We searched around us, looking for the telltale red dot or arrow on a rock, which signified that we were still following the path. With each steep climb and descent the four of us would look at one another, no one wanting to be the one to suggest turning back. I mean, Laura’s dad, a retired guy in his 60s, had finished the climb. We couldn’t back out – right?
Pete and Laura, a British couple we had met in the pool of our condo complex a few days earlier, had invited us along for an early morning climb through the gorge. They had attempted to hike this path a few years prior on another visit to Crete, and after being taunted by Laura’s dad that they hadn’t finished the trek on their previous attempt (when he had done it easily), were determined to finish this time. After 2 hours of hiking through sage bushes and climbing over rocks, the sun and heat started to really get to us. The village of Pefki, which supposedly lay at the top of the gorge, seemed no closer than it had at the start of our hike. Fatigued, sweaty, and hungry, the four of us decided to turn back. How had Laura’s dad made it the whole way anyhow?
I know now that her father did not in fact finish this climb – we were in the wrong gorge. I discovered this after the fact while googling the Pefki Gorge to see how far we’d made it along the route. Only when I saw photos of a lush landscape of pine trees and a river did I realize that we were in the wrong place. The Pefki Gorge, with the quaint village of Pefki at the top, was actually several miles in the opposite direction from the hike that we embarked on. The four of us were in the Perivolakia Gorge, a much drier, more difficult trek that looked nothing like the images of the Pefki Gorge. Funny that there could be two gorge hikes so close to the tiny town where we are staying, but nevertheless, it’s true.
Unlike the Pefki Gorge, the Perivolakia Gorge is rather dry. The base of the gorge is full of dry brush plants and a few flowers, all of which smell amazing. We caught whiffs of mint and sage as well as several different floral pollens, all of which explain why the honey around here is so complex and delicious. Several mountain goats appear to live in the gorge, munching on the plant life high up on the gorge cliffs. Above you can see two goats on a tiny little ledge having a snack. The four of us nervously watched them for a good 15 minutes wondering if they were going to take a fall. The ground beneath one of them slipped a bit, sending rocks falling down into the gorge below, but I can say with certainty that mountain goats are every bit as sure footed as their reputation claims.
About halfway into our journey, Pete and John climbed up to one of the caves to take a break. There were several places like this dug out of the rock walls. It reminded me a bit of Petra (though clearly not nearly as impressive.)
Some of our hike included a very clear trail, but many spots had us climbing up and over boulders. In one spot, a kind soul had propped up a ladder to get us over a wall of rocks. As we climbed higher and higher, we began fantasizing that there was a huge slide at the top that we could ride back down. No such luck.Satisfied with the morning’s physical activity, the four of us returned back to our condo complex for a jump in the pool to cool off, followed by a long leisurely breakfast out on our balcony. Unfortunately, it was Laura and Pete’s last day in Crete, otherwise we surely would have spent more time hanging out with these two – they were a lot of fun. Perhaps John and I will try doing the Pefki Gorge on our own before we leave Crete. Now that I know what to look for, maybe we’ll actually start in the right place.