From Pyrgos to Matala to Heraklio

April 11, 2014


It had started with me waking up in the hotel in Pyrgos. I was cold. It seems everywhere is cold around here at night. I had packed up my things meticulously then went to meet Manolis as promised. He was in the cafe with two friends, one of which I’ll keep running into all day long. Manolis makes me cafe and it is really good. I am kind of wishing I had decided to stay for two nights instead of one, but my fear that he may get to want more than simply being friends and my fear of abusing the goodness led me to say that I was only going to stay one night.

They talk to me, laugh, I don’t understand anything but it’s a good feeling. The two men leave, the one I’ll run into all day bought my cafe. Thank you! I say. Manolis and I talk about the road to take. He picks up a decorative map of Crete on the wall and shows me a few different ways to Matala. He leaves for a moment and comes back with something close to Turkish börek for breakfast. I am really moved by his hospitality.

I go check the shoe store but there is nothing suitable, I grab a couple of chocolate bars for the road, in there the grocer asks me if I am German. I get asked that a lot, I wonder why. Canada I say and he laughs and jokes. People are always ready to laugh in these parts. It feels good. I head back to the cafe, we exchange addresses. He does not have any internet… I have no phone. But who knows, one day I can write him a letter and he can do the same and there is always google translate. Around 10 or so it’s time to go, I pick up my bag, guitar, baglama, we say goodbyes and I head down the road.

The morning is amazing. Walking… A few minutes in the walk I see Manolis’ friend for the first time, he asks if I want to ride, but no, I want to walkd. The walking is interesting. This feeling of being on the earth close to everything, the birds, the sun, the wind. The sound of the bells from the sheep or goats’s necks. Dogs bark. The flowers are absolutely amazing, they grow wild with such enthusiasm. Such an expression of life, it fills me with joy. This world so beautiful.












I make it to Harakas, then Asisi. 14 Kilometers. Not bad at all. in Asisi for the second time I see Manolis’s friend, he’s in his car and points at his watch, making signs as “you took your sweet time!” I laugh. I stop at a cafe. Greece is the land of cafes, people really know how to enjoy their cafes. The cappuccinos are really good here and everyone makes them everywhere. I walk in and ask about internet, they point to upstairs… I go up and it’s like an internet cafe with computers. I come back down.

“No, wifi?” they give me the code. 5 or 6 men sitting at the bar are all eyes. They are drinking raki with nuts and artichokes and fresh beans. One guy buys me a shot. !! Raki in the middle of the day… after walking… Well I can’t be rude. I down it. It’s actually not bad, not as strong as some stuff I’ve had that would just knock me to my knees. They ask me questions, where I am from and all that stuff. I ask about a shoe store, they show me, just a block down the road. It was so convivial. They are all willing and ready to help. I ask about Matala, they show me the way. I go back to my table and write for an hour or so then go in, pay, and load up my bag and get ready to go. As I sit there Manolis friend appears for a last time, saying things enthusiastically to me… come, come… but I don’t know what he says… maybe I’m missing something really cool…

I get to the store. Closed. That, made me sad and a bit panicked. Hmmm… I have been OK so far but earlier I felt the blister burst on my right foot and I can feel friction and when you hurt you start walking differently and my right leg is not quite right because of this. And there is the fact of carrying this weight. These Converse offer no support and I’m carrying this extra 30 pounds… that is what causes the biggest issue… It’s a lot harder on the feet, the hips and the back. I try to open the door one last time a false little hope that it would come open. It doesn’t.

Lets go then. I head out of town, step by step. Yes, the real time nature of walking. I walk another 3 KM. I have to stop as something got into my left shoe. This is starting to be pretty bad. All right then, lets go.

An intersection. Which way to go? I cannot recognize any of the names. I pick the right side. That was wrong. The road starts to climb up. My pace slows down. Every change in gradient I feel acutely. Now my feet positively hurt, but I see the end in sight, a village ahead, so I carry on. It is so beautiful. I am progressing almost alone in this live postcard the weather is perfect. A small white pick up truck slows down and stops. Where am I going? Matala I say. He makes big gestures… No! Wrong way!! And at that moment when I considered having to walk back this distance so bravely covered, every shred of spring I had in my step died… you mean… this hill… these 4 km or so I walked… all for nothing?

But in retrospect this is how I went wrong. Not in walking up this road but in thinking this was a mistake. In hanging onto an unimportant idea: going to Matala and not letting things happen. I just stood there completely discomfited… and turned back…. Morale will keep bruised, blistered and tortured feet going. Loss of morale will make you feel every bit of pain into the deep of your heart and soul. I feel a touch of despair… Ah if I could have bought new shoes….

