Sougia, in Southern Crete
Trip Start Apr 23, 2009
17Trip End Jun 23, 2009
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Where I stayed
We made good time travelling from Elafonisi to Sougia (sooya), so we found a good hotel with balconies looking out to one end of Sougia Bay for 25 Euro per night! There is quite a competitive atmosphere among hotel owners at this time of year, but our door rate for May said 40 Euro. Perhaps things are slower than usual due to the world economic situation. We were happy to be on the receiving end of the bargain.
Since we had the whole afternoon ahead of us, we decided to do the hike to ancient Lissos. It was a flourishing commercial center in Hellenistic and Roman times. The four hours to Lissos and back made an enjoyable trek up through a rocky gorge of pines, onto an arid, scrubby plateau, and down to a lush gorge with meadows and springs of fresh water that emptied onto a pebbly beach. We were surprised to find a 3rd century BC Temple of Healing with an exposed mosaic floor still in excellent condition. Evidence of a sink, drain and aqueducts were visible. A number of tombs and houses littered the hillside.
The second day, we did a five hour hike to find a cave. Matt stayed behind because he had slipped the day before and strained his thigh. Unfortunately, the direction signs were inadequate and we ended up taking the wrong road. Even though we found the correct trail after two hours, we three couldn't find that cave. Judy did a face plant on the loose gravel and really bruised her hand, but was okay. Good thing the coastal scenery was so gorgeous! On all of our hikes, we kept smelling a terrible plant growing in the underbrush. Gail thought it smelled like sour milk, Matt thought of cat urine, David thought decaying flesh, and Judy thought it was just unpleasant.
For our last day in Sougia, we did the famous hike in the Samaria Gorge, Europe's longest at 18 km. We had planned on taking the bus to the top of the gorge, but discovered it hadn't begun its season run, yet, so we had to take a taxi (60 Euro) to the top. We spent a lovely seven hours hiking to the bottom of the gorge and to the busy beach village of Aghia Roumeli.
Bus loads of hikers arrived at 8:30 AM, so we decided to let the macho guys, European speed hikers with sticks, young hot shots, and pesky people go ahead of us. Most of the time, we hiked alone, listening to the birds, smelling the pines, and enjoying the gurgling stream. In the summer, they have about 2000 hikers a day, so it must be a steady stream of people on the trail.
There are several rest areas along the way, where you can have your lunch, and numerous toilets and ground water springs to fill your water bottles. The first leg has many rocky switchbacks that take you into the bottom of the gorge, a decent of 1000 metres. The trail was very rocky and rough, and many of the rocks were worn down to the point of being slippery. We were surprised by the various types of footwear people used to do the long hike. We saw everything from rugged hiking boots, walking shoes, running shoes, sneakers, leather sandals, and rugged sandals, to Tevas, slip-on plastic slipper-type sandals, and our favourite.......fur cuffed boots! It was a wonder we didn't see the warden packing people out on his donkeys! The delicious ice cream cones at the bottom were a treat to enjoy before catching the ferry back to Sougia. (Of course, all those hot shots at the start had several hours to kill before they caught the ferry, while we only had a little more than an hour wait!)
When we got back to Sougia after our long Samaria Gorge hike, we were happy to sit down for supper at a taverna. While we waited for our lamb and goat dishes to arrive at the table, we heard some young Greek men singing traditional folk songs about life. David commented that he hoped the cook would hurry up and kill that goat and put it out of its misery. Singers they weren't; drinkers they were!
We must mention cats. The Greek people seem to be very fond of cats, but don't really own them. Most are feral cats which are semi-wild and live in the streets. People will put out food and water for them, but nobody is totally responsible for the cats. Of course, they have not been neutered, so reproduce and cause more strays to wander around. Now, in beach communities, the cats have it made, because they have the biggest litter box you can imagine.......just don't dig down too far in that sand by your towel!
Our hotel manager in Chania had several cats hanging around. On our last night, we were kept awake by howling only to discover one of the feral cats had given birth to 4 kittens, but wouldn't look after them. Two had died and the manager was distraught that she couldn't convince the darn cat to come and nurse the others! Efosa, don't think about a vet job here, as you would have trouble finding enough work!
It is also worth noting that one Cretan woman told us she wouldn't be putting away her winter clothes for another two weeks, which is about the second week of May. Most Cretans are still wearing long sleeves and pants (often black), and some are in fleece and woolly sweaters. The tourists stand out because they are in shorts and tank tops!
6. Name the wild, endangered, protected mammal found only in the Samaria Gorge.
7. What beverage is often served after your taverna meal?