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In Addition To Beaches…….

Posted by Kritsa Yvonne, 24 August 2008 · 2,462 views

As it is August, it is not surprising that most days have been on various beaches and one of the best was when Alan put his new 4x4 car to the test by driving up and over the Thripti Mountains to a long and mainly deserted beach on the south coast, east of Makrigialos.

We look onto these mountains from the balcony of our house so it added to the enjoyment of the drive; it is amazing just how many roads, houses ands smallholdings are up there.

The steep drive up to the remote village of Thripti is now tarmaced all the way and so is accessible to most cars – as long as the passengers have confidence in the driver and the driver does not suffer from vertigo! Beyond Thripti, the road is not so good and a 4x4 is advisable.

The local cultural association puts on many events throughout the summer, and so far we have attended a display of traditional song and dance by the lake at Agios Nikolaos, a celebration of local cuisine courtesy of the Kritsa housewives and a cheese pie festival (also in Kritsa). There have been other events in various villages and whilst some of them sounded very tempting, but the thought of driving back up steep winding roads when most participants would not have given a second thought to the dangers of drink driving was not an attractive prospect!

One Sunday morning we left the house at 5.30 a.m. just as dawn was hinting that it was not too far away, to have a walk before the day got too hot. By the time the sun rose over the Thripti Mountains we were on a hillside above and behind Kritsa and by a coincidence of height, wispy clouds and timing I got a “red” foot from a single sunray that quickly moved up until I was in a rosy patch of sunlight that lasted literally a minute. Alan just had time to take a quick photo and then the extraordinary moment had passed. Further on, as the sun rose higher, we looked out across a silver sea beyond Agios Nikolaos towards the Thripties. Arriving back at the house hot and sticky four hours later we agreed it had been worth setting off early.

I had a fun night out “with the girls” to see Mama Mia in a local outdoor cinema. The film beautifully set on a Greek Island was good; enhanced by many of the audience enjoying seeing themselves parodied on screen and they “got” the jokes after a short delay as they read the Greek subtitles. Of course, pre film cocktails probably heightened our enjoyment!

During this time we also met forum friends Andy and Chris in Sissi to learn of their adventures and renewed our acquaintance with Old Viking and Mrs Viking in Kritsa to catch up with their news.

Two weeks into August we felt the need for a cooler day so we took the road up to the Kathero Plateau knowing the temperature would be several degrees lower there.

For the past few years I have unsuccessfully been looking out for the old donkey trail that traditionally took the Kritsa men up to the plateau every spring where they would remain until the last of the autumn tasks were complete. In the spring we noticed several notice boards had been erected but they are still without any information. By one such board we noticed there had been some recent stone works so we pulled of the road to investigate and there was the well preserved donkey path stretching away both up and down hill. We now realise that each of these notice boards are where the ancient path intersects with the road and we have added walking the path to our “to do” list for next time we visit in a cooler season.

Beyond Kathero, we took the rough track down onto the Lassithi Plateau and then spent the rest of the day driving on tracks we have not been able to use before. We had our picnic lunch high above the plateau on a track that leads to Mount Karfi where someone has built a shrine (roughly the size of a small garden shed) to his parents. The building was simply built and inside was sparsely decorated but the real treasure was the visitor’s book. Just seeing how many people visit the shrine and added comments in many different languages was great. Some people were “just passing” but others were serious walkers en route for the summit. Whilst we do not aspire to reach the very top this is another walk on the “to do” list.

The Lassithi Plateau is one of the few places where Europe’s rarest vulture the Bearded Vulture otherwise known as Lammergeier can be found and they are so near to extinction that it is believed there are only 4 to 8 pairs left. Whilst I accept it may have been wishful thinking we are sure we saw one pair; Griffon Vultures are usually seen in groups of 4 to 12 birds but this pair of vultures were alone.

There is a Natural History centre on Lassithi in the Vidianis Monastery and in light of many failed attempts to visit it we were pleased that we actually found it open on this trip. This centre is well worth a visit and only charges 1€ each; their description of how the Bearded Vultures fly gave me added cause to think we had seen a pair but we will never know for sure as they did not stay around long enough for me to get the camera out.

We were having such a great time we abandoned the idea of descending on the road towards Malia for a swim at the end of the day and drove on to the base of the Havga Gorge that apparently funnels torrents of water into the large reservoir. This will also need a return visit as there was not a drop of water to be seen and the water level in the reservoir was seriously depleted.

We returned to Kathero via the same track we had used in the morning but the sun was in a totally different direction illuminating the mountainsides with great effect. Leaving Kathero the car thermometer showed the outside temperature as 19C but after descending to Kritsa at 7.00 p.m. the temperature had risen to 26C.

As we sat on the balcony with a cold beer, watching the effects of the sunset on the Thripti Mountains we agreed it was a great end to our “cool” day out.