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From Askifou to Niátos, Anopoli, Lagou, Rousiés, Exo Tourloti, Agios Ioannis, Sellouda, Agia Roumeli, E4 to Palaiochora

Chania - Askifou/Ammoudari (by bus) - Tavri - Niátos - Trikoukia - above Kali Lakki - Skafídhia - Anopoli - Lagou Ravine - Angathopoi - Rousiés - southern valley under Pachnes - Exo Tourloti - under Zaranokefála - Krousies - Agios Ioannis - Sellouda - Agia Roumeli - (Loutro and back by ferry) - E4 - Domata - Sendoni - Pikilassos - Agios Antonios - Sougia  - Lissos - Ghialiskari - Palaiochora - Chania (by bus)

19/09/2022 - 07/10/2022

The essential part, or better, the main aim of this holiday, should be a trek in the mountains including ascents of one peak over 2200m (Exo Tourloti) and the next peak of Zaranokefála (about 2100m). It should be such a round trek from the site called Kriaras (in the Lagou ravine) toward the same spot but over two peaks in the mountains and along the range above the Anopoli plain. However, we couldn't complete it due to very unfriendly weather conditions for indeed one, but the crucial day.

We started, as usual, in the village of Ammoudari on the Askifou plain. As far back as the journey by bus from Chania, we could see a veil of clouds covering the tops of mountains but the weather was quite nice when later ascended. Under the Tavri refuge, the dark almost started coming and we could register high humidity in the air. A site for overnight (an excellent one!!) we found not so far from the signpost at about 1200m which pointed to (among others) the old connection between Niáto and Anopoli plains. When we pitched our tent, almost all the things outside were wet and the fly tent looked like after a fine rain despite the sky being without clouds at this moment. However, the morning was sunny and when the sunrays came to our spot (the sun was hidden behind a hill first), the wet things including the tent dried up early. An old 'kalderimi' (an old name for a mule track, often built with supporting stone walls if necessary) along which we set off, is marked by blue and white marks as far as the lower plain of Trikoukia (1100m). Here, marks continue down the valley (and later through the Sfakiano gorge as far as the main road leading toward Sfakia) but our way continued along the local dirt road slightly up. On the road, one must be very heedful because the spot where it is necessary to leave it, is not so clear even though I built here quite a high and mighty stone cairn many years ago. This branching-off is also marked by a red inscription 'ANO' (or 'ΑΠΟ' in Greek) and a red arrow pointing up a rocky bank of the road. One has to climb about 3m up, somebody even by using hands, but later the way is through stone/rocky terrain up. The old kalderimi crosses not a deep gully then and continues under cypress trees. Because the kalderimi is not maintained for many tens (or - maybe? - hundreds?) years, it is often overgrown by big trees. In some places, one should be heedful in following marks (tiny red spots or low cairns created by two, or three stones only) as they often almost disappear. An important landmark is abandoned fields - a flat area overgrown by low shrubs and until this time enclosed by remains of stone walls. It is at about 1250m, almost the highest point of the whole trail between the plains above mentioned. A steep descent into a gorge bed follows and then an ascent mainly through a gully as far as the true highest point of the trail - the saddle under the hill of Kefála at about 1310m. The descent to the dirt road is rather easy, one should keep yourself on the left side of the valley first but later the footpath (sporadically marked) turns more closely to the centre of the valley, however, it is a moment when the road deep down appears in view already. Just near the road, there is a spring with good water year-round (Skarfídhakia). We filled some of our bottles for the evening and a half of the next day as we wouldn't meet any water source til the noon next day. The road runs slightly up as far as a crossroad (a huge kermes oak is growing here) and from this point, it runs down as far as the Feeno kai Yannous workstation with some animal pens and buildings (sheep sheds, rooms for making cheese etc.). The way crosses the gully here (which is the beginning of a deep gorge called Kavis at its upper part, and Illingias for its lower part), and starts going up as far as the fork where a branch of a road toward its end under the saddle of Rousiés branched. Now, the road levelled out at first and not so far from this spot, there are ruins of a mitato (an old stone shelter of shepherds) under the road. It had been in my head for many years it could be a good shortcut to leave the road here and reach a field track down visible. So, we carried out it now but it turned out not be so nice way how it had looked formerly. The distance is almost the same in comparison with walking along the road and the descent through terrain with loose stones underfoot is not very pleasant. However, we were on track and following it reached the dirt road again. Now turn to the left and continue as far as a sharp turning of the road where we left it heading for a barrier of stone walls. As soon as one got over it, for about 30m slightly down there is an excellent flat site without stones, very proper for pitching a tent. Near, there are three cypress trees in a shallow pit which is enclosed by remains of low stone walls. It is a wonderful open site in the growth of low shrubs with far-distant views both of the Anopoli plain and the mountains on the opposite side as well. From here, there is the site Thresparta not so far with a large water tank for water from rain (or, eventually, snow if it appears here, at