Wave to the black grannies
Aug 31, 2015
|Off at about 10:30 for a trip to the Lassithi Plateau and beyond. We got some fuel then headed east on the National Road.
Not long after we passed Iraklion, the resort strip started. Kilometre after kilometre of beach with multi story hotels and apartment blocks. It looks better the further away from it you are!
We turned off to climb to the Lassithi Plateau - a steady climb on a reasonably good road with a number of hairpins and lots of guardrail. The views of the coast from here showed the extent of tourist development.
We soon reached the plateau - greener than the barren mountains all around, lots of olive groves. We soon reached the first town, Mochos. The road narrowed as we entered, after a few bends, we rounded a corner and entered a tree lined Platia ringed with tavernas, and a church. A man in a hat waved us in to a parking spot, then as we got out, he welcomed us to the town and gave us a map. He recommended all the tavernas, and suggested a walk through the streets of the old town. This is what we call efficient tourism. We watched as he arranged parking for cars, bikes, quads, etc. this is a far cry from some of the indifferent behaviours we have seen in some places.
All the tavernas looked spic and span, we picked one where the waitress smiled at C. Then we sat with coffees, spinach pies and Tiropita - not morning tea, not lunch. After that we had a walk around the back streets as suggested. Some very old buildings, some just shells, others neat and tidy with gardens, pot plants, and grapevines ( loaded) .
Then we headed off across the plateau. Obviously the water runoff from the mountains soaks this area and water can be pumped from bores to irrigate. We saw a dam as well. At the end, we again climbed the mountains to the south - up and up, until we saw a sign for the homosapien village. Well this was a garish tourist stop, albeit with great views down to the plateau. So we stopped. There were a number of windmills there, some ugly statues and the usual tourist paraphernalia. A few photos and we kept climbing. As we reached the saddle, we saw the ruins of many old windmills on one of the ridges. Down the other side we wound, with barren hills and olive groves in the gullies. As we flattened out approaching the next plateau, we passed through small villages. In one there were numerous small stands selling local produce ( fruit, honey, Raki,....) and at each an old woman , many in black with head scarves, some without teeth. As we passed they called out and held up goods for us to buy. We just waved as we passed ( no room for these things in our luggage!)
In one small town, we were about halfway through and as we rounded a bend there was a car attempting a 26 point turn, with a large bus approaching. After a while the car got around and drove away. We folded our mirror in and got in close to the wall. Then we backed up a few metres and the bus squeezed through.
As we continued on across the plateau we could see dozens of windmill pumps, most derelict. Then we commenced our descent towards Agios Nicholaos on the coast. It was a long way down. Barren mountains, small villages, olive groves - you get the picture.
We were heading for a town called Kritsa ( famous for lace) and had Tom programmed. But all of a sudden, J saw a small road to the right with a sign saying Kritsa, so he said "this must be a short cut" and turned. C was not amused. Especially as the road was narrow, rough, and went through olive groves (she's got a thing about driving through olive groves). Anyway, about 1 km on, we came to cross roads, and a modern SUV came along from the opposite direction. This was all the excuse J needed, so off we went. The road climbed up and over another mountain range. A bit wider than 1 lane, lots of hairpins, but there was guardrail! Once over the top we spied a large town perched up on the hillside. We were soon there, and it was Kritsa. We must have saved a good ten minutes!
Up the hill and we reached the main part of town, so we parked in a spare spot and went into the closest taverna for a pitstop and drink. The young waiter was friendly so we got chatting. He was very concerned that we tell him whether the frappe was ok because he was still learning. They were ok. We gave him a tip which he initially refused, then we got his advice about where to go for lace. He recommended Irene's and said it was his mother and she would give us a good price if we said her son sent us. So off we went. We found the store. Met his Yiayia and mum, and the rest is history! When we left we got the Greek cheek kisses and "come back next year"!
We drove on to Agios Nicholaos just down the hill, and followed our nose to a parking spot near the harbour.
Here we saw one of those little tourist trains, and it left at 6 if they had 4 customers. 2 others arrived, so off we went. It wasn't very scenic, and it was a bit bone jarring, but at least we can say we went on one!
We needed another pitstop and something for tea so we walked to the lake. This is a small harbour that was a lake that has been joined to the sea by a channel. Around the sides are restaurants and cafes. Many small boats are moored here, mostly Popeye boats. We entered a random restaurant and ordered a small meal and sparkling water. The waiter was grumble looking to start with, and even glummer when we didn't order a banquet! So we had Moussaka, a burger, and water. He brightened up after J requested the bill, looking surprised we were so far from our abode. He returned with some semolina cake, but was quite happy J declined the Raki (probably worried about the long drive!)
Back to the car and back along the National Road to Achlada in the twilight and the dark. Not an easy drive - poor lane markings, lots of oncoming traffic, and the strange 1 1/2 lanes where you straddle the right hand edge line so people can overtake. Keeps you alert!!
Time for a tumbler of Mastika!!