::Stelios Jackson's walks
interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
Chapter 12: Fourfouras to Spili

All village populations (pop) are taken as of the 1991 census and heights are in metres (342m)

Many thanks to all of the people of Spili; especially Alexandra; and to Rita, Donna and Vassilis. If you are lucky enough to be able to book yourself into the hotel 'Heracles'. you'll have found a wonderful place, but wherever you lay your head, do yourself a favour, and take time out to enjoy this wonderful place and its inhabitants.
Wednesday the 28th of May
Time Study
Every so often, in the grand scheme of events, very little, of noteworthy importance, happens. As far as today's walk was concerned, this was going to prove to be one of those days (and this chapter is going to prove that "nothing happening", doesn't mean I can't write at length about it!). Not that the walk was boring. Not in the least; I was to enjoy a very pleasurable meander, across a crowdless terrain. No, today's walk was just, well...just uneventful. I awoke, at dawn, as I always do(!); at least I thought it was dawn, but the smaller of the wall clock's two hands had just been overtaken by its larger cousin, and both were some two thirds the way round the timepiece's face (looking clockwise). I clock-watched, for a while; struggling to comprehend even the most elementary of my primary school education (I am not at my sharpest, first thing), and discover what all this meant. What this all meant, - by the time I'd worked it out - was that the time was rapidly approaching 8AM. Dawn had risen, dressed and said "goodbye" for another day, some three hours ago! I needed to get my body-clock back in synch! No worries, I didn't want to leave much before nine, and I felt rather well. A quick shower, dry-off and put-some-togs-on, later, and I was ready for the off. My task was to position one boot in front of the other, until both were under a table, in the lovely mountain village of Spili. My friend, the delightful Alexandra, had booked a room for me in the hotel 'Herakles'; a hotel, which, twice, in the past, I'd tried to stay, without success...it's not what you know...Tomorrow was to be one of my infamous 'Dopey' days, so tonight, Alexandra's husband, Vassilis, and I, would get rather merry whilst watching the European Cup final. I type of Alexandra and Vassilis as if I'd known them since childhood. In truth, we'd never met; that is I'd never met Alexandra and Vassilis; of course...they knew each other quite well...but, once again, I ramble!

I was rambling, once again, as I passed 'Windy Place' - the wonderful taverna where, last night, I'd spent such an enjoyable evening (and become far too close to feeling "broody", for my liking!) - and looked out for signs of life. There were none - other than my reflection upon the window pane; and I'm not "life" as most people know it. Without standing upon the order, off - at once - I set, to explore pastures new, horizons distant. The E4 is supposed to take in the Kedros mountain range to the south-west of here, but my intention was to avoid such heights, at all costs! Fourfouras to Spili, via the quickest route possible, was my plan;  I could see precisely no point in climbing half way up a mountain in order to stick to that most mythical of all creations: the 'E4'! No, today, I had valleys and vistas to view; a variety of varied villages and villagers to visit and vacate. Today, I could look forward to time spent on those bum-scarring wicker-seat chairs - of which kafeneia owners are particularly partial - whilst sipping Ellinikous kafedhes (Greek coffees), at my leisure. I had every intention of doing just those things and little more, today. Why bust-a-gut when (back then) I had little of either to spare? A shuffle or two later and one of my favourite yellow and black signs reared its pointy head and directed me west. It was the general direction I wanted, but it was pointing directly at a fenced-off plateia (square). Now, it didn't take much more of an IQ than that possessed(!) by George Doubleya, to realise that this was absurd, but I found myself somewhat baffled by the sign's chosen route. I thought of taking a picture of the scene and the sign's environs, and then (after realising I'd lost my camera some chapters back), wondered whether I should disturb my host of last night and borrow his shotgun; allowing me to partake in that ever-so-Cretan hobby: "twelve-bore-the-road-sign-to-smithereens, with extreme prejudice". Don't get me wrong, dear reader; these are things I would never do; I can resist temptation, however strong! However, a slight inclination towards giving the sign a sharp kick on its foot, was too much, and already in motion. Physically, of course, I came off the worse in this meeting of limbs, but mentally I felt a whole lot better! Oh yes! Indeedy!
Valley of the Strolls
The Amari valley (a lovely piece here, written by the superb Christopher Somerville), is a splendid place to spend some time, and it seemed a great pity that the time I would be spending here would see me, seeing it, whiz by at approximately 4 miles per hour (1.466r foot per second was my terminal velocity on the flat). It was a gorgeous, sunny day; perfect for walking. I was in no hurry, having allowed myself seven hours for what should be no more than a five hour walk; allowing myself a couple of hours to get to know the pappoudhes (grandfathers) at the villages' kafeneia! Extraordinarily, today, I was to get this spot-on, despite my heels dragging a foot or so behind my toes! Villages were passed-through, and if they possessed a kafeneion (which, of course, they all do), I would stop; pappoudhes would be chatted up, with conversations restricted only by the confines of my awful Greek. I am pretty certain that drinking half a dozen Greek coffees in an afternoon, is not a particularly healthy pastime, but today, I intended to be higher than Kedros itself; "top of the world, ma!"

