Poros, Ouzo and the Octopus Man. My First Greek Island Solo Trip! April 1993

1993 was a strange year.  It was a time of heartbreak and impending change.  I found myself at the proverbial crossroads in love and in life which let’s face it, isn’t always a bad thing.

So here I was, considering what to do with my life but I couldn’t get things straight in my head. I needed to get away to try and work things out and to get a little perspective.  I found a holiday on Teletext (that dates it!) for seven days on Poros. I had no idea what Poros was like but I knew it was in Greece so I just booked it.

For some reason that now escapes me, I agreed to let my now ex-partner drive me to the airport.  He wanted to remain friends despite now being involved with someone else. That’s always a recipe for disaster isn’t it!   Anyway, I flew to Athens but I don’t remember much about the flight.  This was the first time that I’d ever travelled abroad alone and I was a bit like a startled rabbit in the headlights.

As it was a package holiday transfers were arranged.  I met a young couple on the boat who were also staying at the same place as me. We bonded over a newspaper crossword where I offered them the correct answer to one of the clues – sonaric. Why I remember this I don’t know! She was called Joanna and had confided in me that she had only just met her boyfriend and wasn’t sure how she felt about him – or even going on holiday with him. I can’t remember his name but he struck me as a nice man albeit a little shy.

Taxi’s were waiting for us at the port to take us to Rania’s Apartments up above Poros town. The whitewashed building had a pergola with a well-established lemon tree growing through it.  This became a real asset during our stay. I had easy access to the lemons which I would pick and throw up a floor to Joanna’s balcony for their gin and tonic!

As a package holiday, we were invited to a welcome meeting by the holiday rep. There was a fair bit of ouzo on offer and the evening was great fun. Of course, the end goal for the rep was to book us on as many excursions as possible. I signed up for a day trip to Hydra.

The first couple of days were spent exploring Poros on foot combined with a little time for quiet contemplation on the beaches of Poros. It was April and after a miserable winter, it was so uplifting to feel the warmth of the Spring sun on my skin again.

Rania’s was at the top of a lot of steps – several hundred in fact. Halfway down the steps I’d noticed an artist’s studio and popped in to have a look. The artist herself was a beautiful American lady with long golden hair and a startling smile. She was so glamorous and I remember being a little bit in awe of her. She told me how she had left the USA to follow her passion for art and how it brought her to the little island of Poros. It was quite fortuitous that I should get the opportunity to meet someone with such an inspirational story.

The art of Pamela Jane Rogers is colourful and vibrant – just like her. I loved everything that I saw but not having the budget to buy any of the originals I purchased 6 cards that resonated with me. There was one called called Learning Tree and another The Turning Point – very apt for at this point in my life. I still have those cards to this day and here they are.

24 years after this visit I returned to Poros as part of a trip around the Peloponnese. Pamela was still on the island and I was delighted to be able to meet up with her during my stay. Not only is Pamela an accomplished artist but she has also added author to her list of accolades. If you ever want to read a truly inspirational book then Pamela’s book Greekscapes: Journey’s with an Artist is a book you really must read.

Greekscapes: Journey’s with an Artist

Anyway, back to 1993. The April temperatures were perfect for a spot of sunbathing even though the water was much too cold for swimming. One day I headed to Askeli Beach which was completely deserted apart from me. I drifted off into my own little world only to be suddenly awakened by a loud cracking sound. I sat bolt upright to see a fisherman slapping his octopus onto the rocks (oooh err missus!). He thought it was funny that he had startled me and beckoned me over. Curiosity got the better of me so I went over to watch the spectacle.

In his broken English accompanied by lots of gesticulation, he told me that he was tenderising the octopus so that it was good to eat. I don’t remember much more about the conversation but somehow I had agreed to go fishing with him the following day. He told me to meet him at Kanali at noon and he would show me how to catch octopus! I’d always had a habit of letting curiosity get the better of me and at the time I thought this would be an interesting prospect. The older and much wiser me shakes her head in exasperation!

Anyway, at 12.00pm on the dot, Mr Octopus Man (I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember his name) came down Kanali in his little boat. I hopped aboard and off we sailed. We headed out along the coast (which direction I’ve no idea) until we came to a place where the cliffs spilled into the sea. He pulled out a metal cylinder from the circular hole in the front of his boat and held it into the water. It seemed to act like a magnifying glass and an aid to spotting where the octopus were hiding. He baited a metal claw on a line and dropped it into the water. With the line in one hand and the cylinder in the other, he manoeuvred the line into position. He placed the cylinder back into the boat and focused intently on the water below. As soon as he felt the weight of the curious octopus on the line, he yanked it up quickly.

The octopus was fighting with all its might to escape, thrashing its tentacles in a desperate attempt to regain its freedom. Mr Octopus Man wasn’t going to concede and without warning, he took a metal skewer and stabbed it in the eye. Black goo splurted from the octopus’s body onto the bottom of the boat where I was kneeling. It made me jump as it happened so quickly. I wasn’t prepared for this gruesome spectacle. The Octopus Man rather unceremoniously, threw his catch into a bucket. It was still writhing as it went through the last throws of its life. I went through a whole gamut of emotions – horror, sadness and also very weirdly an element of morbid curiosity. I’d never witnessed anything like this before.

Mr Octopus Man gesticulated for me to try. My heart wasn’t in it after witnessing such a brutal death. Mr Octopus man was insistent and I didn’t want to be rude so I gave it a half-hearted attempt. I didn’t have the dexterity to balance the cyclinder whilst holding the line at the same time, but I did try one at a time. I was hopeless but knowing how they met such a brutal death, I knew that I was just going through the motions.

