The next day the group choose whether to walk or take a water taxi to a nearby beach and enjoy the Greek sunshine with a much needed 'beach and book' day. After two day’s walking, this was the perfect reward and the group enthused about how diverse the tour was. There was enough activity for everyone – some members wanted more so opted to walk with the tour leader while their travelling companions relaxed. For friends or relatives who have mixed interests, this tour is perfect as you really can do as little or as much as you wish.
Also, if you wanted an activity that wasn’t walking, sea kayaking was offered whilst we were based at Loutro, paddling out to the nearby Sweetwater beach and back. This was a brilliant tonic before a long journey sat on a bus to Zaros.
So after a day’s respite it was back onto the ferry and goodbye to Nirvana – we all watched fondly as the ferry took us further and further away from our slice of heaven and onto the next adventure.
That day l had walked through the Zaros gorge – more barren than Samaria and what l expected from a gorge. I had also dinned at Vivi’s – run by an eccentric local who loved Explore groups and invited us in to feed and supply us with the local beer and wine. I had also sampled a fresh trout supper – a first for me. We finished off our week with an impromptu invitation to a Greek Baptism being held at our hotel. The family invited us in with open arms. We danced on tables, learnt the Greek lingo, kissed the baby and drank raki (the local spirit) until the early hours…one of those rare un-planned nights that Explore can never predict but our clients embrace whole heartedly.
All danced out, l sat down to tend to my weary feet and thought to myself, that is what Explore holidays are all about – getting out of your comfort zone, being challenged, finding a little town or village like no other to call your Nirvana and then sampling new foods in a region of the country still relatively new to tourism. The exclusivity and excitement ‘Walking in Crete’ bought to my life will stay with me forever – l had little expectations of the tour and was thrilled by the goodies l discovered. I will defiantly be visiting Crete – and my Nirvana – again.
If you want to visit Cat's 'Nirvana' take a look at our Walking in Crete tour and see what dates are available.