a not-so-high low altitude). On the next day, we left the road here following a footpath running off it. The footpath led us to a small church at the margin of the settlement (the village of Anopoli). Now along several hundred meters by an asphalt road and we were staying in front of a local bakery buying here some of their products and having coffee and beer here. Refreshed we continued for slightly over one hundred meters to anchor in the Anopoli tavern to have got a late lunch and take water supply for the afternoon, evening and at least a half of the next day. From the tavern, it takes about 3km of walking along a bitumen or dirt road to the site of Gonia where the ascent through the wooded Lagou ravine starts. This way is along an old kalderimi often winding up with supporting walls. We decided to overnight at the site at an altitude of about 1100m. This spot is an ideally flat place just next to the footpath about 3 or 4 meters in diameter covered by needles. As the weather was friendly and this site in the ravine is protected against wind, we spent a calm night. The next day we reached Kriaras, the site with some animal pens and a wall vaulted in the old style. The water inside was not very good but because we had a water filter, we could acquire usable water if necessary. Nevertheless, our water supply was sufficient at that time, therefore after a short rest next to the ruins of a small stone hut, we went on up. The way from Kriaras continues through an open valley with sporadic (and often very old) cypress trees on both slopes. The old connection finishes at Angathopoi where it meets the dirt road again. The road is running here through a very wide open valley and not so far from the site where it meets the kalderimi, it turns right and up, whereas the old kalderimi branches off again and runs through the centre of this area. As soon as we got here, in the open area, we could see dark clouds southward and also wind starts blowing. The kalderimi reaches the dirt road at the upper end of the valley again. Even though there are, I think, still, two or three possibilities to leave the road and follow the old way, we kept the road as far as its end under the saddle of Rousiés (at about 1950m). From here, a marked footpath (red and white marks) ascends a rocky slope and it takes about three-quarters of an hour (as a maximum) to reach a water tank (with water year-round) and a small stone shelter in the saddle at an altitude of 2135m. We took here the maximum water reserves (for about 2.5 or even 3 days, thus about 7 or 8 litres for both) and continued along the good path upward. The wind was stronger and stronger and in the end, we had to put on windproof clothes (long trousers, wind and waterproof jacket). When we reached the flat range under the final ascent of the Páchnes summit, we left the path and started the descent on the southern slopes for reaching flat sand/gravel areas on the valley bed deep down (for about 300m lower) hoping to find a proper site for overnight here. The descent wasn't easy, indeed not so steep but with sharp and loose stone/rocks underfoot. Nevertheless, we got on the valley bed well but finding a proper site protected against strong wind showed itself being a problem. After quite a long finding we succeeded in the end and pitched the tent in a shallow sandy pit with a growth of low shrubs around its margin. In the morning, first, some fine drops of rain, or better, of mist came but later clouds appeared and covered the terrain. Visibility declined considerably and was perhaps about 30m only, and because we needed to see ahead for a long distance to be able to find the right way upward to the summits, we decided to abandon the former idea of reaching the summits (and hiking along a range to Kriaras again) and try only to get on the old connection between the valley of Potámos and the village of Agios Ioannis on the Anopoli plain. We were in an area full of deep hollows, sinkholes and crests among them and because we saw even neither the slopes of the valley, it could be said we were lost. Only a mobile application Mapy.cz (with offline maps) kept us alive. After straying among depressions and crests we got on a flatter area and were supposed to be (finally!!) on the valley bed. Even an animal path was here and we followed it. Suddenly it seemed the clouds started to get up and when we ascended a short slope we could see visibility was much better and the way upward to the summits could be watched and chosen well. I also put off my waterproof trousers because a friend of mine hiked in non-waterproof ones and told me it was OK. So, in such amended conditions, we changed our plan again and decided to reach at least one summit (Exo Tourloti, 2242m), and do it lightly, leaving backpacks on the ground. I wrapped my backpack into a cover of bright green colour (to be well visible from a distance), both backpacks were laid at each other and we set out. We reached the first summit (over 2200m, a noname one) quite well and because the way to the summit of Exo Tourloti was still well visible, continued in our effort. Nevertheless, although we reached the summit of Exo Tourloti well, clouds came again and on the summit, visibility was very low as a short time before, a couple of tens metres only. So, now there was a very important task in front of us to detect our backpacks lying somewhere on a slope covered by clouds. First, we tried to follow our steps back but it was impossible. Therefore we split and each of us roughly contoured the slope at a different height. Fortunately, we succeeded and could continue with backpacks, now in fine rain. The next way was quite dramatic, the wild karstic area was in front of us, without any footpath but with sparse cairns