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From Askifou (Ammoudari) to Anopoli, Agia Roumeli (plus big 5days circular track in mountains), Palaiochora, Chania

Chania - Askifou/Ammoudari (by bus) - Tavri - Niátos - Kástro (and back) - Trikoukia - above Kali Lakki - Skafídhia - Anopoli - Sellouda - Agia Roumeli; Agia Roumeli - Eligias Gorge - Fliskounias - Kormokopou cave - Agios Ioannis - Anopoli - Lago Gorge - Angathopoi - Rousiés - Páchnes - under Modaki slopes to Katsiveli - under northern slopes of Papa Balomata - Pirou - Potámos - Eligias Gorge - Fliskounias - Agia Roumeli; Agia Roumeli - Sougia (by ferry) - Lissos - Ghialiskari - Palaiochora - Chania (by bus); plus two trips around/above Agia Roumeli

In 2014, I was in Crete together twice, at the beginning of May and later from the middle of September to the beginning of October. My first stay here described in folder “Lakki-Poria-Pirou……etc.”, was much shorter than the second one because the later was the longest one (25 days) till this time. Nevertheless, despite its duration, my description will be (I hope!!) quite shorter because I moved along ways described in the past already, so I will write about these parts only briefly. On the contrary to it, I will try to write about the second track which was over new or less known areas more detailed. So how the days ran….

SUN 14/09 – Departure from Prague, change in Athens, arrival at Chania Airport. A short delay in Athens, therefore later arrival in Chania, and due to it, I didn’t catch the bus at 17:30. Fortunately, the next bus left for 30mins later, so I got to the town in time for buying important things as a cartridge for gas-stove (the supermarket IN.K.A. was still open). Outgoing to a beach Nea Chóra westward the old Venetian harbour to overnight there. This journey takes about 15mins from the Square of 1866 (with a park) near the main bus station.

MON 15/09 – Because "my" bus left at 8:30, so I didn’t have to get up very early and in the course of my shift to the bus station I bought breakfast. For almost one hour after the bus departure, I got out in the village of Ammoudari, on the plain of Askifou. There is a beginning of E4 route (yellow-black marks and poles) running upward to the Tavri refuge and farther across the mountain as far as next large plain – Omalos. Nevertheless, I finished on the Niátos plain because we had arranged a meeting with friends of mine here the next day to climb the Kástro summit rising above this plain. A short break in the refuge to prepare and have a coffee then across the plain to find a proper place for the on-coming night. I found it about 20 meters from the second (lower) water cistern called Katastromeno.

TUE 16/09 – The night was very chilly and wet, I had to put on more clothing toward the morning. In the morning, the upside of the fly tent was like after heavy rain whereas inside it was very wet from condensed steam. But the morning itself was nice and sunny. After encountering with friends the ascent of Kástro could start. I climbed with Aleš whereas Radka had her own “woman’s” program below. The ascent is not very difficult from the point of orientation (of course, if visibility and – generally – weather conditions are good enough). It is well marked by E4-poles (yellow-black) and big yellow-black marks on rocks. After overcoming over two flatter areas the route turns to the right and ascends following the top of the range (the pole is visible here from below). Now it is “easy” – the way is along the top of the ridge where there is always the pole on each of its hillocks. Last usable pole of the E4 route is in a small saddle and next course of the marked route is to the right and (first) a little bit down. However, we left poles here and continued along the ridge upward. All the way along the top of the range is without any path, one has to walk with very rough stony and rocky terrain underfoot. As the weather got worse and clouds came together with a rather cool wind blowing from the right side (N) we ascended using slopes a little bit lower the top of the ridge to be hidden against the wind. The whole way up to the first top-cairn was similar concerning the terrain. Clouds covered summits and a large part of slopes but the course of ascent was always quite well visible, at least for next about a hundred meters. As soon as we reached the summit, the good ghost of Levka Ori mountains somewhat dispersed clouds and we learnt we weren’t on Kástro summit but on a lower one just beside (alt. of 2135m)!! If we like to reach the summit of Kástro we would descend for about 100m lower and climb for next about 200m upward. (Otherwise, for those who like to reach Kástro directly, without a halfway stop on the summit which we reached, it is necessary to leave the top of the first spine somewhere not so far from the last pole [in the saddle] and traversing slope to the left trying to get to the saddle directly under Kástro slopes.) But because we didn’t have enough time for doing it we turned back and descended on the Niátos plain where Radka was waiting for us. Because we lost more time than I formerly calculated I pitched my tent for next night on the opposite side of Niátos only, just a short way from a signpost with arrows to Kali Lakki.

