It all started several years ago when on holiday in Slovenia. Not content with the usual holiday pursuits of the resort including mountain walking and cycling, we decided to do something different. We decided to run up the notorious Vriscic Pass, 7 miles up and a vicious 1000M assent and then, run down. (See “Passing Out”, July 2016)
Surprisingly the whole experience was totally amazing and ever since then we have made a point of doing the annual “Epic Adventure” during our summer holiday. To qualify as “Epic” it has to be something that if you were to describe it to fellow guests they would look at you as it you were from a different planet or worse, be sectioned under the mental health act.
This year for a late summer break, we visited a little piece of paradise which is the Miramare Hotel in the resort town of Agios Nikolaus (Ag Nik for short) in Crete. Around 6 miles up the coast is another town called Elounda which is stunningly beautiful and near the famous fortress island: Spinalonga. It is an easy bus trip from Ag Nik to Elounda and our plan was to run back. The problem is that the 6 mile road route is narrow, busy and has no footpath so not good for running. We therefore decided to plan a route across the network of mountain tracks, a journey of about 9.5 miles back to Ag Nik, with a maximum height gain of about 1500 feet. The average daily maximum temperature has been around 28 degrees celsius and the sun gets high and relentless early on, but we always seem to manage these challenges in the warm Mediterranean summer. So, when we caught the 9:00 AM bus this morning, we had a high degree of confidence that we could do this thing!
I had put a significant degree of confidence in the running app “MapMyRun”, which is a pretty good way of planning routes and mostly, if it reckons the route is passable, it is. I had pre-planned the route and downloaded it to my phone so, if the little blue dot remains on the red line, you are on course (all of this utterly depends on your phone not running out of battery, so be prepared).
As we started up the little road out of Elounda, it soon turned into a rough dirt track which rapidly became obviously impassable to motor vehicles, which is fine since the reason for choosing the mountain path was to avoid traffic.
The basics of the route is that the first three miles takes you up into the mountains and then the last 6 consist of a gentle downward path that ends up in the centre of town. This means that you have to be prepared to work hard for the first third of the route! I think I am doing pretty well coming back to fitness after my virus but there’s no way I could keep up with Helen my wife who seemed to skip gazelle-like up the steep mountain tracks. Even walk-running the route was brutal but we were rewarded by the most spectacular views.
Yes, the views are something really special and this here’s the really odd thing: apart from one local (whom we presume was a farmer), on all those spectacular mountain trails we didn’t see a single other soul. I haven’t got any objection to having this amazing place oll to ourselves but here we are at the height of the tourist season and I have to wonder what all these people are doing with their day. There is so much to see here yet the more attractive thing seems to be the swimming pool!
You don’t have to pay the tour operators a fortune in trips. The local buses here are brilliant and my chosen navigation app worked fine and with one slight error and correction we were able to find our way back to the little freshwater lake at Agios Nikolaos harbour where we stopped and had a large Mythos lager each.
This afternoon we deserve the facilities of the hotel bar and restaurant but after such an amazing morning, we are already planning our next Epic.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”