Monastiraki Monastiraki Monastiraki Monastiraki
Monastiraki in various guises - click to enlarge

This is a lovely area for a stroll. Difficulties of walks range from: "easily manageable with leg in plaster" to "extremely tough" (some are described, expertly, by Peter Thomson, on his Cretan pages), especially if you take in those mountains I was so keen to avoid. Vizari (pop:111; elevation 360m) was to be the first of my destinations, almost immediately followed by Lampiotes, as I walked away from the great height that is 'Kedros' and around the lesser-but-still-too-tall-for-comfort one of 'Samitos'; almost a foothill in Cretan terms (and hardly deserving of a footnote in most guide books), but still imposing enough for me! From there I would take the road to Monastiraki (pop:180; elevation 380m), westwards to Opsigias (pop: all of 45; elevation every cm of 480m), and onwards to Amari itself. All of this was completed with minimum fuss, and was a hugely enjoyable experience. I had, in my itinerary, viewed this walk as one lasting two days. I had been hoping to stay in Amari or some such village, which would have been possible. (Thronos to the north-east of the valley is another place one can luxuriate on a made bed ). My itinerary, however, made no mention of lost cameras or marbles, of lost days looking for the aforementioned; I was about to throw my itinerary out of the metaphoric window; but as yet, I knew not of such things.

Amari Amari Amari Amari
Amari in various guises - click to enlarge

At Amari (pop:161; elevation 464m) I stopped for lunch, which was, for me, was coffee and lemonita, twice! I know how to live; yes I do! I sat outside a kafeneion, neatly situated at one of the corners of the village's "crossroad", and watched the infrequent traffic as it came and went (in an hour, some came, few left; most of the few cars that passed, stopped; their occupants deciding to take time out for a drink at a table near me, and who can blame them?), whilst brushing up my birdwatching skills(!), as our feathered friends frolicked above and around me (I can tell you, categorically, that they were birds, and their category was "small"; as to their species...I can tell you, catagorically, that they were birds, and their category was "small"). I entered into a rather longer-than-usual conversation with the lady running the kafeneion. Whilst her Greek was fluent, there was a hint of an accent and she appeared perfectly happy listening to my awful Greek without the need to: a) correct me; b) walk away, or c) ask what the weather is like in Albania at this time of year. I discovered she was from Bulgaria (she told me!); which allowed me to show my vast knowledge of her country by stating what an amazing coincidence it was, as her capital and my niece are both called Sophia. How we laughed! How I look back at moments such as these with acute embarrassment An hour or so was spent in Amari; as I sit here typing from East Barnet on a cold winter's day, I can't believe there would be anything preferable to spending the rest of my life there! It was a shame to leave this village, and I only wish I'd asked if there might be accommodation here, for future visits (according to the 'Rough Guide to Crete', there is). That's one of the problems with this area. There are far too few places to lay ones head, should one wish; and one can only wish!

As I may have mentioned, it was an absolutely beautiful day; the sun had its hat on (hoorah!), and a light wind cooled those below. Animals of all kinds announced themselves with the occasional chirp or screech - mostly birds - and small ones - I suspected and hoped - butterflies fluttered by, as they do, and lizards scuttled to and fro, disturbed only by the earth-shattering clomp of my size nines. I breathed in heaven-sent aromas, as citrus fruits competed with any number of herbs and wild flowers for my sensory attention. This was the life! It really doesn't get much better! The churches in this area are among the oldest in the Christian world; behind me, Psiloritis, the home of the great God Zeus, in Classical literature, towered, majestically; this is a wholly holy place to be, whatever your spiritual beliefs may be. Just to the west of Amari, casually glancing across a valley, I noticed a lady struggling to convince her  mule that it might want to proceed along the same general direction as she. Gentle persuasion had now given way to pushing and rocking the poor animal to-and-fro. As her struggles became ever more frantic, I found a song in my heart - which I am oft bound to do - and warbled down to her: 

"I see you baby, shakin' that ass...shakin' that ass...shaking that ass; I see you baby..." 

"Did this really happen?", I hear the more cynical among you ask. No, of course not, but, as I have said, not much of any great noteworthy  interest occurred today; besides, I've been waiting an age to fit that little number into this "walkie talkie"! 

