AIRMAIL - Letter From Crete:
The Primeval Dance of the Carretta Carretta
Loutro, Crete - Photo by Linda Psillakis
Wild and rugged, hardly touched by tourism, the southern portion of western Crete embodies the bond between the island and its people in the way nature touches our lives. Mountains rise from the sea, our gardens produce abundant organic vegetables, and our villages carry history from the time of the Minoans.
My favorite village to visit is called Loutro, which is accessible only by ferry and has neither roads nor cars. Tucked into a peaceful, sheltered bay on the Libyan Sea Loutro's waterfront is dotted with rooms for rent, taverns, and cafés. The water, a dazzling turquoise, blends with mauves, deep blues and emerald greens. To me, swimming there is sacred ritual.
One morning, sitting on our balcony, my partner called to me and pointed toward the shore line. In front of our pension, was a carretta carretta, a loggerhead turtle, who had made her home there. I ran downstairs, my heart racing with excitement. When I reached the shore, she was still there as though she was waiting for me. I waded in, and therein began one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had with a creature of the sea.
I kept a respectful distance, following her as she gracefully started her underwater dance. She was aware of my presence, and after some time would turn to check if I was still there. I began to get a bit bolder and swam closer to her until she let me touch her shell. We spent our first swim in mutual curiosity, and if I may dare to say, the sense of a budding friendship. Before I knew it, she was off.
Caretta, Caretta, Photo by Linda Psilakis
I had to leave Loutro for a few days to attend to business matters. When I returned, friends told me that the turtle had not been present, and I feared that she’d gone. Suddenly one of them called out from the balcony above ours. They’d spotted her.
Even more astonishing, she was outside my room once again. I made the short flight down the stairs and ran to the water's edge. When she saw me, she began flapping her flippers as if she was happy to see me. I could hear the gasps from the balconies behind us.
She waited until I jumped in, and we were off – two souls bound by something primeval. We dove into the depths brushing along the coast of Crete, side by side, looking at each other. She allowed me to touch her flippers, and came so close, our bodies touched, too. I cannot recall how long we swam together. I was lost in the wonder of it, and if it hadn’t been for my partner who took a photo of the turtle and me gazing into one another's eyes, I would still think it had been a dream.