Monday, 12 May 2014

Hike to Nissimos Plateau... with your dog


Information board in Krasi
This was a wonderful, but fairly hard-going hike. I'm not sure we were on an 'official' track some of the way, but hiking in Crete does tend to be a bit like that. We set off, one beautiful sunny morning in late March, from the village of Krasi near Malia.

Drinking fountain at Krasi
(Since we met up in a kafenio, we had to have a quick coffee and cheese pie before setting off, of course, it would have been rude not to. I wrote about that here).

On the road leading out of the village we found a (not particularly informative) information panel, half-heartedly marking some nearby routes, but not providing much detail on how to find them, how long they took etc etc. It didn't matter. After a couple of turns walking through the village, arguing amongst ourselves, we found some locals who were happy to help the crazy foreigners get themselves lost in the mountains.

Start of the hike at Krasi village
Betty and Poppy towards the start of the trail

We started walking up Selena Mountain from Krasi, aiming for the peak, or for a view of snowy mountains behind the Lasithi Plateau, or for the archaeological site at Karfi, or perhaps just for a nice route that would circle the mountain and bring us back down (we all had different agendas, but they worked quite nicely together!)


After about an hour or so walking, the path became a bit steeper and less maintained. It wasn't quite scrambling terrain, but still quite hard work walking over loose stones and scree. Our two dogs (Betty and Poppy) didn't seem to have any problem with it, but they have had a few years of training by now.


On the way up the mountain we had spectacular views down towards the North coast of Crete. This area of East Crete is quite green, especially in early Spring, mainly due to the olive groves. This contrasts beautifully with the brilliant blue of the sea. At some point we felt sure we could see land, out over the sea on the horizon - if so, we figured it must be Santorini!

Just clouds on the horizon - or another island?
Even in March it can get pretty hot hiking in the mountains. This definitely would not be a walk for high summer - there was very little shade. We did find a small shady area to sit, rest and water the dogs, but they were few and far between.

Poppy waiting for water 
From our rest point we were divided on whether to continue upwards, or to count our losses and rush back down for the bbq that was waiting for us down on the coast. The peak seemed tantalisingly close, however, so we pressed on for the top. 


Rest stop with Betty
View from our rest stop

For this last section I feel we did lose the path a bit, and just cut our own path through the rocks. It was fairly steep, and exhausting.


But, when we got to the top, the view was so unexpected and breathtaking, you instantly forgot how tired you were from the climb. 



The landscape changes dramatically from one side of the mountain to the other - instead of a mountainous view down to the coast, you have the fertile Nissimos Plateau with an incredible backdrop of snowy mountains!

Nissimos Plateau
I'd love to go back one day and explore the Plateau. Up on the slopes of the snowy mountains behind, a friend also pointed out a refuge for hikers, which I'd love to go and stay in. It would be great to pass over those mountains and reach the Lasithi Plateau. 

So we just admired the view, watered the dogs (again), and started the walk back down. Sadly, we didn't find the archaeological site of Karfi, although I think we were very close. We also didn't manage to find a circular route - all deciding it was safer (if we wanted to be in time for the bbq that is) to go back the way we'd come.

The hike took us about 3-4 hours, with 2 short stops. As I mentioned at the start, it was quite hard work and there is little shade. But it's a lovely walk for Spring or Autumn - I'd say particularly in Spring when you get to see the mountains looking this glorious. It would be good to find a circular route, so as to see more of the landscape, and an overnight stay somewhere in the mountain villages or at the refuge would mean you could get to see a whole lot more of the mountains around the Nissimos and Lasithi Plateaus. Do bring your dogs, it's definitely manageable for dogs of all sizes, just carry water for them as you won't find any after the fountain at Krasi. 

This was quite a useful site, mentioning the mountain huts, although doesn't give info on how to contact them: http://www.summitpost.org/crete/301846#chapter_21
You can always contact the Mountaineering Club of Heraklion for more information on routes in this area, and staying at the refuge.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Coffee in Georgiadi Park... with your dog

Betty and an 'admirer'
I have blogged before about the great cafe in Georgiadi Park. After a nice afternoon spent there recently, drinking beer and dog-watching, I thought I'd write a quick up-date.

