Day 6: Paleochora – Agia Roumeli

Total distance: 27.61 km
Average speed: 5.19 km/h
Total time: 07:10:05
Download file: Kayak-Paleochora-AgiaRoumeli-Short080718.gpx


Today has a sudden start.
My alarm is set so I have time to catch the bus to Paleochora, but as it happens, it’s Sunday and I don’t realize that the alarm is only set for weekdays. So at 8am Fiona wakes me up in a rush, the bus is in 20 minutes! Luckily all my stuff is ready, and I will have breakfast while waiting for the bus connection in Tavronitis.

During the bus ride I have time to wake up properly. I get to Paleochora with my many sacks and walk from the bus stop to the beach. I am already sweating, it’s almost 11am, there is no wind. I load two extra bags on the boat, the sleeping bag in the front hatch and the tent and mat in the back open sink. And off I go, on a 2-day paddle that should take me all the way to Chora Sfakion.

It’s a smooth start, the air is still and the day so hot that I need to jump in the water as I start paddling to cool down. I have a long way to go today, about 27km according to the plan.

I pass Anydri beach, where the same name gorge runs down to the sea. The waves are getting bigger, and I am starting to realize that maybe the forecast which had 1.5m waves was right after all. By the time I reach the cape, I am rocked by waves that are definitely taller than me on the boat, and by a good measure. So I get a little worried. I look ahead, breathe, and calm myself down, I am here to enjoy it, it will be fine.

Around the first cape it’s somewhat sheltered and the waves are smaller. I have time to take a look at a cave and at the scenery around. Before long I turn around another cape that takes me into Lissos bay, and the sea gets suddenly really flat. I can now paddle very close to the rocks, and then I jump in for a swim. The water is cool. There are quite a few boats around Lissos, the first ones I have met in almost two hours of paddling. I check the time and I realize that I have been pretty slow, because of the waves and some head wind I met before the Paleochora bay East cape. I decide to press on and get to Sougia for lunch.

Sougia is a nice, small village on the South coast, on the E4 and South-West ferry routes, known also for being free-camping friendly. The beach is sheltered from the big waves today, and the coarse, dark sand is really hot. I land the kayak on the West side and go straight for some shade under the tamarisk trees with my fish sandwiches and fruit. I take a good hour break, enjoying the gentle, warm breeze.

By the time I restart, it’s well past 3pm. I feel a bit energized by lunch, but soon I face big waves again. I see a church on a beach, Agios Antonios. As I go past it, I am rocked by waves that I estimate certainly higher than 1m, and will later get up to 1.5m. I spot some people on the rugged coastline, near a raised cave. Are they waiting for something? A boat taxi appears behind me and picks them up.

I see little caves along the coast. Then a Greek flag on a rock. I am feeling a little sea-sick, am I hallucinating? I soon understand it marks the exit to Tripiti gorge. It looks impressive, but I’m in no shape to take a closer look. I march on. Sedoni beach looks very nice, it has some people on it with a rental boat, and it’s facing the right side, away from the waves. Another long beach ahead, Domata. Looks also good, I am firmly aiming for the cape now, which looks within reach. It’s a profile of a crocodile, as Bob Tait had pointed out to me.

Bob has lived in Paleochora for a long time and has explored a lot of the area, both the sea by kayak and the land on foot. He had warned me that around this area the sea could get choppy. I certainly wasn’t expecting waves twice my height when I set off in the morning though! To add to the atmosphere, the sea suddenly changes colour around cape crocodile, going from dark blue to murky turquoise. It’s disorienting. Waves are at their highest point, and come from every direction. They come from North-West and bounce all over the place. It’s almost fun. I’m tired, and relieved to see more boats.

As I turn around the cape, I am confused because I thought I would be able to see Agia Roumeli, but I see what looks like a single building in the distance. I check the GPS, and realize that I was wrong, Agia Roumeli will not be visible for a while, and later I understand that the building I can see is Agios Pavlos.

I see some little beaches facing East, almost completely in the late afternoon shade. The sea is easier now. Families with small boats populate these beaches. Some have caves. They look interesting. It’s comforting to see humans. Agia Roumeli comes into sight at last. I watch the last ferry of the day load a horde of day-hikers from Samaria gorge and leave for another town connected to the road network. When I am close enough, I jump in and swim to shore. After about 6 hours of paddling, the last 3 basically without break, it’s a good change. If I didn’t have a preference for avoiding drama, I would probably kiss the land. Fatigue makes it very hard to pull the kayak up the shore. It’s still very hot in Agia Roumeli, not the slightest breeze will be felt throughout the evening and the night. Still, I take an instant liking to this place. All the world’s worries feel very distant after the departure of the last ferry. I get a room for the night from the first place I see, keen to get some food. After a brief walk around the village, I close the day with an excellent dinner at the Kalypso taverna. I think I must come back here some time, without any mission, just to look around and visit some bits of beaches and gorges I have only taken a glimpse of today.

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