Giving the rope a last tug there’s a faint woosh as the rope falls from above to land in a heap at our feet. We’ve just pulled the rope from our third abseil, there’s no way out but forwards and down now. Three down twenty five to go.
It’s already taken us three hours to get to this point in the Ha gorge. Over little more than a kilometre the gorge drops several hundred meters. So from where we parked our gutless Fiat Panda near the entrance, we had a delightful walk up a steep trackless hill with numerous and some unavoidable patches of prickly scrub. A sort of dry Cretan cousin to Matagouri (a nasty prickly scrub if you’re not familiar with its wonders).
Depending on your perspective, one of the great things about Crete is as soon as the suns up it starts getting hot, really hot. So it wasn’t long before we were going up in smoke. Other than a long hot walk however, finding the entrance to the Ha was very un Cretan canyon like. In other words we didn’t get utterly lost or walk in circles using guess work to find it. It does help somewhat that the canyon itself is an obvious and dramatic gash in the otherwise unmarked landscape.
The Ha gorge (Ha, Cha or Xa depending on what version of the Greek word you find) is very much a canyon rather than a gorge. With rock walls towering up to 300m above you, large bowls and waterfalls (although they we obviously dry). A width of not much more than 30cm at its narrowest and a few extra little surprises we were to find latter.
Twenty-eight abseils is a lot for a team of four to cram into one day but before long a solid rhythm and process got us moving down the canyon without too much difficulty. That is until we found our first surprise not too far from the exit. Looking over the lip of our next abseil we were greeted with the realisation that this particular drop ended right in a stagnant pool of unpleasant odour and unknown depth.
Luckily some prior research had told us a short scramble to the side a second anchor would allow us to avoid this particular pool. Our research also indicated that this was the only stagnant pool to be avoided. So it was that we continued on our way, chuffed that we’d avoided stinky disaster.
It didn’t take us long to discover this was not the case. In fact there turned out to be a veritable gauntlet of pools between us and the deceptively close exit.
Some pools we managed to avoid (albeit with quite some difficulty), some required one team sacrifice to avoid it and some were all in team swims! And so it was that with great relief (preceded by some stinky distress with a deep swim) that after 7 hours in the Ha we scrambled up a small wall to be greeted by the exit and the sun setting over the hills and the bay in the distance.
Welcome to the concept of 2nd degree fun. First degree fun is like riding your bike fast downhill. Or playing a game or riding a rollercoaster. It’s fun while you’re doing it.
Second degree fun on the other hand. While you’re engaged in second degree fun you might be; exhausted, hating it, scared shitless, over it, sucking it up and just getting on with. Generally not having all that much ‘fun’.
However. Once you’ve finished. When you look back on it, it’s all worthwhile. Something you’re glad you did, and adventure, a great experience, a memory that’ll last forever. Or if nothing else at least it’ll be a great story. There was certainly some 2nd degree fun to be had that day!
One of the interesting aspects of photography is that no matter how good you are there are two things you cannot actually capture. One is noise, the other is smell. Maybe that’s a good thing in this case. Otherwise photos from the latter end of the canyon would have capture the smell of tar coloured stagnant water and other unknown smelly smells! I hope you enjoy!