Return to Reading

We arrived back at the University of Reading at 10.00pm to clear blue skies and an air temperature of 20 degrees, which one in the party described as “freezing”.

Even during the journey home the students were remarkable in their enthusiasm and commitment – posting final blog posts from the less than inspiring Gate 8 at Chania airport thanks to ubiquitous Cretan wireless Internet access.

Meanwhile staff did their best to spend the night in alternative Cretan accommodation as Ken challenged the logic of charging for excess baggage when his and Richard’s luggage came in 7 Kg over weight – a discussion closely observed by local armed security.

As we waited for our flight we reflected on the size and shape of tourists queuing to board other UK-bound flights which led one of us  to advocate ticket pricing based on combined luggage/passenger weight…

Chania

As our flight to Gatwick was leaving fairly late in the day at 6.00pm we took the opportunity to make a last minute change to the field class programme and arrange a four hour visit to the old town of Chania. This proved an interesting contrast to unspoilt Sfakia. Indeed one student noted  ‘you took us to a gem, now you’ve brought us to a **** hole.’ A little unfair but indicative of the contrast.

Chania is in fact a fairly attractive place with an excellent location on a beautiful coastline and a rich history. However even in mid-June it is very busy and after a week in Sfakia the hustle and bustle of mass tourism and all that goes with it was a shock to the system.

GHS 3 NHS 0

Minor medical drama this evening as one group member suffering from a recurrence of tonsilitis required prompt medical attention after a worrying rise in body temperature. Access to the local doctor was secured within 5 minutes via the hotel and the patient was rushed to the local GP surgery.

Not bad for a Sunday evening in a remote Cretan village.

Treatment was prescribed without charge and put the patient on a rapid road to recovery.

This level of medical service would be difficult, if not impossible, to secure in the UK under similar circumstances.

A triumph for the Greek Health Service…

delphini fire

I appear to have missed the big event of 2009 despite the drama unfolding only yards from my hotel room balcony. I can only assume I had punctuated the 8am to midnight working day with a mid-afternoon deep sleep as the nearby delphini restaurant went up in flames causing uproar and commotion across the village.

News of this event caused a flashback to 2007 when an ablaze car came to rest under my balcony.

On both occasions, and in particular at the delphini restaurant, bravery and rapid reactions of locals  avoided tragedy.

health and safety part II

Busy day for field class staff in Loutro today necessitated our return journey via small motor boat cruiser, the driver (I hesitate to say ‘captain’) of which appeared unwilling to enter the main harbour at Chora Sfakion. Instead the ferry jetty was deemed suitable landing for three ageing university ‘academics’, the youngest of whom narrowly avoided ricocheting into a watery early grave as he and the boat parted company a fraction too soon.

Coastal footpath

Our students (and staff) spent the day walking the coastal footpath between Loutro and Chora Sfakion observing and analysing the geomorphology and biogeography to provide additional context for the more deterministic work undertaken in Ilingas gorge the previous day.

We arranged to meet as a whole group at 2pm on Sweetwater Beach for debriefing. This was an academic commitment that all students made and, unusually, appeared unwilling to terminate.

There was much debate over whether to take the 5.30 boat back to Chora Sfakion or complete the walk over a particularly exposed stretch.

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Photos from the coastal footpath walk

36 degrees and 9 kilometres

all the students and staff walked from loutro to chora sfakion on the coastal footpath today. with temperatures surpassing 36 degrees most took the opportunity to lounge on sweetwater beach and swim in the sea during their well earned mid afternoon break.

arrival

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We arrived safely in Chora Sfakion at about 6.30pm after a smooth journey from Reading. As in 2007, we’re staying at Nikos and Georgia’s harbour front taverna, the “Hotel Livikon”. The rate of 24 euros B&B remains a bargain even if the exchange rate is awful at present.

Less of a bargain is the cost to students of flights  booked through the university’s approved travel company – some £80 per person more than in 2007 when we were permitted to book direct with Monarch Airlines.  The logistical benefits of involving an expensive third-party appear unclear (or should I say ‘appear non-existent’) and the university should really review and justify its policy on these matters.

That said, the field trip still promises to be good value for money.