Here is another Blast from the Past from July 2001 – a trip that took me to Rhodes, Kalymnos/Telendos, Bodrum, Leros, Nisyros and Tilos.
My boyfriend at the time and I took turns in writing a diary entry and this is an excerpt from the Leros part of the trip.
Apologies for the low quality photographs – they were taken on an old non digital camera and are photographs of the prints that have been hiding in my attic for years!
Thursday 12 July 2001 – John
We had doughnuts and coffee on our balcony before loading up with the rucksacks and walking down to the harbour. The hydrofoil Georgiou M eventually came and we said goodbye to Kalymnos as we set fourth for Leros.
After an hour we arrived at the small and picturesque port of Agia Marina. A man approached us as we got off the boat offering apartments in Pandeli which was the village that we had agreed that we wanted to stay in. We’d read a description of the area in the Island Hopper’s Bible by Frewin Poffley which has been our main resource when travelling.
We agreed to see the apartments and he got a taxi to take us there. After a five minute journey we arrived at the apartments and were met by the man’s wife and daughter who showed us two lovely, clean rooms. We chose the ensuite for 7000 dracmas a night.
We then headed straight for the beach which was only a five minute walk away. The beach was pebbly but not too uncomfortable and the water was, as always, beautiful and clear.
Three taverna’s and a handful of little apartment blocks line the sea front and there is a tiny harbour with a few sailing boats at one side. When we swam out to sea we could look back see the imposing kastello overlooking the bay and a number of windmills along the top of the hills. We both felt it was a truly lovely place.
We found a place selling chicken giros for 400 dracmas. After the beach we showered and Steph went to sleep. I couldn’t sleep due to the excessive moped noise from the road outside so I read for an hour. After this I walk up the hill to Chora where old men sat outside café’s chatting to the priest. I then went down the other side ending up at Agia Marina. I eventually found a travel agent who was able to tell me about the ferry schedules for the next leg of our journey. The only one to Nisyros apparently was on Saturday morning – a day earlier than we wanted to go.
I then walked the long steep roadback to Chora and thought I would get something that we could eat on the balcony as I knew Steph was tired. I had seen a bakery on the way up and I went into a supermarket. I bought salami, olives, nectarines, chocolate, wine, coffee and mosquito killer. The only thing that I couldn’t find was clothes pegs which we needed to hang up the hand washing that we had done earlier. I searched all of the shelves for pegs but to no avail. I paid for everything in the basket and then walked to a small corner shop a few doors down. The owner spoke no English and was unable to understand my mime for pegs. He asked a customer to translate, which he did. The man then told me – “shop next door”. I duly followed his instruction and went next door to the ironmongers. I couldn’t see any pegs and again the owner didn’t speak any English so I tried my mime again but it just didn’t register with him. Just then the old man who’d translated for me in the corner shop came rushing in and told the ironmonger what I wanted. At last I would have the pegs!
Alas I was shown a clothes horse by both grinning men! I said “no” and again repeated my mime – opening and closing my fingers to mimic the action of pegs. The ironmongers then understood and said “mandalaki” (or something like that) meaning clothes pegs. The ironmonger and the old man then said in unison “Supermarket!”
By this time I would have gladly gone without the pegs but I didn’t want to be defeated especially after the investment in time from the friendly locals.
I trudge back to the supermarket with my carrier bags and went through the now familiar mime with the lady on the till. A young customer at the till understood my request and told the shopkeeper what I was after. The lady pointed to the shelf. Now at this point I know exactly the contents of that shelf before I get there. Still, I dutifully looked. I found paper plates, washing powder, washing lines, rubber gloves, cocktail sticks, bin bags and plastic cutlery. No pegs.
I returned to the old lady and she sent a younger assistant over to look. I strode behind him confidently to the area of washing and picnic paraphernalia, knowing that he wouldn’t find any pegs. He waded into the shelves until he was elbow deep disposable BBQ’s and bleach! He looked panic stricken – but not defeated! He motioned for me to follow him out of the supermarket, across the street and into a large building which seemed to be the storage area for the shop. Again after ten minutes of frantic ransacking, no pegs. The poor lad looked distraught and now a little forlorn. We went back to the supermarket and spoke to the old lady at the till who just shrugged. At this point the corner shop owner burst in shouting and gesticulating at the supermarket owner and her young apprentice. The lad shouted back his excuses but the corner shop keeper would have none of it and led him to the back shelf where he miraculously and magically produced a plastic tub of pegs!
Neither I nor the lad could believe our eyes! With a few shouted insults (or seemed that way) and a dismissive gesture to the supermarket owner, the corner shop owner left to go back to his unattended shop.
The old lady shamefaced, sold me the pegs. The lad had disappeared, presumably to commit the Greek shop-keeping equivalent of hari kari.
As I walked past the old man’s shop he laughed and we exchanged grins and a thumbs up!
By the time I had reached the bakery it was locked so I couldn’t buy any bread. I didn’t feel that either I or the supermarket owner were up to the painful experience of me going back again so I trudged back to the apartment exhausted.
Instead of lovely fresh bread with the salami and olives, we shared a packet of crisps that I had bought for the beach the next day. Steph politely declined to make any comment on the food I put before her. This is the first and last time I attempt to self-cater on this holiday!
