It was surprising to share the ferry back to Crete from Gavdos with so many familiar faces, from people that caught the ferry over here with us a few days earlier, or people that we’d seen in the tavernas or wandering (naked) around the beaches. I wondered how some of the longer term ‘residents’ would cope with the adjustment back to regular society, whether they need a decompression period first. I imagine that going directly from a few months here in Gavdos straight to Chania (or, somewhere even more hectic, like Athens) would be somewhat disorientating – the original plan was to go straight to Athens, but since we left Gavdos early to avoid the next storm, we would enjoy a few days here first.

It was an uneventful ferry ride, somehow feeling much longer than the ride to Gavdos did. The ferry docked, and the other passengers seemed to disappear. Our ferry back to Loutro was already in port, so we didn’t waste any time, partially jogging to the opposite side of the port with our fully laden packs.

The ferry ride back to Loutro felt familiar, passing by sights that we’d seen several times now – and planned to see up close on a hike tomorrow.

As the familiar sight of Loutro came into view, with the sun setting behind the hills further to the west, it felt like coming home. Completed the check-in routine, walked up even more steps, enjoyed the first hot shower in nearly a week, and gorged on more amazing Greek food.

Day 14 – Loutro – Sfakia Hike

The typical Loutro Routine ® resumed, with a sunrise (though now obstructed as there isn’t a bay facing balcony in this cheaper hotel), a swim, and sfakian pie. I generally find it hard to sit still, but was starting to find it harder and harder to get started each morning. A lazy coffee by the calm waters and sunshine seemed more appealing than a hike. Then FOMO kicked in, got changed and started on the hike across to Sfakia – one that we’ve seen several times now from the sea.

Once again, ditched hiking boots for socks and Tevas, though this time, I upped the game and went with something more colourful. If loving this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

From the very first hill on the climb out of town, the views were incredible. The water was absolutely perfect, as were the skies, and an incredible contrast to the brilliant white buildings in town – kind of like the Greek Flag.

And, it wasn’t just views back of town, further along the coast towards Sfakia was equally beautiful, with gorgeous waters, and a trail that hugged the coast as far as you could see. The strong winds that were forecast, that were set to cause problems for access from Gavdos forcing an early departure, didn’t seem to be affecting Loutro – yet. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it. It was a hard trade-off – the winds would have provided some lovely respite from the heat of the sun, especially as shade was nearly non-existent, but it was beautiful to see such calm waters.

The trail passed by several small coves, which were starting to get tempting to go for a swim – but, with several other larger beaches waiting ahead, we pushed on to Sweet Water Beach.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, as it was as pretty and enjoyable as it looks. It didn’t take long after arriving to strip down into my swimwear, and to be cooling off in the clear calm waters in this beautiful cove. It might not have been as quiet as some of the smaller coves that we’d visited in the area (thanks to the benefit of a rental boat), but the few people that were here were not enough to cause any distraction or take away from the enjoyment. Plus, it also meant we were able to buy an icy-cold Coke!

After satisfying ourselves with an extended swim in these super buoyant waters, and after the extremely unpleasant task of putting my sweaty wet clothes, socks and shoes back on, we continued on the trail towards Sfakia.

This is where the trail got a little more interesting, with sections of it cut into the sides of the cliff like open sided tunnels. Truth be told, it wasn’t entirely as bad as it looked like it was going to be from the sea. At least if you slipped and fell, the water over the side of the cliffs below was beautiful and clear. I guess there could be worse places to fall to your death.

The trail continued on for a little longer, twisting and climbing up the rocky shore, before eventually meeting with the road to Sfakia. It was most disappointing learning that the only way to get to Sfakia from here was to walk along the road. OK, ‘most disappointing’ is a little dramatic, because there was still beautiful views of the coastline, but after enjoying the peaceful bliss of hiking along the dirt trails, walking along the bitumen felt much less natural.

