A Woman Afoot... Hiking Solo on Crete!
On Friday I'm boarding a plane to Athens. For about three weeks I will try to walk its biggest island - Crete - from West to East.
Last year, I went hiking in Catalonia during my winter break, this year it's Greece. I tried to find a place where there is a big chance of many days above 10*C to enjoy hiking and camping. There is plenty of nice, warm days along the shore of Crete - but not so much deep into its mountainous spine.
I chose the E-4 trail because I like to have a longer trail to stick to - it makes it so much easier to hike in a new country than jumping between many short ones.
There are multiple E-trails in Europe. They connect countries such Portugal with Turkey, Norway with Sicily, Spain with Latvia... It's a wonderful way to get to know Europe if you have the time. Or just pick a section. Learn more about the net of long European trails here.
My plans for Crete
Hiking along (some of) the E-4
From what I've read, it is possible to complete the whole E-4 in three weeks. It would be nice as I've never completed a full trail yet. I've been always cutting short or picking sections for a variety of reasons.
But I really doubt I'll make it.
Why? Well, first of all - I'm out of shape and I need to take it easy in the first week, doing only 10 - 15 km/day at the most.
Second - I've heard a lot of worrisome news about the state of E-4 in Crete. Some signs seem to be missing, some trails lead to dead ends. People more experienced than me got lost trying to find the right path. There is no proper guidebook to the E-4 and more detailed maps cover only parts of the trail. As you can see above, one of the Cicerone's guides to hiking on Crete covers only some parts of the island.
Because of that, I try not to think about completing the whole trail but simply using the E-4 as a guidance and being flexible. I have no idea what the conditions will be like when I'm there. Some parts should be easy and pleasant, but some of the higher sections can be under snow. The Alpine section of the E-4 is of course completely out, covered in a few meters of snow, but even the alternative path can be snowed in.
I may also encounter mud, heavy rains or nasty winds. I plan on mixing camping with some nights in small hotels or taverns. I'm fine with skipping parts of the trail, hopping on a bus or picking an alternative trail. I just want to hike a bit :)
History and culture
Crete has incredible history and I hope to see some of the fantastic ruins from the Minoan period, as well as the younger ones. I want to spend a day walking around Chania and look forward to checking out other smaller towns and villages. I'm always charmed by the small, sleepy towns with old buildings and tiny churches.
I've never been close to the Greek Church style of religiosity so I'm also open to see the bigger and smaller holy spaces.
Finding rest and solitude
As any reader of my blog already knows I suffer from a pretty bad anxiety. It's generally triggered by my relations with humans. I can only fully rest when I am alone - best, when in Nature. It does not happen right away, that's why I need at least two weeks to fully feel the difference.
To get to that place I have to battle the additional anxiety of travel - but I know it's all worth it. I hope to find places where I can just rest, look at stunning landscapes or listen to the sea.
Testing my gear
During the trek I also hope to test some more of my gear - some of it I already had during my hikes in Iceland and Quebec but I have a few new ones.
The "old" ones - My tent: Double Rainbow by TarpTent; the sleeping pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite for women; mini-sawyer filtration system; my warm temperature down sleeping bag by Robert's; Marmot PreCip jacket.
New pieces of gear: Backpack: Gregory Maven 45; Jetboil Minimo cooking system, new boots: Hoka One Ones; down jacket Rab Continuum; toesocks as liners - to see if they help with blisters forming on toes; power bank by Anker; new coffee brewing system - a drip from Sea to Summit; an ultra-light pillow by Sea to Summit.