Getting off the boat we managed to be the first people to grab a taxi, and 20 minutes later were at the sleepy Crete Chanya (the latter pronounced with a silent “C”) International Airport. So early were we that the rental car desks weren’t even open, and we waited a while for the rental agent to arrive. The only availability was for a more luxury midsize, which would come with an extra $50 cost. Not feeling the need to argue over the price, we agreed and were off in no time to find a beach. The ‘more luxury’ vehicle is a midnight blue BMW 116i, a diesel powered six-speed that proved being worthy of its German descent just minutes later while merging onto the islands’ main highway. Our destination was Elafonisi Beach, famous around the world for its pink sand and turquoise waters washing in from the Mediterranean. The drive took nearly two hours of our early morning, the majority of which was spent navigating windy switchbacks on narrow roads that were literally cut into the sides of mountains. Grinning from ear to ear I stuck to just two gears, second for steep climbs and corners, and third for straightaways between the previous two. The feel of the vehicle made the entire process joyful, the tightly tuned suspension allowing minimal roll in corners and the buttery smooth shifting making me feel like I was racing in some mountainous Grand Prix. Crossing through a single lane tunnel in the side of the highest mountain, we began our descent into the lower lands and on toward the sea.
Arriving at the Elafonisi Beach well before the masses (it was only 09h00 at this point) we parked close to the entrance with another half dozen cars; by the end of the day there would be hundreds. Walking down the long shoreline we saw faint hints of the notable pink sand, and read signs of the deterioration of its colorful presence due to visitors taking it home with them. The signs poignantly reminded readers that we were borrowing the land from future generations, and to respect it accordingly. Setting up our beach towels on a quieter spot of land across a 50’ wide waist deep river of inlet water, we retained a bit of solitude throughout the day as crowds (and busses) of people arrived in the following hours. I regretted aloud not having taken pictures of the serene landscape when we first arrived, as now there were people everywhere. Temperatures peaked in the low 90s shortly after noon, and we lingered around swimming and reading our books until almost 15h00.
The drive back was far less enjoyable for me due to the swarms of traffic leaving the beaches, but we made it over the mountains in a hour as our GPS directed us to Kissamos, the small town where we would be staying for the next two nights. We met the Airbnb hosts, a woman and her mother, and got checked into the in-law apartment they have behind the main house. For $45 USD per night we have the place to ourselves, access to a washing machine and air conditioning, all while being just two blocks from the beach. After quick showers and starting a load of laundry we walked down to the water and enjoyed an amazing meal at a small local restaurant called Maria’s. We dined on baked feta cheese with peppers and tomatoes, veggie risotto, and a dish called Pastisito, made with macaroni, mashed potatoes, cheese, and minced meat. Both the service and food were exceptional, and the manager surprised us with dessert and a local liqueur as we watched the sunset over the town’s northern bay.
By the time we returned to the apartment it was 22h30, plans in place to wake up early and head to another famous beach on the northwest corner of Crete, hoping to get some photos and footage of the beautiful landscape before countless numbers of people arrived as they had today. Located just 9 miles away the drive is said to take over an hour, which has me eagerly anticipating the kind of terrain we might be crossing to get there.