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Donkey Day

by Tara

Leaving cities is always hard. There is inevitably some navigation difficulty, as well as a handful of surprises like one-way streets, delivery trucks taking entire lanes, people double-parked haphazardly, and often steep, narrow, cobbled roads.

Today we had the pleasure of contending with an angry driving teacher who was adamant we use the narrow, pedestrian-clogged "bicycle path" that lasted for all of a few blocks. After passing and pointing furiously at it, he even stopped to get out, taking the time and care to yell "asshole!" at me when I passed. Nice.

The further we got out of Rethymno, the happier and more relaxed we became. Though we were battling a powerful combo of uphill terrain and strong headwinds, we managed to make it through the non-stop stream of cars and city traffic, ending blessedly in the pleasant quiet of the mountains.

On secondary roads we wound our way through quaint Cretan villages, enjoying the slower atmosphere. By a batch of gnarly-looking trees, we stopped to say hello to a man who was leading his donkey out for a ride.

Gnarly Trees

A few kilometers further on, we passed a lone donkey, fitted with some sort of harness or saddle, ready to carry a load. It was tied to a tree, but had gotten its rope all tangled up in bushes. The poor thing only had a few feet of space in which to move around. While I held the bikes, Tyler went to the rescue.

Cretan Donkey

It was funny watching him gently coax, push, and prod the donkey in the directions he'd have to go to get untangled—he was as stubborn as, well, an ass! When Tyler finally got the leash untangled, we watched to see what the donkey would do. Mostly he just stood there. A bit anticlimactic. After a while, he discovered his "freedom" and went off to explore the extra few feet Tyler's efforts had afforded. Go, donkey, go!

Not long after our donkey-helping antics, we decided to take a break for a snack. We were sitting by the side of the road eating sandwiches and cookies when a man sitting side-saddle on a similarly equipped donkey slowly approached. We said "yassas"; he waved and said "yassou" and passed us by.

When we were done eating, we pedaled onwards, quickly catching up to our man and his beast of burden. He consented to this photo with a big grin and wished us a good journey before we continued towards the southern coast.

Cretan Man on Donkey

After much ascending we reached the top of the pass heading south across the island. Thankful to be done climbing for the day, we excitedly wound our way back to the other coast through a beautiful gorge.

Cretan Mountain Road Cretan Mountain Road

As the sun slipped below the horizon, we coasted past several villages, ending up in the seaside town of Plakias. There we agreed upon an abandoned tiki snackbar as the perfect free-camp. We just love off-season beach-side buildings!