Hotel Proteas does a great breakfast and prepares Peter and I for a day of exploration and the GA’s for a day of lounging. The hotel pool is their new favourite thing!
I mentioned to our host Andreas the changes we had seen yesterday particularly on Agios Prokopios Beach. Andreas tells me that not only along the coastline but also the mountain villages had been subject to many new developments. He didn’t think this was a good thing.
Today I want to get away from it all and find a village that I haven’t been to before. After checking the bus timetable we see that there is a bus to the mountain village of Koronos which sounds as though it is a bit more off the beaten track than Filoti and Apeiranthos. I’ve been through Koronos on a previous trip with Zas Tours as it lays on the road to Apollonas on the North East coast of Naxos. A quick Google takes me to Wikipedia where there is a brief overview:
Koronos (Greek:(η) Κόρωνος) is one of the mountain villages on the Greek island of Naxos in the Cyclades group of islands. Situated in the northeast part of the island, Koronos lies on the northeast slopes of the Koronion Oros, the second tallest mountain on the island and has the second highest altitude of the villages at 630 meters above sea level. Along with Apiranthos (T’aperathou) and Keramoti, Koronos belongs to the Smiridohoria or the emery-producing villages of Naxos.
That sounds good enough for me. The bus leaves from Naxos Town at 1330 and then returns from Koronos at 1630. It takes about 1 hour to get there which would give us 2 hours to have a look around this village which I further read is one of the prettiest on the island. (I know many others makes this claim and to would take a lot to beat pretty Halki)
Getting the early bus from Stelida into Naxos Town is probably the best time to catch the bus. We are able to get a seat and the journey is at last a pleasant one. My reluctance to drive in Greece is well documented. I know there are arguments for hiring a car but I have as many alternative arguments for using the bus. I like using the Greek bus service. It offers many challenges but it also offers many opportunities and generally the buses are reliable. They don’t only serve to transport tourists from one destination to another but also to deliver goods and services such as the post.
We have a couple of hours to kill so we head up some well trodden tracks into the Old Market and up towards the Kastro.
Here things don’t seem to have changed that much. Maybe the shops are a bit more boutique and the cafe bars are a little more chi-chi, targeting the younger ‘in’ crowd but the Kastro quarter still has it’s original character.
We decide to take sustenance in Cocktail Bar 520. Maybe we are less chi-chi than the usual clientele but we don’t let this put us off. It’s actual a gorgeous little place with a very special view over the harbour and out to the Portara.
You can’t help but gaze out to sea and whilst doing this something catches me eye. I recognise it straight away – here is the (I’m sorry but I can never resist preceding the name with this word) ‘legendary’ Express Skopelitis. Oh my word just look at the way the waves are throwing her about. The wind that has been with us for the duration of our trip is still present. However, today the sea is just toying with her. This lady of the ocean has survived the worst of storms over her decades of service to the islands.
I love this little vessel. If you haven’t yet seen the documentary about the boat and the family that keep her running I highly recommend it. It documents the lives of the Skopelitis family who have been sailing this boat between Amorgos and the Small Cyclades and Naxos for generations. The boat and it’s owners are an absolute lifeline between the islands. Check out the story here:
It is time to venture over to the bus station to catch the bus to Koronos. I am hoping and praying that this is our opportunity to get away from the crowds. I am also hoping and praying that a ferry isn’t due to come in because that will create havoc. I just want to be able to sit on a bus – sit not stand and get to the destination without too much trauma.
I spoke too soon. Not only does one ferry come in but two and both of them large ones. The crowd at the bus station just turns into a sea of people pushing their way around, as equally unsure as us as to which is the right bus to catch. There needs to be a better system here. I’ve seen chaotic bus stations before – Santorini is a good example, but I’ve also seen very organised ones such at Pigadia on Karpathos – one of the best organised bus stations I’ve encountered.
Bus drivers shout a list of destinations. We don’t hear anyone shout Koronos. We have no choice but go from bus to bus, squeezing our way through the masses asking ‘Koronos?’. Eventually we get pointed to a bus which we manage to board but unfortunately it is already rammed with people. We are standing in the aisles again. This doesn’t feel like the usual crowd of tourists. It takes a while to fathom but these are in fact Greek students returning home to Naxos for the holidays. We know this because of the unscheduled stops in out of the way places, everyone seems to know each other and we are the oldest people on the bus.
If anyone has caught the bus up to any of the mountain villages of Naxos you will know that there are many hairpin bends and steep inclines. At times it is almost impossible to remain vertical. I try and wedge my hip against the arm of a seat to my right and cling on to Peter’s shirt with a spare hand. He’s lucky he didn’t get it ripped off his back at times. Every time the bus took a swerve to the left, the young man to my right would put his arm on the arm rest. Once the bus righted itself I steadied myself and I leaned onto the seat again to keep balanced. He still had room to put his arm on the rest but this must have really begun to annoy him because at some point of the journey he asked to swap seats with his friend. His friend was far more gracious and I’m sure could see the situation and that I had no choice.
