After arrival at the Souda port by ferry from Pireus at 6am we hopped on the bus to Kastelli at 7:15. The ride took over an hour. The views on the way were amazing but this did not stop me from napping through most of the ride. We passed endless orchards with lemon and orange trees. Prior to coming to Crete I read that the island is green at this time of year. The road was very narrow at times with 180 degree serpentines. It was quite cloudy but we could clearly see the two peninsulas, Gramvouosa and Rodopos stretching to the north. Kastelli is not a small town by Cretan standards, but it was really peaceful and quiet, which was to be expected as we arrived some weeks before the tourist season opens. The driver dropped us in the center of the town just next to the taxi station. We decided on getting to Balos beach along the west coast of the peninsula so we still had to somehow get further to the west, preferably Falassarna. There is one bus that goes further west, but it turns south and goes to Platanos. At first we wanted to take the bus and get off somewhere on the way, but it was not scheduled until 10:30. Not to waste time we considered taking a taxi. After negotitating with the taxi driver we settled on 10€ to be taken to Piperiana. This was a good decision and the 1.5h that we saved allowed us to reach our destination before the sunset.
We were equipped with the Anavasi 1:50k maps. We made photocopies because the atlas is pretty heavy and we only needed parts of the island. There were no problems with finding the way and we quickly reached the west coast. We found ourselves high in the hills with a view of Falassarna and a multitude of greenhouses along the coast. From here we started our first descent of our hike. The weather was pleasant, quite cool but the wind was blowing heavily. The town, like most other towns on the way seemed abandoned. Still a couple of weeks before the season opens. After entering Falassarna we searched for a shop but the only one we found was closed. So we filled our water tanks from a hose outside a small hotel. We knew that the next sure water source would be in Kissamos on the following day. The wind was really strong, and Ziggi almost lost his sleeping pad after a strong gust blew it in the direction of the beach.
Once prepared we headed north towards the ruins of Ancient Falassarna. I kept thinking about the wind and if it would be possible to find a nice spot where we could pitch our tent. Just after Ancient Falassarna the gravel road ended. We came across a closed fence with a lot of sheep inside. An old man was taking care of them and he came to open the gate for us. Unfortunately he did not speak English. Too bad because he was really trying to tell us something. I was a bit afraid that he meant to warn us about some obstacles on the way. But once we said goodbye and went on he did not try to stop us so we assumed we should be ok.
At this point the actual wild path started. It was not well defined but fortunately from time to time we could spot blue dots on bigger stones that helped us in finding our way. The dots we really helpful at times. As we had not much experience in hiking we weren't sure if we would make it to Balos. I kept thinking wether we would reach a point on our way that would seem to technically difficult for us and force us to return. There were no alternative routes, so we would either reach Balos or have to return to Falassarna. Actually this uncertainty of success grew the further we went, because the path seemed to get harder after every corner. But it was just a feeling and the actual hike was much simpler than we thought it would be. What seemed really hard from a distance turned out to be much easier once we came closer.
The weather was really great for walking. The clouds in the sky added to the drama of the scenery. Fortunately it did not rain, although the sky was really dark at times, with just a few rays of sun finding its way through. There were only a couple of places on the path were we had to use our hands for light scrambling. Towards the end of the day we kept wondering what the steep ridge of the mountain range would bring. We imagined a vertical wall with only a narrow shelf, just wide enough for passing. But the closer we came to the ridge the less frightening it looked. After the steep ridge we came across a long scree with big white stones. After crossing it we still had to climb a steep path towards
Overall this is not a technically difficult or dangerous path and I absolutely recommend this to anyone reasonably fit of course. Actually this was my favorite trek of the 9 days we spent on Crete. The fear of failing came from our lack of experience. Completing this track boosted our confidence, we were giddily looking forward to the next days.