I woke half an hour before my 5.30am alarm (as often happens), got organised and headed out the door. Today I was on a tour to hike almost three hours through Irini Gorge. I was a bit confused at the pickup point because the bus had a label on the front ‘Samaria Gorge’. As it turned out everyone else was doing the 6-8hr hike through the famous Samaria Gorge (longest gorge in Europe) and I was doing the shorter but more peaceful Iniri Gorge.
The bus ride was very scenic as we climbed through the mountains and goats ran free everywhere! As we stopped for breakfast at a mountain village, the air was cool and fresh and smelt of thyme and other herbs that grow naturally on Crete.
We arrived at the entrance to Samaria Gorge and dropped everyone off including the guide (see photo above). The driver (Nikos) was to look after me for the rest of the day! Luckily he could speak very good English. He drove me another 25 minutes down the mountain a bit further to the entrance of Irini Gorge and said goodbye and that he would pick me up at the other end.
Just down the road a little bit was a very small cafe and toilet, and a woman collected my national park entrance fee of two euro. It was only about 8.15am when I started, so still nice and cool. A goat and her kid were bleating on the track. There were six checkpoints along the track, all with natural spring water provided. Checkpoint two had toilets. Chestnut trees, an abundance of pink oleander, and herbs made for a very pretty shaded walk. Crickets sung their loud choruses and birds sang gorgeous melodies. There was plenty of rock climbing, steps up and down the hillsides and understory paths. Mostly it was rocky and a good workout!
I found it very spiritual and beautiful to be out in nature, even though I had a bit of a sweat going near the end as the sun got stronger, and just a wee bit of sunburn on my arm. I made friends with two older German couples as we kept crossing each other’s paths.
Nikos duly picked me up from the taverna at the end of the track and my reward was a ride down to Souza beach for a whole afternoon swimming and lounging. The beach at Souza is pebbly with very clear and calm water, just gorgeous. We had to wait for the group to come by boat from the end of the Samaria Gorge at about 6.30pm, and it was a very late trip home. While we were waiting Nikos chatted about how the men often had to have two jobs now to pay the very high taxes in Greece and showed me photos of his lovely wife and four children. Everyone came back on the bus in one piece after the long hike and it was a very congenial ride back with Nikos and the guide making fun of me doing my hike again as we drove back up the mountain past the start to Irini Gorge. This was one of the best days so far!