An hour later and I'd reached the village of Elenes (pop:74; elevation 646m), to be followed, shortly after, by that of Gerakari, occ.Yerakari, (pop:377; elevation 680m) Like most of the Amari valley, Gerakari - renowned for its cherries - is steeped in a violent, recent history. The Nazis were at their most dastardly in this area. Awful repercussions - possibly as a direct result of the Kreipe abduction (discussed in History box No. One), though more likely down to a series of humiliating set-backs - were carried out by those, who were the cause of the situation in the first place! According to Antony Beevor's masterly book, 'Crete: The Battle and the Resistance', this is where Australian war-hero Tom Dunbabin had been made most welcome; his sleeves being "plucked" by the locals as he walked the streets, and they attempted to coax him in to their houses to "...drink a glass of wine with them". Throughout Crete's turbulent history, and to this day, an outstanding sense of hospitality has been a feature of this proud island's population. The Nazis, in the coldest of blood, shot many of the men and boys from here, and "obliterated" the village, in 1944. The importance of the extraordinary Cretan resistance is summed up by Ralph Stockbridge (on page 247 of Beevor) "Everything depended throughout on their magnificent loyalty. Without their help as guides, informants, suppliers of food and so on, not a single one of us would have lasted twenty-four hours". I sat down for a while and tried to contemplate recent history; as much as I tried, I couldn't even get close to absorbing the horrors thrust upon the world by its most barbaric "philosophy". If you should read 'Ill Met By Moonlight', be on the lookout for this village and the help its population gave to some of "the few" and then remember the great price paid by its residents! This is one of many Cretan villages (Anoghia is another, but there are plenty more), within which one steps with a sense of utter humility. Zito Ellas; Zito Kriti!
Grand Prix!
The road from Gerakari to Spili, was, somewhat, better than I'd been led to expect; i.e. that it was no more than a rough trail. Despite seeing evidence, running parallel of a previous existence, the new road, is rather good...for driving, that is; it is, in fact, rather better than most roads in England...for driving, that is.  It has a 'Scalextrik' look about it, as if the average Cretan male (or female for that matter) needed further encouragement to quadruple the 'speed limit' (if there is such a thing, here!)! Fun to drive, no doubt and, funnily enough, not too bad to walk either. Occasionally a car breaking the sound barrier would speed past, but no fewer than three times on this stretch I was offered a lift. One lady had seen me in Gerakari and taken pity on the little walker. I had to be at my most insistent to stop her driving me to Spili. If you think that Cretan hospitality is not what it was, get yourself away from the more obvious tourist areas and be prepared to be bowled over!

Gerakari Gerakari Gerakari Gerakari
Gerakari in various guises - click to enlarge

A River Runs Under
About half way along the road, and diametrically opposite a wonderful-looking taverna (which may have been a mirage!), a river passes a couple of metres under the road. I took the opportunity to descend to its bank, and rest here for a while. There is a newly-built dam (thanks A.S), not too far north from here, and one wonders whether, if properly managed, the wet winters and the mountains' forever melting snows, can create a, year-round, water-rich island. Today was the 28th of May, and I suspected Crete would experience little-or-no rain, until the middle of September. What I was looking forward to more than anything about getting to Spili, was the 'Dopey' day that would follow. My clothes were only just beginning to dry-out due to the rain encountered this past week and despite me knowing(!) that this would be the the last of the rain I would encounter (ho hum), I was going to take this opportunity to get the few clothes I possessed, bone dry. As for me, tomorrow I would get wet, voluntarily! Yes I would! According to the 'Rough Guide to Crete', a bar replete with swimming pool had been a recent addition to this lovely village. I am not hugely interested in bars with swimming pools; however, tomorrow I had every intention of getting outside a drink or two and inside a swimming pool. Also, on the agenda for tomorrow,  was a meeting with Rex's friend Virginia. I liked Virginia, but wondered whether that meeting could have waited until I arrived at Chania! I had invited her, so, perhaps, I shouldn't have been thinking that way, but I couldn't help myself! My decent into Spili was pretty tough, not because of the terrain, but my desperation to reach my destination. The road swings around the village and, via a set of steps, drops one into its heart. Alexandra had booked a room for me in the hotel 'Herakles'; a place Rex and I had, without success, tried to stay at a couple of years before, but first I had to meet this wonderful woman. I had first encountered Alexandra on the Interkriti message board; a place where one can meet those most passionate about this island. Irregular e-mailing and extremely regular posting on my half, had elicited Alexandra's mobile number; this was a meeting that I'd been looking forward to for some time, but, as is my wont, now the time neared, I found myself in a state of high anxiety! I was desperately searching my mind for interesting things to say. What if Alexandra found me as boring as I was currently finding myself? No, no chance of that!
Spili (pop:710; elevation 422m) is an extremely pretty village; the size of a small town, really. People come from far and near to be here. Coaches deposit groups of excited tourists and pick them up again a couple of hours later. The way to see this village, however, is  to stay at least one night here; there are a number of small hotels worth checking-out and checking into. Alexandra had agreed to descend (or ascend, don't ask me, I've not been there!) from her grand chateau (which is somewhere in this vicinity, and is only as grand as my imagination allows me to believe!) - and meet me opposite the Venetian fountain; you know the one, all those lions' heads; very kitsch! The Greeks, generally speaking, have absolutely no sense of  time-keeping, sharing their chronologically challenged ways with that of the dot-matrix countdown board at Totteridge and Whetstone underground station, southbound platform (yes, it really is that bad!). Anyhow, back at the lions pen, I was worried that Alexandra, having lived in her mountain village for some years, may have "gone native", on the "meet me at four by the Venetian fountain; do you know the one, all those lions' heads, very kitsch!" stakes. I needn't have feared as, bang on the stroke of 4pm, there she was. Despite having little idea of Alexandra's appearance, I recognised her immediately. Alexandra, for her part, clearly did not recognise me, despite having seen my photograph. She looked at me, then looked at someone else and then back at me with furrowed brows. I smiled winningly, which is not a pretty site! Thankfully my guess had been correct and it was indeed Alexandra who was the recipient of my adverbially-challenged, distorted grimace. The photograph Alexandra had seen of me, had been taken some two years previously, by Erno, when I'd been slightly heavier than I was on this day, and looked almost human. A freshly-squeezed orange juice or two later, and off we set, just to accommodate the boy Tsaksonakis! On the way to my hotel, we paid a visit to a clothes and 'Cretan goods' shop, where I was to meet, the delightful, Donna; an English lady who owned this shop in Spili and ran a hotel in the coastal resort of Plakias; "greedy", I say! Donna was having trouble with her website, so I offered to help, and managed only to hinder. My excuse was my lack of dexterity; when it comes to using "lapdogs" (as my mother calls them; "laptops" to everyone else!), I am an utter clot!  Donna didn't appear too fazed my rank buffoonery, and we arranged to meet,  later, for a drink, before Alexandra and I shared a "nose-bag", which in turn was before Alexandra's  husband and I were due to meet for the 'European Cup Final', which was due to start at 21.45 that evening. Oh yes, I know how to party!

