We drove up to Kallikratis in the late morning, curious about the state of the road after the harsh winter and about which spring flowers might be out now.
Along the lower section of the road going up at Kapsodasos, you can see many places where there had been landslips across the road after the heavy winter rains – we were even told that an unlucky car driver got stuck between two landslides. The edge of the road surface is still full of rocks in places (only a problem if another car is coming down), but where the cliff side consists mainly of soil, it looks like there could be landslips again if there is more heavy rain. The roadside higher up consists of harder rock so is not problematic. Had a good view of a hoopoo that flew in front of our car.
We stopped where the gorge footpath exits onto the road near Kalikratis and walked down the footpath a little way looking for flowers, finding mainly daisies, small orchids (? quadripunctata, but with only two spots), cyclamen, delicate little Anemone hortensis, friar’s cowl (Arisarum vulgare), Saxifrage chrysosplenifoia, and aubretia. From the look of the now dry riverbed – with scoured out areas, plant debris caught on stones, and some banksides eaten away – there must have been a large volume of water rushing down the gorge.
Up in Kallikratis, Janina’s café was closed (we emailed her, and she won’t be back until the 17th, then will need some time to get the café open). We walked along the dirt/mud road behind the café, which has been badly gouged out by the rains, to look for flowers up the valley beyond the large hill on the right. Besides the types of flower that we saw in the top of the gorge, we were delighted to discover a few tulips (Tulipa cretica), beautiful Cretan iris (Iris cretensis), some Romulea bulbocodium, a mandrake just starting to bloom, lots of yellow celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), and patches of buttercups.
Kallikratis was very quiet; the churches haven’t been painted yet, leaves are just coming out on the walnut trees but not on the grape vines, but some fruit trees are in blossom (probably pears, apples and almonds, but not quince). There is one taverna open – the large Kallikratis Taverna near the intersection with the road to Asi Gonia. We could see snow on the Lefka Ori in the distance, and on some of the lower hills to the north of the village.
The taverna in Asfendou is also open. We stopped by the orchid fields in Asfendou (around the small while house on the way to the gorge entrance, and further up the road from it on the right). There are a lot of three-toothed orchids (O. tridentata) in bloom, and a couple of sitiaca coming out, but it's too early there for other orchids yet.
It had clouded over while were in Kallikratis, but from the crest of the road out of Asfendou we did get a hazy view of the snow-covered Psiloritis mountains to the east, and further along of the Lefka Ori to the west, with Kastro on right and Imbros far below. We were surprised by how cool (14C) and windy it was on that exposed stretch of road when we got out to take photos. There were several locals collecting stamnagathi on the way down to Imbros. The lower part of that road has lots of loose rock along the edge, with some spilling into the middle of the road.
Back in Sfakia, it was much warmer (20C) when there weren’t clouds, and the late afternoon was sunny and calm.