pointing in a direction. But to find these cairns was also problematic due to the very low visibility and long distances between single cairns. As well rain thickened and we continued very slowly. Using the mobile application didn't help too much now but after all, we succeeded and met the (marked) footpath deciding to return to civilization, thus to the village of Agios Ioannis. As I hiked along this trail several times already, the basic orientation wasn't complicated, but when we got among trees, the dark came. For a rather long time, we descended without any light but in the lower part when assumed to be somewhere not so far from the site of Krousia, we used a headlight and the map application as well to find Krousia. And although we shortly lost after reaching three wells in Krousia, we found a dirt road at last and also a mitato located just beside. We headed for this shelter hoping to be unlocked and to have a roof above our heads. And really, the mitato was not locked but with several points where rainwater soaked through the roof. Even though a horrible mess was inside we were under the roof and able to pitch the tent here in the end (because there was any place for laying). Nevertheless, when I unpacked my backpack, I could see my overnight wouldn't be good because ALL my things for sleeping were draggled!! Water got inside the backpack (even though it was covered by a cover, reportedly to be waterproof!!) and my sleeping bag, the Term-a-Rest mattress, lining into a sleeping bag, a pillow... all was wet. So, my friend helped me and we tried to dry up at least the sleeping bag using towels and toilet paper. I think, our efforts were successful partly and I overnight well. And in the morning - full sun!! It was a good opportunity to dry up all the wet things, and we did it. Lesser problems came when shepherds appeared and told us we should leave this spot because goats are (purportedly, as they believed) dreading going inside a near pen for food. It was an absurdity because goats went around us for the whole morning without any symptoms of fear... Nevertheless, because we were after breakfast and almost all things were dry, we packed backpacks and thinking anything positive about shepherds set off toward civilization. The way is not very apparent here but as soon as we got into a denser growth of pines, marks on trees appeared (white squares of about 10x10cm). Lower the path crosses a nice and almost circular plain called (according to a map) Rovithé. This small plain is indeed nice, with several wild pear trees but also overgrown by thorny plants (both low shrubs and herbs too), so it would be difficult to find here a site for camping. From this plain, the way continues down a ravine but we took a footpath contouring the slope on the left which should lead slightly down to some ruins of "koulés" which are small forts on hills eastward of the village of Agios Ioannis. As well this path is partly marked and the ruins are hardly distinguishable from a common heap of stones. From the tops of the hills, there were excellent views of both the sea, the village lower and the mountains on the opposite side. The weather was excellent and we regretted the single horrible day when we were in the mountains. Our next aim was the tavern of Alonia in the village. It is so nice refuge both for people descending from the mountains and also for those who came here by car to do a small trip (to a cave of Kormokopou, on the summit of Papakefála or a rocky lookout point on the southern slope etc.). The tavern is a part of an object which provides accommodation in bungalows. Toilets above the tavern are furnished by cabins with showers. After refreshment, we left this "holy site" to head for Sellouda, a site above cliffs where there is the beginning of an old kalderimi descending to the shore, and also several cypress trees with excellent camping sites under them. However, it is necessary to mention I had problems with my right knee for days in the mountain and walking was for me difficult still now. I couldn't stretch my leg (after we returned, doctors appeared a cyst behind the knee and had to drain about 20ml of a liquid from it) therefore we decided to stay here (at Sellouda) for two nights to give time for contingent recovery of the leg. In the morning we packed the tent and all things and hid backpacks somewhere among rocks to set out for a light walk to the bridge over the Aradhena gorge to see what the leg can withstand. The leg was quite good, in the kiosk beside the bridge we had a beer, coffee and a local pie, bought cans of beer and potato chips for an evening "party" and returned to Sellouda. Here, we took a sunbath first because it was just an early afternoon, then pitched the tent again, cooked dinner and made a nice evening with beer, chips and the view of the sun sinking into the sea. The next (and the last) part of the way toward civilization was down along the kalderimi. It took about one hour and this trail joins the E4 route running above the coast. Not so far from this point, there is a tavern on the Agios Pavlos beach. As well here we did a short halt and later under dunes in the mouth of the Eligias gorge, we had (finally!!) a bath in the sea. The way to real civilization in the village of Agia Roumeli takes about 30mins from here. We headed for an informal campsite under low pines, and although all our favourite sites were taken we found another one which was also very good. In Agia Roumeli we stayed for several days doing nothing except bathing, having a beer, coffee, frapé and dinners. We made one walk back to the Agios Pavlos beach (carrying only small daysacks), and as well a trip by ferry to Loutro (to a nice "naturist" beach of Timios Stavros about 1.5hrs of walking