It has been a wonderful summer, but like all good things, it must sadly come to an end.
And while I sit back and reflect on all of the amazing memories, there is one in specific that tops them all.
It was just another day exploring Crete with my two cousins, Brandy and Jon.
During their visit we sun bathed on numerous beaches, dove off 25 foot cliffs into the sea and strolled along the ancient alleyways that make up the Old Venetian Harbor in Chania. Towards the end of their vacation, they both wanted to do something different – which led us to experience something unforgettable.
Our goal was to visit the Cave of Zeus.
There are actually two caves of Zeus: one where Zeus was born and another where he grew up. But we didn’t realize that until after we had driven head strong into a tangled mess of unpaved and unmapped roads; while managing to get lost with no guarantee we’d be able to make it out of this mountain labyrinth (and for what seemed to be hours on end).
Hold on, I’m getting into the thick of it… let’s back up…
Before we left the house we packed up three maps, several large water bottles and a few nutrition bars. With spotty wifi on our cellphones, we drove off sometime around midmorning from Chania and headed straight to the national road (Crete’s largest, longest road that basically resembles a highway – connecting all of the major cities on the island) towards Rythmeno.
Following 3 different maps (not counting our “trusty” google maps because the internet was so scarce), we were on our way to see Zeus’ cave! We exited the national road just before Rythmeno and continued on a secondary road (which is just another name for an old, uneven paved road on Crete).
We drove for what seemed to be several hours up a switch back mountain road in a small, untrustworthy 4 cylinder manual euro car
while passing sheep flocks and goat herds as they grazed the rocky, clay soiled terrain. We were headed to the greater area of where the cave was supposed to be…
…but once we made a right turn towards what seemed to be the correct path, we knew we had taken a very wrong detour when the road turned to dust. Literally.
We couldn’t turn around until we found enough space for a 10 point turn – kid you not.
The roads here are extremely narrow with small rocks to big boulders that are scattered everywhere. One flat tire, and we would be screwed. I mean, I know all three of us could handle changing a flat, but trying to drive out of here on a spare tire would be suicide – for the car anyway.
We were lost. There were no signs. No civilization. No internet connection. We had no idea where we were. Hell! All three maps didn’t know where we were, either.
We were tired, hot (no AC in the car and it was at least 80 degrees), famished and exhausted. All we wanted to do was reach this damn cave. Come on Zeus! Help us out here!
Then, off in a distance, we saw a shuttle bus driving. Alas! Civilization! We decided the best thing to do was to follow it. Maybe it was going to the cave, too! We backtracked our route and drove up another rocky hill where we found the shuttle bus parked on the side of the road with a church at the top.
I got out of the car and approached the man sitting in the driver seat. He, of course, spoke very little English and pointed up the hill for us to meet a tour guide.
That’s when we met Danae. She was speaking in French, looked American, but was definitely Greek.
It threw us for a loop. She informed us that we stumbled upon a Cretan home cooking tour that travels to a shepherds home… and this was the French version.
Both Danae and the shepherd, Andreas, tried to give us directions to Zeus’ cave, but informed us that it would take at least another 4 hours to get there!
We all looked at each other and rolled our eyes. There was no way we would continue driving to the other side of the island. It was already 2:00 pm and we still had a long way to get back home.
As I looked around, I saw roast meat on a spit over a handmade fire pit, sharp meat hooks hanging from the shed and a bloody butcher knife gouged into a wooden tree stump. Instant thoughts came to my mind of a Halloween horror film.
Danae had told us that the shepherd had prepared a delicious home cooked meal for the tour group (ahhh… makes sense) and since we were technically lost, he wanted to provide us with a meal as well!
He handed us some roasted goat meat with his bare hands… it was so bizarre but really awesome at the same time. I mean, it doesn’t get any more “real” than that!
The Shepherd signaled us to sit with the tour group under his thousand-year old oak tree. We were in awe of his hospitality, as well as Danae’s enthusiasm to join them. We thanked them both numerously as all three of us were blown away by their generosity.
She explained to the tour group what happened to us… all in French. They all smiled and as we sat down, Danae handed us forks and cups.
We tried to communicate with the other guests (Brandy knew a little French) as a cute little old gregarious French man kept pouring us wine out of a plastic water bottle.
We ate a delicious organic home-grown meal and drank refreshing organic house wine.
We listened to stories and laughed along with strangers who soon became friends. It was such a wonderful moment.
It’s crazy! Who knew getting lost in the middle of nowhere for hours on end would soon lead us to eating and drinking delicious organic Cretan cuisine with the French in a private shepherds home?!
It was such an amazing experience and it definitely tops all of my other adventures on Crete so far!