On my second day on Leros I decide to walk to Lakki. Now I do remember Lakki because all those years ago we had to catch our ferry from there to our next destination and I remember it’s very distinctive Italianesque architecture. The bus does go to Lakki but I still haven’t worked out where the bus stop is in Alinda. Anyway, Google Maps tells me that it is 6km in distance and will take 1 hour and 15 minutes. Now I know that Google Maps tells lies so I take this with a pinch of salt and head off anyway.
Unfortunately my phone charger had popped out if its charging point during the night and I’ll be setting off with 23% battery. A bit risk considering that I’ll be reliant on Google Maps to get me to my destination.
A little down the road on the right is the War Cemetery and also the Historical and Folklore Museum housed in the Bellenis Tower. Just beyond this on the left sits a church on the bend of the road. Google Maps tells me to turn right. There is a sign for Diamantis Studios painted on the wall and this is where the route begins. The direction is up and over the hill behind Alinda.
The road begins to climb quite rapidly. I find myself stopping periodically to take a photograph (or pretend to) when what I’m mostly doing is trying to relieve the pain in my chest and give my calf muscles some respite. I also do that thing where I start walking up the hill backwards pretending to be taking in a 360 view. It’s so much cooler than clutching your chest and gasping for breath! Not that there’s anyone around to see!
Eventually I reach a fork in the road and it begins to plateau slightly. I check Google Maps again and I need to take a right turn and continue to follow the path up.
The scene is one of rural idyll. Olive groves scatter the hillside and the grand villas that sit at the bottom of the hill are now replaced by simple small holdings and whitewashed houses. Late rising cockerels crow in chorus and the barking of dogs echoes down to the valley. From the houses I can hear a child crying and then adult laughter from another. The pine trees which line the path release their fragrance into the air as the sun warms their needles. They also provide much welcomed shade along the way.
Eventually the path comes to a T junction at a road. Google Maps tells me I’m about 50 yards away from where I really am. I’m not the world’s best map reader so I need to make a judgement call and decide to turn left whether to turn left or right. I choose to go with my political leanings and turn left! It is Sunday morning and there really isn’t another soul around to ask.
Soon after, I hear the chugging of an old motorbike which comes to a stop shortly ahead of me. I can see an old man struggling with something on the back of his bike. As I get closer, a polystyrene box and a pair of old metal weighing scales slip from the back of his bike, spilling fishy contents all over the road. I help him retrieve his slimy and sometimes spiny catch and place them back in the box. Some are pink others are silver and black. He’s still straddling his bike and trying to keep it upright whilst wrestling with the heavy scales that are caught up in some string. I go and fetch the polystyrene lid that flew off some 20 yards back and bring it back to him. Once all secured, he gives me a wide grin and a zealous “Efaristo poli!”
Before he goes on his way I point in the direction that he came from and ask him “Lakki?” and I get an affirmative “Ne Ne!” Well he couldn’t have shed his load at a better time!
The hillside here is covered in olive trees and everything still feels beautifully rural. I stumble across a donkey parked up next to a motorbike – or was it the other way around. I bend down to talk to him and as I rise I notice two men sitting on a doorstep laughing at me. A little bit further down the road I reach a point where I can either take a path through the olive groves or continue on the road where there are mountain views and I choose the latter. Further around the corner I can now see the port of Lakki doubly confirmed as I can see the Blue Star 2 sailing out of the port.
Right now I’m feeling pretty cocky with myself especially as I’m now on the descent. As a few more men pass me on their motorbikes or scooters I give a little chin lift as if to say “How are you doin’!” (a la Joey from Friends if that wasn’t clear!)
I pass vineyards and small holding that are growing a range of produce which makes me go into Fantasy Home mode and dream about my ideal Greek home and all the things I could grow if I had a house here. Leros seems to be very fertile and must be woven from the same cloth as Patmos that has a similar landscape. It strikes me though, that two of my favourite islands from my last and my current trip – Kasos and Arki are anything but fertile and have very barren and rock terrains. I need to figure that one out a bit further!
On the way down from the mountain (OK it’s a hill but as it’s my legs, it’s my choice to use a bit of artistic license!) I’m walking in full sun. Where I can, I hug the roadside to catch any shade available. Eventually the road widens out as I approach the town. I pass a big pharmacy, a ceramic centre and a large supermarket – I guess our version of an out of town retail area. I walk past semi derelict buildings and the large, austere looking church of Agios Nikolaos where the bells are ringing. It sounds like funerary bells to me but I can’t see signs of this as I pass. The Orthodox art deco church was formerly the Roman Catholic Church of St Francis.
The first thing I notice about Lakki is the wide tree lined streets and green squares – very different to the narrow roads of Agia Marina where cars have to take turns to pass each other. This continues onto the harbour front and this is where you can begin to see the Italianesque architecture. Lakki was built as a Utopian town by Mussolini’s architects and includes the art deco style cinema that conjures up images from the film Cinema Paradiso.
It is now 11am and getting hot so I stop for breakfast. Although Lakki doesn’t feel overly busy, the cafe’s along the harbour front are full as locals gather for a sociable Sunday morning breakfast. I find some shade at Cafe Kinezos and order Greek yoghurt and honey with bread and jam, orange juice and tea and where they kindly let me charge my phone.
Across the bay I can see the abandoned old Italian army barracks which in later years housed the Royal Technical Schools and then as the state psychiatric hospital.
Once recharged (myself and the phone) I continue to walk around the bay to the marina. At this point my Chinese parasol has come out to ward off the midday heat. From the vantage point of the port, you can see the towns architecture in all of its glory
As I walk back along the harbour I see a bus timetable outside the Murano café. The lady from the café explains the timetable to me and there is a bus to Alinda in 45 minutes. I have plenty of time to stop for a cold drink whilst I wait and the ladies tells me that there is more of a breeze blowing along the harbour’s edge This is probably the hottest day of the trip so far. The sea is like glass and the humidity is draining.
Eventually the bus arrives and I ask the friendly driver if I could stay on the bus all the way to Blefoutis in the North of the island and then go back to Alinda. He’s happy to oblige. So with two tickets costing 4.5€ I start my little island tour on the famous Leros bus with its “tweedlytweedly” little horn. (You have to hear it to understand the sounds I’m trying to write!)
The bus goes out past the airport and the army base before stopping at Blefoutis. The driver tells me he has a rest for ten minutes so I can get off the bus to look around. Of course it’s a Greek 10 minutes which rolls into 15 but all the better for me!
Blefoutis is set in a deep bay, and the beach is narrow and filled with Greek families. The beach is backed by several bars and taverna’s.
On the way back I’m following our route on Google maps so I know where to get off the bus in Alinda. The bus stop isn’t in an obvious place but just off the main road that runs along the back of the beach. Look for the sign to the ancient fort at the junction.
Back at Alinda I spend the rest of the afternoon swimming to try and cool off. Later I eat at O Kavos Tou Vasili where the tables are set out on the beach. The service is very friendly there and I order a Greek salad, chicken souvlaki and some white wine. A little later I’m given another bottle of complimentary wine so end up staying a little longer than I’d planned!
Tomorrow I’m going to get up early and walk to the windmills!