Female & Solo Hiking on Crete: Days 17 & 18 | Archanes - Myrtia - Kasteli
Ahead of me were the two last days of solo hiking through Crete. After well over 200 km, I was tired but still in love with the Cretan nature. This section of E-4 trail takes one through the rural areas of central Crete, in the Heraklion district, crossing olive groves, vineyards, small villages, and an occasional small town.
The trail became much less wild and much more paved. Gone was the wild, rocky coast of southern Chania and in were green pastures, vineyards and rural settlements. But gone were also the powerful winds which caused me to change my plans in the the first place, so I didn't complain that much. Here, at least I could actually walk...
Waking up under olive branches
The morning after wild camping in an olive grove was quite similar to the previous one. Horrible condensation on the tent and no energy to get up and move on.
This is probably the part I hate most – getting up in the morning, cleaning, packing… It always takes me forever to get going.
This morning was no different. Dew was heavy all around and I needed to be careful when packing to not get anything wet. I didn’t do any breakfast – I had not enough water for that. I knew that Archanes wasn’t too far away, so I could just stop there for coffee and breakfast.
Modifying the E-4 trail to save some road walking
The path to Archanes leads along a steep, paved road. It was tiring and I was walking slowly. The good thing was, that even if the path lead over asphalt, the views over green fields and rocky hills filled my eyes with beauty.
When I finally got to Archanes (a lovely little town) I was happy to sit down and take my breakfast. I was tired much more than expected and I was supposed to do another 18 km that day.
I knew it would be just too much. I checked the map and decided to cut through to Myrtia on back roads and save a few kilometers.
The street taking me out of Archanes was crazy steep and I can’t imagine living there and walking that kind of street every day!
I moved on and walked over a dirt road leading through olive groves and vineyards. At one point, two cars passed me by and after a short time one of them turned around and stopped by me. At first, I thought that maybe a well-meaning person would like to give me a ride but it was something else. He said he had a loose dog a bit farther down the road and he would go and tie it so I could walk safely.
It was so nice of him! I am indeed scared of unknown village dogs being very protective of their area. The man later talked to me a bit and he was really surprised about me hiking alone or hiking at all. Hiking is really not a very popular past time around here! He was impressed that someone from Poland would come there to see his country.
After meeting with this nice man, I had to walk another very steep, narrow road down to the main road I had to cross. I had some problems with connecting to another local road I saw on my ViewRanger but after some bushwhacking and climbing down from steep earthwork, I found it and could move on.
I passed through another lovely little town. Everywhere I looked people were working on their vineyards and olive trees – cutting branches, fixing water pipes and such.
Hiking through an overgrown gorge
When I reached Myrtia I reconnected with the E4 trail. There was another, green, trail along the E4 there as well. Pretty soon I left a road and turned into a gorge, right before a bridge.
The path sometimes was very well visible and at times overgrown and a bit difficult to discern.
The gorge was really nice, with colorful walls of rocks, bushes, trees and even irises!
I hoped there would be water in the gorge but as usual, it was a dry bed gorge. I had enough water to drink for the day but not for cooking dinner or breakfast.
By that time, I wasn't even surprised by this.
Unfortunately, just because a map shows blue line, it does not mean you can find water there! Most of the time where the maps indicated rivers or streams, I found only dry beds.
I lost the trail a few times when the blazes were covered by overgrown bushes or grasses. Sometimes the path goes not in the more obvious direction and care needs to be taken to find the right turn.
Searching for a wild camp spot
The sun was getting closer to setting and I was growing nervous. I wasn’t sure how long the gorge walking was to take and there was no place to camp.
The way out of the gorge was really challenging. Up a very steep slope with no clear path and overgrown bushes blocking your way. I lost the trail and had to climb down and find it again. I was sweating and anxious to get out before dark. I had no idea what would wait for me at the top, either, so needed more time to find a spot for camping.
When I finally got to the top, I lost the trail again. There were a few different paths and the rocky surface was easy to walk on. I moved into the general direction of the road. Soon I reached an old olive grove and gate leading to some farm buildings and goat housings.
