I’ve skipped a day in the diary. The day before I had done practically nothing apart from walk down to the marina and then spend the rest of the day on the beach – again taking the route through the pistachio orchard. These longs walks are definitely off-setting the consumption of bougatsa and can feel quite a substantial weight loss by the fit of my clothes. Holidays ARE good for your health!
Yesterday I’d also bumped into my host Christos as he made his way from his home to Eleni Studios. We had quite a lengthy chat about olives. How to grow them successfully, how the weather has affected his trees and what the harvesting entails. I find it really fascinating and Christos was very generous with his time in talking about it. He told me that there is an olive press up on the road leading to Eftalou and that I should try to visit it. I wouldn’t get a guided tour as all it is is a working olive press for the local growers but they would let me in to look at the process.
I told Christos that I’d planned to walk to the hot springs at Eftalou and he gave me directions. I had already read that the thermal springs are managed by volunteers and that it isn’t an offically organised hammam. However, he told me that it was still accessible and that all visitors do so at their own risk. That’s fair enough. It’s about a 4km walk to the springs and I begin by taking the road to the left of the school.
The road climbs steeply and after it plateaus close to a small pine wood, it gradually begins to drop again. It takes me past a number of small holdings, several large properties guarded by dogs and of course, clusters of olive groves. As I pass one of the olive groves I notice that the floor of the groves are carpeted in swathes of golden autumn crocus. They are in full bloom and the colour is intensified by the sunlight filtering through their petals. How spiritually uplifting!
Along the gutter of the roadside acorns crunch underfoot, another sure sign that autumn is here. But on a glorious day like this it feels more like spring!
I reach a point in the road where it splits, divided by a mound with some kind of building on the top. The road skirts around it to the left and to the right. I take the right. The road now begins to drop down into Eftalou and the coast slowly reveals itself as I turn the corner. From Mythimna, the marina almost hides this corner of the Turkish mainland but I’m really blown away by how close it actually is – almost in touching distance, or so it seems. Turkey is probably as close here as it was from Oinousses but I’m still awestruck nonetheless.
The coastal road is empty and not even a car passes me along the way. Everywhere looks closed for the season. There is a spa hotel along here that looks as though it has been closed for some time. So many of the old spa’s seem to have gone out of fashion and the purpose built buildings are left to rot and decay. This is very obvious in places such as Methana in the Eastern Peloponnese. In the early 1900’s Methana was like a mecca for people ‘taking the waters’ for health benefits. It is interesting that so many of the old spa’s that are no longer in operation have not succumbed to demolition and redevelopment. Maybe there is hope that one day that the hot water springs will have a resurgence in popularity. Personally I love them and have lost count of the amount that I’ve sampled over the years. Let’s hope that there will always be people around to protect and value these unique and wonderful natural resources.
I pass a small farm which is full of chickens pecking and scratching in the dry soil. As soon as they see me they make a mad dash to the fence which then makes me feel guilty. I don’t as a habit carry chicken feed around with me but their hopes are dashed nonetheless.
I know that I’m getting closer to Eftalou thermal springs. There are some quite unique rock formations at the edge of the beach. The road begins to climb again but Google Maps tells me that I am practically there. There’s nothing else for it but to continue following the road up. Before I set off again I spot a friendly cat who then decides to keep me company along the way. Part way up the sloping road I can spot the spa. A path takes me down to a modern looking building which I suppose could be some kind of treatment or wellness facility. Next to it is the traditional hammam with its oval domed roof and whitewashed exterior.
On the outside the building of the hot springs there is a notice from the local council. It makes it very clear that the facility isn’t offically open and that people enter at their own risk. Once through the doorway, I enter into a kind of changing area I guess. There are some handwritten notices that I assume are from the local group of volunteers that dedicate their time to keeping the spa operational.
My first instinct is to see if there is anyone else here but the place is empty. There is a small metal bench and a rush chair upon which I put my bag and towel. A metal rail guides you down a couple of steps and then through a low archway into the spa itself. I can see that tealights have been lit in the recesses of the wall so someone ‘has’ been here. And not too long ago. There is however, a cat lying fast asleep at one end of the room, the heat radiating through the stones has sent him into a deep slumber. I notice that the friendly cat that had followed me all the way to the spa has remained outside. I don’t think that they want to encroach onto Hammam Cat’s territory.
