The purpose of this chapter is to introduce to you Voukefalas II, the new member of Overlanddiaries that replaced our original vehicle and from now on will be our trusted companion to any future expeditions. Voukefalas II is a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser J-120 with a 3000cc D4D diesel engine, a vehicle that has long been trusted by the overland community and has proved its value. Before we had no time or money to equip it with all the necessary tools, the travel bug hit us once again. Yes, you guessed it right. “An introduction of any kind of vehicle is completed only during an exhibition out in the wild”. Or so they say and that is exactly what we planned to do.
This trip was not with unlimited time off to a foreign country, so instead we picked a destination in Greece, the island of Crete. Most of you will remember my oldest visit there in one of my solo previous trips but this place had some magic that made me to want to go back. This time there was another very special reason. Her name is Rochelle.
So everything was arranged and after loading our old equipment and together with our roof top tent in place, we took the overnight boat to Chania. Crete, as you probably know, is a big island with lots of things that can keep you busy for an extended period of time. But as I already knew that the north part is completely overtaken by package tourism, our major focus was the south. This part of the island lacks good roads making it suitable for what we were after on our overland exhibition. Add to the above a number of isolated coves and beaches that the only way to get to is either dirt roads or mud trails and there you have it: the perfect start to put the superior capabilities of Voukefalas II to the test.
Our first stop and after having Konstantinos and Lida, friends from Mykonos, join us, we headed to Ballos, one of the most stunning sceneries in the west coast of Crete. The beach itself -although we were there at the beginning of October- was still crowded but that didn’t spoil any of its natural beauty. Quite the opposite, the 45-minute compulsory trekking down to the beach added extra panoramic views that were worth the effort.
Next on our list and after a quick free camp overnight in Falaserna, were the pink beaches of Elafonisi, another definitely must see – top of the list thing to do in Crete. If you happen to get there, try to avoid the developed first part of the beach and head towards the rest of the small island that is connected with a thin strip of sand with the mainland. This is the part that is kept in an almost virgin condition. Here a day out in the small coves and on the pink sand can satisfy even the most demanding traveler’s needs for beach bumming. Unfortunately there was no place to free camp in Elafonisi so we continued our course in the south and headed to Fragokastelo, a volcanic beach next to a Venetian fort, an ideal setup for a camp site. In order to get there though, we pushed Voukefalas II through some rugged mountainous country and on to the thick sand, where its 4wd capabilities enabled us to camp right on the edge of a beach on our own. That night, looking at the Milky Way, together with the bright stars and the early swim first thing in the morning, made us appreciate the beauty of a roof top tent on top of our 4wd vehicle. Moments like this is why we love to travel to places that other people just cannot reach and it’s probably the main reason we travel overland way beyond the places they can visit.
At this point I have to mention that back home and during our visit to Kimon’s Zamanakos Service for the necessary check up of Voukefalas II, Katia, Kimon’s wife had mentioned Xerokabos, our next stop. This is a really isolated peninsula on the southeast part of Crete. So after a couple of days over Plakias, Preveli, Chora Sfakion and Agia Galini (places that must have been beautiful in the past but nowadays they are on the tourist map and definitely after the tourist dollar) we ended up in Xerokabos late at night. The next morning, we walked up to an unspoiled area full of small beautiful coves with private beaches and a castaway feel to it. Rochelle was so impressed that she decided to retire here. (Noooooo, don’t worry. First we will travel around the rest of the world and then we will consider retiring). In reality now, the clear waters and the soft sand kept us busy and make us definitely fall in love with the place. The only downside was the vicious mosquito attacks during sunrise and sunset. They left their marks all over our skin but also they stopped us from camping .(vicious bas@#*rds).
We visited Chania on our way in and in order not to miss out any of the city sites, we did a couple of quick overstays in the other three big cities: Heraklion, Rethimnon and Agios Nikolaos that each one adds its own character to the beauty of Crete. Every single one has to offer an old part of the city with a picturesque port left back from the Venetians that built them in their short passage through the island. Out of our whole quick north passage, the only place worth mentioning here is Sissi (funny name for a place). It’s a seaside village that is a beautifully unique, small fisherman port that manages to stand out and overwhelm all the mass touristic revivals nearby.
A real overland trip though starts being real when the unexpected pops up. We found our next destination at the end of an almost destroyed road, Triopetra. As the word means in Greek, it’s where the land has collapsed through the years and there are three big stones still standing at the end of an unspoiled kilometer-long beach. It was the jewel of the crown in our exhibition. Triopetra had only one tavern with very friendly owners and staff whose hospitality made it up for all the rest of the island. As for Rochelle, let’s say that she reconsidered where retiring should take place. Voukefalas II, for one more time, crossed without any problems the long beach over the soft sand and allowed us to set up camping in the best spot.
Before we boarded the boat back to Piraeus, one last night in one of the thousand isolated beaches of Crete completed a long circle of overland trips that started more than a year ago. We will now be heading back to work. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “It was about time!!!” But it’s only to gain time and get prepared for a new overland diary in the future. Keep on following our crazy course of travel and we promise you that we won’t disappoint you. So long then for a while and keep in mind the saying from one of our new favorite travel shows: YOLO!!! “YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE!!!”