As I walked I straightened up… holy damned hell… since so much of life is a matter of how you see it I decided to act as if nothing was the matter… I will never, ever wear a pair of Converse in my life again… I covered the distance back to where I had headed north… No problem, no problem… lifted the back, tried to loosen my stride. A few steps down the road a moped pulls up to me. I am puzzled wondering what the guy wants… He asks Where are you going? Matala. He says something I don’t understand…

“I am Muhammad” he says.

“Daniella” (they all seem to not understand my name when I say Danielle.) He says come on… !!
I climb on. Well I didn’t expect to ride anything resembling motorycle trip on this journey! So I sit behing him with this massive backpack the guitar tied to it, my baglama in my right hand and I’m hanging on to him with my left. I feel gravity and wind pulls on the bag… it’s not great… but it’s so much better than walking!! I move my toes in my shoes… ow, ow, ow… my feet…. the wind comes in the shoes… oh… that feels good… oh how I hurt… I have bloody blisters on both my feet, my little toes are killing me, I have strange shocks of pain going through the arches… so right now I am absolutely loving the back of the moped.


He stops.. as if he’d read my mind, he asks me to puts my bag in front of his feet, I put on my coat, which had also been tied to the backpack, it will keep me warm as I was starting to get cold after sweating for hours… so now I only have the guitar and baglama on my back and it’s much better… I’m looking around and the scenery is so beautiful, I got my camera out of my pocket and I took some video as we rolled…

I am totally enjoying the ride! It’s exhilarating… the wind on my face… that little thing just roaring down the Cretan road. No one needs a big engined motorcycle here… finally he drops me off. He wants me to wait for him, as he is going to work… wait 20 minutes… I come back and pick you up we can have cafe… link to some of the view….

“hmm.. I dunno..”. Well I do. I don’t want to wait… I am, again, not wanting to get ties… free I must be. He insists, says it’s dangerous. To that I had to laugh! Dangerous it is not! I feel it more complicated to keep things simple with these strange men than being out in the open and do my thing. So I thank him take a picture and go on.

I walk on… a car stops soon after. Two guys, Albanians. No one speaks each other’s languages… we try to talk but it’s kind of useless. The next town is Melis, it looks like a fairly big sized place, maybe I can find shoes… I ask them to let me off here. I have cafe, check the email, the maps, the options. After that cafe, I go looking for shoes. It is hard to walk now. Oh my God… When you sit and then start again… phew… I ask a taxi driver about Matala and about a shoe store… he says 20 euros for the ride, and a shoe store is up the road, he would wait for me and take me to Matala after I buy the shoes… Hmmm maybe.

At the shoe store I am astounded at the prices… 40 Euros is the cheapest price for very low quality runners… yikes. I should have bought in Istanbul, they had really good ones for 20 Euros… Sometimes my stinginess hurts me more than anything else. I had decided to try to just wear my Converse and not spend the money then… now it’s time to pay and my cards don’t work. I pay with the last cash I had, so I have no money for the taxi guy. I tell him so. He insists, he’ll take me to the bank and wait and then take me to Matala… I feel that he’s putting way too much pressure so I tell him that I don’t know if the bank machine will work and I don’t want to feel obligated so we’ll part ways here.

The bank machine works. I meet two French backpackers… Like me they are not overly excited with this city much… I tell them about Pyrgos and how awesome the small villages were. We say our goodbyes and at this poin I decide to keep walking on. First, woman sends me the wrong way. Second, a man sends me the other way, mentioning something about a large factory and the first road to the left.

I am thinking that I’ll get a ride, that everything will work out and it did… But maybe I should have stopped at this point… but, I went on, bound to make it. 30 minutes into the walk I realized I had not used the washroom since…. noon, it’s 7 PM or so… I see a gas station. I ask to use the washroom. They say no. Uh? I said “OK… whatever…”

I can hold it… then 20 minutes later I realize I am just completely starving… low blood sugar… I am shaking… crap. OK. Stop on the side of the road and eat some of the food I had. It revives me. I carry on. Large factory in sight. First road to the left, I take it.

Walk, walk… so today it’s been… 14 KM plus about 7,8 KM added for my wrong direction, then hmm.. 5, 6 km here on that road.. somewhere near 30 KM today, with my messed up feet… everything hurts. But I carry on. A car slows down. Susana, a German woman She drives me for about 10 KM. Drops me off, about 2 minutes later a German couple stops they take me to Matala.

