Today I feel a little melancholic. Not just because I’m leaving Limnia, which really has been a little escape, but the realisation that my time on Chios is nearly at an end. After packing and checking that the villa is spic and span, I phone George the taxi driver and ask him to pick me up to take me to the bus stop at 3.30. There is nothing worse than having time to kill so I head to Hook where Katerina prepares me a nice breakfast which I eat on the edge of the harbour. I still have time to kill so walk to Gonia Beach for a little bit of quiet contemplation until it’s time to go.
It’s a short journey from the villa to the bus stop and George has to come all the way to Volissos. It hardly seems worth his while and yet it would have been impossible for me to walk it with my luggage. I give him a good tip which he seems happy with. I seem to be waiting at the almost deserted crossroads for what seems an eternity – but it was my choice to get there early. Soon I hear the very recognisable sound of the one and only number 17 Bus!!! She’s coming down the hill like the clappers with clunky gear changes and groaning engine. The now familiar driver greets me with a smile and heaves my suitcase up onto the front seat and back to Chora we go.
Now as I’d mentioned before, although a bit of an old bus, the number 17 is a true workhorse and is capable of taking those mountain roads in its stride. More importantly – the hairpin bends. The larger buses can’t do it. This is the road heading back down to Chora – not even the scary high ones but a little flavour of the music, the lack of good suspension, air conditioning that comes in the form of open windows and generally a good old bus ride!
Back on terra firma the bus stops within a short hop of Filoxenia Hotel which is where I will be staying overnight. The hotel has great reviews and is as cheap as chips but one thing I hadn’t reckoned on was the set of steps to get up to the reception desk. I leave my case by the entrance and carry up my other two bags. I ask the lady on reception if there is anywhere near the port where I could leave my case overnight and collect it in the morning. Being the organised traveller that I am, everything I need for an overnighter is in a small bag. She advised me not to leave anything at the port and not to worry – she would help me up with my luggage.
I have a simple room but it is absolutely fine for an overnight stay. The view from the window is over those quirky little shops that I’ve talked about in previous posts.
As much as I’m tempted to head into the Citadel I refrain and just head to To Tsikoudho one of my favourite taverna’s along the front. It’s not just that they do great food and complimentary dessert (usualy galaktoboureko) and masticha, but it’s good, friendly service too.
The ferry is scheduled to leave at 5am in the morning so I will set my alarm for 3.30am. No late night for me!
3.30 came quickly! I get myself together, leave my key in the door and slide my suitcase down the stairs. The port is a two minute walk so I am there ultra early. It gives me time to go to one of the portside cafe’s for a cup of tea. There are already people waiting with the same tired look on their faces.
I didn’t see the Nissos Samos – I heard her first. Like a deep and low rumbling that sends vibrations across the water. And then she appears, in all her magnificence. Bedecked with a string of lights – maybe she has pretensions’ of being a cruise ship. I think it’s amazing the way that she is able to rotate on the spot until her back end is towards the harbour. As a ship nerd I find things like this fascinating.
Once passengers have disembarked we are able to board. It all seems very organised and of course not the massive numbers that you would see in peak season. Once I’ve deposited my suitcase and one of my bags on the car deck, the escalator takes me up to the first floor. I head to the outside deck but this one isn’t great for my vertigo. It may not make sense but the deck one floor higher is better and that’s because it is recessed in. I can still see the activity in the port but directly below me is the lower deck.
Watching the lorries load and unload is absolutely fascinating. Some disembark and drive to a destination elsewhere on the island. Most however, deposit their containers in the port. Some tractors collect multiple containers and line them up in neat rows I suppose to be collected at a later date. Whilst this is going on, other lorries with containers are loading onto the ship. This takes a large team of people in the port to co-ordinate all of this activity and I can see this also comes with a lot of responsibility. This continues on until 5.45 and we eventually set sail just before 6am, one hour later than scheduled. What great entertainment though. As we leave the shores of Chios I have a little time for reflection.
When I left Oinousses and Psara where the people were so kind and friendly, I did think that coming to a larger island that things would be different. Maybe people would be more reluctant to respond to a “Kalimera” or maybe they wouldn’t be as open and receptive as on the little islands. That was proven not to be the case from the moment I came here. Even bustling and busy Chora had the feel of a village – albeit a large one and towards the end of the trip began to feel like my home. I loved the contrast of the modern town with everything you could possibly need to hand and then the quiet and beautiful streets of the Citadel where I would spend hours wandering, discovering new alleyways each time. Another big attraction of Chora for me is the port. Watching the ships comes and go has always been a fascination for me. The Nissos Samos, the Psara Glory and the Oinoussai iii have been my transport between Chios and Oinousses (its heart) and Psara (its soul) during this trip, all friends I hope to see again.
Now the actual villages themselves are very special indeed and thanks to the brilliant bus service I was able to visit several of them during my stay. Each village was completely unique but my stay in the Pounti in Pyrgi with my wonderful host Mr Costa was one of the highlights. Please believe that it isn’t imperative to hire a car whilst on Chios. I know that there is the debate that by car you can visit more off the beaten track destinations and I suppose to some extent that is true. However, during my 16 days on Chios I certainly hadn’t exhausted the places I could have visited by bus – but you always have to leave something for next time. And there will be a next time!
There is something quite unique about Chios and maybe some of that can’t be explained in words. There is a sense and a feeling about this place that has made me feel so at peace here. I guess this comes from all of the people that I met along the way and in their own unique ways have made this trip the best one that I’ve done so far. I’ve written about some of the people that I’ve met during this trip but there were so many others that took the time to connect and show kindness which is important as a solo traveller – especially one that is away from her family.
For now, farewell Chios. I hope to be back soon.