Learning to ride

Learning to cycle

Isn’t this fun?

I’m sure that, one day, the time we spent learning to ride a bike will be appreciated. The bikes will be loved, riding will become a paragon of all things easy. The expression “Like riding a bike” will take on the same meaning as “Piece of cake”.

For now, we’ll make do with Sofia’s expression, showing all her appreciation.

Olive picking in Kissamos

Picking olives near Kissamos

Picking olives near Kissamos

Yet another year of home made olive oil!

Thanks to Jens and Tina, who kindly agreed to let us pick the olives on their land in their absence, we spent a few merry days in the grove with the long long stick.

I think we totalled 7-8 mornings of olive picking, not all consecutive and never more than 2-3 hours at a time, to keep it easy.

The harvest was a bit meagre considered the effort, which felt like a lot of effort. However, it was worth every drop of it.

We did inquire about getting an electric, rotating picker, but we considered:

Rotating picker, quantity “1”: 200 € +

Cheapest-ass generator, qty 1: 300€ =

500€  <——>  50€ estimated value of final produce (which turned out to be optimistic)

Ergo, not worth the investment.

Instead, we used our hands and the long long stick.

In the end we managed to get one very full + one very empty bag of olives, about 50-60kg in total. Unfortunately we didn’t weigh the big sack, so we don’t have the exact weight.

Olive Pickers

Olive pickers having a break

Not that it matters much anyway. We went straight to the press after the end of our last harvest day. The olive presser informed us (after the fact, of course) that he had to mix our bags with someone else’s, because of the small size. Keep in mind that most farmers here produce an order of magnitude or two more, that is tens or even hundreds of bags. Anyway, we contributed maggots, and someone else surely contributed a bit of sprayed poison to this particular mix. Not sure how the presser calculated how much oil our bags produced either.

In any case, we got 12.5 liters of fresh olive oil!

Tasting freshly pressed olive oil really is one of the joys of life. Doubly so when it’s your own courtesy of Jens and Tina, actually triply so because it’s the fruit of sharing! Plus, a bonus because it’s all hand picked.

How good is that?

Antikythera

We can see the small island of Antikythera quite often from the West side of Crete, especially when going over to Falasarna.

Antikythira is famous for the Mechanism of Antikythera coming from an ancient Hellenistic rich shipwreck.

The island is also on one of the main migratory routes for birds between Africa and northern Europe, and it hosts an important bird observatory from the Hellenic Ornithological Society.

We soon discovered that the only ferry service from Kissamos to the Peloponnese stops in Antikythera.

After the heat of the summer was mostly over, we decided we could do a family day trip there on our bikes.

On Wednesday, the ferry leaves at 7:30am and returns to Kissamos for 11:30pm. Perfect for a full day on the island!

Learning to swim

The time has come for Giulia and Sofia to learn swimming.

Underwater somersaults from Manuel Coleman on Vimeo.

Giulia and Sofia having fun in the sea

We started going to the beach early, in April and May we were already testing the waters, which were pretty cold then.

One day out of the blue Giulia decided that she could put her head in and swim. And off she went.

Sofia took a little bit longer, but not much. In June they went 3 times a week for a kids swimming course to the pool in Chania. And one afternoon Sofia realized she could put her head in water and she’d float and swim, and she hasn’t stopped since.

Now we go for little swims around the bay together. Sometimes they take their inflatable floats and sometimes their kicking boards. Giulia is learning to swim without aid and she’s not afraid of the depth, and she’s learning to take breaths while she swims. Sofia is still wary when she’s out of her depth, but she’ll give it a go.

Their favourite game at the moment though is going vertical upside down, and Sofia loves underwater somersaults!

I am trying to master monofin swimming, and getting more and more flexible. Also at the age of 38, a couple of weeks ago I got equalizing at last, so I have started free diving.

Fiona, well, the water is so warm here that even she goes swimming at times, and mostly without girlie screaming!

A couple of months ago I saw a turtle in Viglia and got very excited. Got an underwater camera, and I haven’t seen any since!

Camping night

Beach dinner

Beach dinner

We went camping!

Fiona had a day off, so we packed our camping stuff and as she came back from work we drove South.

After careful studying of the wind, we decided to go to Elafonisi.

Sunset in Elafonisi

Sunset in Elafonisi lagoon

We got there at dusk. We sat on the rocks by some natural pools and enjoyed the beautiful sunset as we were eating our yummy bean salad. On the opposite side of the sky, the full moon was rising. Giugiu and Sofia were very excited and performed some full moondance.

We put up our tent just behind the beach, not far from a bunch of other campers, some with campervans, some with kids, some with bicycles.