At this point I think back to the bus journey to Perissa on Santorini ( https://agreekoddity.com//arrival-on-santorini-let-the-old-lady-sit-down/ ) and I can’t help thinking – where is my Santorini Grandson now!
In all, this horrendous bus journey takes over two hours – one hour longer than it should have. And it isn’t over yet. We have arrived at Apeiranthos where most of the travellers depart. We are also asked to get off the bus along with anyone else heading for Apollonia. It seems that there is a small bus waiting to take us for our onward journey to Koronos.
This really is when the Greek bus service comes into it’s own. All connecting buses will wait patiently until the other connecting bus arrives – if they don’t the whole system begins to fall apart. Departure and arrival times may not always remain true but the system does. This has always been my experience of the Greek bus service and you can’t take that away from it.
We board this small bus – or rather a large van. A handful of students, a couple going to Apollonia and Peter and I all have seats. I’m so happy I almost cry. Once through the euphoria of being able to rest my legs, comes the realisation that we won’t actually have very long in Koronos after all. All of this tortuous journey for very little reward. I am if anything a resilient and positive person so even if we only get to see a little bit of Koronos I will be happy.
Firstly we need to get out of Apeiranthos. It appears that there is a bit of a traffic jam situation. A man in a car is head on to our bus and refusing to make way. He gesticulates angrily at the driver who responds back in the same manner. The bus driver is telling the man to go around him but he isn’t having any. The bus driver makes a move to get out of the bus. This is all that was needed to make the man in the car reverse and make way. There is certainly something in the air today. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe a long and excessively busy season that has pushed everyone’s patience to the limit. That I can wholly understand.
Once under way we head towards Koronos. This route is some of the most toe curling, fear inducing roads you will travel on. Hair pin bends a plenty and steep, narrow roads with sheer drops on one side. We are sitting at the front of the bus and I spend the journey grabbing the handrail in front of me. My white knuckles are matched by my white ghost like face. Vertigo rears it’s ugly head at the most inopportune times.
Before reaching Koronos we head to the village of Keramoti. We only get a chance to glance at it through the window but this village looks gorgeous. It’s surrounded by a deep green, lush landscape which makes the white washed hamlet ‘pop’. The bus then goes back on itself to catch the main road to Koronos. We are here. We check with the bus driver the time of the return bus as this is the only and last bus back to Naxos town of the day. After this most horrendous of bus journey’s we have just 40 minutes to explore. What a bummer.
Dropped at the side of the road we make our way towards the village. We literally just have time to walk part way into the village and don’t get to see very much at all. The few tourists that we do see up here appear to be walkers/hikers. Koronos is in fact spread over two mountain sides and is heavily stepped down into the valley. We are conscious that if we do venture off too far we will have to spend the night. Maybe not a problem if there were just the two of us but we have three teenagers back at base waiting for us to feed them.
We see what we can see. From what we do see this is definitely a little village that warrants further exploration. However, not on this trip and certainly not in peak season. I am a little disappointed not to be able to see more bus this I’m afraid sometimes this is just how things are.
We are back on the main road at the bus stop early. We are not going to take any chances. The bus is late but I suspect everything has had a knock on effect. I don’t care. I just want to get back to the hotel. The little bus takes us to Apeiranthos where we need to change to the big bus again. The big bus is thankfully waiting for the little bus to arrive. It is already rammed to the rafters with people. I think the bus driver sees the look of sheer desperation on my face and invites me to sit on the steps in the doorway. I’ll take it. I have to get off the bus every time somebody else wants to depart or board but a small price to pay for my ‘seat’. And besides I get some nice views through the front window!
Back at Naxos town we catch another busy bus back to Stelida. If ever there was a day that I needed to jump into the pool for a swim it’s today. Peter and I relish every moment.
We tell the GA’s about our very challenging bus experience and Macy as sharp as a tack says “Where was your Santorini Grandson!” Exactly I say!
After our exhausting day we aren’t going to venture very far for dinner. We pick out a place on Agios Prokopios – Niko’s Taverna which has tables laid out on the beach. The GA’s have to have at least one dinner on the beach!
It’s a very touristy taverna but we aren’t going to be too choosey this evening. There is a guy with a cowboy hat and guitar busking for euro’s. He’s singing some American classics – something about a woman, a scorned lover and a gun – I really can’t recall the songs.
I have the ‘Staffed tomatoes’ or Gemista as I like to call it and the other have something else. I’m tired and my blurry photo’s say it all. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. ♥