a mountain walk along the spine of Crete
by Richard Ellis
It was a familiar performance trying to find the right path out of Selakano. T's map v T's GPS (didn't show the start) v LW's words. Together they made no real sense, because the map was saying that the footpath ran due west out of Selakano while LW’s suggested route was taking me north. In the end good old red paint splashes got me going westwards along a concrete path (starting beside a concrete structure) not far north of the junction between the bunkhouse square and Stella’s taverna. You have to follow your nose here as the paths stop and start a bit, but the GPS did clutch in quite quickly and, as ever, was reliable.

On the way, westwards, out of Selakano in the early morning ligh

Asfendami spring
It was then a long, slow but very beautiful flog up and up along different paths and dirt roads through the pine woods of Selakano forest, full of the hum of bees and bee hives, and then at last I was on the proper footpath up to the Asfendami mitato. First appeared the dog, then two shepherds who cleverly recognised my stick as Xaniotiko and who persuaded me the dog was OK – and, finally, the spring. At over 5,000 feet this gushes into a trough all year round (once you have extracted the shepherds' lastiko / hosepipe). The water is wonderfully cold, clean and clear and sufficiently reliable not to have to carry the whole day’s water requirement up from Selakano. But there is no easy water from here to Lasithi (without significant detouring) so you do need to fill up with enough here to see you through the rest of the day.

View west towards the Avasami pass

Route finding thereafter is very straightforward courtesy of the E4 sign providers and the GPS. I got to the Avasami pass in about four hours and made the decision to give the Dikti summit a go. My wonderful Christmas present Osprey rucksack splits into two and I took the top, tumbag, bit with me on the easy path to the summit (50 mins up and 35 back). I way-marked the hidden main bag and had no problem finding it again on the way back down.

It was a bit of a surprise to see someone ahead of me on the way up to the summit as I hadn't seen a single walker since leaving Kato Zakros. It turned out to be Achim from Dortmund who had been granted a day's leave from his family in Malia to get some exercise.

The view back southeast from the top of Dikti

The northwest face of Dikti
Sadly, the fair weather had produced quite a haze so the view wasn't quite as spectacular as it had been when Susa and I were last there. Nevertheless it is a stunning place to be and it was well worth the effort. Two peaks down and two to go. Regrettably the rapid descent down well-marked paths to Lasithi plateau and Aghios Georghios was blister-popping, so now I had that problem to contend with on a daily basis, just like so many cross-Crete walkers before me.

The (hazy) Lasithi plateau is the reward for hard work !

Today's walk was 9 hours including Dikti. LW has it as 8.5 without Dikti so not too bad I felt, but I had paid for it with the blisters. Hotel Dias has stopped being a hotel so I stayed at Hotel Maria for 25 euros a night which I felt was quite steep. However Dias had pastitsio on the menu so it got my custom - good to share the tourist dollar about.

Anxious locals told me that it had been so wet through the spring that they were now a month late getting their potatoes out of the ground – strange weather this year, but useful local knowledge !

Dikti over the rooftops of Aghios Georghios

©Richard Ellis 2011 (rhellis10@gmail.com )
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