Agios Nikolaos Saturday, 20 May, 2017 N35:11.177 E 025:43.152

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Sat 20 May 2017 04:57
After two excellent weeks with David and Marilyn on board as our 'temporary' crew, sailing from Ermioni in the Peloponnese via, Sifnos, Milos, Foligandros, Ios, Santorini and Spinalonga and enjoying some fantastic sailing with the best winds ever, we arrived here at Agios Nikolaos, Crete, last Tuesday afternoon. 

Easing sheets to round Spinalonga Island.  Expert on the helm, just as well someone knows what's going on!

Once securely tied up to the pontoon and after long showers, courtesy of the marina facilities, we trotted ashore for a brief look around the town and on to a very nice restaurant for what turned out to be a most enjoyable last meal together before our crew departed.  On Wednesday morning we duly waved them off, back to the UK and reality and we resumed our more solitary lifestyle.

Our principal aim in coming here was to visit Maggie’s friends, Lorna and Colin, who now live on the island at Chania, which is the other end of Crete.  We also wanted to know about the marina itself, which is holding a place for us this winter (together with a substantial deposit).  We only wanted 2 weeks but ended up paying for 4 weeks, which ironically costs less than a 14 day booking now in their ‘high season'.

Dolly (Maggie’s essential, can't live without, crew member) was returned to work consuming several loads of bedding, towels, clothes and any other sundry items, all were laundered, hung out to dry in rapid time and put away.  By mid afternoon ALKIRA was once again shipshape and we were able to collapse for the remainder of the day.  Supper, a movie (DVD) and a glass of wine later, we crept  into bed for a good nights sleep, in cool temperatures - at the time!

There are still quite a few liveaboards in the marina, who've spent all last winter here; some we know or recognise from previous ports where we've wintered/laid up. The consensus is that they enjoy relatively lively expat existence throughout the winter months.  However, the attraction of staying here for the winter is not something that interests us, it's cold, wet and windy; thankfully, we have a nice home to go to.  

Last Saturday the temperature suddenly soared and after walking into town this morning, having enjoyed a large glass of freshly squeezed en route, we collected a hire car for our tour of the island, We paid for 5 days and got 2 free!  We then retreated under the shade of the bimini and various sunscreens with temperature of 39 degrees C, with not a breath of wind, and here we'll stay until G&T o'clock (or thereabouts). 🇬🇷🌞⛱😅🍸🌗.  On Sunday we toured the East end of the island by car.  Quite remote from the holiday crowds. 

On Monday, it was back to very comfortable temperatures in the 20’s again.  We drove out along the North coastal plain.  The roads are good with a few stretches of dual carriageway and we reached Chania (pronounced Hania) in just under 3 hours.  We met up successfully with Colin and Lorna and followed them to their son’s restaurant (Taverna) on the hilltop behind their village.  They live just outside a village in an area popular with other expats and well serviced by small shops, supermarkets and restaurants. The season is not yet in full swing in their area, and sadly their son's tavernas’ opening days did not coincide with our visit, so we were unable to sample Ian’s fare.  In the afternoon we stopped by their house and admired the view of the coast and the surrounding area from their balcony.  The day was concluded by an excellent evening in a local taverna.

As neither Colin nor Lorna were free the following day, we decided to cut short our visit to the Chania area and cross the mountains to the south of the island.  Our hotel at Chania was less than inspiring and somewhat overpriced at 50 euros/night so, after an unpleasant disagreement with the hotel's husband and wife Owners, who insisted we pay for two days, we left for pastures new albeit with a bitter taste in our mouths, NOT to return and we will NOT be recommending that hotel to others!!

Putting that experience behind us, the trip across the mountains was little short of awe inspiring.  Out little 'VW Up!' bravely climbed the northern slopes on quite good roads.

Very small car and very high mountains - some even still with snow!

