Is there anything I love better than a road? Well, yes, an empty road. An empty road in the middle of nowhere. That, surely, is heaven.
The pictures below were not actually taken in the middle of nowhere, it just looks like it. In fact, this magical land is just a few kilometers west of the village and fabulous beaches of Xerokampos (pronounced KseroKAMbos) on the south shore of the island of Crete. Drop down to the map that I provide at the end and look due west of Kserokampos and you’ll see a squiggly white line representing the road climbing the mountains that look down on the village and surrounding Libyan Sea. That’s where these photos were taken.
What are some of the thoughts that come to mind in a place like this?
1) Thank God for zoning codes that prohibit commercial development where it does not belong.
2) Thank God for a nation of people who understand that wilderness cannot have anything in common with money, cannot possibly be expected to bring it in, and cannot possibly be expected to survive if sullied with money.
3) The air, the air, the air!
4) Thank God for silence!
Silence, of course, is a loaded word. Roll your car over to the side of the road and step out into the great, wide world. Silence, at least in a place like this, is a subtle, but rich concatenation of sounds. There is the hush of the wind in the air; the whistle of air cutting through a rigid, prickly plant, the whoosh of it whipping through a tuft of tall grass; the thump of your feet pounding the ground as you kick small rocks aside and the crunch you make as you traipse through piles of pebbles; there is, of course, your own breathing that may quicken as you quicken your step to a run because you feel compelled to gobble up this astonishing landscape in one long bound if you can; there is a bit of a low howl rising up out of the steep, narrow gorge in front of you. There is also, should another motor vehicle pass by, the whispery hum that begins when the vehicle is still not visible, turning to a metallic roar as it passes you by, then fading away into a whisper then nothing as it leaves you farther and farther behind. There are, at this time of summer surely some critchety crickets scratching away from their hiding places. It is very hard to see a cricket, they are true masters of disguise. But it is impossible not to hear a Cretan cricket, surely the most crotchety and emphatic of all crickets I have ever heard.
The road in Crete sets you free, not only because it releases you from the chains of your daily life, but because it liberates the mind. It clears your brains back to the basics. You listen to the noisy silence and you gaze in wonder at the stark, rocky beauty of ancient mountains, gloriously sculpted, rolling back and forth, side to side, on their way down to the eternal, electric blue of the sea. And you know that right here, right now, there could not possibly be any other place you would rather be on earth.
All text and photos © copyright 2020 by John Freedman. Please do not reprint, repost or reproduce in any way without asking for permission.