Before heading off on my circumnavigation of Crete, I bought a road map for a couple of euros. It was pretty decent and well detailed considering its scale. However one thing I found out soon enough was that the colour code it used for minor roads actually covered everything from sealed roads to high-clearance-vehicles-only goat tracks. I got caught out many times disappearing up a hill on a decent road that on the descent degenerated into something my hire car was clearly not designed for.
A particular unpleasant example of this saw me edging the Peugeot down a steep incline that had just had it’s first cut from the grader. The blade had plucked up rocks the size of medicine balls and scattered them across the road surface, and left a three foot tall windrow of soft earth down the centre of the track. I was picking my way through the sump-busters when the grader in question came barreling around the corner, shoving a bladefull of soil across my path. Seeing my predicament, and no doubt wondering what the fuck I was doing on that road in a compact hatchback, the driver cleared a path for me through the soft earth and boulders. I passed several more heavy vehicles and other road making plant on the remainder of the descent, and I wondered why they hadn’t closed the road altogether.
I was relieved to get back on the tar just outside a small coastal village. Driving towards town, a ute pulled out in front of me from olive grove side track, so I swung around him and continued on. As I slowed for the town’s small shopping strip, and an old bloke crossing the road, the ute drove right up my backside and tailgated me through the village. He was so close I could have sworn he was going to give me a nudge. He then roared past me and gave me the eye as he went past. What a fucking idiot.
The road ran parallel to the coast for a few hundred metres, and with the strong winds that had been blowing for days, there were big swells crashing their way to the beach. Spray was flying, and coffee-coloured foam was fluffing it’s way across the road. At the end of a rectangular bay the road turned left 90 degrees to head out to sea along a point. I slowed down and turned the corner.
As I straightened up I saw a vehicle lying on its side across the road. Strangely enough, my first thought was that someone had put it there to block the thoroughfare. Not the most logical conclusion, but I guess I was still thinking about the mountain road that I had just barely traversed.
My second thought, which was of course far more likely than my first, was that someone had rolled their car. There was no-one around, so I didn’t know if it had just happened, or whether the owner had gone to get a tractor to pull it back onto its wheels and tow it away. As I pulled up alongside I saw it was a ute. Was it that dickhead who tailgated me through town? I then saw that there was someone still in the vehicle.
I jumped out of the car and ran to the driver’s side, which was face down to the road. Looking through the windscreen, I could see and old bloke sitting upright on the inside of the door. He looked unhurt, which was a huge relief for me, and presumably for him too. The old fellow was feeling around trying to find something in the cab. I knocked on the windscreen to let him know I was there. He looked up and then went on with his search. I reached up and tried to open the door, and although I could pull the handle, it didn’t seem to activate the release mechanism.
A red minivan appeared around the corner and pulled up next to my car. A portly bloke in his 60s came over, looked in the car, and said ‘Ah Vassilis…’ He then knocked on the windscreen and started talking to the old bloke. I thought that maybe the central locking was activated, and unable to speak Greek, I fished out the keys to my hire car and gestured to the old bloke. He passed the keys to the ute through a gap between the top of the driver’s side window and the road. I pressed the ‘unlock’ button and then tried the door again. No luck.
Another minivan turned up and another portly bloke in his 60s came over. He asked the first portly bloke ‘Vassilis?’ The other bloke nodded and they started conversing. I suggested through mime that we lever up the small crew-cab square window behind the passenger side window to get the old fellow out. One of the blokes retrieved some bolt cutters from his car and cut the hinge. The two blokes encouraged the old fella to squeeze between the two front seats and try to climb up and out of the crew cab window. I climbed up onto the passenger side of the car so I could help him. He managed to pull himself up so he was sitting on the window frame, legs still dangling inside the car, and his back to the two portly blokes standing on the ground. I climbed down, and as I was the tallest bloke there, took him under his arms and pulled him backwards, and when it was just his heels on car, lifted him down.
He was a bit shaken up, and started walking back and forth talking angrily. After a while he sat down on a rock beside the car, and I got him some water. Another car turned up, and a lady appeared, talked to the portly blokes, then started to make phone calls. I walked around the car to see what had happened, and it seemed like the old fella had clipped a boulder with the front passenger side, which had spun the car and rolled it onto its side. Thankfully having just come round the sharp corner he wouldn’t have been traveling too quickly. I started to think about what would have happened if he was unconscious. I would have had to have got into the car somehow in case he wasn’t breathing.
The first portly bloke came over and we sign-languaged what we thought had happened, looking at the path the ute had taken after clipping the rock face beside the road. Then he appeared to be telling me that it was ok and they would figure things out from here. I headed back to the hire car, and the old fellow who had the crash walked over and smiled and shook my hand. I told him I was glad he was ok, and that I was sorry for his misfortune. Although he couldn’t speak English, I’m pretty sure he knew what I meant.
So all’s well that ends well, and I expect the old bloke might have had an extra shot of raki when he got home. I was certainly glad to find a camp later that afternoon; I’d had enough Cretan motoring adventures for one day.
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