So as I am still horribly out of order, to keep track of the flow of my travels.. note that I arrived here on September 25th...
Ahhh Crete... wonderful, sunny, beautiful, naked, gorgeous, amazing, hot, thought-provoking, incredible, inspiring, relaxing, peaceful, spiritual, addictive Crete... I think I love you. Therefore, i'm going to write a marathon post about you. No arguments.
After my night on the beach in Santorini, lovely Aussie Kristy and her Brazilian driver Joyce dropped me to the port for my 9am ferry off to my absolute favourite beachside destination of my trip. 4 hours of blissful cruising on the ferry was the perfect way to spend dozing in and out of consciousness and catching up on a bit of sleep, sleep which continued happily on the two bus trips it took to get to the south side of Crete, to a little town called Plakias.
The largest and most populated of all the Greek Islands wasn't in my initial scope (for those two reasons!), but after strong recommendations by a number of friends, I booked and headed there with plans to stay only a day or two... how quickly that changed. In fact, I think it was within only an hour or two that I spoke with Chris, the hippy hostel manager and requested an extra couple of nights stay. This was met with a simple "I know..." and a sly grin, having heard the same request many times before!
I almost don't know where to start with explaining why this place is so good. I think, to quote Dennis Denuto (a character from a favourite Aussie film of mine), it's just the vibe of the place. Let me rattle of a couple of examples... the doors don't get locked here, everyone is trusted - nothing goes missing. The beer fridge is cold - perfectly cold - and it's contents are cheap. You don't pay as you go, rather you keep a tab with Chris by simply giving him a nod when you take a beer or soft drink from the unlocked fridge, or he marks on a scrap of paper when you buy breakfast or a coffee - both of which he makes himself and delivers to your communal table. It's the same for the room too - pay a little up front for the first night, and everything else goes on the tab.
This is how it should be. And damn it works well. It's easy to see why some (well, most) of the hostels visitors are repeat customers - some for over 25 years, and many in the 5-10 year range too... I can't help but think I may become another statistic... I am not at all concerned by this prospect.
Admittedly, first impressions didn't necessarily match with the experience though. I was put off by the lack of any other guests when I arrived at around 5 in the afternoon... and, as lovely as Chris turned out to be, his approach had me thinking I may have stepped into something a little more hippy than I was prepared for. Then when, during his well rehearsed welcome speech, he assured me that at around 8pm when all the guests returned, things would really start to "heat up", and he promised me that I would be in bed no earlier than 4am, I couldn't help but think he was simply full of it, and was compensating for something a little lacklustre. But alas, no. Indeed, at almost 8pm on the dot, the other guests rolled in, and the beers rolled out... and things started to warm up. By 8:30, we were in full swing. I'd met the whole hostel just about, and we were off to dinner in Myrthios, a small village about 15 minutes walk up the mountain. The only thing I can recall between dinner and 4am is "50c Raki at Joe's".
The damn hippy git was right, and on day two, I had the hangover to prove it!
I have already posted about some of what I got up to in Crete, and the multiple days of no writing in my Moleskin are indicative of what else I did there - not much at all!! Actually, that is not true - here is a word for word excerpt from my journal on day two:
@ 5:30pm on Sunday September 26th, 2010
Some days it's difficult to write when you really want to because you have nothing in particular on your mind to put down in ink. Other days, it's difficult for the exact opposite reason - there's so much to say, so many thoughts that it feels almost overwhelming to know where to begin. Today is one of those days. My mind is racing with so many thoughts. From deep and dark, to shallow and momentary. Perhaps a list and a mind map may help...
- Ex girlfriends
- Crete, Plakias
- Nude beaches
- Spuddy & Lauren
- Fast pace vs slow
Yep... I did a lot of thinking in Plakias (more than usual, yes), and as the page upon page of scribble in my journal will attest, lots of writing too! (All very productive though as it turns out - as I review my notes, a lot of my thinking and planning has come to a precise fruition I would never have expected!)
I did get up to more than just thinking and planning though, I promise!
