Sunday, 8 September 2013

Have a spa day at Xerokampos... with your dog

At the clay beach, Xerokampos
As it was a windy weekend, we decided to try Xerokampos for a couple of days relaxation on the beach with our dogs (Sage and Mayia). My reasoning was that there are a number of small protected coves, as well as longer more open beaches, and we would surely find somewhere to shelter from the wind. This didn't turn out to be true. We had a lovely weekend anyway.

Arriving at Xerokampos about midday, we saw that a couple of the more central beaches, the ones with umbrellas and sun loungers, were a bit busy.

On the road heading out of Xerokampos (to the east), we found a large, empty beach where we could let the dogs run around without causing any damage or annoyance. The only problem with this beach was lack of shade, and with the high winds it was pretty near impossible to keep our small tent-shelter vertical. I think we were at Alatsolimni, or Salt Lake, which fills in the winter and is home to a variety of migratory birds, including flamingos! As usual, Cretan Beaches give great descriptions of all the beaches in this area:
Alternatively, you can just turn up and wander from one to the other, and find somewhere you like the look of.
At Akrogiali Taverna during the evening

After a long afternoon trying to keep in the shade of the collapsed tent, and cooling off in a beautifully clean and refreshing sea, at about 6 in the evening I finally felt able to venture out and explore. Some friends of mine were holidaying in the area, so I went to join them in the Akrogiali Taverna, or Sea Shore, behind Ambelos beach.

This taverna was fine about our dogs. Sage  passed out in the middle of the taverna so the poor waiters had to step over them with plates of food and trays of drinks, yet nobody complained at all. The menu was fairly standard Cretan cuisine, with reasonable prices. We preferred this taverna to the other one close by, as there was more room to sit outside, but in the shade. Here is a link to a tourist information website that describes this taverna:

Sage at one of the coves at Ambelos Beach,
Camp on Ambelos Beach, Xerokampos

We did sit for a short while on the more central beach by the taverna, but by 7 in the evening, everyone had packed up and left, so we had the beach to ourselves.

Later in the evening, we found a quiet spot beneath the tamarisk trees, at the end of this beach, and tried to sleep through the howling winds. My friends told me they managed to sleep. Myself, I saw the moon rise. I saw the moon move across the sky and descend. I saw the sun rise. I gave up trying to sleep.

Mayia enjoying the sunrise over Ambelos Beach
At least I was up and awake early enough to fit lots of things into the day. First, we had a wander up to the Hellenistic site of Xerokampos, just at the west end (and above) of the main beach. This site is not fenced off, and you are free to walk around the ruins. However, there is no information at all, and I have not found much while searching online.

This settlement seems to have been ancient Ambelos, referred to in ancient texts. It was protected from attack by being on raised ground, as well as by a fortification wall. Now little remains of the settlement, although parts of the wall, foundations of numerous houses, and the odd mill stone and drainage channel can be spotted.

Hellenistic Site at Xerokampos
One of the best things about this archaeological site are the views down over the fantastic clay beach, the almost turquoise seas, and sandy bays.

As with a large part of this area of Lasithi, the scenery here is very arid and rocky, and has quite a stark beauty when you are driving inland. These magnificent bays, each with its own feature and character, contrast perfectly with the dry landscape of East Crete.

View of Clay Beach from the Hellenistic Site
Having explored the archaeological site, we set off for the spa. The beach of Argilos, Clay, has a dramatic backdrop of soft white clay that you can moisten and run onto your skin. I didn't get to the bottom of exactly why this clay is good for the skin, except for the drying/cleansing action.. but we slathered it all over ourselves just the same. You then wait in the sun as the clay tightens on your skin, and lightens to an off-white colour.

Of course you spend the time trying to take photos without ruining your camera with wet clay...

And then you rinse yourself off in the sea at the next small bay.

We left our dogs behind with some friends while we went to try out the clay treatment. They seemed tired, and happy to sit quietly in the shade on Ambelos Beach. I did create a mini Mayia out of clay, but not sure she survived the journey home...
Clay Mayia

After a few more swims at the main beach, a bit more lazing in the shade of the trees, a few photos of the rare white lilies that grow in the sand dunes at Xerokampos.. we headed back to the Akrogiali Taverna for lunch before slowly making our way towards Monday and work...
At Akrogiali Taverna for lunch

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