The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ok, We get it. You’re Pretty.

The following takes place on Days 204-206, June 19-21, 2011

I don’t think I’m really jumping off the deep end here by declaring that I think most people, when thinking of Greek Islands, think of Santorini. The island of Santorini is kind of like that pretty girl in high school. She knows she’s pretty and doesn’t need to do much to convince anyone of that fact. People will flock to her regardless. That is most definitely Santorini. The island is dotted with apartments for rent, hostels, hotels, and resorts. It is like it is built for tourists.

Kelly and I left Naxos mid morning by ferry towards the Island pleasure. I regaled Kelly and the two American girls we hung out with on the ferry with stories of Santorini’s past as the site of a massive volcanic eruption. The entire island, and the few other islands that dot the area, are all part of the same volcanic caldera that formed after the Thira Eruption centuries ago. It was actually this eruption that is thought to be the basis of the myth of Atlantis as excavations have found evidence of a civilization living on the island before it went kablooey.

As the ferry comes into the port, you can tell you’re in someplace magical. The sides of the cliffs rise high above you, inviting you to remember that you are now in the middle of a dormant volcano. Where the ferry docks is nothing more than the port for the whole island. There’s no town close by so you must either rent a vehicle or organize a ride. Lucky for us, the hostel we booked offered a free ride.

BPerissa black sand beachy the time we arrived at the hostel it was fairly late in the afternoon already so we headed out to the beach in Perissa, the town we were in. The beach was a black sand beach. Black from from the volcanic activity. It was a very cool experience seeing it. I only went for a quick dip in the water before we walked down the boardwalk. It became clear to us that Santorini was most definitely a party town. There were many bars and party hostels along the beach front. After a quick supper overlooking the water we headed back to the quiet of our hostel.

Santorini is a lot smaller than Naxos and seeing the whole island via a scooter IMG_8439or an ATV is not impossible. The plan for our first full day on the island was to each get a little motor vehicle to explore the island. I was going for an ATV regardless as I didn’t feel comfortable driving a scooter. Kelly, on the other hand, was itching for a scooter. Unfortunately for her, she was a bit too honest when we went to rent them. While the guy only cared that Kelly had a driver’s licence of some kind, when he asked “Have you ever driven a scooter before?” she answered with “Nope . . . “ and trailed off before adding “I’ve driven dirt bikes.” So we ended up getting one ATV.

Now if driving a car on the narrow roads of Naxos felt weird, try driving an ATV on a highway. You don’t go super fast, maybe 30km/hour at most but I’m still used to only using it in the fields on the farm. Dealing with traffic?? No way!

IMG_8446It was a good day though. Hot, and I definitely burned on my arms and face. We drove all the way down to one corner of the island then followed the coast all the way to the Northern most town of Oia, doing a slight detour to see what was called the “Red Beach” because of the rocks.  Well, we were really trying to get to a set of ruins but they were closed for some reason. We stopped halfway up the island for another lunch of homemade sandwiches and water. We weren’t the only ones on ATVs on the roads and the drivers all seemed to be used to us slow pokes on the road. I would pull over to the side at times once the line up behind me got longer than I liked.

Santorini, in general, is a very easy island to drive through. And pretty. I will admit that. It certainly lives up to it’s hype.

IMG_8458Our final day in Santorini we set up a boat tour that would take us to a few places just off the main island. The first stop: the volcano. In the middle of the caldera, an island of hardened lava and rock sits, occasionally smoldering and releasing ash. This, more than anything, reminds you that this volcano is still alive. The boat dropped us off and we were given about an hour and a half to explore the island. I took off on my own while Kelly stuck behind to take the free tour given by one of the guides on the boat. It’s a very easy climb as the paths are well worn and have benches strewn here and there. And it’s not very steep either. Getting to the highest point is no more than a fifteen or twenty minute walk.

IMG_8496Unfortunately the volcano was not releasing any steam or smoke today. Seeing the hardened lava fields was cool in itself, but seeing the smoke would’ve made the whole day perfect. Oh well!

The tour continued around the island where the boat anchored itself about 500 meters out of a cove heated up by the volcano. As the gap into the area was too narrow for the ship to go in, anyone that wanted to go swim in the hot springs had to literally jump off the ship and swim there. It was a long swim! The water was so cold and deep right beside the boat but as we worked our way to the cove it grew progressively warmer and . . . stinkier. The smell of sulphur rose up and down. It wasn’t completely overpowering, but every so often you would get a strong whiff of rotten eggs. My poor swim trunks from Rio, the black and white patterned ones, got a bit of a red tint to them from the sulphur.

From there though the tour got a bit of a lag. We stopped briefly on another island where KellyIMG_8510 and I grabbed a little lunch and then just sat beside the water waiting for the next leg of the journey which would split the tour group in half. Half would be heading back to the port of Santorini as their tour was done. The other half, the half we were one, would take another boat to Oia to watch the sunset before catching buses back to our respective hotels. When we got to Oia, and managed to dock(it took four or five tries in order to successfully dock), we were given the choice of either walking up the cliff side stairs to the town or paying for a ride on a donkey on the way up.

IMG_8545Considering I’ve already had the pleasure of riding a donkey, I politely declined and zipped up the 370+ stairs to the top. Kelly took the opportunity to take the donkey though and I quite enjoyed seeing her face as her donkey decided it wanted to race around a corner to beat another donkey. When that was over with we each scoped out areas to watch the sunset over what is deemed the best place on Santorini to see it do so. I found one area near the castle tower which was, for the moment, blocked off.

IMG_8564The reason for that: the flame for the Special Olympics was on its way to the castle tower for a ceremony. I got to see the procession walk right beside me, the flame held high in the hands of two women. I followed the group up to the tower and watched what seemed to be a ceremony for the finishing of the torch run. I couldn’t understand it as it was all in Greek so eventually I turned my attention back to the sunset. I found a space on the tower wall to sit on and watched the sun fall below the horizon.

Ok. Fine. I admit it. It was beautiful. IMG_8596

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