17/11/10 - 24/11/10 18 °C
The ferry from Naxos to Santorini was the same one that brought us from Athens to Naxos. The sea was smooth as glass and that incredible blue colour so the 2 ½ hour trip just “flew”, we even had a stop in Ios which was interesting – it’s supposed to be a real party island.
On arriving in Santorini its impossible not to notice the cliffs that run from the water’s edge up to the town – the road up has many switch backs that Hamish and Lachlan would love to drive. On stepping onto the island we started looking for our lift to the hotel, located in Thira (Fira) called the Aroma Suites, we found the man holding a sign for the Hotel (not our names) and he happily drove us to the top of the cliffs and along to the parking for the hotel, we then needed to walk through the narrow streets towards the cliff edge and down a few steps to our amazing hotel (more like apartments with balcony areas overlooking the water to the west). The room was a little cave but had all the mod cons and the view was sensational; we actually spent the rest of the afternoon sitting, drinking wine (supplied by the hotel), chatting to a couple of other Australians and watching the sun sink slowly in the Aegean.
In the early evening we went for a walk through the town, finding that most stores, hotels and restaurants had closed for the off season but there was still plenty for us to see on this brief scouting trip.
Thursday was a slow start as we were a little tired from doing nothing! (I know this is unbelievable but it is true!!). We thought we would catch the bus to some of the small towns on the other side of the island – in Santorini you must decide if you want to stay on the cliff side with the views or flat side with the beaches – so we paid our €1.80 each and travelled the 20 minutes to Kamari. Kamari is a real beach place with hotels and restaurants along the beachfront (only a few open now), the sand on the beach is black pebbles and hard on the feet and it is the gateway to ancient Thira. There was however one problem - ancient Thira is at the top of this huge mountain with a road of switchbacks to navigate on the way up and we were walking!! Standing at the bottom we decided that we’d hire a car/ATV/moped/something so that we could visit the ancient site as there was no way I was walking up that hill/mountain. We decided to retreat back to the bus stop, but along the way Liz decided to try the water (as usual). She reporterd back that the temperature was quite acceptable and the water was the clearest she had ever seen, “crystal clear”.
Once back in Thira we visited a local ferry agent to book passage to Rhodes and then Athens; we needed to finalise the transport so we could book accommodation. With this done we enterred into a walk of epic proportions from Thira to Oia (small town on the northern tip of the island – also known as the honeymooners village), the walk along the top of the caldera has amazing views but is very arduous at times. The walk took us almost 3 hours and involved some steep climbs and slippery down slopes covered in loose pumice and small pebbles. We followed the cliff edge most of the way only moving away as we needed to circle up and around hilltops. The walk into Oia was a relief as I was very tired and my old knees were aching, Liz was just annoying as she had a big grin on her face – she loved every minute on it, photographing everything she could! We decided that we’d take the bus back to Thira which was cheap and quick.
Once back at the hotel we showered and sat on the balcony watching the stunning sunset again while having a glass of wine. We decided that we deserved a nice dinner out so we visited a restaurant for dinner, the food was great and the service was excellent (only 2 couples in the restaurant at the time!), they even gave us a dessert to share at the end. So after a long hard day, a good meal and a bottle of wine it was no problem sleeping.
Friday we awoke to find two huge cruise ships moored off the island, OK it was 9.00am so I don’t know if they arrived at sun rise or just 5 minutes earlier, what I did know was that almost every shop in the town would be open. After our heavy walking day the day before it was going to be an easy day so we took our time relaxing on the balcony over breakfast.
Mid morning we went for a walk through the town which was a full of tourists from the cruise ships (easy to tell them they all have little numbered stickers on their chests – denotes which group they are in on the launches that bring them into the harbour). We managed to make a few purchases but were sick of the spiel of the merchants “…… last day of the season, we give you special discount … 50% off!” The problem was we had heard them tell the tourists from the ships the same thing the day before – you have got to love their passion for the sale. Once they realized we were staying on the island they changed the spiel a little, so we did purchase some linen, wine, clothes and jewellery.
Once we’d spent enough money, although nothing compared to the cruise ship tourists who all appeared rich and rolling in money; we walked back to the hotel for some lunch. I actually stopped at Lucky’s for a gyros (roast pork or chicken, tzatziki sauce, salad and chips wrapped in a pita) which was tasty, filling and cheap at €2.50. We had managed to buy a couple of English newspapers so after lunch we lazed on the balcony reading the paper in the sun.
