If you have been to Crete you may
recognise the name Rouvas as the name of the bottled water often served in
cafes. According to the label "The natural table water ROUVAS got
its name from the most beautiful holm-oak forest of Crete which lies exactly
above the crystal springs of the village of Gregori at the foot of Mount
The forest is
reached by the Rouvas
Gorge. During World War 2 this was the setting for some severe battles
between the German occupying forces and the Cretan resistance fighters.
These days it is much more peaceful and preferred by aficionados to the
more famous and tourist infested Samaria Gorge, although live ammunition was
found in the Rouvas Gorge by hikers only last year!
I was in Iraklio to visit Jamie and
on a warm sunny November Sunday we decided to tackle the Rouvas Gorge. We
drove across the island through surprisingly green countryside until we reached
Zaros, another name appearing on water bottles, and parked above the village at
Lake Zaros, otherwise known as the "bottomless lake". Judging
by the treatment meted out to the local information sign, which has been used
for target practice, there is still a fair amount of live ammunition in
bottomless Lake Zaros
Above the lake we contoured the
hill, stopping from time to time to enjoy the aroma from the various herbs in
the scrub, until we reached the old monastery of Agios Nikolaos.
Apparently it was deserted until recently but clearly the Greek Orthodox
Church is not without funds as a massive new structure is now being built at
this fairly remote site at the foot of the gorge.
new monastry and the Rouvas Gorge
The gorge is impressive. It
reminded me of Gordale Scar but on a much grander scale. Finding the path
up was problematical and on a couple of occasions we took a false trail, no
doubt pioneered by goats, only to find our way blocked. Once back on the
proper track it was comforting to find the scarier bits protected by a handrail,
though this at times seemed rather fragile and in parts the path had been swept
away by rain induced screes, which were a bit of a challenge. And also
there were a couple of "Indiana Jones" type bridges to negotiate.
and dog at the half way seat
Indiana Jones bridge 1
After 3 km or so of continuous
climbing we came to the start of the oak forest. The valley got
narrower and narrower and the gorge actually started to have water in it.
Moreover the temperature dropped noticeably. The top of the gorge
produced a surprise.
There was a sort of junction and the stream turned
right, gently uphill so we followed it in the hope of finding the chapel of
Suddenly, in a clearing, we were surprised to see a car.
And then more cars. And then lots of people having barbeques and
And then the chapel of Agios Ioannis.
So we had our
picnic sat on the Chapel wall in a lovely area surrounded by mountains.
The chapel of Agios Ioanni
Inside the chapel of Agios Ioanni
Jones bridge 2 with disappearing dog!
We returned the way we came but that
was no hardship as it presented a quite different view. The second of the
Indiana Jones bridges nearly caused a disaster or two. The bridge gave
options. Isolated bamboo poles on the right on which you could use your full
height if you could balance or, on the left, a better surface but no headroom
due to an overhanging rock.
Jamie took the sensible line and slid
down the left side. As dogs will, Poppy took the exciting line and tried
to cross on the steep rock surface on the right and only just escaped tumbling
I compromised and attempted the right hand poles (up which I
had ascended) only to tread on the first pole and find that the leverage caused
it to come loose and rear up in front of me. Chastened, I then took the
Otherwise, the 5 km descent was straightforward
apart from the bits of screes. Nearing the bottom we came across a cacophony
of goats making their way down presumably to the monastery for feeding time,
their bells creating quite an orchestra.
On reaching the bottomless lake, the
taverna was heaving with Cretans enjoying a lazy Sunday lunch. We tried to
get a drink but they were far too busy so we jumped into the car and made our
way to the village of Zaros, which was full of old men's bars. We chose
one and were quickly served with drinks and delicious tapas, all for only 3€.
How do they make a living?
Distance walked was about 10 km.
It was hard to judge the height climbed from the map but it must have
been more than 2,000 feet. An excellent introduction to the Cretan
Don, 19th November
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