WED 17/09 – Morning was – as usually – nice and sunny and surprisingly not so cold like the previous one. I went on over Trikoukia, old terracing fields above the former village of Kali Lakki, crossed the upper part of a branch to the Sfakiano Gorge to ascend to the saddle under the summit of Kefála (the highest point of this track, alt. of about 1300m). From this spot, the way is descending only as far as a shepherd’s dirt road beside Skarfídhia spring. The road is always descending except two short parts where it runs up in very easy gradient. I finished that day in a sharp turning of the road to turn to the stone wall at about 100m from the road. After I got over it, a nice place for my tent was available here near three cypress trees.

THU 18/09 – Morning again nice and due to a lower altitude not so cool like higher up. Going down as far as Anopoli, a village of Kámbos, where an excellent local bakery can be found. Short rest with beer and coffee and products of the bakery. Continuing along the asphalt road (about 1.5km) to the village of Agios Dimitrios. Here turn to the left (bright blue marks, arrows etc.) just before a chapel with a small cemetery. The way is an old mule-track connection which is a short-cut (in comparison with walking along the road) and after about 15mins it joins the road again. Now across the bridge above deep Aradhéna Gorge and after about 2kms to turn to the left along also bitumen but narrower road slightly down. Bitumen surface ends for about 300-400m, not so far before T-junction. Here to the right and on next T-junction to the left. The road enters a forest, passes one animal shed to reaches another one when leaving the forest. About 100 or a little bit more meters a marked footpath (red-white) branches to the left and after running between stony walls it is getting (about 300 or 400m) at Sellouda (alt. about of 620m), the beginning of the descent to the shore. On the right hand, there are some cypress trees growing on the rim of cliffs, and just behind the last one, I stopped to spend next night here, on my favourite place at which low lines of stones (built against the wind) remained from my previous staying (in May).

FRI 19/09 (+ SAT 20/09) – I don’t hurry up so I enjoyed the nice morning. The descent takes about 1hr to join the coastal branch of the E4 route. For next about 30mins I was above Agios Pavlos beach but didn’t stop here but went on as far as dunes in the mouth of Eligias gorge to the sea where I took bath, finally!! Last part toward Agia Roumeli into an informal campsite takes about 30mins (along the Skonyari beach). I stayed here (in the Agia Roumeli camp) for the whole next day and on the following day about 9 o’clock I started the second and much difficult track.

SUN 21/09 – To overcome the first 30mins along the shore eastward is easy, and for about 3hrs (including two longer breaks – about 20mins each, and about 30mins of the last bathing for before the start of ascending) I reached Fliskounias (alt. of 730m), the place of a large basin created in an extension of Eligias gorge. It is almost like a dam. Here, at its east side, a path (marked by very small red dots on rocks, and by cairns of different size) toward Kormokopou cave starts. It is the narrow footpath ascending over two gullies, overcoming one almost vertical rock along a very narrow ledge of the rock falling down into the gorge, to reach a spur at about 1100m  overlooking the end of the gorge and a part of the coast deep down. The footpath turns like back and goes on the opposite slope of the ridge a little bit down to reach the cave Kormokopou almost in the head of the valley. Inside the cave, there are two pools with water. I overnight here, about 20m from the entrance into the cave.