I was already looking forward to the meal; Alexandra and I had immediately hit-it-off; that is, I thought she was splendid, and she hadn't managed to lose me yet (though I can become pretty "clingy", when needs arise!). We arrived at the hotel 'Herakles' at around 5.30 PM; the eponymous owner (Iraklis Papadakis), and his wife were "away", we were informed, and so we were treated to the charming company of Herakles' brother. I explained in my own inimitable style of "Spazmena Ellinika" (I was becoming quite fluent in this form of "broken Greek"), that a room had been booked in my name, by the lady standing not two foot away from me, who explained in better Greek than I possessed, that she had left a message on the hotel's answerphone a couple of days ago, to book me in. And so it was that I was shown to my room, which was fabulous; I also managed to book the adjacent room, as, tomorrow, I was expecting a visit from Virginia, and thought she'd be happier with more space than I'd be willing to allow her! This place was gorgeous, and I couldn't believe my luck in having managed to book an extra room, en suite and en-spec, when I'd failed to stay here on either of my previous attempts. Alexandra left me to my own devices, and I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do next. I decided to wash my clothes. To this affect I'd bought some washing powder (as well as some chocolate and a half litre bottle of brandy; in case of later emergencies - or want of a St Bernard dog - on following high jinx), and proceeded to hand-wash the life out of the few clothes I possessed. I avoided washing the least dusty items- shaking rather than stirring - as they needed to be upon me, tonight. I placed the wet clothes on an umbrella (the clothes-horse variety!) which lived on the patio of my room, and allowed nature to take its course over the next 18 hours. I was reminded of the last time I'd attempted a similar operation, back in the good 'ol days of Archanes! Then, if you remember, I had removed these clothes from a washing line, wetter than when I'd hung them up to dry! I chuckled at the memory. It's remarkable how looking-back without anger, allows ones sense of humour to return; besides, lightening doesn't strike twice; even for me! I would have to wait until I arrived home in England before I'd see rain again! Oh yes! Don't ask me how I knew such things; I just did, and you are beginning to get a flavour of what tomorrow's weather had in store for me, aren't you?!

