Well today is my birthday and of course I’m in Greece as there is no better way to celebrate. Not that I celebrate my birthday nowadays. It really is just another day and a constant reminder that life is getting shorter – hence the desire to squeeze out every last bit of travelling energy I still have left!
Anyway here on this beautiful island of Oinousses where I have now been for 5 days (how time flies) I have decided to treat myself to a boat ride around the archipelago of islands to the south west of the island. I had only managed to get a peak of them from a hilltop a few days ago but have this burning desire to see them up close.
The day before I’d sent a Whatsapp message to my host Despoina to see if she knows who I should speak to. I know Despoina’s husband Captain Margaritis will translate and reply and soon get the response that I’d hoped for. Yes there is a fisherman who can do this or me. I just need to tell him what time. I opt for 10am. Captain Margaritis tells me to see him in the morning and he will show me which boat it is.
So this morning I arise and firstly treat myself to bougatsa from the local bakery which is a few minutes walk away. I also buy some chocolate dipped Kourabiedes – some nice biscuits for the boat trip. I then call in at the mini market next to the church for some bottles of water. The minimarket is the local hangout for the neighbourhood cats! I sit on the terrace and eat my little feast until it is time to go.
Despoina is in her shop next to the apartment and we greet each other. We don’t speak each other’s language well, so most of our conversation is done by trying to catch the odd word that we do understand and lots of gesticulation. I get from it that her husband is in their other shop (I didn’t know they had another shop). I have to walk to the bakery and then “Kato! Kato! Kato!”. OK I think I get it.
Down at the bottom of a long flight of steps is indeed another little tourist shop and Captain Margaritis is outside opening up. He greets me with a “Happy Birthday” and tells me that he will phone the fisherman to come now.
Captain Margaritis points out the boat to me. Through the gap in the buildings, I can see it. It is one of the larger caiques moored up on the quayside. He tells me that the fisherman doesn’t speak much English – but that isn’t a problem.
Now and again I do get asked if I speak Greek and then if not why not as a frequent traveller to Greece. Of course I know pleasantries but really that’s about it. Over the years I’ve learnt French, Italian and Spanish – attending classes for them all. I reached a level of good proficiency where I could converse on a fairly good level – all the good conversational sentences that you need for survival. This has all gone from my head. I don’t have the opportunity to practice these languages and the words have evaporated as my brain gets filled with other stuff. To be honest I have other things that interest me more. On top of this I love the challenge of communicating using the common language of smiling and watching for cues and also listening for the odd recognisable word. It has served me well so far and it’s also good fun. Let’s see how I get on today.
After five minutes a little car pulls up on the quayside. I’m the only person here but the kindly fisherman points to me and points to the boat as if to check I’m the right person. Established. He boards the boat and starts the engine and helps me on board – a short jump is required! We introduce ourselves. He is Gregos and I tell him “Stephanie”. He doesn’t respond so I give the Greek version of the name “Stefania” which he acknowledges with a nod and a smile.
Once we’re both seated he points in different directions and then shrugs. He’s asking me where I want to go. I say “Micro nisia” and point in the direction of the small islands. Great – off we go.
We sail close to the shoreline. There is a moderate breeze but the sea is fairly flat. We sail past a couple of the small coves with tiny stone beaches on the eastern side of the harbour wall. All deserted apart from the municipal straw parasols. A little further along we come to Agios Ioannos Beach that I had visited on foot a few days earlier. Beyond ths we enter a deep bay. Gregos tells me the name of the beach but I can’t now remember the name of it. Agia Irene sits to the left of it so maybe this is it. In the distance there is a small hamlet with a windmill which helps me locate the beach on Google maps.
We continue around the coastline until the first of the small islets are in sight. Our unexpected arrival sends a cluster of cormorants flying from the rock, paddling their feet in the water to give them leverage to take off. Gulls also sitting on the rocks don’t budge an inch. They raise an indignant eyebrow at the cowardly cormorants and continue to bask in the warm sun.
The photographs just don’t do justice to the beauty of the water which is crystal clear. The hues range from dark ink blue to turquoise with shades of azure and cobalt in between. I get that this post is going to have many photographs that look the same and quite boring to boot. I guess you just have to be there!
Gregos steers us out towards the islet of Gaidouronisos where we sail close to it’s coastline and to our right we pass a fish farm. Another small caique goes in the opposite direction giving Gregos a wave as they go.