from the village along a good footpath above the coastline) and by the same way back. The final part of our holiday was, as usual, hiking along the E4 route toward Palaiochora. Years ago we did this trail with only one overnight but recently we spend two nights on the route. The first one used to be in a pine wood above the lower end of the gorge of Kladou, at the western end of the beach of Domata. It is a very nice site with needles on the ground and at a sufficient distance from the sea in the case of big and noisy waves. The weather was always the same - nice, sunny and warm. As the sea was a little bit heavy which meant bigger waves, we were curious if the most problematic place of the part around the cliffs (behind the site of Sendoni) would be possible to overcome because here, the higher waves overflow a lower gap between two rocks. However, we overcame it well (it was sufficient to wait for the smallest wave) and could go on to the gorge of Tripiti and over the ruins of Pilikassos fort as far as Voukelas - a small spring of fresh water. We took just a small bottle and continued down along the E4. The next site for overnight was (also as usual in last years) the small church of Agios Antonios just on the shore. Next to the church, there are places for eating - a long concrete table with two as well concrete bends, and only at a small distance from here, there is a good place for pitching a tent. If one goes away from the church, about one hundred meters there is a small (green) house. It is locked but what is important, behind it there are two black plastic water tanks. I'm afraid, pipes from it led into the locked house but it is possible to screw it off just at its exit from the tank, take water and set it all into the former state. The beginning of the last stage before reaching Sougia is just beside the church. A marked path (red marks) runs over a dark flat rock next to the sea. If there is a "wet" year, among these rocks one can see small streams of fresh (and cold!!) water running into the sea. It is also a reason why the seawater is frigid here. The footpath runs on the shore between single rocks to ascend higher then. Not so far from the mouth of the gorge of Kerathidis this way joins the (black-yellow marked) E4 route. The last part of the way is along the E4 again as far as the end of the dirt road in a saddle under a hill. Going down is easy following marks. In Sougia, we did some shopping at first, then went to the beach to bathe here. A short sitting in the beach tavern followed and in the evening we had dinner in a tavern. We found a site for our tent darklings already on the beach, just beside a group of low junipers which protected us against the wind blowing (as usual) from inland. Only several days of our holiday were waiting for us. The next day, we continued along the E4, first through a small gorge running from the harbour. This gorge is nice, and its very remarkable object is a high, overhanging and multicoloured rock. At the end of this part along the gorge bed, there is a signpost and one can choose whether go on ahead (this way is a round route which returns to Sougia again) or turn to the left and ascend along the old kalderimi with supporting stone walls as far as a flat range between this gorge and the valley of Lissos. Because it was the beginning of October which is the time when cyclamens growing here used to be in full blossom, I looked forward to seeing their flowers but I was a little bit disappointed - only a few flowers were out. In the valley, there are excavations of a former mainly roman settlement, and we could see a quite high progression here - a small theatre was almost completely unearthed. The E4 route goes on upward to rocks and then heads for sparse growth of junipers on red soil on the plain of Koukoule. The route crosses a local dirt road to continue to some animal (goat's) pens in the shape of a track. Later, the track changes into a good footpath and descends lower above shore in a bay with a small beach (Astropelekita). Last year this beach was considerably damaged, probably by waves of winter storms, and we were curious if its state is the same or better. I'm afraid, as well now there was any reasonable access from the path, and because we longed for bathing here (sandy sea bed, not so deep water and the protected bay = warm and calm water), we had to find any access over rocks. After refreshment, we continued as far as a large beach of Ghialiskari. Here bathing, having a meal, beer etc. and for overnight we found, as usual, a site on the eastern end of the beach - behind taller juniper bushes and a rock this site is not in the view from the beach. Evening we had a short party with three ladies from our country which we met here. On the next day (the last one of our presence on the southern coast) we reached Palaiochora to have lunch here and take a bus to Chania. The bus came to Chania later afternoon, so we found in advance booked accommodation (the hotel Alena just outside the main bus station), lodged at it and then set off into the city for shopping and having dinner. In the morning, we had to get up not so early and could see a fine rain come, so we were glad not to overnight on the beach (as we used to do) because packing a wet tent into backpacks is not our cup of tea. That time our flight takes off not so early as usual, so we had enough time to take breakfast and repack our baggage for check-in at the airport's hall. The first flight to Athens was OK and also the next one to Prague (we had to wait for it not so long time) as well. Landing in Prague was roughly in time according to a timetable and we could take a bus of public traffic to get home quite well.



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