E-bike ride on the South coast: Paleochora – Sougia

The South coast has been beckoning for some time, I have been wanting to do some cycling there for a while. The road between Paleochora and Sougia promised to be spectacular.

Studying the map, I wasn’t sure it was paved all the way through. Not a big deal either case, as we loaded the trusty Hillmaster electric mountain bike on the van.

We also planned to do some of the cycling together, and loaded bikes for all the family. Sofia is still too short to ride one of our electric bikes, she rides a plain mountain bike that was originally Giulia’s. This limits our range together a bit, and we decided to pedal the first flat part together until the road becomes too steep.

We drove from home in the morning, on the mostly quiet mountain roads from Kissamos. In about an hour, we were buying lunch from the bakery in Paleochora.

We cycled through town, then along the coast going East. After a couple of km, we hit the hill that goes up to Anidri village. We tackled it for a good while, until the girls had had enough and turned back. I switched on the motor, and set off.

The road climbed regularly, up and up and up. I kept the assistance always on the lowest level, Eco, I wanted to make an effort! I cycled through Anidri village, I zig-zagged on. Low Mediterranean scrub everywhere, sea views in the distance. I passed the village of Prodromi, the road was still paved all the way. Some trees in the small valleys, plane and carob trees.

I was getting higher, the air was cooler. Gavdos island was there, in the hazy distance. Pine trees on the roadside now! I met 4 cars in 15km, about one hour of cycling. The col was marked by a blue and white church, stereotypical of Greece but not a common sight in Crete. Shortly after, I rejoined the ‘main’ road going from Paleochora.

On my right, the valley side facing North was now covered by a proper tree forest, an interesting change! I took a break for some water and banana in Rodovani, wondering how far behind the girls driving to Sougia I would be.

Then I launched myself into a full speed descent towards Sougia. Corner after corner, I tried to slow down as little as possible, touching a maximum speed of 60 km/h. Pines on both sides of the road, until I reached the valley bottom with the river bed on my left, marking the arrival in Sougia. I must have done the 15km in half an hour.

Sougia was hot and sticky. The sun was not shining very strong, but the air was not really moving. I found the girls already cooling down in the sea.

Fiona came to meet me. We had a picnic all together in the shade of a tamerisk behind the beach. After food, we moved back to the shore for a refreshing swim.

Even the sea was hazy! We swam along the beach, going East, towards the big rocks just a few metres off shore. There were continuous changes in temperature in the sea. Cool, hazy surface, a warmer layer of water below, then cool again at some depth. We spotted some small groupers and some lionfish hiding between some rocks on the bottom.

We found some waves between the rocks. We swam around them, the water was clearer here. We saw plenty of fish, damselfish and many very big and bright saddled seabreams. Cretan parrotfish, of course. We passed some submerged rocks, circled the big rock sticking out and swam back. A beautiful swim.

We walked into town for an ice-cream, then drove home.

 

Total distance: 33.61 km
Max elevation: 759 m
Min elevation: -9 m
Total climbing: 871 m
Total descent: -852 m
Total time: 02:16:25
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A day in Antikythira

On a hot July day, we embarked on a day trip to the small island of Antikythira.

E-bikes in Antikythira!

E-bikes in Antikythira!

Antikythira is really a small, wild rock in the middle of the sea, between Crete and the Peloponnese.

An old resident, with an Aussie intonation from a lifetime spent downunder, recounted a condensed, local version  of the island’s origin myth for us.

God was creating the land, mainland Greece. He was using soil to make the big, vast plains. He flicked a few of the remaining small rocks around in the sea. A tiny one landed here; thus our island was born.

We took with us our new favourite mean of transport, our e-bikes. We would have some help on the steep local roads.

When you arrive in Antikythira, you are greeted by a few locals expecting people or stuff from the 3-times-a-week ferry. Residents seem bemused to receive visitors, but they are quick to be welcoming, offer information and generally show friendliness. We struck more conversations in Antikythira in one day than in a week of regular life back home.

On landing, you are also instantly offered a taste of the landscape. The only road from the harbour and main town goes up the steep hillside, with a slope somewhere between 10 and 20%. The vegetation is low bushes and climbers. Rocks and red earth. Even the goats are sparse.

The power of our legs combined with the electric motor, makes the climb doable. When we get to the top, we opt to visit a small bay a little way North of Potamos village, on the way to the dwelling of Patakiana, where the map shows we might be able to get in the water from the rocks.

We cycle up and down the main road inland, then take a turn and soon we’re on a dirt road in good conditions. After a little while, we park our bikes and descend walking towards the coast. The rocks are dark and hot, but walkable. The sea is beautiful, calm, cool and clear. There’s a small traditional fishing boat in the bay, laying nets, and nobody or nothing else.

We jump in the sea for a swim all together, in awe of the wilderness surrounding us. After the family swim, I set out swimming towards the small rocks out at sea visible from the shore, about 700m away, expecting good snorkelling grounds. I am rewarded by shoals of countless fish around the shallow rocky reef on the edge of the tiny island. There’s not a wave, but a strong current is pushing against the steep side of the reef. I swim around the rocks, along the sheer underwater cliff on the Eastern side. I find a gap between the rocks and swim through it, getting back to the sheltered, main-island-facing side with its shallow underwater rocks.

After our swim, we have our picnic on the dark rocks. Then we decide to go see the other side of the island. We retrace our steps on the ebikes for a while, then turn towards the scenic bay of Kamarela. This is an enclosed, rocky bay on the West side of Antikythira, with postcard-worth views of rock arches from the top and an exit to the sea. We find some shade on the tiny beach and go snorkelling again. We venture through the exit out in the open sea, where the sea-bottom drops steeply as to remind us of our limits. We stay close and get back after seeing fish, sea snails, crabs, shrimps, starfish.

We hear more stories, about the Italian and German viewing posts in the area, from a local shepherd. We decide to leave exploring those paths, and the rest of the island, for another time.

Back in the main town, we eat some delicious food at the local taverna, again peppered with some local stories and conversations with the only other fellow visitors we have seen around.

After dinner, we use the spare energy to walk to the church at the top of the town. We absorb the view of the small bay as the day ends, anticipating the appearance of the ferry that will soon take us home.

We promise to return for more adventures.

A track of my swim around the little offshore rocks: