Walking holiday in rural Crete
Description of Walking holiday in rural Crete
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As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.
PlanetBefore the walking holidays begins, we clean up plastic rubbish that has been swept in by the winter sea and put it into local municipality bins. Unfortunately there is no official recycling scheme in this area yet. On our walks, all rubbish is taken home after picnics. We promote and share our real concern for the environment, talking about the birds we see (mostly raptors like buzzards and Griffon vultures, herons and finches and rarer migratory birds), the flora and fauna, such as tiny frogs on the road, taking great care not to tread on them. We point out badger holes and mourn the occasional dead badger or weasel on the road. We are constantly learning about the properties of plants and their uses, passing on this information to interested co-walkers or learning from them. For example, there are many carob trees around Kissamos Bay. Carob beans were a staple food during the Nazi occupation and are now a recognised nutritionally rich substitute for chocolate in vegetarian food.
As Walking Leaders, we are always willing to learn more about the history, botany, culture etc. of the area and to do what we can to protect it. We also grow our own organic vegetables, have a garden that is abuzz with insect life and use solar power for hot water. We walk a lot!
As most of the walks are in the local area on old tracks we do not need transport, but if we go further afield, we use the public bus system. The accommodation where guests stay also use solar power for hot water. Because our holidays are in the low season, it is rare to need air conditioning.
PeopleOur walking holidays take place in a small area where we are well known and loved. The welcome given to guests by everyone is genuine and generous. Our suppliers are all local and friendly neighbours. For example the delicious bread van comes round 6 days a week, supplying the area. The baker always hangs a bag of free bread on a neighbour's fence because he is unable to pay for it. He supplies his bread to the accommodation we use. This is a small family run business, which uses its own organic produce in its generous breakfasts. The local tavernas to which guests return time and again also use their own vegetables, wine, raki and olive oil. Their friendly and direct communication with everyone creates a wonderful atmosphere. We introduce our guests to the local family run winery, which uses grapes grown only in Crete. They offer unlimited wine-tasting with all 30 of their varieties in a truly Cretan gesture of hospitality, in a room that also acts as a museum of old farming and vinicultural equipment.
In the town of Kissamos, guests are shown family run businesses and shops, where they can buy local honey, herbs, cheeses and other artefacts. Here too, there is a 24/7 Health Centre, open to all. We visit the excellent museum, where artefacts from the Minoan, Ancient Greek and Roman periods are on display, informing visitors of some of the many fascinating layers of Cretan culture. The small fee paid goes to the local council, who are proud of their heritage and are working to sustain their local culture. As far as payment is concerned, we always make sure that all bills are paid and tips left; that Cretan generosity is neither exploited nor misunderstood. We aim for a 'win-win' situation in our dealings with everybody and the result is guests feel so relaxed and welcome that they want to return.
As a village, we all support each other, exchanging skills and goods. This is the best form of charity on a local scale. On wider issues, like the new bio-sewage system that the local government installed, we are part of the discussion, calling for lower connection fees. At a time of economic crisis they are prohibitive and therefore unpopular. It is good news that they have reduced the costs now by more than 50%. This work goes on, as does vigilance over the quality of the sea. As mentioned above, we are also part of a voluntary group who cleans up plastic from the beach and adjacent ground in late winter.