Vataki and Vatos islands are now behind us but we approach the larger of the islands on the right. Pasas, I had been told by Captain Tsouri is off limits due to it being a military camp. You can see a military settlement at the on top of the hill giving it a vantage point over to Turkey. I won’t post any photographs of this. A little further along though I can see a large white cross painted onto the hillside
Gregos steers us between the islet of Pontikonisi and Archontiko towards another bay at the bottom of Oinousses. Again he tells me the name of the beach but I have forgotten it and Google maps doesn’t mention its name. However, within the bay Google Maps does have an accommodation label for a place called Disakiospito on the right.
Again the blue green hues in the water are gorgeous. This would be the ultimate getaway place to stay.
Just a little further along the coastline is another bay with more signs of life. The nearest name place on Google Maps is Aspalathrokampos. Before we approach the beach we see an old man who is about 20 meters along the rocks – there isn’t even a shoreline here. He is doing some kind of fishing but we see him take a fall. Gregos stops the boat and asks him if he is OK. It seems he is a little shaken but OK. Gregos waits until he can see him stand before moving the boat towards the beach. Here there is another man who Gregos shouts across that the other man has had a fall. Of course I don’t understand what he is saying but it is obvious what the exchange is about. Gregos stays off shore until the other man has reached the other. All is OK.
I’d read somewhere that Oinoussiots are not gregarious people. They keep themselves to themselves and are quite tough people. However, if anyone is ever in need, they would all be there to help. Maybe this is just a very small example of this. Though I do hate these generalisations about a whole community of people.
We sail back towards the port and Gregos asks me where to next. I point to the mermaid statue next to Nisidi Panteleimona and off we go. I had taken a rather snatched photograph of her on my way in. I didn’t know where she was until I happened to look up as we approached the port. Now’s the chance to see her close up.
Seagulls scatter as we approach – she’s another good sun trap for the birds. The statue is far more beautiful close up. What a perfect welcome to visitors as they approach Oinousses by boat.
The caique scootles behind the next islet of Pateroniso – Island of the Pateros family – though the house on it looks as though it has fallen into a state of disrepair.
I point to another church in the distance and ask Gregos if this is Agios Spiridon – and it is. I’d had a quick look at this the other day. We begin sailing in that direction but first we pass the beach of Kakopetria and there are actually people on it! Five people in fact – well it is the weekend. One man who had been lying under an umbrella jumps in the sea and swims out to us. Gregos tells me this is his brother in law by saying “brother” and pointing to his ring finger. “Photo, photo” Grego tells me pointing to his brother in law and friends. I oblige but not sure I got the best view of them. Gregos asks me if I want to swim which I humbly gently decline. Another day I think. We wave goodbye and sail further around the coast. This gives me the chance to see the beaches that I didn’t have the energy to walk to the other day.
Before we reach the other side known as Kastro, Gregos points up to the cliffs and again says “Photo, photo”. At first I can’t see what he is pointing to but as my eyes focus I can see goats standing on a narrow ledge looking down at us. How on earth do they do it!
Kastro or more specifically Apeganos Beach is indeed a beautiful beach. With Agios Spiridon sitting above providing a nice back drop it is one of the most attractive yet. The beaches that I have seen so far seem to have the same make up of sand and pebble. All are completely natural bar the matching sunshades. Some as with Bilali Beach also provide sun loungers but the draw of these beaches are the crystal like waters and of course the preservation of the beaches natural state. Apeganos however seems to have more sand than stone – I think that this is the best beach so far.
Gregos continues a little further and on our right is a large white villa which he tells me belongs to the Lemos family. It is indeed a magnificent villa. Further around we come to the large white villa with the church and belltower that I’d seen the day before. Gregos confirms that it is a family church and that the villa belongs to another Lemos family member – brothers. What prime locations they have chosen for their villa’s – either side of the best beach on the island!
I know that we won’t go much further because Grego is keeping to the calm side of the island. Beyond the tip and to the east the water gets rough – so I am told.
Above I can see the white building that I had seen during my walk the day before. It sits high up on the hill in prime position and I thought large enough to be part of the monastery complex. However, as the caique moves around the coast a little further into another bay, the ‘real’ monastery is revealed in all of its magnificent glory. Now this is a monastery! A large white cross – the Cross of Oinousses (marble no doubt) is in prime position on top of the hill. The Monastery of Evangelismos of the Virgin Mary is a relatively new building – constructed in 1962 in the Byzantine architectural style and of course funded by local wealthy benefactors.
