Rihtis Waterfall

After tackling impervious gorges and challenging hikes, you are pervaded by a feeling of tranquility when you go on easy excursions whose only goal is to admire nature without being stressed by the final destination. To this end, an ideal short excursion is so Richtis waterfall, near Exo Mouliana, in search of a refreshing oasis to escape the summer heat. Exo Mouliana is a village located in the northeastern part of the island along the the coastal road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. You follow your trusty tactic of asking for information at the local café, where the men of the village are enjoying their Sunday in total relaxation. Some of the men are concentrating on playing a game of tavli, while others are chatting and keeping an eye on the weekend traffic on the national road. You interrupt their pastimes and they inform you that a small road to the left at the outskirts of the village leads to Tigania beach, the starting point of the hike. Just outside the town limits you come upon leafy, cultivated vegetable patches/; large heads of endive and maruli, the star of many a Greek salad, are lined up next to rows of green beans, which in turn are crowded by the broad, gray-green leaves of zucchinis. Chorta, a staple seasonal vegetable that must be cooked, is relegated to the side of the vegetable patches, next to tousled tufts of perfumed dill. This greenery disappears as you continue on and soon the side of the road only offers exhausted, sun-faded bushes of Jerusalem sage – Phlomis fruticosa and spiny spurge. The only plant that seems to thrive in the caper plant, with its small, stubborn and succulent leaves and capsule-shaped flower buds. You follow the hairpin turns carved into the imposing, rocky walls of the coastline, mesmerized by the immensity of the sea that caresses the naked spurs of the cliffs all the way to the eastern tip of the island. You are fascinated by the stretch of sea glittering in the sun. at last you sight the objective of your excursion, a solitary, long strip of vegetation that starts at the sandy shore and makes its way up into the folds of the mountain. A vast clearing shaded by tall tamarisk trees marks the beginning of the small beach of Tigania, which seems to have seen better days. There are a few old army tents with camping utensils hanging outside and a corrugated iron shed. Large stones make entering the water complicated; the merciless sea often brings trash to shore and among the plastic jerrycans, scorched logs, pieces of fishhooks and torn nets, you find a small glass bottle with a message inside. You can’t resist and try to decipher the message, which is written in Greek on a piece of white paper: an indecipherable date and references to an ideal weight that has been reached (45 kilos) and a diet. Our unknown, aspiring Bridget Jones seems to have entrusted an excerpt of her diary to the sea!

After leaving the beach you head inland among overgrown grapevines that have reached an abnormal height and triumphantly display small bunches of dark grapes that look like blackcurrants. You leave your car in the parking lot and start down a long path that is marked with a faded trail marked and that flanks large black pipes. The beginning of the hike isn’t thrilling but an arrow encourages you to continue on, past a cement waterworks building and among the rushes of a marsh with greenish water that is swarming with insects. On the shore, hiding, under a piece of hollow log on the grainy sand, you encounter a sweetwater crab – potamon fluvialis, your old friend from Sarakino gorge. You pass the ruins of a stone watermill and proceed for a good distance, surrounded by shoulder-high, thorny bushes. The ravine leads slowly upward and winds its way among low, rocky concretions to a riverbed whose banks are covered with aromatic herbs. You reach a clearing crowded with plane trees that bend over the stream and shade the water with their palmate leaves. You also see a large example of arum creticum – cuckoopint, whose heart-shaped leaves are lightly veined in white. It feels as though you are in the middle of a small Mediterranean jungle. You are overwhelmed by this abundance of natural beauty; the polyhedral stream draws a harmonious path among the large white boulders in its bed and makes its way through the vegetation, losing itself in a myriad of streamlets until it finally seems to settle down and pause in pools of crystal clear water. Our hike continues through an underbrush of blackberry brambles, oleanders and wild olive trees, as the leave of plane trees crackle underfoot and accompany you from one clearing to the next. There are few challenging passages, only an accumulation of large, rounded boulders requiring a brief climb. One time you have to pull ourselves up to avoid the stream, which widens out until it corves the path and become a small pool of water. This last effort takes you into an enchanted forest hiding a surprise that has yet to reveal itself but that you can already imagine. The silence has been replaced by a musical, unmistakable noise, the intense roar of Richtis waterfall. Before manifesting itself in all its glory, the waterfall requires a tribute and forces you to lower your heads to pass below the yokes and woody arches of a tangle of plane trees that are bizarrely intertwined and that lead to a vast grassy expanse.

Finally, the waterfall reveals itself; from a height of roughly thirty meters the water is filtered by brilliant moss and flows into two opposite branches. It caresses the rocky walls, it climbs over the ivy, it overwhelms the delicate maidenhair fern hidden underneath a recess, it dives down and joyously widens out. It is an unexpected spectacle for a late-August day in Crete and it inspires you to action. You are tempted to find a way to climb up and circumvent the waterfall, to understand where it comes from, to discover what is hidden beyond it. A narrow but steep track rising on the right-hand side of the ravine entices you. But you are prudent and don’t want your easy, one-hour hike to turn into an enterprise, so you content ourselves with admiring the splendor before you and then retrace your steps back to your starting point.