Western Crete Pt. 2

I had boarded the ferry in Piraeus outside of Athens, the nine hour bound for Crete overnight sway and half sleep in the lounge class accommodations opened to sunrise pinks. Then pedaled from the port through the old town—Chania’s venetian walls and gates, narrow alleys, harbor lighthouse cobbled piers. A day there, then continued along the north coast before turning upward inland into a pouring sky, not before stalling and hemming. The plan was to take minor hilly tracks to Paleochora so that the next morning I could get on a small boat to hug the southern coast and look up at some of the peaks that inspired stories of gods. In winter there is one sailing a week, 8am on Thursdays.

That’s yesterday. Today, flats repaired, wake at 6am, an hour of dark yet, to none of the leisure of sitting in front with a warm cup and stirring breakfast. Instead, creasing up the bedroll with some sips of water in between cinching everything down. Timecheck, pedal away into the headlamp, trying at each fork to pick descents marked by balance and wheel touch. Soon lost zagging in an olive grove, tractor marks along the rows and then curling around to the parallel. Timecheck. Only choice when I reach the edge of the plateau is to dismount and down climb and its fifteen minutes more before I reach the paved beach road, now it’s going to take some work, put my head down in as much of a time trail tuck as an upright folding bicycle with a lumbering handlebar sling will pretend.

Almost seeable enough to shut the lamp so I do, the kind of road with constant curves and the gentlest of ups and downs, finger tracing the waters’ edge, morning light waiting to burst from the waves sand black rock. Timecheck and it’s precarious at this pace, looking at the contour of the track I’ve loaded into my GPS, maybe, maybe with five minutes to find the dock and get my bearings. Sweating and grinning or grimacing, burning legs out of the saddle to spinning the descents. The approach to Elafonissi and I can see the rocks of the tiny island in quiet. Pavement ends, bouncing gravel from one side to the other, a decent to the beach and a pleasant treed still camping area. And then nothing, no road. Timecheck and now is the now of no extra ones. Zooming in on the GPS, I’m right on the track, no road? The sinking recollection comes back in emergence and flash: This was the section that I routed on a hiking trail, the E4, alleged to be an agreeable 10k beach walk to Paleochora. My thought, the weeks ago when I last had it, was to check to see if could push and meander along the singletrack and if not to backtrack to the steep mountain dirt alternate that goes over bluffs and ridges on an ultimately longer hillier route. A good plan, though perhaps not for a person on a deadline.


A few hundred meters on sand and I can see that now I’m not going to make that ferry, that I’ll instead sit on the beach and make breakfast and marvel at this beautiful place with not a soul around until a few hours later when a couple of Greek guys put in with their windsurfing gear. I can see that I’m going to walk around the ruins and smile and shrug at the change in plan, that in the afternoon I’ll ascend those dirt pitches and that, with no ferry ride, I’ll end up heading north away from shore again crossing the high mountain passes to go around the wilderness area, an extra couple of days but I’ve the time.

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What I don’t see, but what will put the rush and the lateness and mistake in a happy comedy boldface is that there wasn’t a ferry after all, winter canceled, the haste and effort just movement from mind to body to vapor. I laugh when I find that out.