I'll Drink to That!
Alexandra, Donna and I met for that quick drink we'd promised ourselves, before Donna had to drive back down to Plakias, where she lived. Those left (Alexandra and I!),   shared a table at a taverna, opposite the 'Green Hotel' (itself, lying just in front of my hotel 'Herakles' - the wonderful Ivan van Driessche stayed at the 'Green Room' on his walk around Crete - in 50 days - a couple of years after my own walk. We had a fantastic meal, and I had one of those "why am I vegetarian" moments, which are less rare than I'd like. "Well done", I congratulated myself, as for the 7461st - or thereabouts - day in a row, I resisted the temptation of the flesh, and chose a grilled aubergine - and other vegetable - option, which was delicious. I only tend to crave meat when I am hungry! Alexandra was fantastic company; there was a calmness about her which, at once, had a calming effect and made me wonder why I couldn't be more like her; I became irritated at the thought, which is precisely why "I couldn't be more like her"! We shared a half litre of village wine. I had to be sensible. Tonight I planned to keep Alexandra's husband out 'til late. Beers would be drunk; backs slapped, beards scratched; you know the sort of thing. I was determined to be at least semi-sober by the time he and I met. OK, Donna's fleeting visit had been an excuse to order a beer for myself, but that was all that would pass my lips - other than my fair share of the half litre of wine - before Vassilis and I met. The wine was almost consumed, and I fancied one more beer before I we departed. And a Tsikoudhia! Maybe two!
Nip and Tuck
The night was a bit nippy, and upon leaving the taverna, I nipped back to my hotel and placed upon myself, the only shirt which wasn't dangling on the umbrella, outside. With all this nipping going on it seemed a shame not to treat myself to a quick nip of the brandy, I'd bought earlier. Not wishing to keep Alexandra waiting, I downed a double, at the double. The good lady then escorted me to a kafeneion, where we were to watch the match due to Vassili's favoured watering-hole having trouble with its television signal. I was feeling rather squiffy, as we sat down to watch the Italian feast before our eyes. Rather large glasses of keg lager had been ordered, and I took no time to bury its contents and order another. Football, dear friends, is all about 90 minutes at the end of the day, unless, of course, there's extra-time. Of course, tonight there would be extra-time! Typical!  Rarely had I wished for a "game" to be over quicker. I had met with Vassilis for the football, determined not to enjoy it one jot; the football that is! AC Milan v Juventus. Oh joy! I was convinced that this was going to be the most boring cup final in the history of the "beautiful game" and had told everybody I knew that this would be the case. Italian football can be technically excellent, but it can also be, technically and otherwise, as dull as ditch water. I, therefore, had a vested interest in wanting this match to put everybody to sleep, and the two giants of Italian football, came up trumps, in that department!  The only good part of the game, other than my future ability to superciliously tell all I knew, "I told you so", was to see Manchester United's stadium; it looked great - which was nice - and whilst at it, check out the English weather; which was not nice - which was great! Vassili and I watch football in very different ways. I jump around and allow my lips to do the thinking and my brain to try to work out what they uttered, at a later date. Vassili, on the other hand, is the more circumspect supporter; he's a "sit-in-the-stands", kinda chap, as opposed to the "jump-around-on-the-terraces-like-a-demented-monkey", variety, which is me. He utters barely a word, unless utterly necessary. I became very self-conscious of my own constant babbling, but, of course, that failed to stop me. As for the football; at the end of an excruciating two hours, one of the clubs from Italy won through on penalties. Which one? Who cares? "That's enough football" (ed).

I remember everything that happened that evening, up to a point. That point arrived, approximately 20 seconds upon arrival back at the hotel 'Herakles'. This is when I was reunited with that slightly less than  half a litre bottle of brandy; the one I'd bought earlier, for later emergencies, in the washing-powder shop down the road. It was just crying out for cohabitation with the blood of an Englishman! I am Cypriot-Scottish, but I couldn't not, could I not?

"Just the one. On the patio. Before I go to bed. I deserve it!"

With these famous words, I settled down for just the one, concentrating on the sounds of the night. I placed a cup on the table, outside, and had opened the bottle. It was a large cup and a small bottle, by comparison. A bad combination, by any stretch of the imagination. I covered the bottom of the glass with just enough brandy to enable me to think I had a proper night-cap and lighted a cigarette. What followed, I have no idea; everything went a little hazy! Anything may have happened!

Thursday the 29th of May
My Cup Spilith Over
The new day had dawned; the sun had risen and whilst it was benevolently sharing its affection with Spili's early birds, I dreamed on. Around this time, I was given to recurring dreams, with an aardvark theme. Something to do with ants busily burying weapons of mass-destruction, and ant-eaters, whose job it was to police such things, sticking their noses into the sand and vacuuming-up even the most innocent of ants. Yes, that sort of dream; weird stuff, but totally compelling. Just as the ants had started a-movin' and a-groovin', as they do, to the 'Toreador's song', from Bizet's 'Carmen' - which, strangely, reminded me of the ring-tone on my mobile 'phone - I entered semi-consciousness, to the sound of the 'Toreador song',  from Bizet's 'Carmen', which, strangely, reminded me of dancing ants!  The ants were something to snort at, and disappeared up an aardvark's nose; the song remained the same. I answered my mobile, to the dulcet tones of Virginia.

