This is going to be a really quick post. This is my second trip from Chios Bus Station and I must say how helpful and friendly the staff are at the bus station. They remembered me from when I went to Anavatos and asked how I’d enjoyed it. It’s this kind of friendliness that makes all the difference when you travel solo.
The bus to Mesta is a larger modern bus and most of the travellers on it are elderly ladies who seem to have been on a shopping trip to town. I’ve noticed that there is a pecking order relating to age on the buses. The older you are the closer to the front that you sit. A young Greek man boards the bus with two young children and the old ladies make a fuss, clucking and cooing at them as they pass.
Mesta is in the Southern part of the island – home of the mastic industry. We head out of the town in a Westerly direction. We stop at several other villages along the way, nearly all defensive towns, stone built and fortified. Here I spot my first mastic trees, identifiable by the white circle of powder around their roots. There are acres and acres of them. The trees are much smaller than I’d imagined.
There are several other stops at small holdings for people that live between villages. The driver helps some of the elderly ladies off with their bags. It takes less than an hour to travel the 35 kilometres to Mesta. When the bus arrives it stops on the main road and it is a short walk along a road before you reach the outskirts of the town. At first I try to work out how to get into the village. It becomes clear that the houses are connected to each other forming a fortified wall. I enter through one of the gates by a small taverna and shop. I follow the cobbled streets with no particular plan. Occasionally I will come to a dead end and have to return the way that I came – but that’s half the fun isn’t it.
The streets look really well maintained and I get a sense that this was or is an affluent village. I also know that it is one of the main touristic villages on the island. However, although there are groups of visitors here, the groups sizes are small and it doesn’t feel as though it has become a slave to tourism or is overwhelmed with people.
Eventually I find myself in the central square with impressive church. Apart from the people running the taverna’s and tourist shops there doesn’t seem to be many signs of local life – nobody sitting outside their houses or chatting in the square. Maybe they stay inside during the time that visitors are here and come out in the evening. That’s a shame because this is the bit that I’d like to see.
I have over 3 hours in Mesta before it’s time to get the bus back. Is 3 hours too long in Mesta – I’d say probably yes – especially if you are travelling solo and there isn’t any real opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone. The coach parties seem to be whipped in and whipped out again – probably doing all of the Mastic villages in one day. Am I glad I did it? Yes, absolutely. I’m quite adept at occupying myself and once I felt that I’d exhausted the interior of the fortified village I went and explored the exterior of it.
Here are a few photo’s of Mesta. Apologies if they all look similar. As a Unesco World Heritage site there are strict planning and building regulations here. Individuality and modern additions come in the form of the odd unique door knocker and potted plants. It’s not the photographs that count anyway – it’s the experience. Mesta is definitely worth putting on your itinerary whilst in Chios.
One thing to note if you are travelling to Mesta by bus. When you leave the village there is a small cafe and then a bus stop. Don’t think that this is where you will catch the bus back to Chios – oh no! I was waiting at the bus stop, giving plenty of time (as I had loads of it to kill) and an elderly man and lady who were collected litter from the roadshow shouted to me. Of course I didn’t understand what they were saying but I clarified with gesticulation that the bus will stop on the main road. Thank heavens they spotted me and how kind to tell me.
Now onto my dilemma. Today is Friday and I’d decided that I would go and stay in Pyrgi for 3 days. I’d found a lovely place with availability and had booked it. I had completely failed to notice at the time, that the long distance (Green bus line) doesn’t run at the weekend. Not to worry – there are taxi’s a plenty here and they all seem to have fixed prices. I’ll order one in the morning.
After dinner I walk back to my hotel and see Mr Papandreiou who I’d met on the bus trip to Anavatos. He tells me that this evening he is going back to Piraeus on the ship that leaves at 9pm I wish him Kalo Taxidi which brings a smile to his face.
The ferry that comes in is the massive Nissos Samos. I’d forgotten how huge this ferry is – probably one of the biggest in these waters. The queue of lorries is the largest I’ve seen whilst I’ve been here, clearly part of the supply chain to keep islands like Chios with the food and goods that they need. This in turn is taken to the smaller islands via the smaller ships such as the Psara Glory and Oinoussai iii.
Despite it’s size, it is much quieter than the coast guard ship that was moored up outside my hotel room the other day. This ship is so noisy – like a factory on wheels, which in one respect I suppose that it is. The day that I arrived on Chios from Psara, I’d noticed a queue of about 50 people sitting along the wall leading up to the port entrance – clearly refugees. After the elation of two fantastic weeks on Oinousses and Psara this brought me back down to earth with a thump. It served to remind me that only in the last few days some terrible tragedies had taken place at sea with many refugees sadly losing their lives. There have been strong winds in the Northern Aegean of late and it is horrific to think that these poor, desperate people were pushed out to see in an inflatable dinghy. That’s the reality. I check to see what boat is coming in and where it’s going and it looks they are heading for Athens. I hope they eventually find a decent life.