We explore Crete (1 of 2)

Wet welcome in Crete

Shortly after half past six in the morning we set foot on Cretan soil. Heraklion welcomed us with a dense cloud cover and rain. Crete welcomed us in a manner befitting its status! Instead of exploring the island to the west, we first drove via Agios Nikolaos to Ierapetra and Koutsounari to meet Ariane, Sonja’s cousin, before her departure to Switzerland – two days after our arrival. In Ierapetra, we stopped at a nice café with an attached pastry shop and treated ourselves to a hearty breakfast. We had all the time in the world, because it was Sunday morning, we were already at the café at 8:30 and the drive to Koutsounari takes no more than 15 minutes from there.

We let ourselves be pampered at Alatsi

Around 11:00 we reached the only campsite in Koutsounari and checked in. The place is located directly above the pebble beach Long Beach in Koutsounari and offers wind-protected boxes as pitches. These are often a bit small, but there are enough large boxes with extended area. With Ariane we arrange to have a late lunch at Alatsi, the best restaurant on the site. Alatsi is located directly on the beach and spoils its guests besides the classic Cretan cuisine gladly with fresh fish, seafood, etc. pp. We enjoyed the time with Ariane and the good food and spent fabulous three hours in the restaurant. After all, there was a lot to talk about and besides, the delicious food also wanted to be eaten!

Off to the southwest of Crete

We arranged with Ariane to come back to Koutsounari in about four weeks, at the end of the round trip, to visit her again. Excited, we set off along the coast towards the southwest. Crete is a vegetatively wild island and offers besides a rugged coastline and beautiful bays with crystal clear water as a contrast a mountainous landscape in the interior of the island. Larger flat areas are searched in vain. Our first destination was Lentas, a small community in the south, which offers a beach in the immediate vicinity where camping is tolerated. There we spent four days and nights and got to know some people.

People and their stories

For example Janne, the Swedish man who came to this beach more than 8 years ago with his wife and decided to live and die there. They just stayed there, built a hut on the beach and all in all he stayed there until we came. His wife had crashed her bike and died shortly after they arrived at the beach, while on a visit back home in Sweden. He returned to Crete alone and stayed until this summer. When we met him, he had to leave the island because he was very ill. Also very sympathetic were Evi and Günther, two Germans who have been coming to this very same beach for six weeks at a time for 38 years to spend their vacations. Crete seems to fascinate people as much as southern Africa fascinates us.

The wind forces us to move on

Wind is a problem in Crete. Depending on the region, very strong gusts can occur that can drive you mad. Such a wind was announced and since we could not turn Manni, our Land Cruiser, to put it into the wind because the gradient was too great, we decided without further ado to drive on. The density of campsites is not too high in the south and southwest, but we felt the need to enjoy the amenities of a campsite once again after four days of wild camping.

In Agia Galini we spotted the sign with the promising name No Problem. Sonja was skeptical, but Guido insisted on checking out the place. By the end of the day, it was a slam dunk. The place was beautifully laid out and absolutely clean. In addition, as we found out later, it had one of the best restaurants in the region, the site’s own taverna Kipos.

Fresh fish and a bridal couple

Three restaurant visits and six days later we headed west again. We came to just before Agios Pavlos and found there a small, rather unknown beach called Pebble Beach, which was mainly used by the tenants of the surrounding villas and was very hidden. The access over hill and dale was no problem for us and so we parked Manni directly at the beach on a small hill. And then the events rolled over. We observed two harpoon fishermen who came to the beach with their catch from the sea.

Sonja went and I noticed another woman in the small group. Finally, we bought two lionfish (with the spines removed, of course) on the beach and were invited for a glass of wine by Tanja and Thomas, a German bride and groom on their honeymoon. The first fish was grilled by us a short time later – with olive oil, pepper and salt – and consumed with relish. In the evening we used our outdoor shower, got dressed up, took the last bottle of good wine and visited Tanja and Thomas in their villa.

We toast to life

So what followed was a wonderful evening with people we had only spoken to for two minutes before. It was as if we were best friends and had known each other forever. We laughed a lot, told each other stories from our lives and got to know each other better. In the middle of August we will meet again at Lake Constance. Isn’t that great? Exactly because of such experiences we love life and toasted to it several times that evening.

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