24 October 2008

Samaria Gorge

While staying in Chania, Crete, we walked through Samaria Gorge. We woke up around 5:00am and caught a bus to the head of the gorge, up in the mountain of central western Crete. We arrived around 730am and it was a beautiful clear cool morning. The gorge is supposedly the longest in Europe and gets to be up to 100 metres deep and only about 5 metres wide at its narrowest, near the southern sea. The walk started very high in the mountains and we spent the first couple of hours falling down jumbled rocky steps and using muscles that we didn’t really have. The walk is 16kms and leads to the Agios rumelos which is a small village on the Ocean. We bolted past all the oldies with there alpine climbing sticks and the stumbling idiots in thongs and high heals. There were old people who were scared of the loose rocks and the steps and that was about 500 metres into the 16km walk.

Slowly we made our way to the front of the pack and set a cracking pace, not that it was a race but we didn’t want to be stuck behind numpties and we also wanted a chance to see some Kri Kri, which are Crete’s native wild endangered goats. They are small shy animals and we managed to see quite a few in the end because we were the first to walk the gorge for the day before they got scared off by the bellowing teenagers and Americans. Eventually we made the mistake of stopping for some water and a photo and some mad frenchies overtook us. The scenery throughout the gorge was amazing because everything was so green and cool. Greece is very dry and brown, much like Australia and all the colours are very muted. In the gorge however there were bright greens against brilliant blue skys, crystal clear streams, again rare in greece to see any streams, and beautiful mountain vistas. The whole walk was in the shade too which is great in Greece when you are walking 16kms. At the end of the day my feet were a bit sore and corinnes ’Hams (thighs) were a bit tired too. We suddenly emerged from the gorge onto a view of the southern Aegean, blue and sparkling and it was about 35 degrees out of the shade. We went swimming and tried to get around the beach of sizzling black stones. Some Frenchies arrived at the beach and as we had seen previously did the full body nudey strip and changed into there togs, confident but unusual. We had lunch at a Taverna owned by an arrogant fat man that was so annoying to watch i just wanted to push his face into the burning hot pebbles of the beach. He was rude to the tourists, soppy to the greeks, very rude to all his wait staff and swanned around like he was some sort of local hero. I was served a pitta Gyro (kebab) the size of Tasmania and we had cold beers but unfortunately never got our water or a table cloth like the locals did. At the end of the day you have to catch a ferry to another town East along the coast and then you catch a bus from that town back to Chania. As usual the bus proved to be a crazy affair. Hundreds of people who caught either public buses or tours all lined up and then we were herded onto the right buses. All the tours went first, there was an especially interesting polish tour that i and all my male friends would have liked to be on but i had to catch a public bus. Our buses came last and then we were made to go on certain buses. some people were thrown off buses and put on others for no particularly reason and they also reveled in trying to separate couples on different buses. Some Asian people on our bus were screamed at in greek and thrown off, they were eating. No one had said no food and there were no signs but damn the Greks got angry about it.

On our way home on the Bus we had another Greek bus adventure. Our crazy, stupid idiot bus driver encountered a motorcycle drive going the wrong way along a road. He threw the bus into reverse, thus going the wrong way too and screamed at the moto man and then made a citizens arrest and we all waited while the crazy greek man, who was probably more criminal than the biker, talked to the police about what the biker had done. Meanwhile on the bus there was mutiny building, a lot of people wanted to get home after the big walk and some people had to get to the airport etc. The Asian man who had nearly been thrown off was going to hijack the bus and drive us home. When the police did arrive a big German tourist went out and abused the bus driver massively and then screamed at the police too to let us go home. They of course did not really understand so a big angry greek man went and abused the bus driver too. The police looked puzzled and let us go but then the bus driver refused to drive his mutinous crew and also to take the abusive greek passenger. In the end they had a few more screams and we got on our way, about 45minutes later. The angry greek man had another scream at the bus driver on the way home and made him drop him off at his house rather than at the bus stop!

Eventually we got home after a great day in the Cretan mountains and Ocean.


Early morning at the top of the Gorge and the start of the 10 thousand bejillion steps. our legs were unusually sore for a good week from all the down steps.


A view of the barren mountains through the pines and cypresses.


A local establishment for the evacuation of wastes


Just another view of a tree growing out of a rock


Corinne looking especially gorgeous


Rehydrating myself and keeping that well tuned fitness machine purring.


A beautiful and unknown flower that we saw all over the place. It comes from a bulb and looks out of place amongst the dryness


A Kri Kri in the ruins of the olive groves of Samaria, now uninhabited when the place became a national park.


A sign that does not impart confidence, for how far to you have to walk quickly?


The gorge at its thinnest point near the southern ocean


Corinne on one of the concrete knobs at agios rumelos. the actual beach was further in the background.

14 October 2008

Chania, Crete.

After Nafplio we caught a bus back to Athens and flew to crete. Crete is at the far south end of the Aegean and is one of the most southern areas of Greece. We arrived in Chania and shared a taxi with a friendly Georgian seismologist on an 11 day seismology conference in Crete - borin.

