WEDNESDAY 5.7 BALI KARAVOSTASI
As has been said previously, Bali was a once quaint little multi-level fishing village now transformed into high-octane tourist heaven. Or hell, depending on your perspective. We’d been there the other day and went to Livaki but I’d read on Trip Advisor and the guide books about a small beach called Karavostasi. This is apparently the smallest and quietest of Bali’s four beaches, but also the furthest away on foot via the bus from Rethymnon.
So Lonely Planet described Karavostasi (I could only remember the name by adding ‘East German Secret Police’ to ‘Caravan’) as a ‘coastal footpath’ away from the port, and our increasingly not old friend Google Maps suggested a 40-minute walk from the bus stop. Ahem.
The outskirts of Bali itself are only 10 minutes stroll from where the bus drops you off but by the time we got to near the port we’d noticed a) the little tourist train that takes punters up and down between the bus stop at one end and Karavostasi at the other and b) there is a short stretch of virtually vertical hill between Taverna Gallini and the beach which our 50+ knees and ankles were not going to do in a million years.
The tourist train only comes round once an hour so we hopped into Taverna Galini for a drink and a bit of lunch. It looks on the outside like one of the many ‘not very good photos of the menu on the outside’ tourist joints that abound in places like Bali, but we’d actually highly recommend the place even without the complimentary mini donuts (loukoumades) with choc sauce and ice cream and a very, very generous mini-bottle of Raki. It may be an old wives tale that it’s dangerous to swim after a meal but it certainly wouldn’t have been wise to get the mask and snorkel out after two large beers and 4 shots of Raki. So I didn’t.
The tourist train is a fun and inexpensive way of getting around the resort and in between the beaches, and dumps you off right at the bus stop on the way home. Karavostasi is very much not just a 40 minute walk from the bus stop – Google Maps seems to be a bit sun-blinded when it comes to Crete – and for Lonely Planet to describe the track up there as a mere ‘coastal path’ could confuse a lot of older or not so fit people to try strolling over there. It’s NOT a stroll. Unless you’re a genetic hybrid of Mountain Goat, Chris Bonnington and the Brownlee brothers, take the tourist Bus.
Karovostasi itself is nestled under some very steep rock and hills. Again a fact not mentioned in the guides – there’s a fairly steep bit of hill to climb between the train stop/car park and the beach. Nothing like Prevelli of course but still enough to be a problem for those with slightly wobbly legs. There are a couple of low key tavernas which we didn’t sample but seemed very popular on Trip Advisor for what that’s worth. The scenery is stunning and it’s a beautiful little beach, the only caveat being it’s absolutely stuffed to the gills with sunbeds and was busy even by the time we got down there in mid-afternoon. Not too bad if you really want to share skin cells with an Eastern European you’ve only just met but for those of us with personal space issues a little bit awkward.
And home. And one of those discoveries we only seem to make right at the end of a holiday. A local lady we spoke with at the bus stop informed us that the bus actually stops at Platanes on its way to Rethymnon – you just need to press the stop bell and the stop is on the main road just beneath the school. This little gem saved us journeying all the way back into Rethymnon (well, that’s about 20 minutes) and bussing ourselves back to Platanes. Ah well, we know for next time.
Still very satisfied by lunch (both solid and liquid), dinner ended up being a carton of roasted chick peas from the local Lidl (much healthier than peanuts – wish we had them at home) and rather a lot of the local plonk sold for next to nothing at the local supermarket in plastic bottles and not at all bad.
THURSDAY 6.7 Plakias in a Force 9 Gale
The final full day of our holiday. It’s always a dilemma. What to do. Go for the big finale, do something you’ve already done and are guaranteed to enjoy again, or try something completely new. We’ve pretty much exhausted our bus possibilities but there’s a fairly short but spectacular ride down to Plakias from Rethymnon and Plakias is certainly somewhere we’d said we’d like to get to know a little better.
The rugged drama of Kotsifous Gorge has been raved about already in this blog, but it’s sure as hell not a sight we’re going to see on the Number 1 from Portland Bill to Weymouth. Plakias looked as lovely and low key as when we’d passed through last week. The water looked as crystalline and snorkel-worthy as any bit of sea I’ve seen during this holiday. Only one problem. Wind.
Not just a stiff breeze but a near hurricane force blast that was overturning anything not nailed down, bending trees over at 90 degree angles and whipping the sandy beach up into a giant exfoliation session.
In the faintly ridiculous hope the gale would die down while we had lunch, we found To Xehoristo (an apparently big favourite with locals namechecked in Lonely Planet) and ate probably the best lunch ever eaten in a taverna with an unpronounceable name. As per usual with Cretan tavernas whether traditional or touristy, presentation isn’t big on the chef’s agenda but we’ve not had a bad meal yet and more or less everything has been very tasty and incredibly good value for money. Today was no exception – grilled sardines so fresh I had to check they weren’t still swimming, and pork in a white wine and herb sauce. Hardly Masterchef material but very good. And we actually ate indoors. Yes, indoors, while the howling gale (an apparently regular occurrence during the summer) did its worst outside.
So a day on the beach wasn’t an option and the next bus back to Rethymnon was a few hours away so off to the lovely Ostraco bar with glass panel windshields and a few drinks and a chat with the lovely waitress to while away the wait for the bus before returning to Rethymnon.
We were going to while away a few hours on a Rethymnon Beach (with Rethymnon now completely breeze free up here on the North coast) before taking in the sunset. But apart from a rather scrubby piece of sand facing the port it would have been quite a long trek down to a proper beach so we got ourselves back to Platanes and spent the evening at the Garden Taverna in Lower Platanes (good if not spectacular food and a very entertaining owner) followed by a little bit of last minute shopping and into the supermarket with the elf people for a final bottle of wine. BTW Yassou was the Lower Platanes shop Mrs K most liked – it’s a bit classier than the usual tourist places and is situated by the bus stop next to the BP petrol station.
FRIDAY 7.7 HOME
The slightly surreal reality of drinking morning tea on a balcony in Crete knowing that by the time the sun next goes down you’ll be sat on a sofa at home watching crap TV wondering where the deafening sound of cicadas has gone and considering the possibility of wearing socks, shoes and proper daytime clothes again for the first time in a fortnight.
The world is a huge place and we aim to see as much of it as possible before the zimmer frame replaces the trolley bag, so we probably won’t ever return to Rethymnon. Not because we didn’t love it (we did) but there’s plenty more world to see, and plenty more Crete. We’ll certainly be returning to the island again, definitely taking advantage of its particularly long season. But if we did go back to the same area we’d have no hesitation staying at Apollon again. We hope these notes have been of some use. Hopefully of more use than our Olympic rep but that’s a very low bar, and yes I have written Olympic a very moany letter.
Please feel free to use the comments section to ask questions (we may or may not be able to answer!) or add info that we’ve missed or to say “Connor – you’re talking a load of shite”.