Crete: The Samaria Gorge

I fully admit that I had no real idea quite what this excursion would entail. It wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, I might not have done it if I’d have known the truth but I am so glad I did it and would do something similar again.

It all starts at 4,100 feet, the mountains opposite still snow-capped, and then the descent begins. Our journey down started at about 9 and so the sun was already quite bright. The immediate downward journey on the huge steps, xyloskalo. Is quite bloody scary. Or at least I found it bloody scary. The railings are wooden, wobbly in places and non-existent in other places. At some of the turns on the steps the view is straight down. I’m not scared of heights but I always panic when up high. Usually of dropping things off. This part was possibly the prettiest but I was too busy concentrating.

Nearer the bottom the path becomes vary slightly more stable, although don’t let that fool you – one wrong foot anywhere in the gorge can involve the rock rolling and your foot goes with it! The paths become longer and the rocks you’re walking on become bigger with an element of stability. The path also becomes less path-like and more field of rocks over which you can pick your own path. It becomes more interesting. The views up are still fantastic but I do fear that I missed things in my initial terror.

This was where I had built my confidence and easily started making up for my initial slow pace. I’m not unfit and was pleased that I didn’t to take rests at any of the designated rest sites. It’s not all downhill though, there is a definite uphill section and none of it is purely up, down or flat. In fact I found that uphill felt safer and I had more confidence. Except it was on an uphill part that my husband fell over bruising and grazing himself.

Is it all just rocks? Kinda. You’re in a gorge so there is greenery and flowers but depending on your pace, concentration and fear levels depends on whether you notice everything. I’m sure that I missed a lot. And seeing as we completed it in under five hours perhaps we should have relaxed a bit. The problem is that even four hours is a long time. Even with breaks. It starts to get hot. There’s not much shade some times. The wind gets really strong through the thinnest section of the gorge and sometimes the river is fast and deep where you’re trying to cross it.

The river and small waterfalls are possibly the visually loveliest part of the walk and I lost track of the number of times we crossed it. I do know that all crossings are by stepping stones or planks of wood. I also now know that trainers can easily have their grip worn down during the walk which increases the chances of slipping off stones. Yes it happened to me but I remained on my feet. My slip did make me concerned that I could properly fall in. It made ne wary and cautious again. But for all my fears, caution and jars to my feet and ankles (almost badly sprained my right ankle but forced myself to walk on it) other people were wearing sandals or had young children with them and although there’s a helicopter on stand by no one got injured on the day I was there.

The worst thing, even worse than the pain and dirty feeling, was that there was no way out until half 5 which is also the last time to get out. Miss that ferry and you’re sleeping on the beach. This is the same if you’re on an excursion or doing it yourself. Consider walking up the gorge if you’re experienced. We sat around for three hours waiting for the hour ferry journey and then sat on a coach for 3 hours.

This was probably the worst part of the trip if not the whole holiday – we got up at 5am, finished the gorge at half one and didn’t get back to the hotel until 9pm. The length of the day and full disclosure of the timings of the day weren’t given to us by Thomson/first choice and that was hugely disappointing and did mar the day. Nothing will take away the feeling of accomplishment at managing what I did though. I would consider doing it with public bus or private tour to prevent wasting so much of the day at both ends.

I walked a gorge. Woo!

~ Persephone M

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samari%C3%A1_Gorge
http://www.west-crete.com/samaria-gorge.htm

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  1. Looks like a awesome place to go mountaineering 🙂

    • It was, but I WISH i’d given it more time and actually looked around the place!

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