"Whatdjawant?" I demanded (I am not at my most polite, first thing!). She wished to come up and see me some time; something I already knew. She'd be here about  2PM. Something else I already knew! She was just leaving Chania as she spoke. "I'm glad for ya", I mumbled. She'd see me in a couple of hours! "Eh?!" She rang off. A couple of hours? "Strewth!". What time was it? My body-clock told me it was, definitely, no later than 8AM. My body-clock never lies. I tried to tune into "Planet Aardvark" again, but  I'd joined the wide-awake-club. Damnit! I decided to synchronise my internal clock with that on my mobile  I remembered that yesterday I'd thought I'd woken at dawn, when it was in fact almost 8AM, so perhaps my internal chronometer was working on British time! If it were out by a couple of hours, then it might have gone 10AM and well past the hour of my desired arisal!. I tried focusing-in on my mobile; a few seconds later, beady eyes became dilated as I discovered that it had just passed midday!

The sun continued to beat down like a beaty-downy thingy, and I was up and raring to go within seconds of this discovery! Shaky legs met a shakier floor. I suspected I might have had a drink or two the previous night; the feeling of impending doom, loosely based upon half-remembered, possible happenings, of a few hours ago. I deserve no sympathy for my hang-overs. Firstly, they might be self-inflicted (I can never remember), and, secondly..., there is a "secondly", but I can never remember what it is! I moved outside and sat on my very own ground floor patio, joining my freshly washed clothes and merrily basking in the sunshine. It was the perfect weather for shorts, and I allowed myself the luxury of placing a clean shirt, unbuttoned to the waist, around my torso. I was feeling better already, and looking forward to seeing Virginia. I smiled winningly(!) at a lady who was steadily making her way to the hotel. The smile was rather lost on the recipient,who, it seemed, glared back at me. Did I imagine it? Had paranoia taken over completely? I pondered on this, whilst the residents of Spili, twitched their curtains and trained long-range binoculars at me, from behind seemingly closed shutters. No, everything was normal! I settled down to bask some more.

I hear you knocking...
Now, if you choose not to reciprocate my attempts of friendship, please be my guest...just don't come banging on my door about it! There was a banging on my door; the lady - with whom I'd just waged a very one-sided charm offensive upon -  was outside my room, making a very passable impersonation of a deranged woodpecker! I fastened a button on my shirt and opened the door and inch or two, making sure she stayed exactly where she was, i.e. outside my room! If I'd believed that the glare of a few seconds ago had been a figment of my over-ripe imagination, this lady was here to prove it was not! If looks could kill;  I panicked and panic is insidious! Memories of last night came flooding back. One on top of the other. I suddenly knew I'd done something horrible; something like run around the village, naked, at 4AM (what was even more horrifying than this thought, was how it came as no surprise), to be seen, in all my lack of glory, by the lady glaring at me now, and those shutter-twitchers who'd being spying upon me earlier. I fastened another button on my shirt. She'd already seen enough of me, for my liking.

We entered into a conversation about a woman called "Helen", as one does, on a sunny afternoon in Spili, apparently! I was confused and she wasn't helping. "Ti...;" ("what...?"),  I offered. She was Swedish, allegedly, Helen that is. "Kai...:" ("and...?")...and she'd booked a room at this very hotel, Helen that is. If I hadn't been entirely sure what was going on a few seconds ago, I was at an absolute loss, now! All this was conducted in Greek, and to the repeated question "katalaves;" ("do you understand?"), I was delighted to inform the lady that I was hanging on her every word, but that she may have well been speaking Turkish, as far as my understanding of  "why" we were discussing the nationality of a woman I was pretty certain I hadn't met. Time passed, I calmed down, and warmed up, in equal measure. Helen's habits were discussed at greater length; how, for instance: she (Helen) liked the very room I was talking to this lady from (I agreed, it was indeed a very nice room, and closed the door a further notch!), and the one next door (the one which I had booked for Virginia but had yet to see; I assured her that I belived this too, was a perfectly nice room!). How Helen should have been here last night. What was going on here? What was this lady suggesting? I'm not that sort of guy! I'd need to meet and get to know Helen, for at least an hour or so, before I'd allow her to share my room. I felt a little better. My confidence, was returning;  I had yet to be accused of any act of gross indecency. Fear and panic were giving-way to an increasing feeling of anger. I was in the process of terminating the conversation and closing the slight gap I'd allowed between the door, myself, the hallway and her, when, all of a sudden a thought dawned;  it occurred to me, what this lady might be saying, was not that Helen should have been sharing the room with me last night, but should have been here instead of me. For why, I could not say, but I played with the idea for a while...until, eventually...Eureka; we were singing from the same hymn-sheet!

