By way of giving you relief from Venice – which I’m sure will be subject of many miscellanies – I thought today we could go for a walk in Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains of Crete.
Samaria Gorge is justifiably famous, and Cretan guidebooks like to incite all and sundry to walk it. Nevertheless, the walk adds up to some 16 kilometres and while that doesn’t sound much, it’s not a walk for the faint-hearted, no matter what your guidebook told you. First of all, it’s not so much a walk as a scramble over rocks, criss-crossing the stream; solid walking boots supporting your ankles are what you want and not a pair of sandals, even if it’s thirty-five degrees hot. It also begins with a steep descent and then continues pretty much all downhill – assuming you’re walking towards Agia Roumeli like most people – but if you think this perforce makes it an easy hike, then you probably don’t know much about hiking and perhaps should not begin learning about it in Samaria Gorge. Unless of course you’re happy to be evacuated on the back of a mule with a broken ankle (yes, this does happen). The walk takes about six hours and can be quite hot in summer especially towards the end where there’s not much shade. Guidebooks also tell you that you can take children along over the age of six; but the locals advised us not even to begin to think of taking any children below ten, and I’d go along with that.
The most spectacular part of the gorge is the Gates where it narrows to only a few metres wide. If you’re not really fond of hiking or you’ve got children in tow, you’d better off going to Agia Roumeli by boat and walking up from there – it’s not very far.
On the other hand, if you’re reasonably fit, have good shoes and generally love hiking, go for the whole thing. It’s worth it.