Byline: Peter Duncan
Everyone who treks down a gorge wonders what forces of nature were in play to create the sheer walls, the jumble of giant rocks, and the unique bio-systems that make up these fascinating locations.
Geologists write of the relentless trickle of ancient streams, occasional earthquakes and mega tsunamis as part of the process of construction.
One event that took place in the Mediterranean in 1628BC that may have helped shaped the island of Crete happened at a nearby island called Thera. It blew up, almost obliterating itself, spewing magma and ash, and sending unimaginable waves over its neighbours. The scale of the volcanic eruption was much larger than we have experienced in recent history and the event coincided with the demise of the Minoans, who were a thriving Bronze Age civilisation.
Their cultural centre was Crete and they traded as far as their ships could reach for many centuries. They grew many of the same crops as their descendents do now and although natural disasters change the course of history, the presence of these clever and creative ancestors shape the way Cretans behave today.
Crete has many beautiful gorges, some inundated with hordes of tourists, others as deserted as a post-Olympic village. Ironically, the tourists in the crowded ones such as Samaria, which is ten miles long, are often quite competitive in the race to get to the bottom. The humour of these 'games' is watching those who wear flip-flops or high heels as they traverse the quite difficult terrain, it's a bit like watching a canoeist without a paddle.
In my ten-day visit to Western Crete I walked down Samaria, which requires a coach journey to get to the start, and a lovely boat trip to get you home; Therisso, which is the only gorge you can drive through; and my favourite, the secluded Agia Irina which leads to Sougia on the coast. …