Nude beaches and Hitchhikers
The best days are those that come with unexpected adventure. What was meant to be just a drive to another destination turned into a day of new friendship and discovery. At the very last minute, instead of heading to the bus station I took a ride from a fellow traveler. He figured the company would be nice and I figured I’d rather not take a bus. So off we went.
The fairly small island of Crete still takes patience to cross with its winding high roads and quick-climbing mountains to pass. The reward is heavenly, unobstructed views of open land dotted with small villages from the tops of soaring mountains.
Heading south, the land gradually changes from olive groves and firs to rocky, dusty hillsides. The mountains grow taller and the sun stronger and somehow snow can still be seen at the tops. Staring out the open window, lost in the view, I suddenly noticed my nose had filled with a familiar scent and dark purple flowers covering small bushes littered throughout a giant gorge came into focus. Thyme, lavender, and oleander everywhere.
Along the way, we stopped in small villages, appreciated the architecture, and tried some local food. Open roads steer you directly through sleepy villages with narrow lanes that seem far too small. We barely scraped by to the other side without losing a mirror. We stopped by ruins, tiny churches, and explored on foot some of the many treasures of Crete.
At the top of one hill, in the middle of nothing, a small food trailer sat engulfed by the surrounding mountains. They served only one dish which was presented to us with a simple one-page menu and speech about the local item. We enjoyed the pancake-like item filled with light white cheese and drenched in some of the best honey I’ve ever had. The food was simple, nothing special, but the flavor of one ingredient wouldn’t leave me.
As the floral, herbaceous, and sweet taste of honey lingered on my tongue, we made our way down the mountain. I began to notice the many bee boxes tucked into the mountainside, growing amongst thyme and lavender. Ah-ha, it all came together. I was seeing and smelling what I had tasted. In that instant, I felt a little closer connected with the land, with Crete, and with this glorious earth.
The scorching sun warming the car had us desperate to get to the water that teased from below. A desolate road led to a fork and without much thought we exchanged glances, shrugged and I loudly exclaimed: “turn left!” We came upon a sign indicating “Beach”. That was good enough for us. Excited, we didn’t bother to read all the words and we bumbled on down anyway.
As we turn the corner our eyes were met with a breathtakingly beautiful beach surrounded with jetting textured rocks that hugged the sand creating a perfect little cove for swimming in clear blue-green water. Driving down the hill, I started snapping pictures. All I could think was what a great view. Suddenly it dawned on me to put the camera down…This was a nude beach.
We hesitated in our sudden realization but quickly decided we had made it that far and why the hell not. As I stripped out of my bathing suit I was reminded that it’s moments like these why I travel. Feeling unsure yet excited, nervous but free, empowered to seize the day. Travel gives you the chance to embrace living in the moment and taking advantage of unforeseen adventure to the fullest. So we joined the others in unconstricted, liberated swimming and sunbathing.
Cooled off, refreshed, and renewed, off we went. Along the way, we came across a hitchhiker and threw him in the cramped backseat between our backpacks. Headed to the same place, we were happy to give the nice man a ride but the wealth of knowledge he offered in return was priceless. We had picked up a real life version of Rick Steves. Our final destination which was only twenty minutes away turned into an hour-long guided tour of the region and nearby village with an in-depth history lesson and storytelling.
It was an unforgettable day full of surprises, adventure, and kind souls all because of a yes, an open mind, and willingness to participate. Days like this remind me to always open my heart, never take things for granted, and hope for the best. The world is full of fun, you just have to join in!