We also ran into a Canadian couple that were travelling the world by motor bike, we had first met them on the ferry from Bari to Patras, and unbelievably they were staying in an apartment owned by the same man that owned ours. As we talked we found out that they were catching the same ferry as us to Rhodes which is a remarkable coincidence; so we invited them for drinks on our balcony in the evening – if they are going to ‘stalk’ us why not enjoy the experience!
During the afternoon we finalised our accommodation booking for the rest of the trip, it’s scary how few days we have left, Liz keeps saying she doesn’t want to go home as she’s having too much fun. We also booked our boat trip/tour of the volcano and hot springs for the next day and our car for the day after (we can drop it at the ferry terminal at midnight so it suits us better than the ATV or moped).
Dare I say it? “Another day in paradise” beckoned on the Saturday; it was however a little cooler courtesy of a breeze but the sun was shining. We were going on the boat trip to the volcano (Nea Kameni) which is situated in the centre of the 400m deep lagoon directly across from our hotel. The volcano last erupted in 1950 but the active crater (there are several other old craters) only gives off sulphur dioxide and stream.
Our trip to the volcano first involved walking down the 588 steps to the old port (better to walk down than up – we took the cable car to the top after the day trip) to find our boat and colleagues for the day. Yet again the Canadian couple joined us and about 18 people all told.
This was not really a guided tour which became obvious when we arrived at the pier on the volcanic island. We were told to be back at 12.30pm and you follow the path!! We followed the path chatting to the Canadians and an American guy as we ‘followed the path’ up the side of the volcano, at times a little confused by the old craters, until we came across a crater issuing stream from this side – must be the active crater! At first we checked out a spot were vapour was escaping and worked out it was steam before moving a little further along to find the smell of sulphur dioxide emanating from a number of spots as well as yellow/white powder coating the rocks. We looked around the islands from the view points of the volcano before returning to the boat by our 12.30pm deadline.
Our next stop was a small island next to the Mea Kameni Island where there were some hot springs (actually luke warm) where we stopped for those that were game to dive off the boat and swim to the area of the springs. Of course Liz was one of the five who dared to hit the water and enjoy a dip in the Aegean over a ‘hot’ spring – just one of those things she felt she could not miss out on doing!
After the boat trip back to the old port and the cable car ride up to Thira we walked back to the hotel for Liz to have a warm shower before heading out again for another walk around town. We finished the afternoon sitting on the balcony drinking a little vino and watching the sun disappear in the sea. What a life!!
The last day on Santorini saw us take the greatest risk so far of our trip – hiring a car and driving on the right hand side of the road which seems really wrong. It was another beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperature in the early twenties, we had a long day as we were moving on to Rhodes (Greek Island near southern Turkey) but our ferry didn’t depart until midnight and we needed to check out of our hotel by midday. We had decided to hire a car so that we could explore the other areas of the island, store our luggage, and transport us to the harbour.
We started the car hire day with Liz driving to Oia (we’d walked there earlier in our visit) which only took about 15 minutes and luckily was uneventful. Oia had some amazing views from its cliff top position and the buildings are classic Santorini – we got some really cool photos.
I then took control of the car (with a little apprehension) and drove around the low side of the island checking out the area and taking the odd wrong turn – but as Liz said we were still exploring the island! We ended up back in Thira instead of Kamari so Liz resumed the driving while I navigated us to Kamari where we drove the switchbacks to the hill top, site of Ancient Thira. However when we arrived at the top we found entry to the site closed (it closed at 2.30pm and we arrived at 2.30pm) so we would not be visiting the ancient site on this trip but we got some excellent photos from the hill top.
We then drove to the southern part of the island to checkout Red Beach, the light house at Akrotiri, the town of Perissa and the views from everywhere we stopped. It was a pleasant drive and we enjoyed the freedom of travel permitted by the hire car. Red Beach was not in fact red sand but the area had a number of red rocks around the beach area. The driving was good except when we lost focus and ended up on the left side of the road, at one stage I was telling Liz “right, right, right, RIGHT!” but she misunderstood what I was trying to tell her and was looking for a right hand turn while driving up the road on the left side!! She eventually got the message and swung back to the right side of the road.
The sun was setting as we drove back to Kamari where we were meeting Trevor and Chenty (our Canadian friends) for dinner and a visit to the movies. We couldn’t find the restaurant so ended up having pizza in a café near the cinema and waited until Trev and Chenty arrived. We, and many children, paid our money to watch the new Harry Potter movie (good way to use up some time while we waited for the ferry at midnight). The movie was good but we didn’t expect the movie to stop and an intermission to happen (they had to change the reel on the projector – no digital here!), which reminded us of going to the movies in the 70’s and 80’s – we did feel old!! Liz made some friends with some local kids (10-11 years old), who wanted to practice their English on her, before the movie even started – she’ll start a conversation with any of the locals or tourists everywhere she goes.
