Arrival on Thirassia and a Heatwave Ensues

Thirassia has two ports and the Saonisos arrives at the Port of Riva which sits at the northernmost tip of the island. The landscape is slightly flatter here which I expect is more suitable for receiving large ferries and the transportation of cargo (and passengers) on the island.

Manolas is the capital and main settlement on the island and it sits on a caldera rim above the port of Korfos. I’d seen Thirassia up close a couple of times before but only from a boat moored just off its shores. Korfos is a small port with a windmill and a string of tavernas with names such as Nick the Greek and Captain John. It doesn’t give anything away about what to expect from the rest of the island. All I remember is being in awe at the sheer volume of the cliff face towering above it. I distinctly remember the track that zigzags down the cliff face and this is what piqued my interest in Thirassia.

My host had arranged a taxi for me. As the only person to disembark from the ship, I’m not difficult to spot. As the taxi is the only one on the island – this isn’t difficult to find either! We exit the port and begin the gradual climb up above it. The landscape is very different to its volcanic cliff face. It’s as though a portal to another world has been opened. The back of the island has a flat plateau around the edge which appears mainly agricultural. There are several vineyards scattered around the landscape and seem to be thriving in the fertile volcanic soil. After all, Thirassia is the little sister of Santorini and shares the same genetic makeup or rather geology. They are both two of five islands to be created after a series of catastrophic volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.

The concrete road snakes its way around the back of the island and then begins to rapidly ascend. I’m staying at a place called Zacharo Rooms also known as Jimmy’s. It sits above the main village of Manolas. I’m met at the gate by Babis who takes my bag to the room where he gives me directions to the minimarket and tells me how to get around the island. Whatever I need I can call him anytime. Before he leaves he fetches a bottle of water and a dish of cherry spoon sweets which I devour on the terrace outside my room. What a perfect welcome!

The room is simple with twin beds, a kitchen sink, a fridge, kettle and hotplate and a bathroom. More importantly although a cave house, there is air conditioning which I suspect that I’m going to need.

After a much-needed shower and change I quickly unpack. Zacharo Rooms is set on a plot edged with flowering shrubs such as oleander and bougainvillaea. There are two small houses which I assume belong to Babis and his family and then a block of rooms set up on a platform with a long pergola stretching along its length. At the end of the plot is a shaded cliffside terrace with the most magnificent views. To the right is Santorini and the volcano, below is the bay of Korfos and to the left is the village of Manolas. Just behind this sitting on the hazy horizon are Ios, Sikinos and the tail end of Folegandros.

My priority right now is to go to the minimarket for supplies. In this heat, one bottle of water won’t go far enough. Once out of the gate, the road descends sharply into the village. I already anticipate that the climb back up is going to be a slog. I reach the path that leads into the village. It’s made of volcanic stone that has absorbed the heat. This permeates through the soles of my shoes – or so it feels.

I pass a man sitting in the shade flapping his shirt. “Zesto, zesto” he says. If it’s hot for the Greeks, then I’m doomed! Babis had given me good directions to the minimarket. Walk around the back of the church and I will see it on the left – and I do. I purchase a large bottle ofwater, several cans of soft drinks (which I only ever drink on holiday), a large packet of crisps to replenish the salt that I’ve lost in sweat and a small box of washing powder – that old favourite Tide. I prefer to do the handwashing of clothes as I go along. Oh – and ouzo – another essential!

The walk back up to the room is more challenging than I’d thought. The steep incline itself was doable but with the added heat it really took it out of me. Halfway up I find a shaded spot and crack open a can of ice cold coke. The strap to my small rucksack is wringing wet – even my shoulders are sweating!

Back at the room I collapse into a heap under the air conditioner with the cold cans and bottle of water clutched to my chest. After using them as the opposite to a hot water bottle I try desperately to rehydrate myself.

Although I’m itching to get out and explore I remind myself that I’m here to rest. I take my beverages onto the cliff edge terrace and sit and take in the views. Occasionally a tour boat will come into the port of Korfos accompanied by the obligatory disco beats. The only other sounds are the chatter of children in the village school. Occasionally the high-speed boats will sail along the straight between the two islands with their engines reverberating up the cliff face. These views can rival those of Santorini any day!

By the time mid afternoon arrives, I’m beaten back into the cool arms of my room. Every so often I open the door to do a temperature check. Nope – still hot! I’ll try again later.

As the sun begins to set, the temperature has certainly dropped to a bearable degree. I head into the village for a quick recce. It is so quiet here, much more than I’d thought. I pass just several people along the way. A cafe has just five people in it. Where can everyone else be? I think that there may be parts of the village that I can’t see. I’ll explore further tomorrow.

I don’t have much of an appetite this evening. I go back to Jimmy’s and grab the bag of crisps and a bottle of ouzo and allow the essence of the island absorb into my soul.

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