It is quite amazing that I can wrap myself up in a sleeping bag in an olive grove and awake the next morning refreshed and full of life. It was not that way at home. Every time I slept in a sleeping bag either in a tent or without, I found myself shivering. When I woke up in the morning in the UK I felt awful. Here in Crete I felt fabulous. Unwashed, but fabulous. But today was my big day, I was off to meet the rich – and unwashed – gurus of my time. The hippies of Matala. I had heard of Matala in Myrtos from a Greek man who for some reason had been to Matala lately and told me that it was an area of madness. A place of the weird and something he had never seen before nor heard of. So it is something that I have to see. Whether it is worth seeing or not will come to pass, but this is Crete – anything can happen here.
I finally got a ride in another pick-up truck and this guy went out of his way to deliver me to Matala. I didn’t have long hair or any other kind of strangeness, but since I was a foreign incomer he probably thought that I belonged there. Odd really.
I have to say that Matala as a place was nothing outstanding. There are other places that face west – other beaches, so many other beaches. There are even other places with caves in the cliffs. But Matala was extraordinary. There was nothing there but the beach with a range of cliffs along one side. In that cliff were caves that I understand that the Romans had constructed for graves. But all of those caves were filled with people. They had coloured towels hanging from their homes in the cliff in the hope that they would dry before tomorrows sunseeking, sunbathing, sunworshipping day.
In the middle of the beach, and it is not a big beach, was a taverna. At least it looked like a taverna. It was a small building made of wood and beams that encircled an area. There was a counter – perhaps a bar – and it had a record player. Now this was amazing since there was no way that I could see that Matala had any electricity. But this record player was bashing away Elvis and Crosby, Stills and Nash across the beach. Actually I found Matala fairly weird. The only Greeks that were there were serving drinks and sandwiches and whatever they could come up with in the taverna.
I later discovered that the record player was one of these Phillips portable units that ran on batteries. But where did the batteries come from? I had no idea, I assumed that the hippies provided the batteries, or at least, some Greek battery generating genius.
All across this beach were amazing looking women and very hairy men. How did they get here? Why Matala? Why not Matala? I asked around a little and most of the people there were American and British. There were a few French people too, I noticed, but French from France or Canada, who knows? Who cares? They lay there on the beach all day and slept in the Roman caves at night. They listened to music, they sunbathed and they ate. No one bothered them and as they stayed there they developed varying philosophies of whatever you want those philosophies to be. Some just sunbathed, probably most of them. It was nice here though, I sunbathed among them for an hour or two and then decided that there was nothing that interesting here for me. After all, I wasn’t a hippie. I was a traveler and traveling could not wait.
I tried to find a bus or a lift out of Matala, but there wasn’t one. In fact I had to sleep on the beach that night and rethink my exit strategy. I came, I saw and now I couldn’t escape. Was I locked into Matala for ever? Oh well, back to walking and as I hiked north out of Matala I wondered why that guy with the pick-up was so keen to get me here. Maybe he thought that dumping all foreigners that ask for Matala actually in Matala, the Greeks could carry on with their own lives outside. Perhaps he had a point. Even so I still have a soft spot for Matala. It was a very cool hot place.
From Matala I hiked northwards. It was really hard to get a ride. Not because they were refused but simply because there was no one going along the road. I was heading for Timbaki and then to Agia Galini. But as I walked the heat was rising and it was a really hot day. How unlike the night before as I sat on the beach at Matala facing the setting sun. It looked huge from the beach and it sank ever so slowly into the Mediterranean sea. Almost like a movie, but this was the real deal.
Eventually I turned up at a village called Kalamaki. It was another beach place with a taverna and a few houses. It had no cliffs with caves but it was similar to Matala. This time it was populated by Greeks and the taverna was something special. They did big boiled fresh prawns. I love prawns. I had last eaten them in Agious Nicholas, but here they were just as good. Maybe better. There were certainly more of them.
So I ate my prawns and I sat on the beach and again watched that huge sun sink slowly into the sea and soon fell asleep. I dreamed that I was completely happy. And do you know what? I think I was.