It's one of the best places to go for a cheap drink with a great, relaxed atmosphere, in all of Heraklio. During the summer months this place is full of people from morning coffee time through to pretty late in the evening. Many people bring their young children and babies here, there are big groups of young people, students, middle aged, 'seniors', tourists, locals - a huge mix of people. And they are very dog friendly.


Some people allow their dogs the freedom to run around in the park, others keep them at their sides on the leash, but there are always at least 4 or 5 dogs, usually many more, enjoying life at the Parko Georgiadi.

Mayia checking out the competition
I was at the park on a sunny Saturday in late March. It was almost too full to find a seat. And full of dogs. Our group had Mayia, Betty and Poppy with us, who were joined by various other dogs of all sorts of shapes and sizes....

Poppy greeting some friends
With or without your dog, it's a great place to spend time in Heraklion in the summer.




Friday, 18 April 2014

Breakfast in the village of Krasi... with your dog

Poppy making herself comfortable in the doorway of the Cafe-Taverna Krassopsihia
Since I've been based in Malia these past few weeks for work, I've had a few chances explore the villages on the way up to, and around the Lasithi plateau. It's really one of my favourite parts of the island, especially with the snowy mountains in the background. The closest village to Malia - Krasi - is a nice place to hike from, or just to sit around in the cafes and enjoy the views. We did both of these things recently.  

Krassopsihia
We turned up on a sleepy Sunday morning, with two energetic dogs (off their leads), and took over the front terrace of the Cafe-Taverna Krassopsihia (just down the hill from the spring). Nobody seemed to mind. This was a great place to meet up, in time for a quick coffee before a hike in the mountains.


This cafe served a variety of mezedes, cheese pies, salads, fried courgettes etc. as well as coffee, wine, beer, raki...

Necessary pre-hike Greek coffee and cheese pie stop
There's not much to the village of Krasi, but it's quite a pretty, peaceful place, especially compared to the craziness of the nearby North coast towns. There are several tavernas and cafes, a potable water fountain, and an enormous old plane tree (the oldest in Crete?). This tree is said to be over 2000 years old. 
Ancient plane tree at Krasi

Water fountain
From Krasi you can take several paths up to the mountains behind the village - particularly towards the beautiful Nissimos Plateau (just south of the larger Lasithi Plateau) and the Post-Minoan settlement of Karfi (for more info see Cretanbeaches). Our two dogs loved exploring up on Nissimos Plateau, and Krasi makes a great start and end point, with its shady spots to rest, running water, and friendly cafes and tavernas.
View of Krasi from footpath above the village 


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Malia Coastal Path... with your dog

video


I have already written about these wonderful coastal paths, and the archaeological sites that you will pass along this part of the coast - here. Last time I wrote the post, however, I had not half-adopted a beautiful black and white puppy, who, for now, is called Thyme (Thymari in Greek). I took Thymari with me along this route this week, down to the small cove at the end of the path. I'm not sure, but it seemed like the first time he'd been in the sea. First time or not, he loved it! 
Coastal path looking towards Malia

Thymari
 This is a great area for dog walking (or puppy training), at least until the summer. There are lots of paths to explore, far from passing cars, with lots of plants and trees but good visibility. There are very few people around to get annoyed by an excitable pup, and no rubbish  for dogs to eat.

Thymari on the beach





At the moment I'm trying to just get Thymari used to the leash and walking at my side. I also simply want to give him some exercise and new experiences - as he seems like he could be a smart little dog if he was more confident.

I imagine there will be tourists in the hotel down by the beach from Easter onwards, and the beach is a bit too small to hide away with your dog - so this is an autumn - spring place to enjoy with your dog.








