Having done this trip last year and enjoyed it so much I decided to do it again, I was looking forward to returning to this beautiful island and swimming in the crystal clear water. I always feel a bit funny about returning somewhere and worry that I will be disappointed , that things will have changed and I will regret my decision. This was absolutely not the case on this trip I am very pleased to report!!
An early departure from Manchester meant arriving in Paleochora in good time for lunch, a dip and some sunbathing! I met a fellow SwimTrekker on the plane so we shared a taxi to the hotel.
Sunday was spent relaxing and meeting up with other SwimTrekkers who had arrived early - what a fantastic mix of nationalities we had. Plenty of Germans whose spoken English put mine to shame and Americans who had made a huge journey to get to Crete. We met up officially in the afternoon - I was very pleased to see Sian as our chief guide. She has the ability to instil huge confidence in you and make you believe you are capable of anything. Plus she has a wicked sense of humour so you are guaranteed to have fun!! Saraloa was her assistant - also with a wicked sense of humour and great skills. Acclimatisation swim happened in the sea just opposite the hotel, so groups were quickly sorted before the real stuff happens!!
A group meal out in the evening meant we all got to know each other a little better and ensured we had our share of gorgeous Greek food - I have never been so full in my life! Starters would have sufficed on this occasion - Greek salad, spinach salad, hummus, babba ganoush, tzatziki, taramosalat, tomatoes…..then the main courses arrived!!
Monday morning arrived, bright and sunny so we made our way to the small beach where we were filmed and did some stroke work. Analysis happened in the hotel lobby so we all had things to work on - no stroke is perfect!!! A quick lunch then a stroll to the harbour to meet our captain Dumulis who looker after us so well for the week. He also has a wicked sense of humour which takes a bit of getting used to, but together with Sian and Saraola, he is a third pair of eyes for us swimmers - nothing was too much trouble for him, including some entertaining banter! We headed east out of the harbour for about 20 minutes, and then all three groups jumped into the beautiful water, swimming east for about 3kms. The water was warm and with a slight chop was a great start to our week. Coastal swims are my favourites - plenty to see, lots of shoals of fish and even the odd octopus if you are lucky. One or two of us had GPS watches so could track our swims - I drove one of the swimmers mad last year wanting to know how far we had gone, so my lovely husband bought me a Suunto Ambit for Christmas, which means I am able to check myself how far I have gone!! I am very technically challenged and although I have “saved” the swims, they have yet to appear on the computer - work in progress!!! We finished the swim comfortably and felt happy with ourselves-and we had earned another Greek feast that night!!
Tuesday we headed further east, past where we had swum the day before doing much the same as Monday. Weather and water conditions were perfect - sun on our backs and vaselined up, nothing could stop us! Frequent drink stops and sweets if you were lucky saw us finish another 3 km swim before we headed back to the town for an afternoon of relaxing and reading. No organised group meal at night, but we all met up and found another restaurant to fuel us up for what was going to be the longest day of the trip!!
Up bright and early, boat departure at 9am with about an hour ride out eastwards. We dropped in and swam along the coast again, in and out of caves, played in the waves and enjoyed the beautiful clear water. After a good 4km we arrived in Lissos. There was short walk to look at the ruins for those that wanted; the rest enjoyed a spot of sunbathing and snorkelling before heading off for another 2kms. The wind had got up so conditions were challenging to say the least! We swam to Souggia and staggered to a local tavern - having not eaten since 9am, we were all starving ! Suffice to say, we demolished baskets of bread whilst we waited for our food to arrive- it was good, but let’s just say I don’t think they were prepared for 18 visitors who were all desperate to eat! After about an hour and a half we were fed and watered and ready for the ride back to town. Heading into the setting sun was stunning and very wet- we were drenched by the time we returned. I was so tired I even cancelled my spot on the wine tasting at Monica’s Garden - I could barely string a sentence together so a bag of Haribo, bottle of water and two pages of my book and I was comatose by about 9pm!A fantastic day with superb swimming .
Thursday was another long day with a ride west this time then swimming back towards town. We had a picnic lunch on a stunning beach then enjoyed a spot of sunbathing . Some of us walked along the E4 footpath towards Elafonissi beach. This is a very popular destination for tourists so was quite busy. It is, nevertheless, stunningly beautiful with sand tinged a pale pink colour. Sadly we did not see any turtles, but enjoyed an hour sunning ourselves before being collected by Dumulis and dropping back in the water for a 2km swim back to our picnic beach. Home a little earlier than the day before, but still a busy day!
Friday was soon here and this was for me, the biggest challenge. I am not that keen on crossings, I would rather do coastal swims. I view them as a mental and physical challenge, purely as a means of getting from A-B. This swim was no different - a 1km swim to the start of the crossing then 4 km right across the bay. Nothing to see; only the lighthouse getting nearer every time you check to sight! After a hard week, my shoulders were tired and it was a feat of mind over matter. However, 2 hours later and on climbing aboard for the last time, I felt a great sense of achievement.
The afternoon was spent relaxing on the beach before a farewell dinner like no other. Stone fired pizzas overlooking the beach at the back of town was a very fitting way to end the week.
I love this trip so much I may even return next year!! I love being able to relax in the afternoon! Thanks to all those who made the trip so memorable and to Sian and Saraola for looking after us so well. My tan may just last until winter sets in!!