Up With The Sunrise and a Scary Kastro Walk. So Much for Resting!

Why I’m up at this god forsaken time, I’ve no idea. I’m here in Limnia to rest and relax but instead of having a lie in (not a word – or two words usually in my vocabulary) I’m wide awake and full of beans! I pull up the shutters to my bedroom and see that the sun has not yet risen – what an opportunity. I love a sunrise as much as I love a good sunset.

I fling on some clothes and walk to the marina which is one minute away. The garden of Porto Limnia is alive with bees, already busy at work and sucking every last drop of nectar from the jasmine that they can. You can hear the low hum before you see them.

Everywhere is silent. It is light but the sun has still yet to make an appearance. The marina is quite empty so I assume that the fishermen are out at sea. I follow the road around to the left in the direction of the where the sun will rise – the sky is brighter here so know that this is where it will pop up.

As I climb the hill I can see the beginnings of a long stretch of beach. The signpost at the harbour says that this is Gonia Beach which means corner – and it is at the corner. Google Maps calls if Magamena Beach. I’ll call it Gonia. At the closest end there is a cluster of straw parasols and what looks like a cantina now closed up for winter. The waves on this part of the coastline are forceful and come crashing onto the shore, depositing piles of pebbles onto the sand at the same time.

Chios curves around like a large back to front ‘C’ shape. It looks a bit like a baby in the foetal position with Volissos at its head and Mesta at its feet. Looking out from the West – in a similar way that I looked out from Psara, there is nothing between us and mainland Greece but the sea. From the Eastern side you have Turkey which looks close enough to touch so you always have land in your eyeline when looking seaward. On the West it feels more remote, more untouched.

Within minutes of me reaching this point overlooking the beach, the sun begins to rise over the far mountain range bringing a warm, golden glow to the pale grey morning. I can do nothing but watch this spectacle until the sun is well on it’s way to being part of the day.

It is too early for breakfast. Katerina said she would be at Hook from around 8.30 so I had back over the hill towards the harbour front. I am passed by a man on a motorbike with his dog sitting on the front. That sight brought a smile to my face.

After a quick shower and change of clothes I walk back to the marina for breakfast. Katerina does me proud with eggs, cheese, tomatoes, bread, honey and orange juice and fruit tea. The cats begin to circle but Katerina tells me that they are greedy and calls them over to her with a bag of dried cat food. Everywhere that I’ve stayed during this trip there have been cats. And I mean a lot of cats. Thinking back to Oinousses where you would always find at least 20 cats hanging out at the local minimarket, I can say that I’ve never seen so many cats as on these Northern Aegean islands. In almost every single case though – although the cats are always trying to get at your food, they are looked after. They look healthy and everywhere there are dishes of cat food and bowls of water in the street for them. I haven’t seen any cats that look sick or starving. Anyway, for now the Limnia cats are distracted by cat food and not my breakfast.

Eventually several fishing boats return to the marina with their catch shouting “Kalimera” to anyone who wants to hear it. What a wonderful way to start the day!

I’d been telling Katerina that the day before I’d walked to the minimarket to buy water and that it was a nice walk but my bag was heavy with the bottles of water. I think that something was lost in translation as she tells me that she will drive me to the supermarket when she finishes work at 1pm. I try to tell her that it’s OK but she isn’t having any of it. “One O’clock! OK!” she says. “One O’clock Yes” I reply. You can never have too much water can you? This gives me a couple of hours to chill – which IS what I’m here for!

Just before 1pm I head back to the marina. The fishermen are now in the taverna drinking their frappe’s and having loud and animated discussions with each other. One by one they head off in their large, hefty pickup trucks which seems to be ‘de rigueur’ around these parts. Whilst I wait for Katerina to finish up in the cafe and the lady taking over the next shift arrives, I walk around the marina. The tamarisk trees along the front are covered in butterflies and bees. The fronds of the branches seem to be coming into flower and are an absolute magnet for the insects.

Katerina is ready and into her little red car we go. Once at the minimarket I grab a 6 pack of water and pay. This has saved me another job of heaving heavy bottles down that stretch of road. Katerina drops me back at Porto Limnia and tells me that she is now off for the rest of the weekend and will see me on Monday. I thank her and deposit the water into the apartment.

Right so rest and relaxation is what I’m here for so maybe that’s what I should do. Just chill at the villa and catch a few rays on the terrace.

Actually, I’m not very good at just hanging around and doing nothing so I decide to walk to Volissos. The twenty five minute walk to the crossroads is a very pleasant walk. The road is good with a gently increasing incline so it isn’t too strenuous. Of course there isn’t a pavement (who walks anyway? Just people like me who are too chicken to drive). I just have to keep an eye on the oncoming traffic which means walking on the side of the road with the 20 metre drop.