Please don't let me be misunderstood

I cultivated, further, my very best "little-boy-lost" look, which I am quite a master at,  and asked the lady, who might she be when she was at home!. She was Kyria Rita, apparently...and she was at home. Rita was the wife of  Irakles. She, and he, owned the very ground I stood on, and the door to the room, which I now opened, fully. These are the sort of things that happen to me and nobody else. What odds could one get against this: It would appear that Helen had booked this room -and the one that Virginia was to stay tonight - for a week, from last night. Furthermore, she (Helen that is), had booked the room several months beforehand and had arrived to be told that her room had been taken. Herakles' brother, in his "stand-in" capacity, and ignorant to any fact other than the room had been reserved,  had attempted to contact me by knocking at my door -which was seeing some action -  but I'd been elsewhere; possibly drinking (I can't remember!). Helen had left; not too pleased, and who can blame her? I took the opportunity to mention the message that Alexandra had left on the hotel's answer machine. Apparently the hotel's answer machine had been on the blink. To say I felt guilty would be an understatement. I was horrified...mortified...hung-over... Kyria Rita, as it turned out, was a very nice woman. Once I had apologised for the second or third time she must have realised I was incapable of doing such things deliberately and trumped me on the apology stakes. She (Rita) was, understandably, upset, but now saw that this had all been an awful mix-up.

Water, water everywhere...

We moved into the hotel's breakfast area to resume our conversation; both of us taking care not to mention craven kleptomania in the hotel room department. We talked of other things, and were getting along like old friends. I was still feeling a little on the delicate side, and images of me, strutting  my stuff, through the village, last night, had not entirely dissipated. I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask about swimming pools in the area, but my slowness of reaction allowed the weather to change for the worse...startlingly so.Without much warning the heavens opened; within a matter of seconds the main road in and out of Spili - just visible from where we sat - was making a very passable impression of the Mississippi, and my swimming pool ardour had been dampened before my thoughts had dared transfer themselves from brain to mouth. Too late, I remembered the clothes that were adorning the veranda! I positioned myself to the front of the hotel to get a better view, and sure enough, almost all I owned were lapping up every drop of rain they could get. I could laugh or cry. I would have chosen the latter option, but any tears would have been camouflaged by the monsoon taking place, so I laughed...hysterically! My clothes looked far wetter than when I'd placed them there, yesterday evening. There was no point in removing the them; the damage had already been done! Oh yes, it was that deja vu, all over again! Oh yes, it was that deja vu, all over again!

Spili Spili Spili Spili
Spili in various guises - click to enlarge

...And not a drop to drink!
I had been awake, barely an hour, and already, this early afternoon, I'd: bellowed at Virginia; stolen somebody else's room, twice!; been the prime suspect in a case of streaking (albeit, suspected by nobody other than myself!); and had had all my day's plans ruined by the act of a God, who clearly wasn't my greatest fan! I spent the next hour waiting for Virginia, whilst looking at the torrent, outside. Rita sat with me and all was...well.. wet, really! Really wet! I sipped at a coffee, which was...damp! The wonderful breakfast of preserves was wasted on me. Rita and I continued our conversation. Droplets of what had once been rain - but now lived in my hair,   thanks to my three second trip outside - fell from my head and bounced off the table; a consistant and persistent reminder of what was happening outside!

I was becoming very fond of Rita; I wouldn't have liked to have got on the wrong side of her (again), but her kind side was more than ample compensation for any embarrassment that I'd caused/felt, earlier. She had one irritating trait: she would replace Greek words, that she thought might be beyond me, with German ones, which were beyond me! We then had to work, backwards, until we found a word in more basic Greek to translate the word from German. My concentration with the conversation occasionally drifted. Was it me?, I wondered; did I have my own personal collection of clouds following me? Virginia arrived, and joined Rita and me in the breakfast area. The three of us talked; mostly of the weather; there seemed to be little else to talk about. Allegedly, Chania had been a tad cloudy this morning, when my favourite fraulein had stepped into her ubiquitous brown Volkswagen and headed off to meet "Rainman Extraordinaire!" Virginia is, thankfully, a fantastic driver, but had had a few problems en-route, due to...the weather! Rita had spent some considerable time in a particularly wet part of Germany and spoke the language as well as she spoke Greek (one suspects); Virginia, needless to say, was rather fluent in that particular language (her Greek's not bad either), and the ladies spoke of things which did not include any mention of duck-vassilied(!) platypuses, so I sat and listened at an awful linguistic disadvantage. These things I'm used to and, ordinarily, this wouldn't have stopped me sticking my oar in, but I needed all my boating equipment to retrieve my clothes from the veranda. I left the 'breakfast club', just as things might have been becoming interesting. Could I take a siesta, merely two hours after raising my head from my pit? It was tempting, but first I needed to squelch onto the veranda and partially separate whatever was merely wet from what was soaking; all my clothes fitted comfortably into the latter category. I wanted to pinch somebody; anybody. I wanted to pinch somebody's clothes; anybody's. I needed a shot of brandy, but any mystery behind my rather hung-over feeling, this morning, vanished upon discovery of an empty (other than three inches of rain water!), cup, and totally empty half-litre bottle of 'Metaxa' five star' brandy! I write now in astonishment, as the memory of this is not one of shock that I'd manage to finish a bottle of brandy - on top of the other drinks last night, but one of disappointment that, despite the rain, I was incapable of drowning either myself or my sorrows!

