After our disappointing experience with the bus we started looking at renting a car. After some research we found that Budget had the best deal and the most comprehensive insurance package. Now we had wheels for a week. A new Volkswagen Polo with AC. Yay! We drove the car to the hotel, just a few hundred meters away and checked the supplied map of Crete for destinations. Our first trip would go to Vai, on the east side of the island.
|Quite a calm day at Vai
|Rocky outcrops along the shore
|The palm trees at Vai
|A Vai goddess among the trees
With a full tank of gas we set off. Through town to the one and only major highway that traverses the island from east to west. Driving the winding highway is as easy as pie and when you come up to a slower moving vehicle they start driving on the shoulder to give you room to pass.
We arrived in Vai, without any problems. The road signs are in Greek and English. Vai is not really a town but more a park. It was first made popular in the seventies by some British fellows, and soon became a hippy hangout with tents all over the place. The resulting mess caused the officials to declare the area a park and all the hippies were sent packing. Now it has become a very popular place to go from nearby towns and in the hight of summer it can be difficult and expensive to find a place to park. Even a toilet can cost you a couple of euros. There are some restaurants and vendors selling trinkets and ice cream. The menus posted at the restaurants looked uninspiring so we gave them a skip. Besides after a huge breakfast at the hotel, the thought of food did not really surface.
|You wish these stones could talk
Vai has the only natural palm forest in the Mediterranean which produces a wonderful shade along the beach. It is no wonder that it is such an attraction for tourists and locals alike. When we were there in September it was relatively quiet and we spent some time exploring the area. We came upon an old ruin where we found stone carved pieces that were just lying around. They were once part of the building and I had no idea how old this ruin was. It sure looked like it was a nice place once upon a time.
|Some more images from around Vai
We decided to return to the hotel along the north coastal road west bound. This used to be the only way to go, but with the new highway in place this old road is now for those with plenty of time on their hands, like us. We came upon a town called Sitia, which at the time looked a little sad and tired, hopefully since we were there someone has been kind to this place. It has an airstrip which was not in use. The town needed a shot in the arm, the location is great for a tourist mecca. Further along lies Mochlos, where we stopped for a beverage.
|Me wondering if I could live here
|Fishing boats at anchor
|This island was a swimmer's destination
|It's wine o'clock
|It's a cat's life
|Dinghies on the shore
|The swimmers island
|The view to the east
We drove down to the village and found a parking spot quite easily. Mochlos is a small village, just a few houses and a little shop that sells the essentials. A quaint, lazy place in the sun, great to while away a hour or two. Restaurants dot the waterfront and little fishing boats bop in the bay at anchor. A cool breeze flows from the sea and we found the perfect little terrace for a glass or two of chilled white wine, and some olives.
As we let the breeze flow along our faces we saw a young man get into the water and he swam to a small island just across the bay. It took him about 20 minutes and the sea was quite choppy from the wind. We were a bit worried at first, but it soon became clear that he had done this many times. His rhythm never slowed as he worked his way through the waves. Once on the island he walked along the beach and disappeared from view. There are a couple of little buildings on the island, I suppose they are used by farmers or goat herders sometime during the year.
|Our hotel room "Lesbos" just below the umbrella
|And one of the locals getting a drink
Back at the hotel we got comfy in our bathing suits and went to the pool for happy hour. A swim, some wine and some new friends. Jan and Joni Verhees from Holland were at the pool and we had a great time. We are still in contact with them now. More about them later.