Gregos turns down the motor of the boat and we sit and admire the view in front of us without words. Who needs words.
There is a beach below with a small building and a cluster of tamarisk trees. I wonder if the nuns come and swim on the beach. I’ve seen monks strip off and go for a swim before (Agathonisi) maybe the nuns do too?
Well I have now seen the monastery albeit from afar. I still have it in my mind that I will visit it before I go but let’s see. I’m not going to put pressure on myself.
Gregos guides the caique slowly back to the port. From here there is the best view of the village with St Nicholas Church taking prime position. Staying in the Oinousses Apartments next to it is very handy as you just can’t get lost (well kind of).
Gregos and I say our goodbyes and I thank him for this wonderful trip.
I can’t help it but I cast my mind forward to the next part of my trip in a few days time. The ferry schedules have changed several times over the last few months. The most recent update showed that to get to Psara – the next island on my itinerary I would have to go to Chios first and then catch another ferry later that day to Psara. Now I don’t know why but a small alarm bell has been ringing in my head. Ever since the Oinoussai III returned from taking the visitors back to Chios last night, she has stayed moored up with no signs of life. This is unusual because this little boat seems to always be on the move.
I call in at the ticket office on the corner and the lady tells me that the Oinoussai iii has now finished for the season. However, the Psara Glory will now begin calling in at Oinousses and she will go directly to Psara. I had planned to leave on Tuesday and this along with a Sunday is the only day that she won’t do this route. This is OK. I can stay an extra night on Oinousses but first I need to confirm this with Despoina. I tell the lady that I will be back on Monday morning to purchase the ferry ticket.
I see Captain Margaritis at the shop and thank him for helping me to arrange the boat trip with Grego. I ask him about the extra night in the apartment. After a call with Despoina he tells me that it is OK. He tells me that the Oinoussai iii will go into dry dock for the winter. This is rather sad. I’d become rather accustomed to seeing her sail between Chios and Oinousses every day and sounding her arrival.
The next thing I need to do is contact my host on Psara. I message Diana and tell her about the situation with the boat and that I will arrive on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. I tell her that I would still like to stay for 5 nights if possible. This is the message that I get back.
I’m not sure if this means that there is a fishing boat that leaves at 6 o’clock in the morning or that there is a fishing boat that will take 6 hours to get to Chios. Anyway, I won’t worry about this for now. Getting there will be the main thing. I have no fixed itinerary.
It is warm now I’m back on terra firma. There was a definite chill in the air out on the water. I spend an hour or so on Kathisma Beach just the other side of the harbour wall. Just paddling and looking at pebbles.
As I head back up to the apartment, I see the Oinoussai iii laying dormant. I’ll be sad to see her go.
It is impossible to walk the streets of Chora without stopping to photograph these atmospheric old mansion houses. Around every corner there is something new to grab my attention.
Later that evening I go back down to the port to eat. Hopefully To Palio Teloneio will be open as I haven’t eaten here yet. There isn’t anyone in the taverna so it isn’t looking hopeful. The door is open and I manage to catch the attention of the man in the back. Yes they are open!
Soon after I take a table outside it begins to fill up a bit with at least – oh 9 people or so. Some are just here to drink and others have just a giros – good to know they do something like this. The man asks me if I have Google translate as the menu is only in Greek. This will work perfectly.
Well kind of perfectly – not all of the items were translated into things that made sense but I was able to order a Caesar Salad, Mastelo cheese (similar to halloumi) and local sausage along with white wine.
The food was good – well cooked, with very generous portions and a good price. They have an extensive fish and seafood menu and I hope to be back before I leave.
I look at the Google Maps Timeline and although the GPS isn’t particularly detailed I can see that we covered a lot of ground during the boat trip.
After a few video calls with the family I head back up. Halfway up the steep set of steps I hear the Oinoussai sound her horn. It sounded rather melancholic – could she be leaving Oinousses now? I get out Marine Traffic app and sure enough she is heading for Perama near Piraeus – she’ll arrive in two days time where she will rest over winter. It feels quite sad but I’m glad to have met a new ship along my travels.