After 9 days of riding without a break a rest day was in order…I’m lucky in that the temperatures have to be to closer to 40 degrees before I’m affected too much but even so the relentless climbing was beginning to take a toll. I would have liked one last high mountain camp but I’m not here alone so can’t have everything my way.. ;-) Instead a highly agreeable solution of one last big mountain day out followed by two nights and a full day of doing almost bugger all on the rather lovely Lasithi Plateau. We lucked into a brand new, fully equipped apartment (washing machine, kitchen, living room, 2 ensuite bedrooms) with a garden, pool and fine mountain views just outside the village of Tzermiado for just 20 euros each per night. Our hosts are wonderful and brought us a sack of oranges for juicing, local yoghurt, fresh bread, biscuits, coffee etc simply in the name of hospitality. If you come this way ask at Taverna Kronio in the centre of Tzermiado, or email email@example.com. Prices will probably be a little higher but as a base for exploring the plateau and hiking in the surrounding mountains you won’t find better.
So, when I last wrote we were in Pirgos… I liked Pirgos, a friendly, laid back village, a favourable impression further reinforced when a local chap paid for our coffee as we were leaving town.
From Pirgos we found a lovely, undulating trail that wound its way around the lower slopes of the mountains …
Rows of colourful beehives are in evidence all over the island…
The local honey is delicious.
Some steep climbing…
Stumbled across a beautiful old stone bridge hidden in the olive groves near the village of Skinias. No idea how old… but it’s cobbled road bed barely wide enough for a cart suggests ‘quite old’…
Topping up caffeine reserves in Skinias..
….before a couple of hours of monumentally steep at times climbing on a little used trail.
It was a fantastic track, very rough, rocky and in places washed away all together. No signs of having been used in a very long time.
The Surly ECR excels at carrying a load up such terrain.
..one or two man-made obstacles to prevent livestock migration.
The reward for the climbing, aside from great views,… a long, fast descent to the valley at Pervola.
Mailboxes in Pervola.
Just 5km on asphalt then to reach the village of Ano Viannos on the southern slopes of the Lasithi Mountains.
Giant old tree in the center of Ano Viannos. As with all the villages hereabouts it was a friendly place with a couple of good cafes to kick back and watch the world go by.
From Ano Viannos.. straight into a stiff climb with quite strong vertical flavour for an hour or so…
… following which a long, hairpinned road climb up to around 1400m. On the map this is a dirt road and the surface looks very new, so probably no more than a year or so old. Disappointing although it did make the climb a bit easier… but very hot.
We did get off it at the first opportunity.. a rough, rocky track that climbed steeply for another hour or so. It was ace. Clear, cool air, fab scenery..
Still going up. This track forms part of the E4 hiking trail which runs all the way from Spain to Greece, including Crete.
Have grown to really like the Jones bar on the ECR.
mmmm.. big mountains, riding across the Limnakaro Plateau which sits at about 1200m.
E4 trail marker above the Lasithi Plateau (background)
At this time of year the mountain meadows are a profusion of wildflowers.. and associated insect and birdlife. Rather lovely.
The fertile Lasithi plateau itself is similarly carpeted.
It is criss-crossed by a network of lanes and paths that make for some relaxed exploration on two wheels… or foot of course ;-) The plateau is also dotted with hundreds of windmills. Traditionally used for lifting water to irrigate the fields most have fallen into disrepair…
..but some are still in use.
Simple cotton cloth sails, they’re lovely to see.
.. and add to the charm of what is a really lovely part of Crete and well worth more than a quick drive through. Even better to arrive by crossing the mountains on two wheels ;-)
Plenty of peaceful villages surround the plateau, situated at the foot of the encircling mountains. At an altitude of about 500m the climate is pretty nice for exploring.
Lasithi: Crete is very much the land of the battered ol Japanese pick-up. I like them.
Right, that will do for now I think. Time for siesta. From here just a couple of days riding back to Heraklion. After all the heat and sun the weather is changing… cool, windy and perhaps rain by Tuesday. Ho hum.