Hey! I made it, I thought.

But there is no hostel. No one knows about a hostel here. I did see this place online… the fatigue is really hitting me and it is starting to get hard to compute. WIFI, I’ll find the place on the internet and go there and all will be fine…. I find a cafe, find the place… 12 Euros a night. It’s located back the way I came so I walk some more… the walking now is an ugly duckling stumble but I get there. I am limping pitifully. I get to the desk. No one… a sign says go to the information near the pool… Argh… gotta walk back… I do but there is no one there. I come back. I am so tired. Someone tells me that usually there is nobody here at night. Ah, to have come so far and to be at the very door ready to take this burden off my back, shower and rest… I just sat down and closed my eyes. I almost fall asleep right there. A man comes by and asks me if I was looking for a room, tells me about going next to the pool…

“I was there, there is no one there.”

“Are you OK?”

“Oh yes, it’s just been a very long day.”

“I will try to make a call and see if I can get you a booking.”

He goes away, I’m so exhausted, some tears roll down my face. I rest right there, my two instruments against me, my legs elevated on the bag and close my eyes. What a day… I doze off. His girlfriend comes back, how many nights she asks. She is on the phone, she asks for my passport, I get it out. How much? 20 Euros.. But the internet said 12… no there is no way, it’s always 20… I am so tired, what I should have done was to stay one night instead of two and figure things out tomorrow… but I am fried and all I think is 40 euros gone in one fell swoop… it’s too much… and, and, and… the girl hung up the phone. I ask if I can use the washroom. The last stop was… at noon… She says no. No? Really? OK then I’ ll leave. Thank you very much. I loaded my things back up and left the place.

Down the road was a place with a sign for rooms. I knock on a door. They open, two women, watching TV and Skyping some guy.

“How many nights?”

“well I don’t know it depends on the price.”

They exchange in Greek, they don’t speak much English… They keep trying to get me to commit to say how many nights… I keep saying that I need to know the price. They get the guy on Skype to translate.

“30 Euros.” She said.

“Too expensive.” I said and walked away. Out in the dark night. Everyone is in bed it seems… the place is deserted. I walk painfully back to the town. See this hotel, it’s a huge complex. I walk into the reception. There is no one around. I call out “Hello?” Nobody. I ring the bell at the counter… a few moments later a woman comes from what looks to be an appartment a few steps below.

“What is it?”

“I would like a room.”

She eyes me, then categorically answers:


She stands there, the typical Greek older woman, salt and pepper hair severely tied back, a huge frown in her black eyebrows, hands on her hip, black shirt, black skirt and black stockings into black shoes. At that very sound of this NO! I felt utterly kicked out of the Universe.


I walked out into the night, looked up at the moon being covered by clouds and whimpered. What the hell… “I’m so tired…” To me it was a Herculean kind of day… all this walking.. all this striving to make it here… and now I really, really wish to lie down. Rest. But I have to keep trudging around with this load on my back, with my body starting to give me a giant fuck you because of all the abuse I put it through. I walked around town again and ended up at the bar where I had gotten the wifi earlier. I go directly to the bathroom. I will not ask this time.

I go in sit down get the computer and start trying to figure things out. OK there is really nothing cheap around here…. I cannot stay. But I cannot leave right now. I start looking at what I will do tomorrow… I would like to go to Plakias, there is a gorgeous hostel there… but now I see that If I had continued on that northern road, it would have been more possible to get to Plakias… I check a million of options. Decide to go back to Heraklion. There is the hostel, 9 euros… I will be able to rest there. Tonight, well I will have to stay out.

I will stay in this bar until they close. It’s warm, there’s internet… at about 1AM the bartender stops the music, the internet dies. I say something to him about not having a place to stay.

“Got here too late to find something…’

“Well, I have a room with an extra bed, you can stay there and sleep.”


“Yeah, no problem.”

hmmm… uh OK maybe that is an easy turn of events… but somehow I’m not thrilled.

“What do you want to drink?”

Hmmmm… I don’t want to drink really… I think to myself. I try to tell him but he offers me raki and we have a shot.

“I just have to finish cleaning and we can go up.”

I am not feeling this… I think. But maybe I am judgemental… just stay alert…

he finishes, we exchange pleasanteries and I can’t help but think about what the guy had said in Houdetsi about words used to lie… We walk up the stairs, to the top floor, walk in the apartment, he shows me my bed, he has his… OK that works so far. I see the bathroom. Think of how good a shower would feel… I start getting my things out of my pack… and start to feel that I really don’t like this. He walks in the room.

