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June 25, 2008

The long and winding really, really, really bad road to Gramvousa

When some friends came to visit up a couple of weeks back we indulged in the luxury of hiring a car, which meant we could explore some places we'd yet to reach on Crete. One of those was the Gramvousa Peninsula. We'd seen quite a bit about it on the late lamented 'Crete News & Life' show, as they had a recurring feature about it. However we'd never been, and as we drove out of Kissamos-Kastelli we were the furthest West we have ever been on the island.

There is only one road on and off the peninsula, and even by Cretan standards it stretches the definition of road.


Almost as soon as you reach the peninsula the tarmac ceases, and you are driving on a loose rocky narrow gravel road that hugs the side of the coast. We had spotted it from a distance as an orange gash against the green of the mountainside, but hadn't realised quite how rough it was going to be. Or how long.

The track must cover the best part of 8 kilometres, which took us 40-odd minutes at the speeds we could muster. On more than one occasion we encountered a stretch that was so steep that we feared that we would have to give in and reverse our little car all the way back down the track.

We made it to the top in the end, where there was a car park and a curious little cantina. This offered some drinks, but, rather distressingly, no toilets.


Claire and I had some hot nescafe which was heated on a little gas ring stove, whilst one of our friends got an unusual cup of tea. Made from local herbs, it was not to her liking, and having read some signs around the place, we weren't sure if it wasn't in fact made from one of the endangered species that are part of the 'reserve' on the head of the peninsula.

The object of our trip was to see the stunning lagoon at Balos, which is, literally, picture postcard material.



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