Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dynomites last weekend ...

Dynomite and my husband returned from their gallivant around the island with sore heads, sore livers and an apparent disdain for all things alcoholic, after two hours of whinging and wining and a good sleep they were back in the game! A very nice vodka cocktail was whipped up and we all sat down to watch the Olympic opening ceremony which I must admit, even if I am British, was ‘rather smashing and a jolly good show!’

The next day was the last that we would have the little Vitara, and so we decided to go on a mission to a place which you can only get to if you have a 4x4 or a boat. Husband dearest, fired up Google Earth and loaded the GPS – he likes his toys and loves his GPS – we filled the car up with all the beach gear and snorkeling equipment and headed over to the other side of the island.

The GPS chose the route and the road went from black top two lanes, to black top one lane, to cement one lane, to gravel road one lane, to gravel track with a hideous drop on one side and finally to riverbed with what appeared to be a track. The drive although quite bumpy, and at some point it was well … interesting, was in all fairness very pretty, it took us through rolling olive groves, down a narrow valley around a sea facing cliff and eventually to a very cute and quite small pebble beach. 

The beach was different from most of the beaches we have already visited, everywhere you looked there were caves. It felt as if at some point in time, the area could have been home to a settlement of troglodytes. Some of the caves you had to swim to, others you had to climb up to, most of them were at least 30 square meters and had clearly been recently used as camp spots given the fire pits which we found.

The snorkeling was quite good there were plenty of underwater caves to explore and for the first time in a while there were fish! They were small fish, but they were there. 

We chilled on the beach for a while and then headed over the mountains to the white sanded beach of Xerocampus. Xerocampus is a little secret, it is hidden away by the mountains on the South East coast. Driving down to the beach you can be forgiven for thinking that you are on a Caribbean island the only difference being that there are acacias lining the beaches rather than palm trees, the sand is white and the beach disappears into the water very slowly so it’s good for young kids. The water is crystal clear, I think we had over 50 meters visibility.

The other thing which Xerocampus has is a natural salt pan which you can walk onto and collect sea salt. To be honest the best time for this is the end of August when the water has evaporated leaving behind large salt crystals, I went over to have a look at the progress of the salt and unfortunately it wasn’t quite ready for collection yet.  

Eventually we where all sunbathed out and headed for home.

Xerocampus is well signposted. You can reach it by heading for Zakros from the north coast and continuing around to the white sand beaches or you can head over the mountains from either Goudaras on the south coast of Papaginadas in the middle of the island. There are a few tavernas in the area for lunch and for the first time, this year there are a few sunbeds on part of the beach. You can also rent rooms and small villas if you want to hang around longer though the town is lacking a bank, pharmacy and reasonable sized supermarket so you may want to shop before you head over there.

The first beach requires a 4x4 if you want to drive, or a boat. It will take you the best part of an hour to descend to once you are on the cement road, there is no cell phone reception in the valley and the beach is quite narrow. It is a good place for snorkeling or camping over night and is sheltered from the north wind, though I would not recommend this beach if the south wind is blowing. See the maps below on how to reach the beach. 

To get there drive to the mountain village of Ziros – drive through Ziros heading towards Xerocampus you will see signs for Kalo Chorio this a an extremely small village, more of a hamlet than anything else. The roads are concrete and squeeze between the houses, you will get to a fork in the road almost in the middle of the village, take a right here and keep heading down the mountain towards Agia Irini. Along this road you will reach one more fork in the now gravel track where you will have options for Xerocampus or a track which leads down the mountain, take the track down the mountain towards the sea. You will eventually reach a thin metal gate which is tied together with a piece of string, open the gate and drive through though be sure to close the gate and secure it both ways as it’s is keeping the sheep and goats in. Not long after the gate you will find the beach.

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