I was happy to see that I was able to open the gate – it was held with some wires. I knew I needed to get water but the only water I saw was horribly dirty standing watering hole. But after a moment I saw a tap and was able to fill up my bottles. I moved through the farm and saw from afar another, much bigger gate leading out to the main road. I was again happy to see it was not closed with any kind of a lock but just some rope.
I felt like a thief when I moved through the farm so was really happy when I was finally on the other side. I sped up along the road for a few minutes, quickly realizing that there was not much sense to keep on walking – the sun has set and it was getting darker with every minute. I turned left and walked down the earthwork into an olive grove. This time the ground was really uneven and covered with rocks and stones. It was hard to find any flat surface but I was happy I could have a place for the night.
Anxious mind strikes again
Sometime after I settled in my tent I heard car engine and saw lights. I peeked from the tent (nervously switching off my headlamp), terrified someone might discover me. My anxiety went through the roof but I could hardly see anything. I figured someone came to close the goats in their shelter – I could hear their bells chiming.
I was trying to tell myself that I was in total darkness, quite some distance from the goat pens, and even if someone discovered me – it was a very little risk they would have had anything against me sleeping over the stony ground in the olive grove. But the thing with anxiety is, it’s not exactly rational. So it took me a while to calm down and go back to reading my kindle.
Finally a night with no condensation!
The night was much warmer than the previous two which meant no condensation. The next day I could pack and move on much faster – I was about an hour earlier on the trail than normal! I was anxious about making it to Kasteli for 3 pm but with the early start, I was sure to make it.
The E-4 trail led along the road almost all the time. There were some sections where they tried to go away from the busy roads but it was never for long and never really far from them anyway.
A visit to the stunningly beautiful Agarathos Monastery
Soon after starting this day’s hiking I reached a monastery. I left my backpack on a bench and walked around to explore. The main church building was surrounded by a few lower ones and a lovely courtyard. There were orange trees which added to the charm.
I went inside the church but it was pretty dark there. In a few minutes, two men came, one a priest, and he turned the lights for me. I was really glad he did – the interior was just fantastic! Beautiful icons, vivid frescos, and paintings surrounded me from every side.
Miles upon miles on the road
Walking along the road was tiring. I could sense the mental exhaustion and the scarcity of natural beauty of a wilder trail didn’t help elevate it.
Sometimes the trail took me away from a road to a parallel dirt road. It was better, I guess but nothing special. There were some abandoned buildings or unused farmed land with garbage and broken stuff lying around.
The mountains were visible and when the sun showed itself from behind clouds, it was a bit better.
I stopped in Apostoli at the local tavern. I was happy with the timing and as I didn’t eat any breakfast (except for a Bounty bar) it was the best idea. I got a local breakfast – omelet with potatoes.
I was vary at first but when I received it I was more than happy! It was delicious, filling and my spirits rose right away. Later on, I realized that it was a bit similar to the Spanish tortilla – but the potatoes were shaped like French fries and there were more eggs than in the Spanish tapas staple.
Reaching Kasteli and the end of my solo hiking adventures on Crete
Energized and rested I moved on to the last section. I reached Kasteli ahead of time and could grab a cup of cappuccino and wait for the bus to go.
And that’s it. I finished my hiking adventures on Crete. I still had a few days in Heraklion and planned on seeing Knossos and the city itself. But my E-4 trekking came to an end.
Overall, I really loved the trail. At times harsh and challenging but rarely boring. The natural beauty of the coastal paths is beyond words. I wish the winds didn't force me to change my plans - I think I would like hiking more in the mountainous sections of the E-4 trail in the Rethymnon district.
I can highly recommend hiking the trail - just bear in mind some sections are not well marked and there is quite some road walking. I felt challenged physically but also safe as a woman hiking solo.
Altogether, I've walked 232 km on the Cretan section of E4 trail. Who knows? Maybe one day I come back and complete the missed parts.
If you have any questions about the trail - write in comments!
Hiking along the E-4 trail, days 17 & 18
From wild camping before Archanes to Kasteli: 33, 1 km; height gained: 980m, height lost: 1075 m.
Have you ever done any hiking on Crete? How was it?
Have you done any other sections of the E-4 Trail?