Once the movie had finished we drove to the port (a 20 minute drive up over the hills near Pyrgos before going down through the switchbacks to the port – all in the dark with crazy locals zooming past us), Trev and Chenty, who were catching the same ferry, rode their motorbike and were much quicker than us. At the port we sat in a café and had a beer and chatted for a while, making friends with the bartender which was good as he brought us a complimentary drink each. The only problem was the clear fluid in the glass smelt like methylated spirits and tasted like straight aviation gas, it was really potent and the girls didn’t take more than a sip while Trev and I not wanting to be rude took few gulps to get it down.
Oh, by the way, Liz is exercising her editorial control and insisting that I include one of the many photos she has taken of the feline inhabitants of the Santorini streets. This was her favorite cat/kitten he was friendly and very vocal – Liz and he had many conversations!
Once the ferry arrived Liz and I made our way to our cabin for the overnight ride to Rhodes. The Aegean was agreeably smooth but I still took motion sickness medication (4th ferry ride and haven’t been ill yet) and got some sleep before we woke at 7.00pm and packed – again – ready for disembarking at Rhodes at 8.00am. We had our hotel booked and it appeared a long walk so we grabbed a taxi (only €5). At the hotel we again got luckily with a room being available when we arrived at 8.30am.
After settling in we decided to check out the old town of Rhodes (the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe) which is enclosed by 12m thick walls. It was an interesting 2 hour meander though the old streets, yes there were more cats for Liz to photograph as well as the historic buildings.
Tuesday was an overcast day but thankfully we achieved much before it rained in the afternoon. We had decided that we needed to get out of Rhodes Town and visit a small coastal town about 50km south called Lindos. To get to Lindos we needed to catch a local bus which was a cheap (€5 per person each way) and interesting way to travel and meet the locals. The town was very much a holiday resort with a couple of beautiful beaches, one in particular was very sheltered and would have been amazing in the summer – probably very popular with the locals and visitors alike.
With most of the shops and cafes closed we made our way to the Acropolis on the headland, this fortification had been sacked by just about everyone throughout its existence – dates back to between 2nd and 4th century BC. The place was in remarkable shape with restoration and repair work happening even as we visited. The views from the top were terrific it was just a shame that the sky was overcast and gray otherwise the colour of the water and sky would have been a magnificent backdrop for the many photos we took. Liz thought it was very funny when one of the local cats tried to make friends with me so she took photographic evidence to prove my “animal magnetism”.
We also walked down to the beach near the small harbour were Liz, as usual, tested the water – it’s become something of a ritual for her to get her feet wet in every body of water we visit.
As a football fan and general sports tragic you always want to check out the local facilities, Lindos is amazing because it still managed to get a great football field, all be it a synthetic surface, on a rocky hillside in the middle of nowhere – absolutely brilliant the passion these people have for the game. Through Italy and Greece I have seen many football pitches with very few being real grass most a lovely green synthetic (they do look great) but as a player I would hate to think of how much skin I’d lose playing during each game. I’ve also seen literally thousands of smaller Futsal pitches everywhere from school yards to sports clubs with multiple pitches (mesh around and above with floodlights) this is a heavenly place for the football fan – there are games on TV absolutely every night (the commentary is usually in the local language but the game is the game!).
After our trip to Lindos we arrived back in Rhodes and had quiet afternoon at the hotel doing some small research jobs on the computer, updating the blog and uploading photos to the blog site while we have free wifi at superfast speeds (9 minutes to download a 380mb iPhone update – Australia please catch up to the rest of the world).
Wednesday looked like a bleak day with an overcast sky and drizzle overnight, but by the time we’d had a late breakfast the rain had disappeared and slivers of blue sky were appearing. So we decided to take a walk around the waterfront and checkout the beaches and port areas. It is easy to see how busy it would be around the beaches during the summer with all the beach chairs and umbrellas stacked on the beach and the number of hotels along the beach (huge ones with 100’s of rooms) that are closed down for the off season.
We had a really quiet day which was very Greek for at this time of year heaps of people (well then men) spend the day sitting in cafes playing backgammon or cards, drinking coffee, talking with friends or just sitting. We are getting into the very relaxed pace of life and are hopefully that we can maintain it when we get home. We spent the day with a relaxing walk in and around Rhode Town including the port and beach areas.