MILI / RETHYMNON
The Mili Gorge has a unique beauty, rich in flora and fauna, and is located southeast of the town of Rethymnon.
The walk through the gorge starts either from the old village of Mili or higher up from Chromonastiri and ends at Missiria just 3 km east of Rethymnon.
The path leads alongside the river through the deserted village of Mili where there is now a snack bar, and down past the church of Agii Pente Parthenes with its cemetery and fountain. Now and then one crosses the riverbed.
The remains of stone houses and ca. 30 water mills can be seen along the way. The Mili Stream, fed by the surrounding springs, once carried great amounts of water needed to keep the mills working, all the year round.
Out of the thick foliage in the gorge rises a sixteenth century Venetian mansion, the residence of the tax inspector, who oversaw the quantity of grain being milled and collected the taxes. The town of Rethymnon was supplied with flour and bakery products from here.
When we returned to Crete a year later, with fond memories of the little trains, we took the trip to Mili Gorge — which we were lucky enough to hike from the top, at Chromonastiri , to the bottom, at Missiria. Our group wended its way through some really beautiful and lush greenery that provided really welcome shade from a fierce sun, constantly criss-crossing the stream. The walk — all single-file and tricky in places — passes the ruins of the ancient houses, two surviving churches, and the remains of some 30 water mills and what used to be the village on Mili. If you keep your eyes open during the walk you will see sections of the stone watercourse that took the water from mill to mill. Mili was where they ground flour for Rethymnon. When you experience the remoteness of these mills, accessible only by narrow path, the millers’ reliance on donkey transport, it makes you wonder at living in such isolation. In the centre of this picture is the ruin of a tax collector’s house on one of the sharper descents (a good example of where the ‘click to enlarge’ feature is useful). In those days there was no way to get past with flour without paying the tax! This picture was taken from near one of the little isolated churches.
The walk took around a couple of hours, but it is easier than the more arduous Imbros and Samaria Gorges where you have to contend with walking across boulders and rough stones. Do not underestimate Mili, though. It may not be a walk in the park, but our trip — all of whom survived by helping each other — included a delightful gentleman of 87 years sporting a heavy back-pack; I know it was heavy because I found myself supporting it from the rear at time to help him survive some of the inclines. Despite falling backwards at least three times (but not while I was supporting it, I hasten to add), all of which was done with extremem grace. Now judge for yourself whether you are up to this. The old man had had three previous heart-attacks and was stone deaf, dependent upon lip-reading. The guide did not realise this at the outset, but she did insist of carrying his pack after his third fall – but he was resolute all the while he could manage and preferred not to take a helping hand unless there was no option. He only looked about 75. A resolute, proud, but exceedingly nice gentleman – one of life’s risk takers, on vacation on his own after his wife died some nine years previously. Give him credit for guts.