Nestled among mountain villages in West Central Crete lies the starting point of the Samaria Gorge. The Samaria is one of the longest and most pristine gorge hikes in all of Europe. At 16.7 KM or 10.3 miles, the Samaria is very long and full of constant unrelenting terrain. For 8 months of the year it is visited daily by thousands of people. These people are typically avid hikers, using the Samaria as a future goal to conquer and a huge trip to plan. So when I decided that I would hike this beast with my four year old, five year old and a baby on my back I did briefly consider how crazy of a concept that was, but I had no idea what I was actually getting us into.
Somehow, I convinced my mother to visit and attempt this crazy feat with us. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid; I knew I needed another set of adult hands for this and she was crazy enough to say yes. Up until the moment we began the hike and even up until the half way point, we were considering turning back. The terrain was huge river rocks, loose falling stones everywhere and a dire need to look down at your feet the entire time in self preservation. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve done to date and to think that I was being followed by my small children. . .
In the Early Morning Rain
We set out for the bus station, on foot, at 0630. Our bus left for Omalos Crete at 0730 and was a little over an hour of winding dark mountain roads. Heavy fog and rain in the mountains is normal, but very ominous when you are trying to mentally prepare for something like this. We all fell asleep briefly and awoke at the end of the road, next to a small building, in the pouring rain. We went inside to huddle with other crazy people in the hopes that the rain would let up soon enough that we could still get through the hike. The business was selling trash bags as rain ponchos, after investing in those and styling them to fit my small tribe, we set off.
We set off in the drizzle with some new friends we had made. Two American couples from Chicago decided to follow us into the dreary rain, because, “if those kids are going so are we.” The first three miles were straight down a mountain side in the drizzle. Within the first two miles Rhodes and I had both fallen. A month later, my ankle still hurts, but eventually we hit the bottom of the gorge, which mean’t flatter ground and the sun came out.
The Librarians and the Lawyers kept us company for the first 5 Km before they sped ahead and we kept on keeping on. Unlike almost everyone else, we booked a room in the village at the end of the gorge. Whereas, everyone else hiking the gorge was attempting to complete the hike and make the 5:30 pm ferry to the nearest bus stop. We were in no hurry. We couldn’t be in a hurry, we had too many little people and too much at stake.
Wandering with Wild Goats
We tried to keep a steady pace, stopping at available bathrooms (some of the worst bathrooms I’ve ever seen) and eating our lunch while keeping the wild Cretan goats at a distance from our food. They would periodically jump up on walls and picnic tables and scare the living daylights out of Lux. The views were spectacular, but you had to make a sizable effort to look up from your feet and admire your surroundings.
The entire 10.3 miles was the boulder type river rocks you see pictured above. A pair of shoes with a strong ankle support is heavily advised if ever you decide to give it a go.
On the Other Side
We MADE it! It took us 7 hours, but we completed the hike and Rhodes is probably the youngest person to ever hike the entire gorge. The kids did amazingly, mom and I were struggling for days and days afterwards, but the kids were not sore at all. The gorge ends by some small farms and then you have to hike into the nearest village; Agia Roumeli.
We found our hotel and crashed. Pure exhaustion doesn’t begin to explain the state of my legs and back from carrying Atlas the whole way. We spent the next day enjoying our reward. The Libyan Sea.
In all things truly difficult I find myself saying “well I’m glad I did it once, but I don’t need to do it again.” Though now that I’ve done it once, I’m tempted to do it again, but better. As I finish this article, Rhodes looks over my shoulder and says “mom, when can we go hike the gorge again?”