Just short of the summit we came across a plateau with verdant fields and countryside reminiscent of the lush pastures of New Zealand.  We continued upwards, past a war museum; the route we followed was used by the allies to escape after their positions in Chania were over-run by the invading airborne Germans.  The area was also the scene of a sustained guerrilla campaign that cost the invaders dearly.  Firearms evidently still feature strongly in life in this part of Crete, as every road sign we passed had been used for target practice, in some instances using heavy calibre firearms!  Their aim was evidently accurate so we were careful to be ultra polite to all whom we met!

The descent from the mountains to the south coast followed the Kalikratiano Cannon down a giddy switchback road that had Maggie hanging on to her seat in the car.  

Looking back to the North with the canyon to the right.  The road is a civil engineering triumph as it clings to ledes and dives through rocky spurs.

On the coast we arrived at the tiny port of Hora Sfakia where we found a splendid water front taverna with rooms to rent (45 Euros) and an excellent restaurant over looking the sea (The Three Brothers).  The village itself was the scene of a mini Dunkirk during the German invasion when some tens of thousands of allied troops were evacuated to Egypt by the navy. The weather appeared to be changing and fleeces were required that evening.

Hora Sfakia.  Our room is in the central building above, first floor with the blue balcony doors open.

The following morning we awoke to heavy grey cloud everywhere and it was much cooler. We headed East along the south coast.  The villages we passed through were decrepit and in poor condition, many crumbling badly or abandoned.  From a distance the little white houses looked charming and inviting, but close up we found them all to be dilapidated and uninviting. However, the scenery was spectacular.  Our little VW fairly climbed, swooped and whizzed around blind sharp switchback bends and close to shear drops from the roadside.  We had hoped to find another BandB and spend another night away, but it was not to be.  

The main (and only) road through Spili.

We stopped and walked the length of the main street in Spili where there is a huge monastery and the inevitable parade of tourist shops and tavernas-then continued to another seaside resort named Plakios - we quite liked it there and stopped for coffee and to stretch our legs before continuing to Ay Galini where we ate our picnic lunch bought from the bakery in Sfakia.

Having found nothing to whet our appetites as regards accommodation or venue for a further overnight stop, we decided to continue ‘home’ to ALKIRA.  So onward again up over the mountains and plateau and down to Irakleon before heading East again along the coastal plain to Agios Nikolaos.  Our plucky little VW finally came to rest on the quayside next to the boat at about 17:00.  The last half hour was completed in light rain with thunder clouds looming over the mountains inland.  We went to bed with the patter of raindrops falling on the deck above our heads.

Sadly through Thursday and into Friday the patter of bad weather continued with heavy rain and thunderstorms and it’s COLD!  On Thursday we took the car to Elounda where we had previously spent 3 days at anchor with David and Marilyn.  The change in just those two weeks since our last visit was amazing; the holiday season has started in earnest and the place is stuffed full of tourists, with a lot of Brits.  From there we went on to Plaka (read the book ‘The Island’) but found this a little disappointing but did enjoy a nice lunch in a small traditional Cretan restaurant.

With heavy rain again during the night and further thunderstorms early this morning, we're presently we’re in warmer clothing and contemplating a final trip in the car to the supermarket to stock up and find somewhere to get a replacement gas bottle, before returning the car later this evening.  Maggie is contemplating where on earth to hang the washing to get it dry - a conundrum she hasn’t had to think about before. We feel sorry for the tourists here on holiday for just a week or two as the weather has taken quite a dip and there are only so many bars and tourist shops one can visit in a day before wondering what to do  with themselves, clearly going to the beach isn’t an option!  We’ve spoken to a lot of locals and all say that because of the much harder winter they’ve endured, they believe they should now be experiencing a much better spring/summer; all are totally perplexed by the current weather. We’ve been able to advise them that this is how it is in England most all of the time… they just nod and shrug their shoulders. The beaches are empty but the restaurants are definitely benefitting.


Charlie Bevis

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