MON 22/09 – Because I had a headstart in comparison with my plans, I didn’t have to hurry up. The path from the cave is well marked by EOS by blue squares inside white fields and is also well tramped. On the table with information about the cave, there is a time data of 1.5hrs during which one can get in Agios Ioannis and it is the truth. I spent a nice time in the village just beside a cool box with beers and other cold drinks on the terrace of an old school in this village (self-service). The way along the tarmac road from Agios Ioannis to the bridge over Aradhéna gorge takes about one hour and for a next one, I was in Anopoli, the main village of the Anopoli plain where I had lunch. Next way is clear and easy – along the bitumen road running to Limnia, then to branch to the left (first branching), and next branch was to the right (remains of a table lying on the ground indicates this branch), and for not so long time I was at Ghonia, the place where an animal shed is just beside an entrance into a gorge of Lago (next to the road one can see a big table with pictures of several plants which can be encountered into it). The old mule-track, the former connection between Anopoli and pastures high up in the mountain, starts here (marked by red-white marks). I was going to overnight on a flat spot just beside the mule-track, at the altitude of about 1100m. I got there at about 4 o’clock p.m., pitched my tent and prepared dinner in crowds of small flies which had probably their time of swarming. Fortunately, they didn’t bite being incredibly accosting only.

TUE 23/09 – I tried to get up earlier than flies are woken but didn’t succeed. Therefore, quickly prepare and eat breakfast and set off. The way upward was rather pleasant and not very difficult. During a short time I came at the place which has more names on different maps – Sópata, Vigla and at last Ammoutsera, however, as it is (the last one) also the name of a flatter place (a valley) a little bit higher, it is a question which one is the correct (I found much later, the right name is Kriaras). But important is the fact there is also a water cistern vaulted in an old-style and with water even at the end of September (poor). There are also some animals' pens and ruins of a stony house (its enclosure walls only, inside which one can find a place for bivouac for 2 persons as maximum), and just next to it there is the next site for tents under 4 big cypress trees at which much more persons can stay. For less than 1 hr I got near the spot where the old mule-track joins with the dirt Anopoli road (alt. about 1700m), called Angathopoi. Next journey was along this road as far as its end. I thought, formerly, I could meet the friends somewhere here, this day, but as I was much faster than I supposed to be I decided to get to the saddle of Rousiés where a small stony house and spring water are available for spending the next night here. I also headed for this place due to stronger wind which blown more and more.

WED 24/09 – The night was rather good, any wind inside and any feeling of cold despite altitude of about 2100m at which Rousiés saddle is located. My friends came at about ten o’clock and after a short break, we started ascending of Páchnes. Very strong wind. In the saddle under Gavala (2350m), I left my friends to climb up this summit, whereas they went on upward. Easy way with flat rocky plates underfoot, the summit also very flat and with a lower cairn. I caught friends at the beginning of the final ascent of the summit of Páchnes. The strong wind also at the top of Páchnes (2453m). After a short stay here and reconnoitring of my next way down we farewell and while Aleš and Radka turned back to descend along the same way like ascending, I started descent toward foothill of Modaki (2124m). Formerly, I intended to climb next summit over 2300m (Bournelos, 2342m), but due to the weather conditions (still stronger wind) and also the estimated time needed for the way up and down (about 3hrs) I decided to leave this part of my adventure and head directly for Katsiveli. I got there about four o’clock p.m., thus enough time for exploring the closest surrounding. Finding of a tap with water just in front of a shepherd’s mitato was the best result of my inspection. I pitched the tent on my favourite place inside an old enclosure still enclosed by remains of stony walls.