It has certainly seen better days in terms of keeping up with the white washing but there are splashes of white lime paint on the stones so maybe it’s a job that needs doing regularly. The spa is small. There is a narrow edging of paving stones around the perimiter of the spa, just enough for one person to walk around. Despite its slightly forlorn look the water itself is crystal clear. Sunken into the water are a series of stone blocks all at different heights.
Back in the changing area I notice that the floor is littered with leaves that have blown in from outside. I must say that if there had been a broom handy I’d have happily given the place a sweep. Although the handwritten notices encourage people to contribute towards the maintenance of the facility there are no apparent signs of equipment to do that. A lot can be done with a brush and dustpan and I have the time. Not to worry. The intention was there. I go out through the other door that leads out onto the beach. This is where to go if you want to give yourself the full thermal waters treatment alterning from the hot waters in the spa and the freezing cold waters of the sea. Will I or won’t I? The jury is out at the moment.
If people have been here then it is likely that other people may arrive at any time. I decide to take a few quick photographs just in case.
Back in the changing area I begin to strip down to my bikini after all this is what I’ve come for. Just as I do a young hippy looking man walks in through the entrance. I wish him a good morning whilst also hoping that he doesn’t decide to stay. That’s very selfish of me but his presence had already made me feel a bit awkward. I hadn’t heard his arrival by bike or by car so if he’d come on foot he wouldn’t want to have wasted his time. Anyway, he looks around and then walks back out again.
I decide to get into the water quickly before there is a surge in demand for these special sacred waters. OK getting into the water ‘quickly’ isn’t a thing that is possible. I dip my foot into the water and it is ‘HOT!’ This is going to be a very gradual process. The whole foot is in but I honestly can’t see how I’d be able to get my whole body in. With a bit of patience though, I do manage to make it to a sitting position on one of the sunken stones. After a few minutes I progress onto one of the other lower stones that immerses me slightly deeper. After another couple of minutes I find that I am able to lie in the water quite comfortably. For how long I’m not sure.
I’d read that the minerals in this particular spa are said to aid health problems such as muscular skeletal issues and all the usual things where the body has aches and pains (at my age) but also for people who have digestive problems especially gallstones. Having recently been diagnosed with two big ones that are beginning to give me some trouble I was in! It’s always worth a try. On that basis I submerged my whole body, keeping only my head above the hot waters. I don’t know what the optimum time is to have any benefit from this treatment but the thing at the back of my mind was another person waiting outside to come in. I don’t want to hog the time here so after about ten minutes I call it a day. I don’t go for the full hot/cold experience.
After getting myself dry and dressing again I exit the spa building. There is nobody else here. Nobody queuing up to come in. I could have stayed longer after all. Oh well.
It is still quite early – around midday and I haven’t yet decided what to do with the rest of my day. I retrace my tracks back along the coastal road. Molyvos kastro looks so close. Certainly not 4 kilometres away but the winding road certainly isn’t as the crow flies. I decide to sit on the beach for a while. It’s still desserted and I do find that view of Turkey across the water so hypnotic. The shoreline is covered in dried seaweed but further along there are clusters of large pebbles of shades of green, yellow and grey. When you look at them closely there are intricate patterns of veining and on that basis I think they are lumps of sea-washed marble. When they are dry the patterns aren’t really noticeable but once the waves wash over them the colours and patterns are highly intensified!
Out in the distance I see a Blue Star ferry making its way down the narrow straight. I can’t quite make out the name on the boat but figure it’s the Blue Star Myconos that has just left Limnos and after Lesvos will carry on to Ikaria (ferry nerd). The Marine Traffic app confirms this.
I check out a couple of peculiar structures along the beach. I’m not sure what they are or how they are used but both overlook Turkey so that may be a clue.
On a whim I decide to spend the afternoon in Petra on the other side of Molyvos. Close to the thermal spa there had been a small sign advertising the services of Thanassis the taxi driver. I’d made a note of it as I walked to the spa. I give him a call an tell him that I am at Eftalou and want to go to Petra. I’m pretty sure he understood me. Fingers crossed.
Whilst I wait for Thanassis I notice that all of a sudden the waves that had previously been none existent, have now picked up a pace and are now rushing in over what little bit of beach there was. I think that you can tell in tell in the video that I was quite impressed with this. Blue Star Myconos’s parting gift – “Eat my waves Lady!”