Female & Solo Hiking on Crete: Days 9-12 Agia Roumeli - Chora Sfakion - Rodakino - Plakias
Hiking along the gorgeous southern coast of Crete
After a very nice rest day in Agia Roumeli, I was ready to move on along the E4 trail. The forecast didn’t sound good - I was getting ready for a rainy hiking. The hotel’s owner said it would be raining only in the mountains – and he was right!
At first, the trail took me to Agios Pavlos along the coast. This Byzantine chapel was a stunning shape against the raw view. Throughout my Cretan hiking, I loved seeing the tiny chapels, dotting the landscape in most surprising places.
As usual, there was some rock walking but nothing really hard. It was a truly lovely trekking by the sea with beautiful views all around. I couldn't believe the color of the sea! The multicolored rocks and sand created a beautiful setting.
There was some surprising forest walking - a rarity around here. The forest, of course, was the typical coastal one - made of dwarfed and twisted pines.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go all the way to Chora Sfakion or if I should stop at Loutro. On the map Loutro seemed big enough place to find a place to stop although there was nothing on my booking.com's map. I considered also a nice wild camping spot in the vicinity of Loutro.
When I got to Loutro I knew there was no sense to stop. The village was absolutely charming – all white with blue accents but with no sign of life. I went through it without noticing any human activity. I moved on and during a break, I booked a small hotel at Chora Sfakion. There was no sense looking for a wild spot - the terrain made it impossible.
The big event on my way was meeting a couple of hikers. I almost bumped into them, not looking ahead of me but focusing on my path.
Hikers! After I met a Scottish woman on the first day of my hiking I didn’t meet any other walkers. This time it was a young couple and, not surprisingly, they were not locals but tourists from Russia. After a short exchange, we moved the opposite direction.
After Loutro, the trail got a bit more difficult but also more visually dramatic. The rocks got rougher and there was some climbing needed. The most impressive part was a path cut out in the face of a huge rock. I am guessing that this section could prove problematic for anyone with the fear of heights.
The wind which accompanied me from the beginning of my coastal walking was getting even stronger. I had to be careful when I hiked on exposed slopes as stronger wind gusts were pushing me off balance.
At one point you get to a road leading to Chora Sfakion and from there it’s only road walking till the town.
The road walking would be obviously annoying if it weren’t for absolutely fantastic sunset.
The golden light was making everything magical. I reached the hotel I had booked and it was completely empty.
I left my backpack inside and went out to look for something to eat. The moment the sun set, it got really cold and nasty. I found a local tavern where a group of local guys had some fun-filled dinner, including, as usual, smoking.
But the weather outside was getting dreadful with hurricane-like winds hitting the building. I ordered a nice meal of boiled sheep meat (a local dish I was told) and was pretty content.
At one point, one of the men approached me and asked me if I was Ioanna. I was shocked! How did he know my name? I run various scenarios in my head but couldn't figure out how it was possible for him to know my name. I simply didn't come up with the simplest one - he was the hotel’s manager and was showing me his booking.com’ confirmation of my booking.
After the dinner, he walked me to the hotel (if with somewhat shaky step) and showed my room – a rather modest and dingy little thing but much better than a wild camp in what was going on outside!
Agia Roumeli – Chora Sfakion: 22,5 km
Height gained: 1807 m, height loss 1804m
Road walking against wind and dramatic mountain backdrop
The next day I had a really hard time getting up and out. There was not just the physical tiredness but also mental exhaustion. I was ready to stop somewhere for a little while and just stop moving.
But moving I did again.
The hike from Chora Sfakion to Fragokostello was quite a downer. The wind was horrible and soon it was joined by rain. All the way I walked along roads. There were some nice views of the mountains but the weather took all the pleasure of it away.
I decided to again stay at a proper accommodation as there was really no suitable place to wild camp – the path lead along roads, close to villages with no woods or good hiding places.
The accommodation I found was absolutely charming and I would love to come there in a better weather. It was horribly cold and it took me forever to get warm. The manager brought a space heater for me and I was sitting next to it, covered with a blanket. This place had a bedroom with a kitchen/sitting area, a luxury!
Just look at the view I had!
Chora Sfakion to Fragokostello: 14, 4 km 423 up, 433 down.
