The strange weather continued over the weekend. On Saturday, the sea was calm and the air was warm, but we did have clouds and some light rain. In the afternoon there were a few hours with partial sunshine, and many people took the opportunity to have a swim and sunbathe. But by evening there was a cold wind again.
It rained overnight, so everyone awoke on Sunday morning to red African dust coating cars, railings, balconies, chairs, plants, and newly painted surfaces. The south/southeast winds were warmer, but they caused a sea swell that prevented the ferry boats from leaving – you could see waves smacking against the coast between Ilingas and Loutro, and it would have been far worse further along. There was light rain in the morning, and the skies were dark out to sea and hazy towards the mountains, with fine dust hanging in the warm air.
Friends who took the 11am bus to Chania on Sunday were stuck for 40 minutes on the highway between Vrisses and Souda because strong winds had blown down a large tree across the national road and blocked it completely. The weather seems to have been worse in the north and west than down here.
Sunday afternoon the sky brightened up a bit, so Wiltrud and I drove up to Agios Ioannis to walk up to Kormokopos cave. We stopped first in Anopoli to enjoy looking at the uncultivated fields full of wild flowers, dominated now by yellow crepis and pink gladiolas, with tall purple tassel hyacinths, deep red poppies, and white umbelliferae dotted amongst them. The Kermes oak trees (Quercus coccifera) are in flower and covered with bees. There are also patches of very tall allium in bloom. While we were looking at all this, a flock of bee-eaters flew overhead – their distinctive call, shape, and colours are unmistakable, although we only saw them in silhouette. The mountains were visible but very hazy.
The temperature dropped as we approached Agios Iannis and it was only 16C when we started the walk, which takes you on a good path through pine forests. Near the beginning of the path the trees are so infected with honey-fungus that the ground and tree branches look like they are covered with large snowflakes.
We don’t expect to find many interesting flowers on a forest walk, but there were a few little purple quadripunctata orchids along the way, various clovers (yellow hop trefoil, star clovers), and different types of sedum (yellow and red-leaved) on rock faces. We spotted lovely little endemic Centaurea raphanina, as well as beautiful patches of Aubretia deltoidea nearer the top, and a few burnt candytufts (Aethionema saxatile creticum). The most striking flowers were the blue cushions of Lithodora hispidula.
After the steep and slippery descent to the cave, we were surprised that the spring wasn’t running more forcefully after all the winter rain – the trough was full, but water was only dripping slowly into it. The cave was also dripping with water. At the entrance was a patch of purple arums (? Arum purpureospathum – new for us, and it seems to be rare), most of which had already dried up. Yellow tree flax and some pink cistus were growing on the rock faces.
We stayed for a while at the cave having our picnic and enjoying the warm, still atmosphere. However, the dust seemed to be getting worse, so on the way back we didn’t take the other path to Pappakefala, since a major reason to hike there is for the view down to the coast. Back in Agios Ioannis, we drank a mountain-tea at Alonia, where we noticed they are building a few more rooms.
There was no view from the road down to Sfakia until we got quite far down; it was warmer and dustier in the village than when we had left. Waves were breaking over the old harbour occasionally, and we saw at least two people get soaked.
This morning (Monday the 6th) the skies are clearer as the wind has changed to the northwest, but it is much cooler. The sea is rough, with waves coming from the southwest today, and it looks like the ferry boats won’t be running this morning.