Up and at ’em, boys. We’re going on a ride. We’ve got a long way to go and no specified time frame for getting there. We got to the rental place at 9:15 which felt like a major accomplishment. We’d packed, worked out, and showered, all after spending a long night on a very loud street. There was a serious bird party going on in one of the trees outside our Airbnb and it went late.
I’m going to say this up top. The keen-eyed observer will notice that I am wearing the same shirt as the day before. I have no excuse for this. I picked it up off the floor. I put it on. That’s what happened.
We filled out our paperwork, got our keys and our weird little helmets, and strapped our packs to the backs of our SYM HD 200i’s. We were only given 2 old bungie cords a piece but we made it work. Also these are called straps or elastic straps here. If you ask for bungie cords they will have no idea what you’re talking about.
Looking at the map it seemed pretty straight forward, left out of this roundabout and then stay on the main road. It’s actually called the National Road and it stays right along the northern coast of Crete for all of the 142 km from Heraklion to Chania. I thought it would be hard to miss. It wasn’t that hard to miss. Instead of riding along the coast, we road inland. I think we both knew something was up, but I really didn’t want to stop that early in the ride. Eventually I was forced to confront the fact that we hadn’t seen the ocean in about 45 minutes. I pulled over and checked the map.
It would have been faster to backtrack but by god we were on an adventure! There’s no backtracking on an adventure. We kept going and were treated to the lovely interior of Crete. Mountainous and lush with olive orchards dotting distant hills.
We stopped for lunch in the town Agia Galini at a taverna called Kostos Taverna, and, for the first time, set eyes on the Mediterranean Sea. There were some sunbathers and waterbathers, mostly of an older set. Not a crowded beach area at all. Joe wanted to leave our packs on the bikes even though they were out of sight. I couldn’t handle it. I got mine down and brought it with me to breakfast. I asked the waiter for two menus and he impressed upon me with some gravity that it was breakfast time. Fine with us. We ate some incredible scrambled eggs that tasted like they were laid that day.
I felt guilty about leading us all the way across Crete in the wrong direction but Joe was fine with it, even excited, and we did get to see a bunch of it that we never would have seen otherwise. Long rides expose us to parts of these lands rarely seen by your casual traveler. We’re not off-the-grid explorers by any stretch but we do like to take the road less traveled when it presents itself. Or when you take it by accident.
We walked back to the bikes. Joe’s pack was gone. I’m kidding it was fine. He was right. I re-strapped mine down and we got headed in the right direction, back across Crete.
There wasn’t a ton of traffic on anywhere on this island but we did see some roadkill. I couldn’t figure out what animal it was. It looked like a ferret maybe? Light brown fur with black hands and head. I looked it up. There are no ferrets on Crete but there is something called a Least Weasel, which, as far as names go, is right up there with Pension George. I think the proper article to use when referring to a Least Weasel is ‘the.’ As in, “That’s the Least Weasel of any weasel I’ve ever seen.”
Note to us for future trips, always get the full face helmet. We learned that lesson in Vietnam but forgot it. The wind is loud as hell and there are bugs hitting you in the face all the time. Joe took a bee off the tip of the nose. I got one in my mouth and when I spit it out I thought maybe it’d stung my tongue because my tongue kinda stung from where I’d tongued it. I’d see beautiful butterflies floating peacefully over the road ahead and freak the fuck out. Just imagine standing still and seeing a butterfly approaching you at 110 kph. Not so pretty is it.
We finally made it back to the north coast and stopped at another beach taverna called Seven Souls.
We were served Coca-Cola classics by a chubby 12-year-old getting his first tilt at the working world. We tipped him a half-euro. Buckle up kid, only 50 more years of this.
We arrived in Chania early for our Airbnb host so we parked by the water and ate a weird baguette. Joe kept calling it “an Italian tuna.” I have no idea why.
Riding in Chania is hectic. Lots of narrow one-way streets and pedestrians. I didn’t love it. We found our Airbnb and checked in. It’s enormous. A two bedroom one bath with a wrap around balcony. We have our own rooms for the first time which feels wrong.
We chilled for a bit and then headed to old town Chania on foot. When we stepped outside, we finally got a sunset.
Old town Chania is behind an old defensive wall and sports a ring of restaurants and bars surrounding a little bay. A lighthouse watches the mouth. As a wise man once said, “It has charm out the wazoo.”
We ate dinner at a place called Tamam which served us our favorite dish of the trip, a simple lamb kebab.
“The lamb is amazing.” I said.
“It’s delicious. I could live off the lamb.”
At this point I tried to get Joe to recreate his pun face – he pulls a very specific face after making a joke like that – so that I could photograph it, but he was unable to do it artificially. I think we can all relate. It’s weird to think that what our faces are doing at any given moment is largely out of our control.
After dinner we walked all the way around the circle and out onto the lighthouse wall. This is allowed. Joe had to pee the entire time but kept going. Halfway out on the lighthouse wall it started to get serious but we were out on a seawall, there wasn’t much cover. We started to look for a suitable spot but it was very dark beyond the wall and bright on the people side. There were also people. We got to the end and still nothing. Well, the lighthouse.
The pressure started to build. Then all of a sudden, there next to a fortification, a way down to the seaside. Joe used his phone flashlight to navigate the large rocks while I kept watch. Then Joe peed on a nearly 500 year old Venetian fortress. In all fairness, so did the Venetians. He climbed back up to the wall.
“You could really tell what was going on down there.”
“Yes it was very loud.”
“I know! I was peeing on tin cans or something.”
We finished the night off at a bar, the name of which I cannot recall.
“It was something cafe, something in greek,” Joe thinks.
It was a cool spot with cool music and cool Greek young people. We went the long way around to avoid a guy offering free shots.
After that we walked home at a pretty brisk pace. There’s a lot of “13” graffiti around where we’re staying and we’re assuming it’s gang related. We’re fairly certain the reason they’re not hassling us is because their secret gang sign is holding a cup of gelato.