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After our wonderful sailing experience my family and I spent some time on the island of Crete. My dad decided it would be a fun idea to walk the Samaria Gorge – the longest gorge in Europe.
The gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli.
Dressed in Icebreaker GT and Superfine, the family was all geared up to tackle the gorge – we had convinced ourselves it was nothing more than a “walk in the park”. Everything we read said you only needed a medium level of fitness, there was a well worn “footpath” to the end, and as it was all downhill it wasn’t very strenuous. I mean, we had all done the Tongariro Crossing, this would be a piece of cake – right?
WRONG! The guide on the bus had warned us – if you are having any knee pain within the first 4km, then turn back…it’s only going to get worse. At the 4km mark, after a very steep descent, I had rolled both of my weak ankles numerous times, and my left knee felt like it was facing the wrong way. I then started favouring my right knee, which started feeling the strain very quickly!
The terrain was definitely not what I would describe as a well worn footpath – more of an uneven rocky stony trail – often there wasn’t a trail to follow and you made it up yourself.
The hardest part was trying to beat the heat. We started the gorge at 8am but were advised to try and finish before pm as the last 3km were exposed. With temperatures in the high 30′s, walking in the blazing sun was to be avoided – so keeping a fast pace became essential.
We had a quick stop at the half way point, the ancient village of Samaria where we lunched with the Kri-Kri’s – Cretan goats that are only found in that area.
We made it through the most famous part of the gorge, the Iron Gates, where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of 500m.
We reached the 14km mark at a painful shuffle. Mum and I were experiencing bad knee pain from the constant downhill over rocks, and my feet were more than ready to get out of my trail shoes! The shoes and Icebreaker socks came off, and the jandals went on…and suddenly I thought I was hallucinating. Up ahead was a small shack with a sign “Bus to Port – 1 EURO”. Not surprisingly I was the first person on that bus for the last 1km ride to Roumeli!
We shuffled into a taverna, put our feet up, and enjoyed ice cold beers for the rest of the afternoon before a ferry took us back to Hóra Sfakíon.
Wearing Icebreaker was a saviour – the heat was intense, but our tee’s kept us cool and dry. I have no doubt that wearing Icebreaker socks saved our feet from blisters!
Luckily the knee pain only lasted a day, our calves and feet were back to normal a couple of days after that…but the photos will last forever!
- Leah Evans, Global Communications Executive