In addition to its beaches (which we didn’t visit much because it was off-season), Crete has some amazing hiking venues. Rouvas Gorge, pretty much in the middle of the island, is a magnificent hike. A bit over 7 miles round trip (up and back down), it is a bit strenuous going, including some rock scrambles, but well worth the effort. We started the hike immediately behind a little tavern on Lake Votomos in the tiny village of Zoros. We had a coffee and chatted it up with the manager, Demetrius, figuring if we didn’t come back down he would eventually send out a search party. The trail began with a very steep ascent through scrub brush inhabited by grazing goats. We passed through a few goat gates and within the first kilometer passed the monastery of St. Nikolous. The monastery was quiet and fenced off, but afforded some pretty views looking back at it. The path was well-marked with red arrows and red dots painted on rocks to show the way. Also helpful, there were red “X”‘s indicating the way NOT to go.
After the monastery, the climb became more rocky and we had to scramble up, over and between boulders to make our way. It is always amazing to me how trees manage to grow where there appears to be very little soil. They just cling to the rocks and extend their roots into the crevices, where ,I guess, sediment and water accumulate. As we continued up, the terrain became more like a forest, with larger trees. In this shady environment, a lot of moss and lichens were growing on the rocks. In time, we passed something that appeared to be ruins of a small house or maybe a temple or shrine. We crossed 3 wooden bridges (more like ladders) which, despite their initial rickety appearance, felt quite sturdy. Eventually, I heard the sound of splashing water. Shortly, we came around a bend in the path to encounter a lovely waterfall emerging from red rocks which, in the sun, made the water seem red.
The last third of the hike involved winding back and forth, crossing and re-crossing the mountain stream that formed the bottom of the gorge. Between the solitude, the geography, and the ever-present tinkling of goat bells (at varying distances away), I almost expected to come upon Pan lounging against a boulder and playing his pipe. We saw some lovely yellow flowers (maybe irises?) Also, from time to time we would pop out and catch some breathtaking views of the valley below. We also passed the carcasses of two dead goats, which was a bit sad and sobering. Just when we thought we were never going to encounter the “end” of the hike, we came upon a clearing or meadow. It hosted picnic tables, a small chapel, and a herd of goats. We had a lovely small picnic of bread, cheese and apples we had saved from our breakfast buffet before we made the hike back down, which was much easier than the climb up. We passed a pair of botanists on their way up, and told them about the iris. Back at the Zoros tavern, we enjoyed a hearty late lunch of chicken souvlaki and a complimentary dessert. All in all, a very enjoyable hike!