Leaving Chania and getting to Yoga on Crete was a bit of a challenge. I needed the help of two people to bring my suitcase down two flights of winding wooden stairs and then I had to roll it through town to the bus station. Poor suitcase, it has been everywhere and now one wheel is starting to break.
I was really looking forward to meeting Eugenia at Yoga on Crete in Hora Sfakion, which is an hour’s bus ride south of Chania. On the way the bus stopped to pick up many French hikers (there seems to be a walk similar to the Carmino Way except it is the Cretan Way) and the scenery was spectacular as we wound down from Imbros Gorge to the coast. Eugenia was easy to spot with her red hair, and she was waiting for me in a old station wagon. She was very welcoming and drove me up to a lovely Cretan whitewashed house on a hill overlooking the turquoise sea. Bright pink bougainvillea hung down next to the main double doors, and there was a very pretty garden. My shared room was large with grey stone slab floors, whitewashed walls and two shuttered windows, one of which overlooked the small port and bay of Hora Sfakion.
Iyengar yoga was the program for this week, and the first class was to start at 6pm for two hours followed by an included vegetarian dinner cooked by resident chef Josh. I had some time to walk down to the village beforehand, and discovered many tavernas and a beautiful little pebbly swimming beach of the clearest turquoise water. I was tempted by some Cretan pastries filled with cheese and greens, delicious!
Our yoga teacher Constantinos was a lovely Greek man with a kind heart and much knowledge about the mechanics of the body. Every day he was to have us working our pelvic muscles in every which way possible! This was so we would be correctly aligned when doing each yoga posture. There was to be a two hour class in the morning and again in the evening with the days in between classes spent chatting over breakfast, down at the village swimming and eating, or off on an excursion.
There were six women staying for this first week, from varying places such as Russia, Egypt and Athens. Federica (from Italy) is also on hand for craniosacral massage, which I experienced on the second day. Her five-year-old daughter Mia provides much love and entertainment! Three adorable kittens live in the pretty garden and are now learning to climb a very thin tree. A blue table and chairs sit near a pebbly path and a hammock is ideal for laying back under the leafy green tree. The view down to the port is magical, especially at dusk and early morning. Charcoal coloured stone slabs are hot to walk on, but provide dramatic colour against the whitewashed house and hot pink bougainvillea.
The first excursion was to Sweetwater beach, a private beach that you could only get to by boat. This beach has a taverna perched on the water, a nudist and non-nudist division and beautiful clear cool water due to a natural underground spring. The weather was quite hot in the mid-thirties then suddenly it cooled and became windy. This was the perfect day to hike Imbros Gorge. Christina, Maria and I got a lift with Nikolaus who had come to give us a special concert with his sita (an Indian musical instrument) the night before. His beautiful music soothed us all. Nikolaus dropped us off at the top of the gorge, then it was a scenic two hour hike down to the little village at the bottom. By the way if you have dicky knees, don’t hike gorges! To get back to Sfakion we had to hire a taxi with a difference! It was a modern ute, but the driver did not open the door for us. Instead we had to climb into the open back tray! It was a lot of fun though hanging on for dear life as we screamed around twists and turns on the road down the hill, bumping all the way.
The vegetarian food cooked by Josh is interesting (I am not a vegetarian) though I am not sure my stomach likes it particularly. A gazpacho soup of beetroot, tomato, ginger and mint was the tastiest dish I ate. Over the course of the week my back had stretched into a graceful downward dog, I could get into poses I never thought possible, and my problem knee alignment is forever in my mind.
On the last evening of this week, we all went out for dinner at a local taverna. There was such a difference in everybody from the beginning of the retreat. No longer did guests want to forget about their lives, they were a more relaxed happy bunch of people!