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The International Writers Magazine:
Crete (From the Hacktreks Archives)

Broken Car in Kreti
Melina Lake 
June 12, 10
I can’t help but be pleased when Jorgos’ attempt to drive my rented Fiat onto his tow truck platform fails miserably, as it proves the problem is with the car and not me.    


Therefore, I get the privilege of steering the little vehicle onto the ramp as he manoeuvres it into place by pulling it with cables. For a moment, I forget my outrage towards this dilemma as I blush from the helping hand of this lean, surprisingly handsome Cretan mechanic. However, my confidence in the car company’s rescue quickly dissipates as Jorgos suddenly hops into his driver’s seat, shuts the door, and gives my stranded friends and me a cheeky wave. Acting quickly, we race to the tow truck’s passenger side and the three of us squeeze into the one seat left in the cab. “We’re coming with you!”

Jorgos’ attractive face turned sour as he reluctantly steered the tow truck back onto the road. As unhappy as he is to be the forced chauffeur of three unimpressed tourists, he couldn’t beat my disgust in our rental company’s lack of efficiency. Within seconds, Jorgos  is on his cell phone, shouting Greek profanities (or what seemed to be profanities); his voice escalating with every awkward bump he drives over . My friends and I are strong competition as we argue about what the hell we’re supposed to do now since we are obviously not making it to the famous beach of Elafonisi – even if we were just 5 kilometres away pre-car failure.

Somewhere in the midst of my proclaimed painful threats towards the company’s managers and Jorgos’ slamming his cell phone against the dashboard, silence overtakes the vehicle as we turn onto what looks like a paved bike path, but is in fact, the low road.

Only wide enough for one lane of traffic and incredibly windy – think of a group of scribbles drawn by a four year old child and design a road from it – the tow truck begins meandering northwards. Squeezed within an overabundance of pastoral, wild agriculture and steep, rocky cliffs drastically dropping to the turquoise sea below, this route numbs my frustration and places me in awe.

Clenching my teeth with every sharp corner we roam around, my eyes find each pink and white oleander and scan thick groups of olive trees as their branches scrape the truck’s sides. It’s hard to believe such lush and vibrant surroundings are here solely by nature.
Allowing myself to slightly relax, Jorgos gears down as we approach a tiny village enclosed within the cliffs. A peaceful place with no more than ten houses, we reach for our cameras to capture a miniature church shrine strategically placed on the roadside. Jorgos hovers in front of it for a moment, enabling us to see three pictures of a loved one and her belongings - a necklace and ring - through the small glass doors.

As we move closer to the village, we slowly approach an old local man strolling along the curb holding a bucket and a rake. We silently admire the man's ease and grace as he moves quickly in the 35 degree heat. Jorgos suddenly interrupts our serene moment with a lengthened bang on the truck’s horn and he hollers “Hia sus Barbo!” and gives the man a friendly wave. Jumping in our seat from this burst of unexpected energy, my friends and I follow Jorgos’ lead and ecstatically wave our arms outside the passenger window. The local man acknowledges us casually by raising his hand, smiling in our direction.
“Barbo?” we ask Jorgos curiously.  Laughing now at our sudden enthusiasm - apparently he isn`t a grumpy guy by nature - he replies, “niece!”
For an old man? Now we’re laughing. “No no,” he corrects himself, ``Unkal! Unkal!” he shouts with confidence in his limited English. Apparently, uncle is what locals call their male Cretan elders.

Thrilled by our inside local lingo, we prepare ourselves for the next cliffside village as we pass a mother goat and her kid trotting along the coinciding trail. Jorgos gears down again, we’re ready this time to greet Barbo. As expected, there he was, again walking slowly along the roadside except this time he is pulling a wagon. Ok, ready? The four of us look at each other, giddy with excitement (who would’ve thought saying hello would be so fulfilling?). One, two, three – “Hia sus Barboooo!” we call out the window, arms waving, laughter projecting across the tiny village and sure enough, Barbo gave us a nonchalant friendly wave; almost as if he knew three female tourists in a tow truck were coming.

Crete cafe Almost comfortable now in our small space, Jorgos winds the truck up a steep hill, weaving us to the top, leaving sea level far below. He pulls over, puts the vehicle in park, and turns to us and says, “I go, one hour. My friend,” and he points to a battered looking shack right on the edge of the cliff.

Confused, but deciding to trust him, we obey his request and head towards this, believe it or not, café. Overlooking rows of vineyards and olive groves, greenhouses, honeybee colonies, and families of goats along the rocky terrain, the view from this outdoor coffee stand on the edge of a cliff is mesmerizing.

Bordered by the bright, swaying  Mediterranean Sea, the reality of being on the northwest edge of the island hit within moments as we are gripped by a massive gust of wind carrying several bits of earth from down below. In the direct afternoon Grecian sunlight, above the island’s vast agricultural landscape, greeted by the mighty god of wind, Aeolus, we are face to face with Crete’s treasures. Perhaps it’s the tranquillity of being the only people in sight apart from the relaxed, strikingly beautiful cafe owner. Or the absence of any familiar, busy sounds. Instead we hear the strong wind singing amid the movement of the sea. We inhale as much earth as we can here and exhale our gratitude. This effortless freedom is why we travel, what we seek to reach, and its consumption turns all the mishaps into fate.

Acclimatizing now to this landmark, our closed, sunbathing eyes open to the sound of a familiar horn. We look down the hillside to see Jorgos, his tow truck, our broken down car, and another vehicle being dragged behind. Our once furious driver is now smiling at us, waving his proud rescuer`s hand in our direction as he winds up towards us. The three of us squeeze back into our positions within the cab, do our best to pronounce ample efharistos to the lovely café barista, and continue meandering along our route. We have no idea where we`re going and we don`t care in the least. 
© Melina Lake June 2010
minalake103 at hotmail.com

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