It turns out that CP’s illness was not heat related but rather some sort of stomach bug (the symptoms are spot on for food poisoning). We were all in need of a morning off so we lounged about drinking coffee and figuring out how much daily mileage we’d have to do to finish the expedition on schedule. Around noon, CP felt good enough to paddle and the team covered an impressive 28km in the afternoon to the town of Plaka, with a gentle tailwind pushing us along. We spent the night in the shadow of the fortress of Spinalonga, with plans for another late start in the morning to allow CP some more recovery time.
Plaka to Mochlos
The goal for the day was to cut off several kilometers by crossing the massive bay containing Agios Nikolaus. Before making the crossing, Will and I found our first spot in days to do a little deep water soloing and cliff jumping; there are few better ways to start the day.
The crossing itself was long and boring (as crossings tend to be) but we had the advantage of a gentle tailwind. Upon reaching Mochlos, the only suitable camping spot was a narrow stretch of sand, near a boat ramp, covered with washed up turtle grass. It worked well enough and the town was quite charming. Also, after two days of valiantly battling his stomach bug, CP started a course of Cipro.
Mochlos to Sitia
A strong South wind picked up overnight bringing uncomfortable hot and dusty air from the Sahara Desert, and when the sun rose it struggled to shine through the thick shroud.
The Cipro worked wonders overnight CP was well on mend, eating voraciously to correct the calorie deficit. The last few days of more relaxed paddling, and having some lounging time has also done wonders for our attitudes.
So, with CP healed and the rest of us reinvigorated, we set off to complete the North coast. The first stop of the day was the Richtis Gorge which provided a fantastic hike up a small river, lush with trees, vines and flowers; a stark contrast to most of the Cretan countryside this time of year. A huge cluster of ripe grapes dangling 30ft above the path were too tempting to pass up and we spent a while trying to knock them free with hurled sticks, to no avail.
Sitia was a lively, good-sized town and we immediately set off to find a Gyro Pita sandwich (something that is only found in larger towns). We found a small cafe that had them and had two each.
Sitia to Vai
Today we’d finish the North coast and the excitement was palpable in the group. We packed quickly and set off at different paces planning to meet up at the Northeast corner of the island, some 20km away. Will and I took a break to climb and jump off of a few big rocks, as we try to do as often as possible.
At the Northeast corner, it was necessary to portage our gear across a 100 meter wide isthmus in order to avoid a small peninsula of restricted NATO land. It was an opportunity to stretch our legs and employ some muscles that have been neglected during our days of paddling.
Just like that, the North coast was finished; the section of the island that tortured our minds with angst was behind us.
It was a short paddle to Vai beach where the team had a celebratory draft beer and settled in for an early sleep.
Even though we still have 10 more days of paddling, it feels like we are on the home stretch with no more challenges in the way, but ultimately the sea is the captain of our expedition and it is unwise to assume that it will cooperate.