Sunday, April 28Ivan's travels experiences Around Crete by car

Friday 30th mileage total 618Kms from start Day three of rental

First project was to get the tire replaced, I looked at it this morning as I put my suitcase in and it had a large cut in the side of the tire, so first garage I found, yes they could do it and shortly I was lighter 54E and on my way.

I have noticed that there are many camping sites all the distance I have traveled thro Crete, but I have only seen one caravan and one motorhome and both were parked on a campground by the sea

Well another interesting day I am in Sitia and on the way here I was going along the main road when I saw a sign of a village some 8kms off the road, I looked at the map and it appeared that I could do a little circuit and come back onto the road after about 16 kms.

So it was off up, up the mountain side on a road that was barely suitable for a four wheel drive, over washouts all the time climbing this one way shingle road in low gear, occasionally the road got better and I managed to get into second gear for a few moments but then there was a washout the size of the wheel on the car so it was down to low again to get thro it, no road signs but follow the path that I could see where some other car had been ahead of me some time in the distant past.

Eventually I saw a village in the distance in a valley and the road lead me right thro the middle, as I arrived the local veggie man had just arrived in a four wheel drive truck and as he was facing the opposite direction that was a good sign to me as you could go on!

He was selling potatoes, beans apples, oranges and bananas, the latter which sold out in record time. Some of the old people had wonderful faces and I would have loved to have stayed for a couple of days and photograph them all but that was not to be. So I contended with a walk thro the village doing some photos of the houses and the doorways. It was interesting looking thro some of the doorways that were open at how little space they had, minimum possessions and they had lived a long life in their village with very little changing.

The way in to the village and the way out was thro plantations of olive trees, all hooked up to a compressive water supply with taps that could be turned on when they were required and a water meter to record the usage. Occasionally the crop would change to grapes but it was the olive trees that were on the side of every road.

So it was on up out of the village and quickly I came to a unmarked Y junction, I took what appeared to be the most used one way track and it became obvious quickly I had taken the wrong path, but I carried on to see where it would lead and it lead to a rock fall half way up the narrow path, so I backed back a little to a wide bit where I could just turn the baby around in about six moves. Then back to the Y and the other road did not looked that promising, but unless I went back the way I came that was it, so again it was up and up over washouts and then I passed thro the second village I found on the map so it was the correct road.

So again on with the road getting narrower and narrower till I saw a track around a cliff in the distance and I thought that may be interesting, and interesting it was, you did not look down at all but straight ahead and it was not that narrow, for the baby car and there were at least two places that two babies could have passed.

So on an on past a bridge that lead nowhere thro what looked like a major river but was just a puddle from all of the rain yesterday

Then there was a large village with a large church AND it was on the map, but after that my map reading turned to custard, with sign posts pointing to locations that did not exist, on my map, I went past massive wind farms with these large wind generators on the top of the large hills, with all of the old windmills that used to be used for drawing water now not being used, I assume power pumps had replaced them, and all of this time I was taking what looked like the best road and was climbing high into the mountains going deeper and deeper, most of the time the road was very good two lane highway, then it would reduce to a one lane track thro a village around the edge of a cliff.

All was not lost because there was a sign post with a name that was on the map, miles from where I thought I was and should be in a different direction but it was on the way to where I had set out hours earlier to go to. Then there was another sign post and waller…. It would lead me right to Sitia so on and on climbing again and finally around a corner there in the distance was down at sea level was a city so it was thro the last village then to start the drive down and that is when you realized just how high you had been.

So a very satisfactory day, booked into a hotel 20E a day for two days, looked for a internet café and after walking the streets for about a hour going in every direction after getting new directions every time the last ones did not work, I finally lucked onto a internet provider who sold me a card for 3E that gave me three hours internet access anywhere in Greece, back to the hotel set up the computer, and I was connected….. easy!

Saturday 31st mileage total 680Kms from start Day four of rental

Last night after getting the internet connection a getting the last episode away I wandered down stairs to the waterfront and had dinner, I am getting used to dining by the sea, have to see what I can do when I get home! Guess at least I can see the sea from my dining table, not quite the same but better that nothing

Did not go far today, decided I would go over to a village that I could see from the hotel, they had apartments for sale, but were not open at all. So I went on for a bit and came to a signpost saying Toplou Monastery 3kms, well I had been putting off going to one so I thought this will be the one, interesting how one does things like that as it turned out to be the largest Monastery on Crete with a history back to the 15th century, they had a fantastic collection of old books, saw one dated 1575 and there were lots dated in the 1700's.

Their collection of Icons was incredible with many over 300 years old

Bought a book on the monastery and on its icons, it is a pity no photography was allowed as there were some beautiful images. Also bought a book on the difference between the Orthodox and Western churches, was hoping it would confirm the stories I have read about the Russian Orthodox church but it does not touch on that at all!

