20.09.2009 - 23.09.2009 30 °C
Having been feeling decidely rough the day after our farewell well party we would first of all like to thank Carrie and Chris for giving up their bed on Saturday night to allow us to get 5 decent hours sleep before we started our big adventure. We must admit the other option of sleeping at the airport was starting to look less and less appealing as the day went on.
Our adventure started at 4:30am Sunday morning on the 20th September 2009. Still feeling the wear and tear from Friday night we clambered out of bed, proceeded to undertake a typical early morning backpacker wash of under arms and face before staggering out the door to find a bus to Victoria Train station. I've got to say if one needed to catch a bus across London early in the morning on a weekend 4:30am is the time to do it. Half expecting to have to ride the bus with reasonably drunk, loud and some what unpleasent people we were quite happy to see the bus speed through central london without picking up more than a couple of random souls. These souls were more than than likley lost having been thrown out of the bar at closing time after a decidely heavy affair in their favourite boozer.
Needless to say we arrived at Victoria station with about 20 minutes to spare and feeling decidely chuffed with ourselves at not having spent 53 quid on a cab direct to the airport. This chuffness was quickly eradicated when we discovered that the 5:30 am train that the automated rail line informed us about was not the typical south western train service but the Gatwick Express and that our savings by using public transport quickly shrunk - but at least we knew we'd get to the airport with time to spare!
We all know about airports and the usual hassles of check in, bag searches, waiting at gates and the UK pass time of queueing so I'll skip from here to good stuff.
We arrived in to Santorini curtesy of EasyJet at about 2pm Sunday afternoon, having collected our bags we headed for the exit and hopefully a bus in to the town of Fhira, where our campsite, Camping Santorini was located. Unfortunately we had a wait on our hands of about 2 hours. We reluctantly trudged off to join the back of a very long line at a cab rank missing the the most important element - cabs. Having been standing in line for 15 minutes with only 2 cabs arriving in that period we thought we'd probably be in line until the bus arrived at 4pm. Our prayers were answered by an enterprising cabbie who was taking one couple to Fhira and had 2 spare seats with everyone else in either groups larger than two or were wanting to go to Oia, so we jumped in the cab and were off.
Having spent only 5 minutes at the campsite, we came to the realisation that we were missing one critical item from our back packs, especially if we intend on doing a lot of camping. That was a hammer or mallet, the ground was like rock and no amount of poking, pushing, stroking or stabing was going to get our pegs in to the ground beneath our feet. Luckily this campsite like most we've visited before had a mallet to borrow.
The tent was up, our gear was unpacked, we were showered and now felt a small resemblance to being human. Our next stop was town for some food, a drink and to suss out a located for this famed sunset.
Wandering through the small alley ways that make up the main shopping, eating and therefore touristy part of Fhira it is evident that this town does a cracking trade from the typical cruise liners that pump the mediterranean full of money at this time of year. It's also evident that the people of the cruise liners have money to burn with the streets of Fhira littered with jewellers hawking their gold, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. Had I known this I might have persuaded Hannah to visit some where else, a back packers budget does not stretch to cover bling! Not having been to Santorini before and discovering many of the cafes and restaraunts full of people looking out across the emerald blue waters towards the emininant sunset a feeling of panic washed over us. Where do we go? Do we need to get a seat now for a sunset thats over 2 hours away, if we wait will their be seats left? What place has the best views and can we get access to these views with out having to pay for food and drink?!
Panic led to a mission and that mission led to the restaurant of Zaphora, perched high on the northern side of Thira. If we were going to have to pay for a view we may as well do it at a place where we can get 15% off with our camping card. After table hopping 2 or 3 times in order to gain the optimum position we dug in for the 2 and a half hour wait nursing ourselves through 1 drink each and the first glass from a bottle of locally produced white wine. Finally sunset was upon us and it was worth the wait. While the following nights sunset proved to be more spectacular, this was the first sunset of our trip and the company and wine ensured we started the trip romantically and in love. Being attached at the hip for the next 7 months and sleeping almost on top of each other in our tent it will be interesting to see if we feel the same way when we touch down in Oz, but we'll not focus on this for now.
Day two started reasonably slowly, a 10am wake up, a shower the mission to find a cheap breakfast meant that it wasn't until 2pm that we were ready to rock and roll and we set our sights on the southern beaches of Santorini and in particular the Red Beach. Clambering aboard the comfortable air conditioned bus, Hannah quickly decided 12 hours sleep were not enough and passed out next to me. Watching the internal countryside of Santorini pass me by, I was left contemplating my own survival. How would I have survived on such an island back in the time of the Ancient Greeks? The weather was hot and dry the landscape dusty and rocky, the land has been parched by centuries of sun and wind leaving the open landscape looks inhospitable at best. But on these plains the Greeks have terraced, they have planted and from where there was nothing before they have created a life and lifestyle that suits them well. A lifestyle that I bet many of the visiting tourists are jealous of.
One example the the greeks inginuity and abilities is their cultivation of the grape. One thing struck me while on our bus trip - and that was how overgrown the landscape was with these weeds, the leaves a green and red colour, the stem of the plant twisted in torture by the suns rays it wasn't until we passed a sign for a vineyard that I realised these were the grape vines used to create the famous Santorini vino. I found out later that evening that the vines are purposely twisted into circles to provide shelter and protection for the grapes against natures forces.
The red beach was pretty non eventful we didn't actually make it to the red beach itself we got side swiped by a beach hut with deck chairs, beach bar and its own little inlet to allow us to whittle away our time. It was also the fact that we thought the bus had dropped us at the Red Beach.........Two hours later we found the right one and kind of regret not doing a bit more exploring before sitting down.
The sunset on Day Two was unforgettable - the clouds and the colours were simply amazing.
Day three was our last full day in Santorini and we occuppied ourselves by taking off on a boat tour of the surrounding area. First stop was the active Volcanic Island of Nea Kameni. Arriving on Nea Kameni one had thoughts of Jason and the Argonaughts, the land was barren, rocky, hot under foot and we were certain that the golden fleece lay near by. We could just imagine turning the corner to be confonted by the Cyclops made from the same clay they used in that trashie B grade 1960's movie that is shown at leats 4 times a year as the Saturday afternoon movie. Upon approaching the summit our guide proceeded to tell us stories of the locals and their love for their Volcanoe. When one thinks about it, Volcanoes, these creations of mother nature that bring so much death and destruction are reverred by the commuities that surround them. I think that this has somthing to do with our fascination with both life and death. To listen to your guide tell you with the broadest of smiles that Santorni's erruption was bigger than Krakatoa and that its tsunamis were still 40m high when it washed over the minoean civilisation on Crete killing everyone and putting an end to one of the greatest of ancient Greek Civilisation's is slightly destressing.
Our tour finished in Oia, where we proceeded to wander the town waiting for our third and final Santorini sunset. Oia's reputation as Santorini's most picturesque town was right on the money. All of the buildings were white washed with the famous blue roofs and doors. Couples wandered arm in arm and newly weds were the norm. The crowds started to build, this was obviously the place to be as the crowds at Fhira were small in comparision. We took our position on a small wall and watched the sun until in said goodby dipping fully below the horizon until it could be seen no more. Our final sunset was not as beautiful as the one the night before but it was magical.
This is a little long I know, Hannah is yawning beside me I'll have to work on condensing our thoughst and feelings over the next 7 months. If you've read this far I thank you. Look out for the next installment on Crete........