Friday 13th July – Steph
Leros is a small island with a friendly community feel. The main visitors seem to be Greek families and Scandinavians. Prices are slightly higher here but it seem to attract a more upmarket visitor. The island doesn’t seem as barren as some of the other islands we’ve visited so far – there is lots of greenery everywhere.
It’s nice having a kettle in the room so that we can have coffee in the morning. John went to get breakfast which we ate on the balcony. The first thing that we need to do today is to walk up and over the hill to Agia Marina to find out the times of the ferries to Nysiros. John had gone last night only to be told that the ferries leave on Saturday or Wednesday morning. It seemed a shame to leave so early only having had one and a half days on the island. We decided on the midnight ferry on Saturday giving us an extra whole day.
We headed back to Pandelli and spent the rest of the day on the beach swimming and sunbathing, breaking only for gyros and frappe.
We stayed on the beach until early evening. It was hard pulling ourselves away from it but we managed to go back to the room to shower and change before heading back to one of the beachside taverna’s to eat.
The taverna owners had raked the sand and laid out tables and chairs on the beach. This is such a beautiful setting with the kastro and the windmills sitting high above us and fishing boats moored to the harbour wall.
There was plenty of activity on the beach. A group of locals gathered under a pergola to talk. Fishermen prepared their nets for the follow day and local children played on the boats. We chose to eat at restaurant Drossos. I had tzatziki to start and John had aubergine salad. I then had stuffed tomatoes and peppers and John had calamari all washed down with a bottle of Greek red wine.
After the meal we took a stroll along the tree lined beach and then returned to the apartment. Unlike the night before, there were no lizards in the room and everything seemed relatively bug free. The room was quite exceptional with regards to cleanliness etc. The big drawback being the constant flow of traffic accelerating up the hill making sleep very difficult. It seemed to let up for an hour between 4-5am. Not to worry – we just try to catch up on sleep on the beach during the day!
Saturday 14th July 2001 – John
We wake up late after a sleepless night and pack our bags. We manage to communicate to the lady who runs Aphrodite Apartments that we were catching the night ferry and we would like to leave our bags until later. She told us “No problem. Come back eight, nine, ten – whenever! ” She also showed us to a bathroom that we could use to shower in before we leave.
We decide that this morning we must visit the imposing kastello which had been looking down on us since we arrived. When faced with a 2 kilometre winding road or 800 steps we chose the latter. The path began as a delightful twisting alleyway between little houses, ginnels and lush little gardens. However, it was very steep. And hot! After a while we came to the last of the buildings – a tile roofed church. We could see below Chora and Pandeli already looking like match box houses and the bay stretching out before us. Above us, the steps continued, pick out in white and leading us up to the castle. There was no shade from this point onwards. Although it was becoming uncomfortable we decided that we’d made it this far so we would continue but with regular water and rest stops. Although it was touch and go we did eventually make it to the castle where the views were as good as you would expect for the effort. We could see as far as Lakki, Agia Marina and over to Lipsi and and Kalymnos and beyond to Turkey.
There was a Greek Orthodox chapel in gold containing an icon which apparently magically appeared in the kastro one day inspiring people to turn the armoury into a chapel.
We made it back to the Chora with less difficulty and headed for the beach where we had another lovely relaxing day. Later on we had a walk along the sea shore and the harbour wall where we sat in a grubby taverna and had a coffee and a Metaxa brandy before bidding farewell to Pandeli.
We showered at the apartment, changed and our lovely host rang a taxi for us.. We bade her farewell and headed off to Lakki. The cliff road was spectacular and gave glimpses of other little beaches tucked away in coves and inlets.
The town of Lakki seemed much bigger than the others on the island. Many of the buildings were in disrepair, although they had obviously once been grand. There were hardly any people around – the town almost seemed deserted. It was strange after the hustle and bustle of Pandeli and Agia Marina. Suddenly the taxi turned onto the sea front and there were a succession of brightly lit water front cafes all full of life. The harbour is huge and the ferry port where we were dropped was a long way from the café’s we had passed.
The ticket office for D.A.N.E. Sea Lines was unstaffed though promisingly there was a board in the window saying 00.30 FB Patmos – Astypalea – Nisyros – Rhodes which concurred with the information that we had been given the day before.
We left our bags at the horrible port café and walked along the harbour front back to Lakki town. The atmosphere felt very different to elsewhere on the island that we’d visited. Eventually after saying hello to a tiny cat, we choose a restaurant and eat a delicious Greek salad with bread, grilled mullet for me and a chicken meze for Steph
We wandered slowly back to the ferry port at midnight and there were still no signs of life in the ticket office. This was worrying as it was due to leave in thirty minutes. I did not want to spend the night in Lakki harbour. 00.30 came and went with no sign of the ticket seller of the F/B Patmos. At 00.45 the ticket woman came and changed the sign to say that the ship was now departing at 01.15 instead. I purchased our tickets to Nisyros for 2500 dracmas each. The ferry came eventually and we boarded. The ship was huge – much bigger than the Dimitroula. There were three outside decks at the back. Ten lorries came off and some more boarded.
When we set sail, the Patmos soon picked up a pace and soon we passed the old lunatic asylum on the left and then leaving the natural harbour of Lakki. One by one the lights of Leros flickered out as the giant ship turned and steamed away, eventually leaving us surrounded by blackness.