THU 25/09 – The morning again sunny and calm, without any wind. Got up quite early and after fast breakfast set off to next part of my track, that time through a completely (for me) unknown area under northern slopes of Papa Balomata. I was convinced that this part should be very difficult and it proved true. First upward to the refuge then down, always along the E4 route but not so far under the refuge I left the E4 route and descended with rough terrain underfoot as far as the bottom of the valley. Here to the left along an animals' path which, I’m afraid, finished soon. Thus, I had to pick my own way how to get over a system of sometimes deep hollows, sharp crests and slopes of big stones and rocks, fortunately, very steady. I weaved there up and down, to the left and to the right but as the weather was very kindly – sunny with only slight wind good for refreshing – I enjoyed that way. The whole this part could be divided into three sections – roughly the first third is easier, not so steep slopes, not so wild terrain but the second third is the wildest and the most difficult one. The last section is again a little bit easier because one has to hike higher up on slopes of Papa Balomata. Now I was at a place which could be called like a T-junction because to the right and also to the left there were two valleys running. To the right, the valley seemed to be rather wider in comparison with the one through which I just came but only from a distance. Nobody can know which problems might appear there. This valley is running toward the area of Kolokithas from which it is not so far way to the end of the Therisso-road. Even the top of the dark summit of Mavri could be seen rising above the range which ends on its east side by the summit of Ornio. Nevertheless, my next way must be to the left because there were Pirou, a mitato and the area of the same name which was my next target. To get there I had to hike across about three dolines but this part is nice and pleasant and not so difficult, at first generally a little bit ascending but as soon as the last crest with an object built by stones and standing here appears it maybe count from this point the way is always descending as far as the coast. This object seems to be a fireplace where rubbish used to be burnt from time to time. Lower and to the right the mitato of Pirou is built on the slope. From this spot, the lowest part of the E4 route crossing over the valley is in sight. I went there and keeping the valley started my descent to the coast. As soon as one gets across the E4 route, a partly marked footpath (blue marks) is running down on the right side of the bottom. This part is called (according to the mitato higher up) Petradhé whereas the lower is called Potámos. I walked around next mitato (partly in ruins, without a roof) of Koumi and not so far from it came to the seepage well with, usually, good water. But this year water was unusable because it was very murky getting yellow…. Maybe, I could cause it because the water level in the well was very low and as I tried to get it I could stir it up. Next way down is along a river bed full of big pebbles. The mitato of Potámos standing not so far from the part where the valley turns into a gorge is created by two buildings. The higher one is older and unlocked whereas the lower one is locked and equipped by modern things like a solar board, a storage battery and a lamp. And there is also tap with water!! I spent the night here, in an unlocked shelter because there was so strong wind blowing through the valley that if I pitched my tent I would be afraid of damaging of its supporting structure.

FRI 26/09 – The sun and calm without any wind welcomed me in the morning. However, I had to try to disappear so fast as possible due to crowds of flies which also here had, probably, the time of its swarming. As soon as I stopped, my legs were immediately black by hundreds of these insects!! They, fortunately, didn’t bite but it was disgusting to have black legs…. Generally, it could be said the way down is not very problematic as far as the first (and largest) detour when very high rocky step (about 10 or 15m) blocks next progress. Here, the narrow valley really turns into a real gorge (called Eligias). This spot must be got round hiking on the right side slope which is rather steep. This part finishes in a steep gully with loose gravel of a different size. The way here is ensured and supported by a system of ropes. One is running across the gully to a cypress tree standing near a rock, and next (double) one is, at first, running from the cypress on the steep slope down to falls then through a vertical crevice of about 6m high. The crevice is full of grips and ledges, therefore one is not sheer hanging when trying to get on the bottom. The rope is rather for improving safety, better feeling and for support. Next descent along the gorge bed is, however, more difficult, many rocks and steep steps must be overcome, about three times by detours on the right side slope. One more a higher step (of about 2.5 or 3m, no more…) is there and it is also equipped by a rope. But it is in last part of this section, soon the bottom of the gorge got flatter and the gorge suddenly gets wider to create a large basin because there is a low range crossing the gorge and creating something like a dam. This place is called Fliskounias and here, I finished my circular track which can be called like “From Fliskounias to Fliskounias”. I took here a longer break and then during about 1.5hrs I got on the shore. After a necessary bathing I set off again to come for about 30mins in Agia Roumeli again. My site was still empty so could lodge there on my known place.

