Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Austria in Greece!

I didn't expect the White Mountains to be white but as I exited the bus at the entrance to the Samaria Gorge the ashen peak of Kinkilos dominated the landscape. In an endeavour to avoid the droves of tourists headed for the gorge; instead of going down, I headed up, into the Lefka Ori and towards the small mountain lodge of Kallergi Refuge.

As I headed up the mountain it wasn't long before all I could hear was the tinkering of goat bells and all I could see was the view of the Omalos Plateau sprawled below. Before too long I arrived at the refuge sitting high atop the mountain, boasting impressive views of the basin below and prime position to gaze at the vultures soaring and diving and the clouds fluxing in and out of the valley.

After too long, staring entranced by the view I made the move towards the lodge to get myself settled and found myself promptly in Austria! Kallergi is owned by a well traveled interesting Austrian man whom I spent the better half of the afternoon chatting with as he plied me with Glühwein and fed me Obst Knödel! Certainly not how I had envisaged the day but a welcome development of events.

Early to bed, early to rise was my plan of attack. Early enough to see the Milky Way as a glittering rainbow above me and early enough to need my headlamp for the first 4km of my 22km hike.

While being lovely the Samaria Gorge had nothing on its Rethymno cousin of Myli. It was 16km downhill, over rocks, with little more than a few Cretan butterflies to spot. Ruined by tourists who have built up small piles of rocks everywhere in order to consummate their trek of the gorge. A LNT disaster....thankfully I had managed to avoid almost all of the tourists. I was through the gorge in five hours and then sat impatiently for the next five hours for the  ferry to arrive, watching the masses arrive at the end of the gorge in the small village of Agia Roumeli on the South coast.

Prior to my arrival to Omalos I had a fleeting and also lacklustre sojourn in Heraklion, for the primary reason of visiting Knossos Palace, which turned out to be a load of arranged ruins; some British guys interpretation of what the Minoan capital had looked like.....

I guess its had to compete with the adventures of the past month; Santorini, the Magnificent 7, Athens and the two wonderful weeks at Biotopes, which had culminated in a night out in Old Town, much vodka and sleeping out under the stars on a trampoline!

With one day left on the island of Crete and in the spectacular country of Greece, I'm looking forward to a sleep in and exploring the Old Town of Chania before I head off to one of my favourite countries, fourth time around.... the land of pizza and pasta, designers and style, MotoGP champions... Hello Italia!

View of the lighthouse in Chania Old Town

Old Town Harbour Chania

Knossos Palace

Chania Old Town...gorgeous

White Mountains Crete

Heraklion Fortress
View of the basin from Kallergi Refuge
Omalos Plateau
Fragana & Mountains
Soaring vultures 
An Austrian hideaway in Greece

More Lefka Ori beauty

Kallergi Refuge
I took so many of the view....

Inside Samaria
Rocky understatement

Samaria Gorge at its narrowest

At Agia Roumeli

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