a mountain walk along the spine of Crete
by Richard Ellis
I rested for a day in the Kalliopi, tended to my feet as best I could and tried to “carb-load” as instructed by my tri-athlete daughter. Two days later therefore, and on to Map 2 (of 3), I was on the road by 0545 mentally prepared for a long day crossing the “Pedhiadha” – the vast agricultural plain south of Heraklion. This is not the most inspiring landscape in Crete but if you say you are going to walk from one end of Crete to the other then it has to be crossed.

Leaving Kasteli in the dawn light

I made the decision to take as direct a route as I could towards Profitis Ilias in order to make my rendez-vous with Triantafyllos at Rouvas the following evening. This meant leaving the official E4 and bypassing Archanes and Ghiouktas and all the interesting historical stuff. So the villages and towns came and went – Sklaverochi, Apostoli, Sambas, Aghies Paraskies, Aghios Vasilios, Choudetsi – until I came to the T-junction where you join quite a major north-south main road. From here on, you can see the Psiloritis massif on the horizon and the terrain starts to become more interesting.

Straight roads and traditional vehicles

The view
At the junction, I turned left and opted for the south-about dirt roads to Profitis Ilias and the impressive Temenos Fortress, crossing an amazing patchwork of fields in an undulating landscape dominated by monoliths and unlikely rock walls. It had got very hot and muggy and it was trying to rain on me so it was a strange sort of afternoon.

Every square inch round here is cultivated
If Profitis Ilias had had rooms, I think I would have given in to temptation, but there was nothing to be had so I plodded on, not at all sure that I was going to find a quiet spot to camp in. Every square inch round here is cultivated and new build is all around – not a relaxing environment even for a little tent.

Temenos Fortress
With hindsight, I should have climbed up and explored the Temenos Fortress where I think there would have been a nice breeze and a few flat areas to camp in peace and quiet (I don’t think many locals bother doing the climb).

A flat bit of earth under an olive tree
However I was too tired and my pack felt heavy - and downhill felt easier than uphill ! So down and on I went taking the dirt road towards Kiparisos. After about 1.5 km I did find a flat bit of earth under an olive tree reasonably hidden from the road and – despite the barking dogs up and down the valley – got a reasonable night’s rest.

©Richard Ellis 2011 (rhellis10@gmail.com )
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