“organizing your things?”


He comes close to me and puts a hand on my shoulder and starts rubbing it a bit, his head leaning next to me.

“You know, I just had a very long day… I’m not into this right now.”

“Ah, yeah, no problem… you have your bed I have mine…” He walks away. I make my decision. I will change clothes, use the washroom and leave. I do that. When I come out of the washroom I start putting back the layers of clothes, the jacket the pack, the instruments. He sees me heading for the door.

“What are you doing? You can stay…”

“No, it’s OK, thank you so very much…”

“No, no, really, don’t do that…”

“Thank you so much, really, I could not sleep anyways…”

He insisted a bit more as I headed the dark stairwell and out into the night I went. Yes, that definitely feels better. It is going to be a long cold night. But that’s OK. I can do it. I headed out to the beach. The moon is right above the sea, illuminating it, the wind blows, the waves coming, coming and coming again, endlessly. It is amazing. And cold. I find a big rock, there is a perfect spot to lie down and cradle my head. I watch the water for a long time. The sound, the sight.. the water crashing on the big rock wall… in the moonlight, the waves make shapes that get the imagination going… creatures… this constance of the waves… how can it never stop like this… the colors of the night. The rock wall is lit up. there are holes in it they say some early Christians used ato live in those, then in the sixties the hippies came… It is so quiet, no one around. I realize I am lucky to see this place this empty, in a couple of weeks the tourists will pour in… I Almost fall asleep but it’s too cold. I keep waking up with shivers. I wrap the yoga mat I had with me around my legs and waist, that helps but it is still cold. I doze off. Suddenly wake up as the waves started licking the rock ahead of my feet… gotta go. It’s now around 3 something. I walk around. There is one club that is still going, I can see maybe 4 people in there. I don’t want to go in. I just walk around. A white and caramel cat started to follow me.




“Hi baby! Whassup?”


I kneel down he gets really close but when he smells my hand he just frisks away. I talk to him as we walk together up a small street. I turn back, he turns back. Then another cat shows up. A black one, they are all frisky with each other, as if the cold of the night made them electric. They follow me for a while, look at me as I talk to them. We do this for maybe 45 minutes, then they get interested in some garbage and I kept going.

I need a warm spot. The warmest spots feels too dark, too remote. All the cafes leave their chairs outside when they are closed, so I decide to sit a this cafe-waffle place. There is some sheltering against the constant sea winds coming in. I eat some of the food I have. I doze a bit, get cold, wake up, grab the guitar and start playing. I play this new song I wrote lately, the lyrics: “I move, take one step, then another..” perfect for these last few days.

It’s now just before 5 AM… 2 more hours to the bus. I put the guitar away. Yes those are always the coldest hours… the very early morning. The moon is gone, the stars shine brighter, more numerous. I wrap myself again into the yoga mat. It is so cold and I again, could really use a restroom… I sit there, I wait for the morning. At six I’m too cold. I get up walk around some more. Oh my bag… so heavy… I see the sun rise and it’s really beautiful. I go sit in the old VW van that is parked at the entrance of the town, this place was a hippie hangout in the sixties… this is a relic of that time. I eat a little more. Close to seven. The two people from that hotel who had told me that there ususally was no one at reception showed up.






The bus showed up. I get on. I’m so tired. I need to use the washroom so badly… but I can’t so I wait. It’s two hours to Heraklio, I hope to sleep the whole way but the last hour I am dreaming of a washroom,and motion sickness from all the curves in the road wake me up. My body feels like there are ants all over. I recognize some places out there. We have arrived! But the bus stops up the hill. The hostel is down the hill. I ask the driver… no more stops he says… I have to go down this road. Ah, OK, then. one more walk before bathroom or bed. I walk like a crippled, very slowly. A dog keeps step with me for a block. When I see the fortress, I’ll know where I am… When I get down to the water I realize I am too far west. Nooooo…. I whimper a bit. My feet, legs, back and hips hurt, my shoulders resent the bag so much… I keep going. I make it to the hostel… two nights I take. I will rest!! I pay, up the stairs… get to the room, the door is locked… I have to go back downstairs… the man comes and opens the door and says you have to come and get a bed sheet… OK, one more time down and up the stairs… Ah… closer… I put my things down and finally get to the washroom. OMG… then into bed… OMG…. OMG, OMG. OMG…. I fell fast asleep.


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