SAT 27/09 – SAT 04/10 – Stay in Agia Roumeli only, variegated by two trips in surrounding of the village. The first was my second effort to reach forts on tops of the eastern range of Samária gorge. Loraine writes in her book guide that it is necessary to follow first the stony wall up as soon as one gets on terracing fields. So, I decided to try to do it. After 30mins of walking just beside the shore and next 20mins of easy ascent upward Eligias gorge I took an old footpath winding up the slope to the area called Angelokambos, the place of former settlement. The path misses an underground cistern in which was – surprisingly (for the end of September!!) – water. As soon as the footpath came on former terracing fields I started to follow the wall upward. At its end, there was a cairn which seemed to be hopeful but it was the last mark which I met. I tried to choose my own way up, finally got on a flatter site, probably not so far from the top of the range but I wasn’t strenuous enough and turned back here. As I’ll learn later I was really quite near to the top of the range and finding forts could be easy then. The second trip was more successful. I ascended upward to the lower fort above the village (25mins without a break) and continued along very stony old connection up. On a spot where the path makes sharp turning to the right and almost back I took another well visible (animals') path heading straight ahead. This path disappeared a little bit as soon as the slope got steeper but I chose my own way heading for rocks on the lowest part of the range above my head. When I went through these rocks I came on flatter place southern the fort. Going to the fort and continuing straight ahead, I tried to find marked (cairns) footpath to Papouras (970m). I didn't find it here but farther, in wide and flat valley descending from the top and sparsely overgrown by big pine and cypress trees, I found it finally (on the right side when ascending). This path is quite well marked by cairns and gains high under trees as far as flat top where trees end. Next terrain is typical flat phrygana, overgrown by low bushes, and rising in easy gradient. The summit of Papouras is on the right side of the highest range in front of me (cypress trees are here). To get there, it is useful to head for a shallow saddle with bigger trees (cypress) from which the slope to the right is rising very slowly and is overgrown by garigue, very low woody plants with patches of bare ground. The top of Papouras is marked by a concrete column. Return is along the same way.

SUN 05/10 – That day I started my gradual return to Chania and home. I took an afternoon ferry to Sougia where I got out and set out a short way just from the wharf to the left through the small gorge (marked way, yellow-black E4 marks). After 20mins I was on the site of the bottom where an old mule-track built with supporting walls winds up on the left side slope. Only 10mins and one is on a plain across which the way takes next 10mins toward descent into the Lissos valley. On its bottom, just beside (better – beyond) a kiosk (and a rich spring of water near running), it is necessary to take the small and narrow path between shrubs to continue toward the beach. Nevertheless, I didn’t reach the coast but stayed in front of a church (Agia Panagia) to spent the on-coming night here.

MON 06/10 – Next day was easy – to went back as far as the kiosk and there are first E4 marks here along which I got to the Ghialiskari beach (about 4hrs of walking) where I took a short rest with some beers to return a little bit later and in a bay before Ghialiskari, where I pitched my tent for the last overnight ("in nature") in course of this holiday.

TUE 07/10 This day I went back to the beach and after about 1.5hrs of light walking came to Palaiochora, in a caffé in which tickets for a bus are also sold, and as well in front of it buses have their stop. It took almost 2hrs to get to Chania where I spent time on a beach, in tavernas, doing a small shopping etc., and in the evening I moved (by bus) to the airport. Later in the evening horrible storm with lightning came and system of navigation of the runway was damaged by lightning which resulted next day – WED 08/10 – in a delay of my flight. Because I wouldn’t catch my next plane in Athens, the airline company (Aegean Airline) found for me a substitute connection from Athens by the plane of China Airlines to Munich where I changed the flight (Lufthansa) toward Prague. I came home for about 7hrs later in comparison with the scheduled time of arrival but as my baggage came also all right, I could my return consider being successful regarding evening conditions in the airport in Chania.

 

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