I met and spent some fantastic time with some truly awesome people. Probably the best "people experience" of my whole trip... We all hung out, chatted, drank, ate, etc like we were old mates.. it was just that kind of place. Marine and Brittany from the states (sort of..), Christoph from Belgium, Thorsten from Germany, Anja also from Germany, Tom from the states, Lance from the UK, Melissa from Seattle, Dan from NZ, Alex from Canada and many many others from many other places... thank you for the amazing times in Plakias (and beyond in some cases), you're all a very big part of the reason why Crete was so amazing!!
Thorsten and I also spent a day out on some mountain bikes that we'd hired.. dodgy brakes, and rusty chains and all.. well, they weren't quite that bad, but certainly no Azzuri Uno (the bike I ride at home) that's for sure!! We of course chose what was probably the hottest day of my 10 days there, and started the trip off with a steady up hill run.. made worthwhile only by the fact that the roll back down alongside a small canal was absolutely gorgeous, and much cooler (even though it appeared the water was flowing UP HILL!! so freaky.. ).
The mountain biking was enough for me, but Thorsten - crazy German that he is - decided he'd like to climb a mountain too... so after a lunchtime souvlaki feast, we did exactly that!! Absolutely worth it.., we arrived at the top to see a pretty little church overlooking the entire town... check it out below, it was absolutely incredible... and evidently quite amusing...
We also all spent a whole lot of time at One Rock beach.. named accordingly as there is just one rock in the middle of the water which - when the tide is pumping - creates a nice washing-machine whirlpool life endangering kind of effect... just what you want when swimming in the nude with a whole bunch of people you don't know... oh yea, it's a nude beach as Thorsten and I found out after clambering down the small cliff to get down to the maybe 50 metre wide beach... oopsies! Ah well, no one seemed to mind that we kept our gear ON... (as long as I didn't point the camera their way...!!)
One of my favourite nights of my time in Crete, and my whole trip, was the night that Marine and Brittany and Christoph and I spent face up on and under a couple of blankets, stargazing for hours, talking shit and laughing ourselves silly, until we all eventually fell asleep... I've never ever seen so many shooting stars! Quite honestly, it was probably one or two per minute.. out of control awesomeness!! I can't even begin to describe.. and unfortunately pictures just weren't an option and wouldn't cut it either... truly amazing. And a very nice way to spend thinking about Mum... looking up at the stars always reminds me of her... happy happy happy times!!
I'm sure a couple of days happened in between.. but that's how time works in Plakias... and all of a sudden, after my ten days here (although it was only meant to be one night!) the end was nigh..
As is tradition on the final night in Plakias, we all went off to one of the "nice" restaurants (which actually was really nice) and ate some beautiful food, and some lovely Raki as always... the thing is though, by your final night you're well and truly accustomed to the joys of Raki... the problem however, is that one persons final night, may be another's first night, and therefore their first Raki... such was the case for the poor girl in the centre of the below photo (I hope she never comes across this blog, if so, I am sorry!) who after just half a shot proceed to projectile vomit through spread fingers - in a fruitless effort to control the flow - across the table, to the left, to the right, and e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e in between!! Even the couple on the table across from us moved out of the way! Dear god it was horrible... but, such is the power of the Raki... drink it at your own risk. Or, as is also customary, on your last day just before you leave, even if it is in the morning!! The last photo below is me on Skype to Brittany and with Chris, the hippy hostel manager!
After leaving Plakias with a heavy heart, but a whole bunch of new friends, a renewed travelling vitality and some serious plans, I jumped on the bus up to the north coast, then another bus across to Chania, a pretty little port town, albeit a bit over touristy for me, especially considering where I'd just left!! It was cute though, and my 30 hours spent there was pleasant, but enough. My favourite spot was the lighthouse, and all the way along the walk out to it... it was such a beautiful escape from the tourist trip on the other side of the water... a friendly (but noisy) little puppy also thought so... she was howling so loudly at her owner who was out on the boat you can see in the distance - so cute! You should have seen when the owner sailed back in, she bolted down to see him, barking the whole way along! Now that's loyalty!
Next stop from here, Athens... an overnight ferry trip, "sleeping" on the floor.. yuck!! But it's OK, straight on the 4 hour bus back to Volos makes it a little easier to bear knowing that I'll get some rest there, and don't need to worry about riding...