We signed up for our first Ramblers Holiday. Nobody we knew had previously been on one and the review of the exact holiday we had booked appeared in the Times Travel supplement three months after we had paid for it.
Wild Crete was chosen due to an interest in the country and the fact it was at the upper end of their grading scale - Level 6 out of a 1-9 rating.
Many questions we had before booking will be answered by this blog.
What's included in the price?
Everything apart from your evening drinks, lunch time snacks and entrance to the Samaria Gorge.
What's the food and accommodation like?
As with many places in Greece, the accommodation is basic but clean. Air Conditioning was only available in a couple of places. Evening meals are usually shared starters and main courses but all home cooked, traditional and filling. Post dining raki is obligatory everywhere.
Who will you be walking with?
A small group of 18 like minded people - all of them probably veterans of previous Ramblers Holidays. I thought the person with the most experience was on their 44th trip but she was top trumped by a gentleman of leisure who seemingly, is permanently on holiday.
The average age was easily post retirement and we were the youngest there by 10 years. This was a surprise to us, as the walking was challenging and in this era of increased interest in the great outdoors and travel, we expected a broader age demographic.
We took a lot of inspiration from the group for future UK and International destinations.
The Walk Leader
A volunteer and according to our more experienced friends, the person who can make or break the holiday.
Tony was superb and looked after the group perfectly both during the walks and after. I went with the expectation that this was something that I would be interested in doing in the future - but within five minutes, I realised I would never have the patience. Without a hint of a loss of his smile, he dealt with such queries as use of cafe toilets without purchasing goods, harsh lighting in restaurants and how to deal with potential leeches found in rooms. He was that knowledgeable that he even identified the offending insect as a millipede.
Of course, safe passage of the group and organising the unexpected are the Leader's main responsibility. He came into his own when the Samaria gorge was closed due to bad weather and safely got 18 people from the mountains to the coast, which involved private coach hire and commandeering Captain Yannis's water taxi.
We move around to five different locations over seven days. A perfect opportunity to explore the South Western part of Crete - where the isolated villages are tricky to get to by car but a doddle on foot/water taxi. All very pretty villages, with Loutro and Agia Roumeli standing out for their beauty.
Chania, on the final day, has a lot to offer any tourist.
The Walks (Click the day hyperlink for full details)
Day 1 - 10 Miles - A ferry from Paleohora to Sougia and walk back along the E4 coastal path, after climbing a short gorge. A chance for a mid ramble swim was an unexpected first.
|We walked that headland to be rewarded with an ocean dip|
|Mrs M - before realising she doesn't have a head for heights|
Day 4 - the Gorge was part open, so four of us completed a 5 mile there and back walk to the famous Iron Gates, before the scheduled 10 mile walk from Agia Roumeli to Loutro. Caught up with the main group at Marmara Beech, where a strategically placed water taxi can be used to avoid the last couple of miles.
|More on the E4|
|Another day, another gorge.|
|Most of the Gang on the E4|
Think you can guess that we loved it - and two simple questions remain....
Did it offer Value for Money?
In summary, yes. You could organise it yourself cheaper, maybe saving 25% of the overall cost. Getting your luggage delivered to the next day's destination would be tricky if not impossible, as a solo walker. You cannot put a price on the company or the skills of a the group leader, especially when things need to be adapted.
Would we do another Ramblers Holiday?
The day after we arrived home, the Ramblers catalogue dropped on our doormat. Mrs M was reading it in bed that night.
Looks like Austria and the Alps next year.