What I needed was a shoulder to cry on, and I had  the choice of Virginia's or Rita's - who were still audibly engrossed. I returned to the breakfast room and moped, at a table of my own. Virginia, being the empathic type, realised that not all was well with the great walker, and asked me what might it be. Stiff upper lips and strong jaws were the order of the day, old chap! My lip quivered and my jaw was keeping my feet company, as I explained my predicament; Virginia, taking her leave of Ka Rita, led me, by the hand to her car. Tutankhamen's tomb could barely have realised more treasures. Inside was my suitcase, which I'd entrusted to Rex (remember him?), all those chapters ago...inside my suitcase was every item of clothing I'd not worn, which was practically my entire home wardrobe, and all of those that I had - up to the time when Rex had (with malice aforethought!) abandoned me  - were freshly washed...and dried! And dried, my petals! There are moments in life when you realise you are truly in love. Ordinarily, for me, it's when a woman tells me just how much she hates me, but this was one of those moments. If Virginia had not saved my life, she's certainly saved my sanity! I couldn't believe yesterday's reluctance to share this beautiful day(!) with this wonderful woman! I took leave of the ladies' charming company, and hauled my suitcase to my room. I spent the next hour -or so - trying on every item of clothing, as if I were on a shopping spree in Oxford Street.

Sometimes a great notion...
Virginia and I decided to pay Alexandra and Donna a visit. I put on my waterproof jacket, which had stood the test of the foulest English weather could throw at it; however, it just wasn't up to the Deucalion flood taking place, here. On the way to Donna's place, I stopped-off at my favourite washing-powder shop, and bought myself a replacement bottle of 'Metaxa Five Star'; one that would still be with my upon completion of this walk; "oh yes it would"! Virginia and I were soaked-through by the time we reached Donna's shop, which was no more than 400 metres from where we'd set off. Virginia's idea of taking the car, once so ridiculous, now seemed pretty sensible, on the face of things. Not content with my newly-arrived wardrobe, I bought a rather splendid shirt from Donna (what's the betting I lose this by the next chapter?) and we had a jolly gathering, whilst watching the rain swept-away: small children, elderly ladies and their donkeys (I do exaggerate here - the donkeys were far too stubborn to be shaken-away by water! - but only just); the nastiest of the weather did, eventually, desist, but the day had been a wash-out. The evening was far better; splendid, in fact. Firstly, Donna, Vassilis and Virginia, joined Alexandra and I at the same taverna  we'd eaten at last night;  then, Alexandra, had a thought. We'd been talking about my plans to walk from here to Askyphou, over the next three days, and my worries about not finding accommodation. "If I were you, I'd walk down to Plakias", she said.

It was a strange thing. Ideas within the darkest recesses of my mind, which I hadn't dared allow to invade my consciousness, were brought to sudden and startling realisation by Alexandra's suggestion. If I'd managed to avoid Psiloritis and its rather extensive range of high places, then, what would be the harm in doing the same to the White mountains? The one regret I'd had so far, was not having failed to cross the Ida range, but the rather more ego-sapping state of affairs, of having failed to get from Aghia Roumelli to Soughia...at least, not on foot! These thoughts had been nestling at the back of my mind for some time; ever since I'd first arrived in Soughia, in fact. The rest of the walk had had its fair share of problems, as you may have read, but that "walk" had been my nemesis. If, as Alexandra suggested, I walked down to Plakias, I would be able to get myself to Chora Sphakion in a couple of days...no, if I headed for Kato Rodakino the following day, I would have created a loop, of sorts, and have, effectively, walked from Zakros to Aghia Roumelli, during this trip, leaving only the western part of the island to complete. If Virginia were could drive me from Rodakino to Chora Sphakion, from where I could jump on a boat to Aghia Roumelli, I could make a second attempt at that Soughia walk. I would have walked the complete island (east of Soughia), if the "pre-walk" were taken into consideration This was a hugely liberating feeling. Instead of stepping out onto limestone new, without any idea where I could find accommodation, I would head for the south coast and stay in a village I knew, and one where I could easily find somewhere to stay. I'd already suspected that Alexandra was a genius; now I knew it! I arranged to meet up with Donna the following evening in Plakias. Virginia would drive and meet me there. All was set. All would go catastrophically wrong; this I knew; and even if they didn't, best be prepared. Tonight I would have an early night, just as soon as I'd had "just the one" drink out of the newly purchased bottle of 'Metaxa Five Star!

"Just the one. On the patio. Before I go to bed. I deserve it!..."

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