I had been relaxing the first couple days of my vacation in Agia Roumeli when it was time to get a bit more active. I had read that the E4 trail between Agia Roumeli and Loutro is one of the most interesting in Western Crete, with spectacular scenery. I was also interested in the 11th-century Byzantine chapel that is located in Agios Pavlos – it is said that St. Paul landed there on his way to Rome. I was told that the path is not too tricky – I’m not a very experienced hiker yet, and this was the first time when I was hiking solo! So I was very excited – I didn’t really know what to expect. Except that I was hiking to Agios Pavlos!
The helpful manager at my hotel Tarra had told me to go early, preferably around 7 am, because it would get too hot to walk. He also said that they could send a boat to pick me if I don’t feel like hiking back (otherwise I should wait in Agios Pavlos until the early evening to be able to go back when it’s not as hot). I thought that 4 km is such a short path that no way I would need a boat ride back home – although it was nice to know that if I get hurt or something, somebody can come for help…
Saturday morning dawned, and after having a tasty traditional Cretan breakfast, it was time to get going. Somehow the time flew – I forgot my tripod needed to go back to my room to get it… It was already around 8.30 am when I was on my way! Oops… I could feel the temperature rising with the sun, but I was determined to finish this hike.
The first obstacle was in the beginning – getting pass the goats. 😀 I know they are not supposed to be aggressive, but I’m a bit afraid of them. The trail didn’t seem difficult, although it was sand(y) mostly – I realised quite soon that I was wearing the wrong kind of shoes. When the trail got narrower, you needed to be quite careful with every step when it went next to sheer cliffs. It was also getting sweltering. It was around +33 °C (91 °F), but it felt more like 45 °C… I mean there was barely any shade!
The rocks, the mountains above, the curly pine trees, the crystal clear turquoise Libyan sea shimmering down below… I can’t even describe how beautiful the landscape is! I took hundreds of photos which don’t do enough justice. I’ve also got some video clips on my Instagram stories if you are interested in seeing more (look for Agios Pavlos).
It was somewhere on that trail when one of my favourite poems came to my mind. It is “Strange Sea” (Det underliga havet) by a brilliant Swedish-speaking Finnish poet Edith Södergran (1892-1923). There are a couple of translations into English available (you can have a look here and here), but I have translated the poem myself to reflect on how I interpret the lines.
Peculiar fishes glide in the depths,
Unfamiliar flowers glisten on the shore;
I have seen red and yellow and all the other colours, –
But the gaudy sea is the most dangerous to look at,
It arouses this thirst and wait for upcoming adventures:
What has happened in the fairy tale
Shall happen even to me!
Det underliga havet © Edith Södergran, translation © me
As you may notice, the name of my blog comes from that poem – all the other colours. It reflects my endless desire for adventures and seeing all the bold, gaudy, light, strange, even dull colours that there is in this world. 🙂 Anyway, there on this ancient path, seeing all the colours of the fauna and strange fishes in the crystal clear gleaming sea, I really understood that poem for the first time. Looking at the sea is dangerous indeed!
It was getting so hot that it felt almost impossible to continue. I was glad to find an isolated beach where I could take a swimming break before continuing on my path. I had thought that there could be a chance to stay longer on a beach, but as there was no shade, I couldn’t stay for too long… It was a wonderful feeling to float on the water at that remote shore, just me and the strange sea. 🙂 And the bees, goats, birds, etc. of course… one is never truly alone.
When I continued the trail, I couldn’t get past the feeling how happy I was. It felt wonderful to be there, all by myself, conquering my fears of heights (well it was not that high, but going beside the cliffs, looking down, it sure felt high). Can you believe, I met only two hikers all the way! (Well, I guess most are smart enough not to go that time of the day…)
I ran out of water too soon. It was so hot, and I wasn’t prepared for needing that much water. According to my phone’s navigator, there was only 1.8 km left, so I knew I was going to survive. In the end, I didn’t snap that many photos as I was eager to get some hydration, but I stopped to admire the views now and then. I swear the mesmerising landscape is something that I would never get bored to look at!
When I saw the sign “Welcome to Agios Pavlos”, I was so happy! The first thing I got from the lovely little taverna was a glass of fresh pressed orange juice and WATER. Nothing has ever tasted so good… I thought.
It took me around 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to Agios Pavlos – but I took swimming and photographing break for approximately 30 minutes and other breaks as well, just to marvel the scenery and take hundreds of photos. If you are fast and/or experienced, you can go in around one hour, I suppose.
After hydrating myself a bit, I went to explore the chapel and the beach. The church was tiny and exuded history. It was quite strange to think that there, in the middle of nowhere, on a remote beach this construction – built using stones from the beach – has stood for 1000 years! It was well-kept, and there was a chance to light candles, so I lit one for someone. Although I’m not Catholic, whenever I visit one of their churches, I like to light a votive.
I wandered along the beach, hoping to go swimming – it was still HOT. However, the waves were little too much for me. 🙁 Finally, I returned to the taverna (it was the only place with shade). It was quite a long wait – I was thinking to get going back around 5-6 pm. Luckily I had my book with me; I was reading a very compelling novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. If you are looking for a warm and unusual story about unordinary characters and themes such as loneliness, kindness and moving on, I can genuinely recommend that book!
Following the daily life in Agios Pavlos was fascinating. Soon I realised how hard work it actually must be. I mean everything must be brought there by boat. Suddenly I felt guilty for not bringing enough water with me (in Agia Roumeli you can drink the tap water, but obviously it was not possible in Agios Pavlos).
I had a big meal – calamari and fries. 😀 It was actually too big for me (and too delicious), and I was wondering how can I hike back with a full stomach… At some point, I started chatting with a lady who came to the taverna soon after me, also by herself. It turned out she was also staying in Agia Roumeli! What a coincidence. We decided to go for a drink in the night when we were back in the village.
Around 6 pm I left Agios Pavlos. It was still quite hot, but I had at least enough water with me for the return (actually too much). I took almost as many photos as in the morning – somehow everything seemed different in the setting sunlight compared to the luminous before noon light. I was glad that I was hiking back – it would have been sad to miss the evening magic.
When I got back to Agia Roumeli, all sweaty and covered in sand, I was surprised that I wasn’t very tired. I took a shower and freshened up before heading to one of the tavernas to meet my new friend, the solo hiking lady. We had such a blast and ended up finishing more than just one glass of wine, but I guess it was well-deserved. 🙂
I can highly recommend hiking the E4 path between Agia Roumeli and Agios Pavlos. The views are breath-taking, and because it is not a packed path, you can have it almost all by yourself. You can find useful information about the E4 trails here on the destinationgrete.gr website. Because the trail is not difficult or too long, it is suitable for inexperienced hikers as well. Just bear in mind to wear good shoes (the sand is super hot), bring plenty of water and go very early in the morning or late in the afternoon because there is not much shade!
Have you been hiking the E4 path here or somewhere else or thinking about it? 🙂