The temperatures started to rise, no doubt exasperated by the black tarmac that we were walking on. The hike had started to feel like hard work, and a little less enjoyable, but we kept putting one foot in front of the other, and before long were in the little town of Hora Sfakia, and did what we always did – bought some Coke (and some delicious treats from a Greek bakery). We had a quick walk through the town, which was far more developed than quiet little Loutro, but after having overestimated our hunger at the bakery, there was little room left for more food from the waterfront restaurants. There were a few older buildings, as well as some beautiful little houses up in the hills, but overall, it felt much cheaper and more developed than Loutro (I’m repeating myself).

It wasn’t a particularly hot day, but the exposure to the sun and the lack of wind all had their own little contribution to make it feel like it was hot. The return hike felt that much more of an effort, especially the long climb on the road from Sfakia back up to the trailhead. It’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but it was certainly less enjoyable than most of the other hiking so far on this trip.

We re-joined the rocky trail back to Sweet Water Beach, which didn’t quite feel as sketchy as the way up. The predicted winds had started to blow, and once perfectly flat water was starting to grow ripples.

Sweet Water Beach was about half way between Loutro and Hora Sfakia, so it seemed like a good place to have another quick swim before pushing on with the final few kilometres of the hike.

It wasn’t a long hike, just over 14km, but it had felt like a long day, and after another quick swim in the bay in Loutro, it was time for another feast of some amazing dinner of Greek food, with the raki coming out in time for sun set.

The last evening before leaving Loutro, I felt a true sense of sadness, as I did not expect to return. This time was no less sombre, but I was ready to leave. While I could have spent several more days in the area just lazing by the water and drinking cocktails (ok, I’d probably get bored of that after a day), I felt like I’d seen and done the main things I’d wanted to see and do.

Day 15 – Goodbye Loutro, For Real This Time

You know the routine, sunrise, swim, Sfakian pie. Bags were packed again, and we hopped on the morning ferry to Sfakia. From Sfakia there was a bus that would take us back to Chania, and then much later, from Chania, we would catch an overnight ferry to Athens. The winds didn’t seem to be bad, with the bay its usual calm self – which got me thinking ‘what if’ we’d just stayed those extra days in Gavdos as originally planned. I do hate that I have this very real FOMO that sometimes stops me from just enjoying what is here in front of me, without pointlessly stressing on what else I could have been doing. I don’t know if I’m getting any better at it, but at least I recognise that I am thinking that way,

We stocked up on some more snacks from the bakery, as well as some artisanal souvenirs (like honey and olive oil) to kill time before the bus departed. The road out of town was phenomenal, and once again, I was wishing that I had my bicycle (with the bus carrying my bags). There seemed to be never-ending switchbacks that looped up the side of the steep slopes above town. Not only were there views back over the coastline, but the road also was precipitously close to yet another rugged gorge. I won’t lie, it was a tiny bit disappointing that the bus didn’t stop at the viewpoint at the top of the climb for us to get out and enjoy the views. The small inconveniences of travelling with public transport.

The landscape eventually flattened out, opening up to an expansive plain, ringed by the usual giant brown mountains. For the first time, it started to look agricultural.

It wasn’t too long until we were back in Chania, with what seemed like traffic chaos. I’m pretty happy that we had the slow reintroduction to civilisation, as even after a few days in Gavdos, this felt a little overwhelming – and it was going to be nothing compared with Athens tomorrow!

Instead of more walking around town, being tourists, we spent the afternoon on the rooftop at a friend’s house in town, being treated to yet another beautiful sunset here in Greece.

Once all the colours had faded from the sky, and after several (small) bottles of raki were finished, it was time to go into town in search of dinner. And,  like a typical slightly-drunk and hungry person, we sought out gyros. Not sure if it was the hunger (or the raki), but the food was exactly what I wanted/needed – and now as I type this, I wish I could have another.

The ferry left around midnight from Chania. It was somewhat less chaotic than other boat trips have been here, and eventually checked into the suite (complete with private bathroom). The original plan had been to sleep on the deck, under the stars, but eventually took a softer option and paid for comfort and a quality sleep, as I wanted to make the most of the short time in Athens.