Paradise found : The mountains, the sea and a little adventure
The sky was twinkling bright and our stomachs were filled to the bream as we entered our cute villas by the sea. Just as I was relaxing in the shower after an exhausted day, Preeti knocked on the door.
‘’Dev has big hives on his body!’’, she declared panic-stricken. Very unlike Preeti. It was nearly midnight on this largest but quiet island in Greece. The sweet resort manager was not answering his call (save his otherwise hospitable demeanour), we did not have a single medicine in our travel kit (surprise, surprise!) and the four of us were frantically trying to call emergency medical help.
Our prayers were answered as an ambulance took apna party-boy Dev away to Chania, the next major town which was 12 miles away for an exciting night-out. So as Adi and I tried to catch forty winks, Preeti being the Pativrata Naari spent her night with very loud nurses.
We were the early visitors on this serene island where the ‘season’ actually begins mid April. The winds were still strong, restricting any sailing or diving activities. The gorgeous looking snow covered White Mountains were not accessible either as the water flows through the gorges till early spring.
Feeling a little dejected, we hired a taxi ( No, we don’t drive in London ) and drove from north to south of the western side of the island. The island spans 270 km from east to west, has two international airports and is an important naval and air base in the Mediterean sea.P our very amicable, bulky driver and guide drove us on the road overlooking Souda bay, the naval base. Our next stops were at ancient city ruins of Aptera (7th century B.C.) Many such ruins belonging to Minoans, Byzantines and Romans are scattered around the island.
We took our own sweet time, touching each brick and plucking wild daisies in this piece of history. The sight of the cistern bought out the singers in Dev and me. Our cacophony managed to get us surprised looks from the fellow tourist audience. Vacations are meant to be silly!
P then drove us through the pretty villages in the hills. The trees were laden with oranges and lemons. I wondered if the popular rhyme was inspired from this place.
The only sound was our constant chatter and P’s non-stop calls from clients.
As we neared the south of the island, the clouds and the chill had vanished and bright sunshine welcomed us. Jackets off, sunglasses out. P who waved at every single passer by on the road throughout the drive directed us to Nikos tavern at Hora Sfakion for lunch. ‘Treat this as your home’, said the welcoming owner, shaking everyone’s hands – a very Greek way.
We were in for a feast! The lamb cooked in spicy tomato gravy was one of the best ones I have had in Europe! We relished the ‘feta cheese’ pitas with honey and polished off the souvlakis. The Greeks are certainly the most hospitable folks I have known. Preeti who is a vegetarian was equally delighted with her stew and Greek salad. We ate like there was no tomorrow.
P with his soft spoken broken English accompanied us during lunch narrating his experiences on Crete, the future for Greece in these uncertain times and his faith in Alexis Tsipras. His face beamed as a proud father of a daughter who had graduated in Mathematics and wondered what future she had in times where salaries were halved in most work places.
Just as were about to burp, the chubby owner placed a plate of thick yogurt drizzled with honey and Raki, a local alcohol before us.
We spent the rest of the day passing various beaches and closed the evening at the old harbour of Chania. The streets near the old harbour are lined up with jewellery stores, leather goods and art shops. Not to forget the several buzzing cafes lined around the harbour. We had enjoyed a large platter of fish the evening before. A platter so large that we had to give up on it. (Including Adi!!!) But Dev still wanted to have some fish that fated evening. Ofcourse, little did he know what he had signed up for.
The next day arrived with a cloud of doubt. Dev and Preeti had arrived only at 6 am from the hospital. We had plans to walk the Imbros gorge , a 12 km stretch as Samria, the largest gorge in Europe was shut for visitors. ( We were not fit enough to walk it either)
By late morning, Dev and Preeti woke up sportingly. After a few digs at Dev we started our drive for Imbros gorge. All the four of us love walking and this was a must do on our Crete list. The winding roads and clouds on top of the hills reminded us of the drives in the Himalayan foothills. It brought me memories of my last proper holiday with mum and dad. That was nearly 7 years ago!
Each turn in the gorge brought forward a different sight and a landscape. Black, Brown and Green predominated the pathway. Sometimes a stretch only had grasslands and shrubs while a sudden turn surprised us with slender, tall trees. Herds of sheep greeted us midway as sunshine played peek-a-boo. We threaded over big stones, small pebbles and humongous boulders. Not a single trickle of sweat on our brows. As the wind gently blew in the narrow gorge, we could hear cattle bells in a distance.
This was a paradise! This was unadulterated happiness.
Would we visit Crete again? Most certainly, we have only seen half of Crete. I missed visiting the Knossos Palace. Preeti liked the simplicity of the Cretian people. All of us will try to be fit for Samaria as well. Bonus point are the ferries which depart from Crete to other greek islands in the season. Adi will come for the beautiful curly haired women and food. Did I mention Desserts and Raki are complimentary on the island?
As for Dev, guess he will be careful with any fishy experience in future. He survived only on bread and selected fruit during the rest of our stay.
14 April 2015