We spent 5 nights in Chania. We had a self catering studio which was alright but a bit basic. we were able to buy food and have what we wanted each morning which was nice and we had a few meals at home too.

Chania has a beautiful harbour with an old restored light house. Unfortunately Chania is very touristy to the point where you walk past 15-20 restaurants and every single restaurant harasses you to come into the best place in the whole world even the ones that say no harassing still harrass. To top it off they are all very similar and mediocre. The back streets are the place to go away from the beautiful harbour view. In fact we found the quality of the eatery to be inversely proportional to the amount of harassing and the look of the place. If it looks quiet and dodgy then it is probably a lot better then the done up ritzy restaurants that are full of tourists.

The highlight of Chania was visiting Samaria gorge in the centre of western crete nearby. It is the largest gorge in Europe and is around 16km long. We had a great time and it will be covered in a future blog, all of its own.

We spent a fair bit of time swimming and walking in crete. We found ourselves a very secluded little beach spot and spread out our towels and went into the crystal clear water. The spot we found was between to ridges of rock and the area of pebbles was just large enough for about 4 towels. Beside us was hundreds of metres of gorgeous beach. Before we knew it a very strange well cooked french man decided our tiny bit of beach was the place to be. so he came and sat next to corinne about a 50cm away, got his gear off to change and then proceeded to smoke like a Sydney National park during a summer bush fire. He also happily gave corinne a peice of broken glass and commented what a nice spot we had - Loser with a capital get your own spot FREAK.

I was able to get myself some snorkeling equipment here and spent a lot of time swimming amongst the rocks watching the parrot fish and oher cool creatures. The water is so warm and clear that you can often see 20-30 metres underwater and here are lots of fish that follow you around.

One day while we were sunbaking corinne noticed a pair of girls up the beach that were topless. I, of course, was not interested but corinne kept piping up and mentioning what they were doing. While i was snorkeling they both went into the water and started taking glamour shots of themselves whilst topless. there was lots of pouting and bizarre poses etc and after a while they began to look quite strange, being semi naked and all. While we watched them from the beach we noticed a lot of old greek guys walking by and then walking back and by again etc. The old greek men love a good stare. Finally an old greek man maybe 60-70 walked by and stopped to talk to the girls who were posing for eachother. He chatted away and the girls looked a bit uncomfortable and then he was given their camera and started photographing them together. The cheaky old bugger convinced them that this was a good ide and we had an even funnier spectacle to watch. He loved it too, we could tell and then i am sure he invited them back to his place, from the looks of all his gestures. Good on the ole fella for taking some initiative!


The old light house in the harbour


An unfinished mosque from the turkish occupation


The lighthouse at dusk


Captain Rodger exploring the Cretan shallows


The Harbour from the light house, notice the tall mountains in the distance, crete is very mountainous.


A winding street of decrepid houses, many have not been repaired since earth quakes in the 1950’s


The knife shop on knife street. This street has been the knife area for about 400 years. I bought myself a heavy bladed knife with a goat horn handle and a wooden scabbard, very pretty and good to keep Corinne under control when she is naughty.


On of the many local scittish cats that relished our left overs, a very cheap bottle of local wine in the back ground


Some hot fella in the back street, may even be Nafplio, it all looks the same after a while!

12 October 2008


One week after leaving Greece and i am in Scotland, home of Mel Gibson (William Wallace) and all the wee laddy’s and Lassy’s you can imagine. Indead there are many Wee things up here, almost anything you can think of all wee and wee-er. They have also exchanged ’Yes’ for Aye (I) and a few other words have simply disapeared into the back of their mouthes. I have mostly been able to understand my whiskey drinking friends except for a few and as in most places it seems the wee folk from lower socio economic areas - those drinking the tesco branded blended whiskies rather than the 16 yr old Islay Malts speak the worst.

I had a wee lad in a few days ago. I understood about 20% of what he said but i still managed to help/fix his entirely healthy dog maybe. This weeknd i have taken my kangoo van and headed for the hills. I explored north of Gourock, across th clyde and visited a number of Lochs and Hills and Valleys, all very green, windswept and beautiful. Scotland is a fantastic place in Britain because there is no-one around. No ugly Terrace house villages, hoodies and motorways where i am. There are miles and miles of great rds through deep valleys covered in heather and bracken sourrounding deep cold lochs that are surrounded by rugged treeless mountains. There are alos a lot of Spruce and confider plantations that make the area look very European alpine. I even drove past the Nuclear submarine pens at HMNB Clyde on my way home today.

In my first week here i stayed at the Spinnaker hotel in Gourock and this week i have moved down the road tot the bosses house in Greenock. I tis a pleasant early 1900 Granite 3 story mansion and i am on the 3rd floor. The owners have gone to Italy so i have a good many rooms and stairs to myself.

Today I caught the Car ferry from Gourock to Dunoon and then drove all around the area visitng places like inverary, loch fyne, loch lomond, inveruglas, etc. It was fantastic and has really inspired me to come on holidays here properly and bring the wifey along too. Yesterday i traveled to Falkirk and Stirling and saw a bit of loch lomond. Falkirk was shite but Stirling was very cute and really old/authentic looking with cobbled bumpy streets, castles, old pubs, churches and monuments. Falkirk was the site of William wallace’s final (Mel Gibson) defeat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk) , while Stirling was where he defeated the English army, in reality not just in the movie.

