RTWPaul: Riding through Crete!

The sun was setting as the ferry slowly sailed away from the European mainland and the last glimpses of Greece disappeared from view.

Looking south, the Greek Island of Crete was the destination but would be out of sight until the morning when the ferry docked.

As I was walking inside to take a seat inside, a voice with a strong accent asked a question, “that is your motorcycle, yes?”

I turned to see a man dressed in a white uniform with a lot of gold on his lapels.

“Yes!” I responded.

“You are very lucky to be coming here now”, it was the start of November. 

“Hello, I am the captain of the ferry, I saw your motorcycle, I like to walk through the lower decks to make sure everything is OK, and I saw only one motorcycle and that is rare this time of year. I came to upper decks to hopefully find you and say hello!”

We greeted each other with a handshake, he introduced himself and I repeated his name and made a mess of the pronunciation, he laughed…”Greek names are difficult to pronounce.” 

He smiled and told me I was lucky, “you will see more of Greece than all the summer tourists. When they leave, the islands lifts up out of the ocean about a meter because of all of their combined weight has gone.” He laughed at his own sentence but was also nodding to himself as he felt it was true.

“Where are you staying?” He asked

I replied not sure if I would pronounce it correctly, “a small village called Anogia.”

“Say hello to the goat!” He smiled and laughed, you’ll understand when you get there, “enjoy Crete!” And he wandered off.

Crete, not the location most riders would head for as the season changed to winter. The island is approximately as close to Africa as it’s to Athens. As the rest of Europe is getting colder very quickly, I looked at a map for somewhere to spend some of the winter and maybe be lucky to catch some good weather.

Looking on Google maps and zooming in very, very close it seemed there were a lot of small roads and tracks to discover and not be surrounded by tourists, and the Captain had confirmed that already.

The Island is small, only about 250km’s east to west and around 60km’s north to south, most riders might look at the island and surmise a few days would be enough to see it all…you would be wrong.

I rode from the ferry port of Heraklion on a small winding road through a beautiful canyon climbing all the time almost to the geographic center of the island and the small village of Anogia, and the village square. No-one was around except a goat tied to a tree, I smiled to myself, the Captain did know this place.

I had found an Airbnb for a very good price, because it was out of season, and booked four weeks and got a 60% discount making the price an absolute bargain. I met my host and he told me the village will come awake later, “life here is very slow…very, very slow.” 

The village had a small food store, the people in the village were friendly…this was going to be fun.

He asked why I was here, and I pointed to my motorcycle, he smiled. “Are you a good rider?” I nodded yes. “Great I will make a list of places, roads and some remote tracks you will love to see amazing landscapes and history, Crete has a lot of history.”

My plan was to ride the eastern half of the island for two weeks, then the second two weeks ride the western half. 

After the first ten days, I realized I need more time as I hadn’t seen nowhere near as much of the eastern half and only had about four days of myself allotted time for it. 

Daily I would take leisurely rides using his suggestions and finding interesting places on the map, then talking with locals and making notes of their suggestions. After a few days I found it better not to have a plan, just ride out and see where that day took me, usually from suggestions.

At night time I was looking for a new location to stay, a little further west and closer to the beach as the weather was cooling down in the mountains and found one in Rethimno, and again was offered a very reasonable price which made the decision to stay very easy.

At this point, I slowed down as there seemed no rush to leave and just chose to ride on absolutely perfect weather days.

I could sit here and write a list of must-see roads for you but it seems pointless, because it’s easier to say virtually every single road was worth riding, in the mountains, by the sea, on perfect paved roads, on small dirt tracks, through olive tree plantations, and then even smaller dirt trails farmers and shepherd’s suggested that I met along the way.

When I explained I decided to stay on the island for 3 months because I loved the place and the pace of life, the response was always the same. “You are Creatan now, this will always feel like home and if you leave you will always want to return!”

They are so right, I rode a little over 3000km’s and felt I only just scratched the surface, I will return, but of course only in the off season.

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