From there went out to Itanos a Dorian city founded over 3600 years ago, not much left now to my eyes but I guess to an archeologists there is a wealth of information there, it was uncanny walking on ground that you knew people had walked 1600 years before Christ. On my return to the hotel instead of going the long way I found I had taken the short way, well I was getting hungry anyhow. Getting rather picky as to even where I have lunch, passed some rather nice restaurants on the way back but they were not by the sea so I passed.

There is a lot to see on this island, so much history.

OK I guess it is time to go across the road to the waterfront for dinner, it is a hard life!

Sunday1st mileage total 802Kms from start Day five of rental

Drove today to Malia in a hotel on the edge of town 25E B&B. stopped in at Mohlos which is about 5kms off the main road, the guide book says the tourists have not found this village yet well all I can say is that the five elaborate restaurants must have a big local trade.

Stopped for lunch at a seaside establishment at Faedra Beach, which is unusual for me on this trip! Drove thro Agios Nikolaos but could not find parking and a hotel so just kept on driving. Stopped at a rather large Minoan town called Gournia from 1700 BC it was very interesting the way in which it was laid out. All of the Minoan towns came to a abrupt end in 1450BC, evidently the average age of the women at death was 27 and men 30. The men lasted longer I assume as the women died in childbirth.

There are a terrific amount of restaurants in Crete, this time of the year you never see the full so I assume in the peak season the must do the business, but you wonder what the do in the winter.

Walking thro town tonight on my way to find a restaurant I noticed that the women's dress shops seemed to have nice fashions, however I would need a woman to confirm that as my views may not pass muster.

I was directed into the old town and was told it was very interesting, ended up eating at about the third one I tried, I was offered a job in a couple as they told me I was dressed just right, at least they have some standards!

With the problems I had being understood it shows how many English people they get with their mastery of the language, perhaps I should have taken the jobs offered, I could be "our man in Crete".

I was warned that once I was in the old town I may find it difficult to get out, after the meal the waiter brought me a glass of Raki or Osuo did not matter which, both had the same effect, yes it was difficult to find my way out but with the glass of Rari I did not care, finally I asked and I was 200 yards from the main drag.

Monday2nd mileage total 922Kms from start Day six of rental
Breakfast this morning there was a German couple, she turned out to be a English teacher, he a math's teacher, asked where I was from and when I said NZ they were most interested.

It is very pleasing in all my travels the interest NZ creates, assuming the know of the country, there is always a pleasant conversation about the country, they always seem to know of someone that has just been. We had a long conservation about one & half hours and another German couple arrive and joined in, the first couple had just been to Uzbekistan and had been most impressed with the scenery, but horrified with the political system.

They were telling me of the problems being created in Germany with the rule that anyone of remote German parentage can return to Germany and become a citizen. They said this means if your grandmother sang you a German lullaby this get you in, I hope for their sake she was just putting a little humor on the subject! They said the parents were going to Germany taking their children, who ended up hating the place, did not mix, got into trouble, ended up in jail. Did not make it sound very good at all.

She said there is still a problem with East Germany, evidently there was a plan on how to take the East back into the fold if and when it happened but it all happened so fast & Kohl (Spelling?) (he grew up in East Germany escaping when he was 15) decided overnight that they would give them all one DM for one of theirs, they are still trying to recover from that and add to that the economic disaster that the East is, well it is these sill old men that always make the trouble for a country, however I must add often it is the other gender that also puts the country in the poo!

Drove today up onto the Lasithi Plateau, there were dozens of cars` heading up the good road, stopping at all of the scenic view spots to photography the blue hazy scenery, and I guess they will blame the lab for the results.

It would have been more interesting possibly 10 to 15 years ago when all of the windmills would have been working as it would have made a wonderful sight.

It was interesting driving thro the villages on the way to see all the old ladies in black sitting in front of their houses watching the traffic go past, I went past some spots three times, no I was not lost, I think, and this one had not moved over a two hour period. It is a little like the people I have seen on this island watching a few goats eat, or sheep eat, watching them all day, what on earth do you think about, did the old lady think there that red car and the guy go past again, he must be lost! Does the sheepherder think gosh Dolly is eating more today!

Had lunch at a restaurant near the top, ordered a ham omelet, was brought a Mushroom one, sent it back saying ham, it came back as a plain one, I thought what the Heck so eat it any how, they need organizing!

Went back a different road towards Iraklio the capital, drove thro it could not find a hotel so went to a area slightly south called Ligaria and will stay here till I leave, can do some interesting drives from here into the interior and the manager has given me a lot of ideas of routes.

