What a day I had! It started off as usual with sunrise and sunbathing, breakfast on the roof terrace and yoga in the living room.
At 11 am I set off for Sitia. The plan:
- A little sight seeing of Sitia.
- Lunch at one of 2 places I had found on trip advisor. Both looked lovely: “the Balcony” and “Ziafeti”
- Then take the paved road as far as possible to the secluded Papadiokampas beach, walk the rest along the dirt roads and have a lovely swim
The reality unfolded differently. Firstly the drive to Sitia took a lot longer than I anticipated. I should have googled the distance. I found the public car park (free!) but did not really get fired up about Sitia. Perhaps because I was stressed and hungry and it was getting on to 1 pm. I found the two restaurants and they looked as wonderful as described. Only problem was that Ziafeti did not serve meals until 4 pm and The Balcony was reserved for a party or function and thus closed. I ended up eating at a place by the harbor called: Zorbas. They were very friendly about Lucy, giving her water, but they got my order wrong and I ended up sitting there for what seemed like forever before I got the bill. On the bright side: though they forgot the lamb that I had ordered, the mushrooms in a pepper cream cheese sauce were heavenly! And the cucumber and tomato salad turned out to be basically a Greek salad without the feta, including olives, onions and green pepper rings.
At 3 pm I started trying to find my way out of Sitia. Not very well signposted, but I found it in the end and headed for the beach. The paved road turned out to be a narrow (one car width) track paved with uneven concrete. Definitely borderline as far as the restriction on my rental car contract about not driving on unpaved roads. I passed a sign about a gorge and then the road started going what looked like the totally wrong direction – back uphill and inland. I consulted my map, and indeed there was a walking trail so I parked by the sign and decided to walk through the gorge to the sea. I think actually the concrete track was just leading over a ridge before going to the beach that I was aiming for – and I intend to try again another time. Anyway… off I went along the gorge trail. I was not really dressed for hiking – sandals and a long dress but my sandals have really good grip and I felt good about offering Lucy a proper walk after all the time lazing around the house.
I admit that worry-thoughts kept intruding on my mind as I walked: about my knee, being alone and how I would get in touch with anyone if anything happened, whether my sandals would hold up etc. I was just telling myself that thinking about what might happen could just cause it to happen when boom! there I lay in the dirt. Luckily I just stubbed and skinned my big toe. I was otherwise totally unhurt. But I got the message and redirected my thoughts to counting my blessings, enjoying the nature around me, the evening sun on my shoulders, and the prospect of a swim in the ocean. And it was beautiful and rugged. Oaks, sycamores, holly and carob trees lined the gorge. But it went on, and on, and on. Every time I thought around this corner I will see the sea, all I saw was more turns. After an hour and a quarter the end was still nowhere in sight and I realized that if I turned back now, I would get back to the car before sunset. If I continued on there was the chance of darkness coming before I got back. I turned back, promising myself to do it again sometime. Next time though, I will wear proper walking shoes. I will pack a lunch, and a flashlight so that I can explore the cave at the beginning of the gorge, and I will leave early enough to walk all the way to the sea, have a swim, and walk all the way back.
On the way home I stopped at an organic taverna, where the road goes off to Mochlos, that I have seen a few times on my explorations. The sun had just set and the view over the bay and the mountains was breathtaking. A German couple arrived at the same time as me. We were the only guests. They invited me to join them at their table and we had great conversation and a lovely meal. I finally had my lamb, which was served with a cucumber and tomato salad, and some stuffed zucchini flowers. Sweet, ripe honeydew melon for desert. When we left it was dark and the full moon shone down on us as we hugged and wished each other good travels.
I came home, tired and filthy. But nothing that a shower couldn’t fix. This was my first actual exploration on this trip. If I have learned two things it is to leave earlier and to do more research. Still it often turns out this way. I go exploring. Things don’t turn out as planned but when I return, I am better prepared and have an even better experience.