“We are fortunate to have the amazing Deborah as our travel coordinator. Not only did she find a fantastic hotel for us all to stay in while in Chania, she also booked a mini bus to take us from Chania on the north coast over the White Mountains to Sfakia on the south coast, where our swim is based.
To that end, we were all instructed to meet in the foyer of our hotel at 2:30 pm on Sat, packed and ready for the journey south. Obviously this limited drinking time at lunch, but we all dutifully turned up and boarded our bus.
To help the one and a half hour journey pass more quickly, Deborah had kindly set us riddle to solve, namely - “What do four of our group have in common, that the others do not?” Deb said we didn’t need to solve it that day, but a joint effort pretty much had the answer before we had driven out of the city. Not telling you the answer, see if you can work it out!
The trip up and over the mountains was amazing and definitely a trip highlight. Snow still covered the highest peaks due to late winter falls. Some locals blamed the runoff for making the sea cooler than usual; thus, the low tourist numbers. The road to the peak wound gradually up and up through villages, vineyards and olive groves dotting the mountain sides. Goats meandered or slept all over the road, necessitating the driver to weave around them. After reaching the peak, we started descending at an alarming rate along a spectacular zigzag road. First, the Libyan Sea came into view the Sfakia almost directly beneath us. What a place to do hang gliding.
We arrived and unloaded in the small village of Sfakia. Our base for the next week was the Xenia Hotel, located literally on the rocks above the water on one side with the harbour wharf on the other side. Wow! We did notice one slight difference from our last trip to Lefkada - IT WAS BLOWING A GALE! You actually had to brace yourself against the force of the wind. Mmmm... tomorrow’s swim would be interesting!
We were allocated our rooms and all settled in and unpacked, as we tired of living out of our suitcases. The rooms were large and comfortable with vistas of ocean. The only peculiar thing is the deafening sound the toilets make while flushing, which is a cross between the sound made by aircraft toilets and their jet engines. Another thing, for some reason, a lot of hotels in Greece don’t have kettles in the room or only in some rooms at best. Hotel Xenia had none. This necessitated buying a group kettle to share and each of us purchasing tea bags and coffee cups. The kettle is kept in a red bag outside Trev and Narelle’s room and borrowed and returned as required. Well done Narelle for setting up such an efficient system.
Of course once unpacked, it was time for drinks. The foreshore adjacent to hotel is lined with cafes, tavernas and bakeries. We decided to try a different one every day. Accordingly, we started with the closest. We had about two hours before the introductory meeting with our swim guides: Noah, Cate and Jenny. In a vain attempt to make a good impression we limited our drinking to no more than six beers or wines each. Those of us who were hungry ordered food, a decision we would later regret.
It was a happy crowd who turned up to meet guides Cate and Jenny, as well as renew our friendship with Noa who looked after us so well in Lefkada. Speaking on our behalf Steve C presented Noa with a tube of Vegemite, which he told him was Australian sunscreen. Steve also announced the Demis Roussos award - a bright blue outfit he brought from Oz. It is awarded each day to the person whose behaviour was most noteworthy; ostensibly, the wood duck/horses arse award. It must be worn by the winner during the evening after each swim. The inaugural winner was none other than Deborah, whose “waste not want not” performance of, without batting an eye lid, downing the last third of an ouzo bottle in one go was clearly unbeatable. Deb will get her revenge as each winner gets to pick the next winner.
At the meeting, Big Blue Swim shouted a round of complimentary drinks for everyone and after Hotel Xenia went to great lengths to prepare a vast selection of culinary delights to choose from, regardless if you had already eaten or not. After over indulging in every way possible, we were issued with a Big Blue T-shirts and drink bottles and instructed to meet again tomorrow at 9:30 am dressed and ready for our first swim.
To be continued ...”