More road walking and wind battling
I had, again, a hard time getting up in the morning. I think it was around 11 when I finally moved on. The trail led along a road all the time with gales pushing me around like a ragdoll. I felt miserable and annoyed.
At times it was hard to even move on – the wind was like a wall in front of me. But the worst was when a sudden gale pushed me into the road. I worried more and more about the rest of my hiking adventure if the weather didn’t change.
I reached Rodakino and hoped for a proper accommodation again because of the heavy winds. And to be honest, I was just tired of wild camping. It’s just so much nicer to lay down on a comfy bed after a day of hard hiking in nasty weather.
There was nothing open and the only option was a ridiculously expensive villa.
So I moved on.
Right after the village, the path leads very steeply up through olive groves. There were still men working there which made me feel self-conscious. The trail takes a sharp turn left up a narrow path but I missed it and continued on a wider one. Which ended pretty soon so I had to turn around. And walk again by the working men.
Only a person with anxiety can understand the horror of such situation.
Anyway, I tried to move on beyond the olive groves but the moment I walked into an open space I knew there was no sense to continue. The sunset was not far away and with no protection from the small trees, there was no chance for me to pitch a tent anywhere. I had no idea if there was any suitable camping spots on the other side of the mountain I was climbing, so pushing up the slope seemed risky.
And I couldn’t see any flat areas ahead of me anyway. So I turned back and started to look for a place suited for a wild camp among the olive trees.
There were terraces made for the trees but they were rather narrow and uneven. It was hard to find a good spot for a tent. I finally found a place behind a big olive tree and pitched it. I had no access to water so there was no way to cook anything, as I wouldn’t be able to wash the dishes after. I ate cold beef from a can and washed it down with some tea. It was disgusting. But I wasn’t hungry anymore…
Fragokostello – Rodakino: 17,6 km, 781 m up, 536 m down
To continue or not to continue?
The next day I was determined to battle the winds and continue on the E4 trail. The plan for the day was to go up from Rodakino and beyond the mountain I saw.
But the weather gods had different plans.
I packed and moved without any breakfast – to be honest, I just didn’t feel like doing anything and wasn’t sure about water – I wanted to save what I had for later.
I really tried to climb the mountain. The path itself was easy – a wide dirt road winding up the slope. But I felt like a weightless feather, pushed around by the wind. It was pushing me left and right – I was hitting rocks, had to stop myself once or twice from falling into a ditch.
But the worst was the head on the wind – so strong that even though I pushed as hard as I could, all I achieved was not falling back. I was standing in the same spot, trying push head on – and nothing happened. I was moving on between gusts and zigzagging my way up. I tried to tell myself it should be easier beyond the mountain that for sure it would be like a protective wall. But then – there was no base for what I was thinking. The wind would probably be exactly the same on the other side. Finally, as I tried unsuccessfully to hide from the wind next to a big bulldozer, I looked hard at the map I had and decided to call it quit.
It was a very hard decision – I really wanted to do as much as possible on the E4. But I told myself that there was really no “must” on my solo trips and I should do what I want or feel is best for my safety. And the challenge of battling this blasted weather was no fun anymore. It was taking away any pleasure off hiking.
I checked the map and decided to turn around and walk to the road and down to Plakias. I saw it was a bigger town with bus connections to other towns and a good spot to decide what to do next.
The walk to Plakias was nasty. Great views, but frustrating and at some moments dangerous when the sudden gusts were pushing me right into the middle of the road. Most of the time there was hardly any space on the side of the road and drivers were not expecting to see anyone there. I had to be constantly vigilant – especially that the whistling of wind was doing an excellent job in covering up any sounds of incoming cars.
I booked two nights at Plakias to rest, reset and decide what to do next.
Plakias was indeed a bigger town with a lot of tourist-oriented spots. Many of them closed but quite a number open. I had finally my “breakfast” or rather late lunch – delicious gyros.
My room was above the owners’ apartment and it came with all-you-can-eat oranges from the owners’ garden. I ate a lot of them that day!
The weather was nice – sunny, warm and windy (of course). I used the rest day to do some laundry and to read all I could about the best parts of E4 trail and where I could jump to, to continue my trek.
In the end, I decided to take a bus to Rethimnon and then Heraklion. From there, I would do some more of E4 hiking - this time, in the Heraklion district.