After an overnight ferry from the mainland, my travel companion of the moment, a bushy headed German student named Yoakum, and I, found ourselves sipping morning tea at an outdoor cafe to shake off the momentary weariness of rambling travel. An air of strangeness hung about our modest table as we absorbed the slow pace of the few oxcarts, burro riders, and occasional motor vehicle that comprised the bustle of this random village in the central vicinity of a large, mountainous island.
While we discussed our impending journey to the island’s far west end and its very highest peaks of 7000 feet, some of the livestock traffic paused at a shade tree and short lane at the perimeter of the café. The café manager, already bored with his two foreign patrons, whisked by us to engage in an animated discussion with two men who had a young bull in tow. After what seemed a short bartering session, the bull was tied to the tree, and the café proprietor turned back to his tasks at hand.
Suddenly one of the men buried a large knife into the juggler vein of the unsuspecting beast of burden, and a frantic bellowing immediately changed the slow morning tempo into a frenzy of bloodletting, a battle between clinging to life and seeing it hopelessly ebb away. As the blood flooded into the lane, the bulls wild eyes reached out in all directions as his head swung about, until he finally dropped to his knees, and quiet now, quivered into the finality of death.
As the butchering began under the tree within 20 feet of our table, Yoakum and I made the easy decision to ante up for our partial breakfast, bid the café and its proprietor farewell, and hasten into the day with senses heightened by the dramatic turn of events.
When the long day came to a close, we found ourselves at the road’s end in the high mountains at the western reach of the island. At our feet were ten miles of deep canyon cutting through these mountains all the way to the sea, and using our feet and miles of wild ibex trails [ibex known locally as Kri-Kri], we found the sea in a few days time.
At the end of the gorge, a small dock gave access to a daily launch pick up from this roadless section of coastline, and we left the dark wilderness gorge for the bright, open ocean. After crossing a corner of the Libyan Sea, we found ourselves at a tiny fishing village claiming its own corner of paradise, with a pristine, aqua blue bay lapping at its doorstep.
Parallel to the village and directly across this small bay there arose a massive wall of cliffs honeycombed with caves that were carved out for human habitation thousands of years ago, and were now staked out by youthful backpackers and hippies of this new era.
That evening, soft candle lights emitted from cave “windows”, light, unplugged music could be heard, and incense mixed with other pungent herbs permeated the air. It was easy to socialize in these elaborately carved caves, complete with window benches, bed platforms and other amenities of stone, and we were eventually welcomed with a “guest cave”. By the next afternoon, Yoakum excitedly approached me with, “Hey, man, I found my own cave!”
I wished him well and from there I continued on my own way, leaving this paradise of a bay and its quaint fishing village to venture inland, passing through time as I explored ancient Phaistos and continued on into the heart of Knossos. I reverently touched this realm of antiquity and the remnants of the original predecessors of western civilization. Standing in their ancient palace, I absorbed the acrobatics of the bulls and their wards in motion, all frozen in time, on wall after royal wall. Reveling in these murals that looked so freshly painted it occurred to me that these people, both ancient and just yesterday, were of the same lineage and wrestling with the bulls from the distant past into the present.
Where on Earth?! Samaria Gorge and Matala, Crete