Moondance

Moondance

Before bedtime, we looked at the nightsky all together, identified some constellations, a planet, some planes. There was a cool breeze, Fiona and I lied on the mat under the sky for a while before retiring to the not-really warmth of the tent.

The morning came fast, sunrays hitting our thin walls that had become still overnight.

Breakfast table

Breakfast table

We set the natural table and had a beach breakfast.

After packing, we walked to the little island. We were among the first people to get to the small coves looking East along Elafonisi. No wind, hot sun, incredibly clear water. We sat by a big rocky mushroom that would provide good shade later. And we all ran in for a beautiful morning swim. Giugiu practised her recently learned front crawl technique, and demonstrated how she’s now comfortable with her face in the water. She was looking for little fish, together with Sofia who was scouting with her head well above the surface! We also played with the ball a bit.

In the morning

In the morning

Fiona had a little swim. I tried the big wetsuit jacket from Bruno on, swam with my crutch up my throat for a while, and decided never again. I was warm but really uncomfortable and very short of breath. I had a second swim just with goggles which I enjoyed a lot more. Fiona was recognized and emphatically greeted as the famous receptionist by some hotel guests. More and more people started trickling in, lots of Italians. It must have been noon when we left, still exhilarated. We stopped at a restaurant near the monastery on the way back, where we had some good small fried fish, parrot and other. Then we slowly made our way back in the car, taking the coastal road from Stomio through Livadia up to Kampos, fantasizing about spending the whole summer living the simple life in this remote and beautiful part of the island.

Falasarna evening

One afternoon that Fiona was working we went to Falasarna.

The wind was blowing from West, it was a terse day and the views were great.

The sun was out, but the windchill stopped us from swimming. We hung out on the shore, I took some pictures as Giugiu and Sofia were playing.

Thanks to the high wind, visibility was excellent, and for the first time we caught a glimpse of land behind Antikythira, that must have been Kythira. I tried, but it was too faint for the camera.

Before leaving, we explored the caves behind the beach. There’s a very spacious one where a whole family could easily live and be well sheltered. It has some furniture and even some paintings on the walls. We fantasized about living there like real cavemen and little cavegirls.

Athletics

With the new year, Sofia has joined Giugiu at athletics.

They have a lot of fun playing games with the new teacher Kelly and the other kids, as you can clearly tell by their expressions in these pictures.

Seriously though, they love it and are always eager to go.

Now that the weather has gotten warmer it’s even better.

African wind

On the last day of January a strong Southern wind hit the island. It brought tons of African dust and very tall waves.

We drove to Sfinari for some fun. The waves were amazing, perfectly formed and huge. We had the company of some guys trying to surf. We later discovered they were Erasmus students in Chania, and surfing beginners. This much we could tell. There were 5 of them, not one managed to ride a single wave! And only two managed to get past the break for a go. On the other hand, out of 2 surf boards they came with, one came back in two pieces.

We spent most of our time playing ‘catch me if you can’ with the waves on the shore, which is Giugiu’s favourite game, and hunting for driftwood, Fiona’s great pastime. After we finished, we had to put the seat down in the car, so full was the boot with the most beautiful pieces of driftwood. Big logs, long forks, red roots, holey branches, a brilliant yoke, you name it.

Snow in Crete

Snow on Rodopou mountains

Snow on Rodopou mountains

With the new year the air turned cold. Icy cold.

After an especially cold night, as we got up it looked like it was snowing. It must have been an illusion, because we rubbed our eyes, took a second look and it was just plain ol’ rain.

The morning was kind of sunny, the air was crisp. We had a drive around. As soon as the mountains of Rodopo peninsula were in sight, the white shine hit us. A light snow cover. We resolved on the spot to hit the road North towards the mountains.

Snowy Elos

Snowy Elos

We got out boots, gloves and mittens, hats and we drove towards Elos. We could see snowcapped peaks on both sides in the distance. We got to Elos and there was a good cover of fresh, perfectly soft snow. After some grey clouds, the sun peered out again as we started throwing snowballs around. Sofia needed help making balls, while Giugiu just threw whatever shaped block she happened to extract from the snow. Fiona was busy testing slow-mo parabolic trajectories, while I just hit randomly whoever was around.

Then we built an Olafaki, that is, a “Frozen” inspired snowman. Alas no picture, but Fiona’s engineering skills were put to better use in this case so it looked pretty good.

We had a quick walk around, still long enough for Giulia and Sofia to fall down in the slippery snow.

Then we thought it best to abandon the playing field before numbing our extremities to the core.

Giulia and Sofia were still asking for more. We left saying ’till next week’.

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!