I saw lots of nice scottish sheep and cattle whilst driving, the cattle are mainly scottish highland cattle, with long horns and a long hairy coat. Their coat is very shaggy and hangs ovet their eyes which gives them a really cheeky appearance.

I would very highly recommend Scotland to anyone nearby. It is beautiful and the people are friendly. The only disadvantage is the weather which tends more towards worse than bad much of the year.

scot pic

The route of my Travels on Sunday. Ferry from ’gourock to dunnon then north through the Argyle forest, around loch fyne, toInverary and then over through the mountains to Loch Lomond, all very beautiful.


Something i forgot to mention. The QEII was here on Sunday night for her final voyage to Dubai to become a floating hotel. The big Bitch was built here a long time ago in gourock so there were a lot of sentimental old blokes hanging around getting pissed thinking about the good ole days when they were ship builders. I actually watched the wee lassy go past the Spinnaker hotel whilst sitting with 2 old men who i thought were speaking another language but were actually just scottish blokes speaking fast.


Stirling Castle, more of a big fortified house than a castle really.


Old dead people


These guys just have personality seeping from every orange hair on the fluffy tasty bodies.


The hand of God blesses Loch Lomond


The ferry to Dunnon via Caledonian MacBrayne ferries - a very scottish company to a very inbred place - thats what i have heard anyway.


A famous restaurant on a loch which i think is actually part of the sea, but anyway.


Inverary Castle in Inverary, a Gorgeous town on the Water with a beautiful fairytail castle overlooking the loch.


The Autumn trees in the Castle grounds


A large Property on Loch Awe


The ruin of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, apparently one of the most photographed ruins in Scotland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilchurn_Castle


One of the many views of Loch Lomond



4 October 2008

More Nafplio

Here are some more pictures taken around Nafplio. On one of our days we climbed the 10 trillion stairs up to the Palamidi fortress above the town. It is a tough climb and everyone was panting and sweating. The Fortress is huge and covers most of the top of the hill. It sits about 200 metres above the town and has far reaching views of the area and was builty by the venetians in the early 1700’s.


Fisherman from the Fortress


Lone swimmer in the clear green sea, from the fortress 300 metres at least above sea level.


Corinne standing in front of the nafplio peninsula. The acronafplia fortress, an older run down one can be seen to the left of corinne.


The bourtzi castle, the third fortress of Nafplio lies in Nafplio bay. We watched the sun set over this each afternoon from the comfort of our couch in one of the harbour cafes. The castle was builty by those industrious venetians in 1473.


A lone cedar against the Aegean


We swam at the town beach in the middle of this bay where you can see more white in the water. It was only 5 mintues walk from our house over the hill.


The Palamidi Fortress from town.


The Palamidi at night from the town square - made of very very smooth marble, disastrous in smooth soled shoes in the rain.


The tiling in our new hotel room - very pretty.

1 October 2008


Ahhhh Nafplio. Or if you prefer nauplion and nauplio. Nafplio is 2 hrs from Athens in the Peloponnese. This is a large important part of southern mainland greece. It was home to the mycenaean civilisation which was a golden period for ancient Greece. Aggamemnon ruled mycenae and was the leader of the Greeks in the war against troy. Nafplio is mainly a greek holiday spot on the coast and very near to another mycenaen ruin - Tiryns - the huge city wall said to be built by cyclops.

The Peloponnese is famous for uniting with others against the tyrrany of Athens. Sparta led the war against the Athenian empire and tiffed for about 25 years. It really led to the reaming of many parts of Greece.

On a less military note Nafplio was brilliant. We had sun, sea, restaurants, fantastic sunsets, Hot chicks, and a beautiful new hotel/pensione with a very personal breakfast service and aegean views. We spent our days swimming in the clear warm Aegean, we climbed the 1000 steps to the palamidi fortress, we dined, we drank and we watched the sunsets over the fortress in the bay. It was all very relaxing and pleasant and wa s agreat change from Athens. We even found that because we were not greek the local African ’sellers’ did not understand us so they did not bother us with there shit products.

I can’t emphasize how uplifitng our room was. we arrived by bus and then found we had to climb a very big slope via slippery marble steps to the top of nafplio. We opened our door to a brand new Mediterranean style room with coloured patterned floor tiles, stone walls, new curtains, a verandah looking over the aegean and a wonderful bathroom/toilet. When we woke up in the morning for our continental breakfast we sat on a sunny terrace overlooking nafplio and were served an individual meal of greek yoghurt, honey, orange juice, toast , jam etc and even a little toasted sandwhich. The hotel acronafplia in nafplio whic is named after the 3rd fortress which was directly behind us was probably the finest place we had in Greece. When compared to the others for price, service and facilities it easily excelled.


The acronafplia




Another crappy greek sunset


One of the local fishing boats


A view of the palamidi fortress over the beach we swam at.


Me in a rock hole that is under the water - you know.


The view we enjoyed whilst sipping on a cold cold amstel each afternoon.


A little cat that frequented our beveragerie