Anyway, Mr Octopus Man was one step ahead of me. He told me that he had brought a picnic and asked if I’d like to eat. Again being polite, I said OK. I hadn’t seen anything that looked food and tried to discretely see where this ‘picnic’ was. All I could see was a banana sticking out of a carrier bag. And that’s NOT a euphemism but gives a good idea of what his true intentions were!

He began to guide the boat further along the cliff until we came to a little cove. This place was very secluded and could only be accessed by boat. He pointed to it and then put his hands together at the side of his face and whilst tilting his head said “Siesta?” Mr Octopus Man wanted us to go to the cove to – er SLEEP!

The penny dropped with a heavy clang and I realised the awkward predicament that I was in. I had to dig myself out of this one whilst at the same time, not being rude. He had after all brought bananas! The most plausible excuse I could come up with was to feign sea sickness. I told him that I didn’t feel very well using every body language skill that I could muster to back this up. The back of my wrist on my forehead like a femme fatale from a 1920’s silent movie. I fanned my face with my hand whilst puffing out my cheeks and eyes bulging. He got the picture!

He sailed the boat back to Kanali where I alighted at the little channel. Still feigning sickness, I told him that I was going back to the hotel to sleep. Alone!

I virtually kicked myself all the way back to the hotel for being such a gullible idiot. Thankfully, Mr Octopus Man had no ill intent. It’s all well and good being curious but I shouldn’t have let that get in the way of common sense!

Later that evening I’d arranged to go for a drink with Joanna and her BF. I felt a bit like a spare wheel but I think Joanna also wanted a bit of a diversion from the intensity of her new relationship. Anyway, it was very kind of them to invite me out. We ended up in a taverna where a few ouzos were had. I regaled them with the tale of my octopus adventure. It wasn’t long before the ouzo began to take effect and a few drinks was now turning into a party. I think the photo’s speak for themselves!

Just as things began to liven up, who should walk into the taverna? Yes, you’ve guessed it – Mr Octopus Man! He looked a little uncomfortable and just seemed to loiter in the corner. I felt awkward but Joanna and her BF had already suggested that we try another little bar down the road. It wasn’t too long before my new admirer (or so it seemed) appeared here too. By this stage, the ouzo had got the better of us. We all decided to call it a night because we all had an early start the following day. It was the boat trip to Hydra which we didn’t want to miss.

The following morning, Joanna, BF and I met at the port looking like death. A boat ride probably isn’t the best thing when nursing a hangover but we embark on the trip nonetheless. Once on board and on our way to Hydra, complimentary drinks are offered all around. You’d think that we’d learned our lesson but actually, more ouzo was exactly the hair of the dog we needed.

After arriving on Hydra the band of three did a bit of exploring together. I then went my own way to give Joanna and BF time on their own. We’d agreed to meet later at a taverna close to the port for lunch. I ambled around the town and then along the road that leads up above the port. I have a very vivid memory of the swathes of beautiful spring flowers growing along the wayside. Everything else is a hangover blur!

Back on Poros Mr Octopus Man popped up occasionally at the same places but he was harmless. I think that he was just lonely but on this occasion, it just wasn’t meant to be!

During my last few days on Poros I walked up to the remains of the Temple of Poseidon – again the spring flowers stole the show. I also visited the monastery and walked around the coast to Russian Bay. This gave me the space that I needed to reflect and think. Think about possibilities and opportunities and the future.

I don’t remember much about the journey home but wading through my box of photographs (this was pre-digital) it has certainly reignited some very fond memories of this trip.

It is no secret that I’m a bit of a ferry nerd. One photograph shows me on board a ship called Georgios. Google didn’t bring up any ships by this name but I noticed that the ship had an unusual insignia. Maybe this would give me a clue. The bible for island hoppers in Greece back in the day was Frewin Poffley’s Island Hopping Guides which had a whole section on the Greek ferry liveries. Unfortunately, this didn’t help.

Another revelation was thrown up in the photographs. After catching the ferry from Piraeus, I had disembarked at Methana, not Poros. I know this because I recognised it as Methana after visiting it in 2017. The photograph even shows the hotel where I’d stayed in 2017 in the background of my photo from 1993. What a co-incidence!

This was a very useful clue. I Googled – Ferry, Methana, Georgios and Eureka! Between 1990 – 1995 the ship Georgios had been owned by a company called Akouriki Naftiki Eteria. It then changed hands and names several times. The exciting discovery is that the Georgios is still alive and well and sails under the name of Apollon Hellas – the very ship that I sailed on when staying in Methana just two years ago. From my hotel room overlooking the port, I’d see her come and go almost daily and I was completely oblivious to the link. Everyone has a little bit of geekdome in them don’t they!

After flying back to Manchester, the ex boyfriend had arranged to pick me up from the airport. We arrived back at my house and I told him that whilst I was away I’d made a decision. The decision was that we couldn’t remain friends and I didn’t want to see him again. He cried. I felt a bit sorry for him – but not for long. I’d realised that as nice as he was, he’d held me back and I was destined for better things.  And another love affair began – with Greece!

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    1. I hope you do Kim. It’s very liberating and a good opportunity to think and recalibrate.❤️

  1. Greece is a great place for solo travelers! The people are so friendly and it is easy to meet fellow travelers. Being there by yourself really does seem like the best way to refresh the body and soul and get life back on track.

Let me know what you think. ❤

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