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Crete, Greece: Chania to Agia Roumeli with Hans, Day 12

Crete, Greece

Southern Crete, Greece.  That is the Libyan Sea.

At 11 AM, I meet Hans at the bus station.  And we begin a journey that doesn’t end until 10 PM.  No matter.  I am feeling super lucky to have Hans, master traveler, as my guide.

The Journey to Agia Roumeli

We take a harrowing bus ride from Chania to Chora Sfakia, paralleling a deep gorge for quite a way.  The road hair-pins.  The dents and breaks in the guardrails are not comforting.  At times I just have to close my eyes.  The landscape is immense, jagged, ancient, craggy and dry.  I think about the earthquake yesterday and consider my odds of dying by boulder.

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We arrive in Chora Sfakia, a tiny village in Southern Crete.  As usual, Hans knows everyone in town.  The ferry schedule changes all the time based on the month, whether there is a strike, and the conditions of the sea and so he isn’t sure where we will end up tonight — maybe here, maybe Loutro, maybe Agia Roumeli.  In Crete, you really just have to go with the flow.  As a precautionary measure he negotiates for hotel rooms with an owner.  It’s low season, hardly any tourists are left.  Hans is masterful.  He doesn’t like the price offered.  He says to the owner, “No, that’s too high, but we’ll be back in an hour and “I’ll give you some time to think about it.”  Hans always maintains the upper hand.

He takes me to a high point in Chora Sfakia, a place where he’s camped before.  He walks up like a spry goat, cigarette in hand.  At 66, he is strong and fit, despite a steady diet of beer and cigarettes.  We are quickly above the village with a great view.  We venture on to a bar and have a few beers and lunch while Greek men sit and stare at the water like statues, rolling strings of glass beads (called kombolois) in their hands. Click, click, click.  That’s it.  No other movement.  With the tourists mostly gone, the pace of life here is incredibly slow.  I like it.

Hans above Choro Sfakia, Crete

Hans above Choro Sfakia, Crete

Hans finds out that the ferry will leave at 6:30 and so we go to another taverna and have more beer and wait.

Hans tells me that in the last 40 years and 164 countries he has never traveled with a first aid kit.  He only has one first aid item:  In the Summer in Austria he collects Arnica flowers from the mountains.  He then soaks these flowers in high quality schnapps for one month in the sun.  And this mixture is what has healed him from stab wounds, gashes from coral, animal bites, and all the other wounds (some major) he has encountered on the road.  He says he has saved lives with this potion, helping others who had deep gangrenous and infected wounds.  He doesn’t believe in doctors and has avoided them thus far.

As the sun is setting, drenching all with an orange glow, we take the (car) ferry and sail along the coast for miles.  Hans has walked the entire coast of Crete, as well as every gorge and mountain.  He points out the coastal trail which traverses massive landslides and steep, steep mountains.  Not for the faint of heart.

Loutro, Crete, Greece

Loutro, Crete, Greece

We arrive in Loutro, a tiny village of white buildings built around a small port.  It is only accessible by ferry.  Not sure whether there is a ferry that night to Agia Roumeli, Hans asks around.  Again, he knows everyone in town.  The Neptune, a small passenger boat will be leaving in an hour.  We sit at a bar, the town now deserted of other tourists and watch a German guitar player play Bob Dylan songs for nobody.

The Neptune arrives and we are the only passengers.  It’s an hour ride to Agia Roumeli.  The sky is clear with Jupiter burning huge and orange above.  The Libyan Sea is quiet.  Despite is being after 9 PM and on the ocean, no jacket or sweater is required.

We arrive in Agia Roumeli, a place that Hans returns to every year to camp.  Again, with youthful enthusiasm he greets his friends, orders a beer and sets off to inquire about room prices.  It seems the same people return every year and stay for months, just like he does, so this is family.  The town itself takes three minutes to cross and he returns having found us each a sea-view room for 20 euros a night.  He admits to being tired (a first) and within an hour we settle into our rooms and lights are off.

It wasn’t until the morning that I could actually see where I was…

Photos of the Day:

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