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July 02, 2007

We walked Samaria Gorge - at last

Given that it is on the "must see / must do" list of everybody who ever visits Crete, and is listed as essential in every piece of tourist literature on the island, it was rather remiss of us last year not to attempt the Samaria Gorge. However, when K. & I. came to stay they wanted to walk it, and so we finally made the trip.


We went under our own steam, as that was a little more cost effective for the four of us. The organised trips we saw were around €25 per person, and that didn't include entrance to the park or the cost of the ferry at the other end, whereas we got the bus for four, there and back, for around €50.

Mind you, you did get a guide with the trips, although subsequently we were unsure what they would be able to tell us apart from "Here are trees. Here are rocks. The stream isn't flowing at the moment. The mountains are high. It is beautiful. Watch out for the dead Kri-Kri".

We got the 7:30am bus from Chania's main KTEL station to Omalos. This takes about an hour, and deposits you right at the entrance to the National Park, at a little cafe and souvenirs stall. Entrance to Samaria is €5, and you need to retain your ticket for it to be checked at the end.

I wasn't sure if this was because they wanted to count people in and out of both ends of the gorge properly, or because the people at the bottom ticket office didn't trust the people at the top office not to issue dummy tickets and pocket the money ;-)

The gorge itself is absolutely beautiful - photographs really don't do it justice. Well, mine don't anyway.


The only slight downer is that a lot of the time you are looking down being so careful where you put your feet that you can miss how majestic the views are.

There is one section at the end when the gorge has really narrowed and you are walking on the dry stream bed where the scenery looks like something out of one of the Jurassic Park movies. You ended up surprised that you didn't see a dinosaur stumbling out of the bushes.


This was also the section where the signs state that the area is very dangerous and therefore, accordingly, you should go really fast. There must be some sort of scientific equation that could prove whether the increased risk of falling over due to being careless as you run through the gorge is evened out by the fact that if you spend less time in the area you are less likely to be hit by rocks.


By the end the water is flowing, and you have to criss-cross the stream on planks of wood and stepping stones, whilst negotiating oncoming traffic.


For those who don't fancy the whole walk, it is possible to enter the gorge at the bottom, and walk in to the really pretty bit at the end just wearing your flip-flops and your beach clothes. Those of us who had done the whole trek soon adopted a snooty air towards these lazy half-gorgers, and brushed them aside at every opportunity - "Proper walkers coming through!".

Well, we would have done if we had any strength left. Actually what happened was that a procession of bolshy fresh walkers who had only been going for ten minutes in the opposite direction kept battering us off the path in their rush to get through.


It took us about 4 hours and 45 minutes to walk the 13km of the gorge, and then there is an additional 3km to cover from where the bottom ticket station is to the small village of Agia Rameli where you get the ferry from.

It was a great experience, one we were able to re-live again and again and again as we creaked around the house on our aching limbs for the next couple of days...

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