Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Astrakiano - Kounaviano Gorges of Karteros... with your dog

7 friends and 4 dogs - gorge walk at Karteros
I'm sad I don't have more photos from this hike we did last autumn. We had 4 dogs with us that day (Sage, Mayia, Betty and Poppy) and they had such a great time chasing each other through the gorge.

We started out from a point just outside the village of Skalani where the two gorges unite and continue to the coast. From here you have two options: to walk down through the Kounaviano Gorge to Karteros Beach; or to head up through the Astrakiano Gorge to the abandoned village of Kato Astraki, near Myrtia. This was the end of summer, 2012, and it was a bit hot for the slightly uphill, difficult, shadeless path from Skalani to Myrtia that we followed. It would probably have been a better choice to walk down to the sea, and figured out in advance a way to get back to the cars.

Anyway, the path started out easy enough, except for the lack of shade. Along the way you can harvest pomegranates, figs and almonds from the trees growing in the gorge. After 1-2km, the path became more difficult; at several points it was necessary to jump over the stream, and I think we lost the path altogether by the end.

We ended up with a long, hot slog uphill on an asphalt road, to reach Myrtia. From there we recovered with cool beers, while some of our group hitch hiked back to Skalani for the cars to take us home.

These gorges are great for hiking, as long as you plan your route according to the temperature and your energy/ability/time. The total length of the gorge is approximately 21km, and there are numerous points of interest along the way, such as caves, water mills, old churches, as well as interesting wildlife. I'd love to go back and do this hike again during winter.

Here's a link to the description of the gorges from the Cretanbeaches website:

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Dangers of Crete (2) ...with your dog

Information booklet on Leishmaniosis 
Canine Leishmaniosis

Before traveling with your dog, make sure that you have protected them against all potential risks to their health.

In some areas of Europe (particularly the Mediterranean), there is a preventable disease - Leishmaniosis - that is carried by sandflies. An infected sandfly can transmit the disease to dogs through biting.

There are two types of Leishmaniasis, caused by different species of sandfly: the visceral form that affects internal organs; and the cutaneous form that affects the skin and hair.
The most common early symptoms to look for are loss of appetite, intolerance to exercise, weakness and listlessness.

Most tick and flea collars (Scalibor, Advantix, Frontline etc.) and medicines, also repel sandflies. Check on the packaging or with your vet if you know you will be visiting a country where there is a risk of infection.  

Sandflies are active during warmer seasons, so it is not always necessary for your dog to wear a collar, or to administer flea/sandfly protection, during the winter. However, from early spring onwards, make sure that your dog is protected, and replace collars/repeat applications regularly. Although most collars are water resistant, remove them if your dog is going for a swim or having a bath.

A friend of mine uses a chemical free insect repellent spray on her dog, in addition to the collar, when going out during the evening (when sandflies are most prevalent). She recommends Korres (citronella and myrtle) that is available from most pharmacies in Greece.

You can also try to avoid taking your dog outside from early evening until morning, when these insects are most active.

Finally, there is a vaccination against Leishmaniosis, although this has not proven to be 100% effective and needs further research. It is also quite expensive, and must be administered in doses over time. Do ask the opinion of your vet if you have any queries or concerns.

At present, there is no cure for Leishmaniosis, however the disease can be effectively managed with a simple therapy of drugs, and dogs can go on to lead normal lives

Take your dog to the vet if you notice any unusual behaviour or symptoms, and if you have visited an area where there is a possible risk of Leithmaniosis, be sure to give this information to your vet.

Have a look at this informative Facebook page about the disease:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Have a rest stop at Spili...with your dog

Venetian lion head fountain at Spili
In the summer of 2012, wherever we were heading, it seemed we made a stop at the mountain village of Spili. We would drive from Heraklion in convoy and meet up with our group at Spili before heading down to the south coast. We would stop to buy last minute provisions at the grocery shop in Spili so as to not have food and drink in the hot car all the way from central Crete. But mostly, we would stop to enjoy the cooler climate of the mountains, to water our dogs, and to take a break from the hot south coast.

Spili is on the road from Rethymnon to Agia Galini on the south coast, just before the turn off for numerous lovely beaches (Preveli, Ligres, Agios Pavlos and many more). Apart from the fountains, there is a large carpark, a few shops selling local handicrafts, a couple of grocery shops, cafes and tavernas. I've sat at several of these cafes with Sage without any problems from the owners. In particular, we came for breakfast at the Panorama Taverna, which overlooks the lion head fountain. Here we sat on the balcony of the Panorama and, the clue is in the name, enjoyed fantastic views of the village and surrounding landscape. 
View of the square at Spili from the Panorama Taverna
There are rent rooms at Spili, and I'm sure it would be a great base for exploring the small neighbouring villages, and the nearby mountain trails. But I love this village as a break from the arid, rocky coast of the south - after a few days of heat and sand, it's wonderful to see flowing water, plane trees and shade. 

There is a website for this village that provides information on the local wildlife, the handicraft museum and life in the village:
On the balcony of the Panorama Taverna, Spili

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