You can access this area from the beach road that runs by the Palace of Malia, or from the direction of Sisi.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Climbing, hiking or picnicking in Patsos Gorge ... with your dog

Climbing in Patsos Gorge
I was invited to Patsos Gorge on a day trip with some friends of mine who were involved with the Cretan speleology group (cave people as we call them). The plan was to gather at the entrance to the gorge, then some of the more energetic people to make their way through the river, while the rest of us would have a leisurely walk along the path a few metres higher up. We would then stop by the little church of Agios Antonios to ceremonially cut the vasilopita (New Year's cake). 

The gorge is extremely beautiful, especially in mid-winter when everything is green and lush and there is a heavy flow of water in the river bed. It is one of the lesser-known Cretan gorges, and except for trips by large groups of cave people, there are relatively few visitors here.
Dogs greet each other on pathway up through the gorge
Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos during my trip here, so I am using Sage's friend Mayia (on her recent trip to this gorge) as a stand-in traveling dog. Sage was still very puppyish when we did this walk, and we hadn't quite learnt each other's boundaries at this point. I don't remember too much about the day, except for a constant anxiety that my dog was out of control. She wasn't, just a bit over-excited to be in a big group of people, away from the city.


Mayia enjoying the view from the top of the gorge
I remember another girl who had a much smaller puppy with her. This little thing had to be carried quite a lot of the way, as she couldn't make it over some of the rocks. I also remember the girl's frozen expression of fear when Sage (all 20kgs of her back then) went bounding towards her puppy in an excited frenzy, and we saw the puppy get bounced over the edge of what I now remember as a ravine. Looking fearfully over the edge we saw that she had only rolled a very short way and was scampering back up towards us. I kept a good hold on Sage after that, and avoided the girl as much as possible.

Sage was also a pain around food (still is actually). So trying to stop her from begging, barking, haring around gathering up whatever crumbs of cake fell to her level... while in a large group of people I didn't know very well, all eating, was not an easy experience. We are much more relaxed around each other these days, but back then it was a bit of a nightmare.
Picnic area by the church
Despite all this, I did get a moment to go and explore the church. It's really beautiful, hidden away in a cave in the gorge, surrounded by trees and running water. The church is dedicated to Agios Antonios, and a few icons are hung around the outside. People also leave votive offerings, as prayers for health or good fortune, or else in thanks. Interestingly, offerings in the form of figurines found in this cave date back to the Bronze Age, and archaeological evidence suggests that this spot has been an area of worship ever since. It's easy to see why - there is a real beauty in this wild and slightly mysterious place.
Church of Agios Antonios in Patsos Gorge
Offerings and icons in the church

For more info on the gorge, have a look at the CretanBeaches website here

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Tai chi on the beach at Cape Sidero...with your dog

Crete's Next Top Dog Model - Mayia
Sometime in February some friends of mine went on a trip to Cape Sidero, at the far eastern end of Crete. This is a beautifully wild, undeveloped peninsular, with several beaches that are popular for windsurfing and fishing. It is easier to have your dog with you on the this wild stretch of coast, as there are no organised beaches. Of course, during winter this is not such an issue.

One or two of these friends are photography enthusiasts, others are tai chi experts, and others are experts at playing on the beach with their dogs. Mayia (Sage's best friend) was on this trip, posing for the cameras, and my friend was kind enough to share her photos with me, so here is a small selection...







For more information, have a look at this description of Cape Sidero by CretanBeaches.com

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A rainy walk around town... with your dog

Dog walking in rainy Heraklion
I don't have much to write for this week's post. It's been a busy week of work, and it's too cold, rainy and windy to want to go out exploring. So, here are a few photos from a short walk I did last weekend with Sage's best friend Mayia.
We met a few friends along the way

Due to the non-stop rain, this was just a quick walk around the streets of Heraklion, in the area of Komeno Mpenteni (one of the gates into the old city), and up towards the neighbourhood of Mastambas. 

We played a little with some of the  beasties we found on the way (some with owners, some were friendly strays of the area), and we messed around taking selfies while waiting outside shops for our friends... 
Mayia browsing the daily papers

Selfie with Mayia







Then we went home to dry off and warm up... and that was pretty much it for the weekend.