She was telling me there are so many hotel / motels on Crete that the Travel agents cut them down to a level where it is hardly profitable, her husband had to go out and get another job. She says all of Europe is finding things tough and people are not traveling as much. Thinking about it I have not heard an American voice since being here, they may place Crete right in the middle of the war zone. Well it was 60 years ago!

The manager is from France and since they have managed the hotel they are getting more and more French, she said a lot of the French like to be able to travel to a destination and know that they will be understood, so her speaking French makes the hotel a safe destination for them. I asked if she would return to France, she said NO, there is becoming more and more of a security problem thro the whole country. It looks like Europe is coming up for a few problems in the not too distant future.

It will have quite a way to go before it becomes as bad as Israel, and normal people (Jews) are still immigrating there from England, as Charles was telling me of his children going there, sure you have to keep your eyes open all the time and be alert, but it did not stop his children deciding to go.

So far so good for us in NZ as long as the Government does not screw the country up with some silly philosophy!

I will stay at this hotel till Thursday, return the car Friday and then see where I can go at that time. The hotel is costing 32E for DBB. Which is on par for what I have been paying. Tried connecting to the internet with my laptop but it could not pick up the dial tone. At 3am this morning I realized that there was a dial tone, but as it was a strange one the computer did not know what it was, so I thought if I set the modem not to wait for the dial tone I should be right!

Tuesday 3rd mileage total 1022Kms from start Day seven of rental

Well the laptop connects, 79 messages 75 Spam, no doubt about travel it certainly teaches you things, or I should say it makes you think! I now think if I had thought of that earlier I might have been able to connect at other locations

Went for a drive on the back country roads thro Tilissos, Anogia to Stavromenos on the main road, fairly uninteresting, just as well I forgot to bring my spare battery with me, a chain of things happened that you will be relieved that I will not go into that made me walk out without it, in future I will change the battery every night, I have not yet had a day where I have shot 120 photos and it seems as if a battery will last that long shooting on Raw.

All over Crete there are buildings half built, the concrete shell has been put up and nothing more had been done, this applies to residences of all sizes and some very large developments aimed at the tourist in the way of hotels and complete villages where you can own a unit. Some look quite old as if they have been up for quite a number of years.

This is explained to me by a downturn in the European economy, yet they continue to grow the EEC taking in a some of the old Eastern block, that is going to cost money, so where is the recovery going to come from if the tourists are not traveling and countries are going to have to spend more on security?

Back to the hotel just after lunch time so I went down to the beach, walked past all of the people being barbecued in the sunshine, found a restaurant that had a sea view, of course, then back to the hotel for a new battery, some typing on this journal, and to read a book!

Wednesday 4th mileage total 1352Kms from start Day Eight of rental

Another drive into the country today, tried to find the road that I missed yesterday, drove straight on instead of turning left, you know I went thro a lot of villages that are not on the map on the road that I was on, so they must have been changing the signs on the villages!!!!

Eventually I went past a house that I drove past yesterday, that takes some navigating, to be going in two different directions yet find the same house on each road. One thing I learnt years ago if you are going to be doing any serious driving you must buy the best road map possible, I had one that was good until you tried to find a road outside the capital to close for the map to be much use.

So after driving back from the point I exited yesterday, after posting back to NZ some books that I no longer needed, I headed back to the hotel and then thought I would try to find the missing road again.

Here is a challenge for you, first find a country where they drive on the other side of the road, then find a country where the term aggressive driving takes on a whole new meaning, where they park anywhere, and there appears to be no road rules or if there are no one knows them, then do this exercise;

Turn off the motorway where you think is the correct exit, take some roads at random because the look the right way, as you pass two houses mark them as exhibit A, drive thro a village you can not find on the map so keep driving, the next village you will find on the map and you decide you are on the wrong road, so you keep driving, soon you come to a junction and there is a sign that will take you back to what you think is near where you started, you cross the motorway which is not correct so you take the next turn left and left again, and you keep driving, when you come to exhibit A collect 100 points, turn around and drive back taking a random turn right and find yourself on the same road that you drove out on originally, collect another 100 points after having driven for over 60Kms to end up where you started.

No I do not think I could do that again even for money!

I decided as I was wandering the country today that each year I travel with far too much gear, I am making a list of what I think is essential for my next trip, a lot of it will be based on buying things when you need then instead of taking them in case you need them as I normally do, and I will take no guide books, they weigh too much, may see if I can put some of that stuff on the computer.

With the Canon D60 I find I am only using the one lens the 28 to 135 as with a 1.6 magf. My normal 75 to 300 is way too long. Will have to do something about the D60 battery charger it is far too big to carry around the world