From the large crossroads instead of turning left to the minimarket I follow the road straight up the hill. On the left there is a large, imposing building which is the local school. I don’t know if it was built as a school originally but it is very large and quite grand looking. I don’t have anything in particular in mind to do whilst here but once I have the Kastro in my sight I start heading up in that direction. I don’t take the direct route which is along the main road – Oh no. I decide to take the route up through the village. Well if I know one thing about an old defensive village is that the route is never straight forward. Follow one alleyway and you end up at a dead end. Follow another and you end up in someone’s private property.

Towards the top of the village I go through a vaulted alleyway which brings me out by a large church. I continue following various paths in what I think is the direction towards the Kastro. Already looking back to the coast towards Limnia it feels quite high up. Because I’m now directly underneath the Kastro I can’t see it so don’t have anything to direct me towards it. I eventually reach what looks like the beginnings of a defensive wall but for the life of me I can’t get beyond the path below it. After going back on myself several times I give up and walk towards the main road that curves up around the village. However, always time to stop and photograph a cat or a bit of patina!

The wind has now really picked up an d as soon as I leave the shelter of the village houses the wind hits me square on. On the other side of the main road is a sheer drop and with this and the howling wind, my vertigo is spiralling out of control. BTW I just want to make clear that vertigo isn’t a fear of heights nor is it a fear of falling from a great height. Of course I’m not that keen on the thought of being blown off a cliff edge but vertigo for me is a balance thing. When high up especially when you’re on the edge of somewhere high up, you get the sense that you’re falling or tilting over and the sensation can be quite traumatic. I’ve found that sometimes travel sickness pills help but they can knock you out and render you useless for the rest of the day. And that would never do!

Anyway, I’ve come this far now so I’m going to carry on and push through. I stay close to the inner side of the road until I’m at the beginning of the Kastro complex. A little further around I can see the steps up to the inner Kastro. However, there is also a sheer drop to contend with on one side. Although from the village the walk to the Kastro is only moderately challenging (I did it so it can’t be that hard) once you are up in the Kastro the view all the way back down to the coast is very ‘high’. I don’t know what the elevation is but down below looks a long way away!

I decide to stop and take a video. An ‘I might be about to die but I want to video it anyway’ kind of thing. I’m as far away from the sheer drop as I can be with a metal post that I grab hold of to ground me. The wind is blowing me in all directions so the video is even more wobbly so I do apologise for the quality of the video. That’s not the wind blowing in the background that’s my heavy breathing as I try and prevent a cardiac arrest situation.

No putting off the inevitable. I have to continue the climb. I’d feel a sense of failure after coming this far. Beyond me are the wooden steps which take me higher up into the Kastro. I know that the walking up is going to be the easy bit. I give myself a pep talk. “Come one woman, you can do it!” The wind at this point is howling and I cling onto anything and everything that I can. The wooden steps in some parts are not in the best condition. I continue on. Once at the top I don’t even look around to take it all in. I just want to get the hell down as fast as I can. I also repeat “Just look at your feet” “Just look at your feet” and shield my eyes with my hand from the drop below. Where is Dimitris and Mr Papandreas when you need them!

Once back on the main road, wind still battering me from one side, I dive back to the protection of the village houses as soon as I can. Although my legs are a little jelly-like, I take a slow and leisurely descent back towards the main square and this time I’m able to take in views of the village. There appears to be quite a bit of tourist accommodation here in some of the refurbished stone houses. Just look how abundant these fruit trees are.

All the exercise and trauma has given me an appetite. Back in the main square there is a taverna called Gia Ouzaki which is full of people and looks lively. Thankfully they have a spare table for me. I don’t often have lunch, preferring to save my appetite for the evening meal but think I well and truly deserve this meal. And the wine. I deserve the wine!

Thanks to the wine I have a slow and leisurely stroll back to Limnia. Everything is down hill which helps propel me along. Now I can go back to the villa and relax.

Well of course I don’t go back and relax! I take a stroll along to Gonia Beach again. I take one of the chairs from the shut up cantina and sit under the shade of a tamarisk tree – for a while anyway. Then I begin to play around with an Instagram reel and make a pretty video. I get bored of this after a while and continue to walk further along the beach. I eventually get to a sign which says cars aren’t allowed beyond this point because the land at the back of the beach is a protected wet land. I’d like to have found out more about it but try as I may on Google I fail.

Just look at those mountains – they truly take my breath away. The clouds rolling down over the summit looks ominous – something is brewing though I’m not quite sure what. The weather is still warm but now and again the wind picks up. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. The tide seems to be coming in further so I walk back to Limnia harbour. The sun will soon set so I change and go to Hook for a Club sandwich. Not the Greek meal I’d have had out of preference but the sandwich is actually very good. And so’s the wine!

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  1. Well done for making it up to the castle – I’m always a bit wary as a solo traveller of going anywhere where no one will find me if I fall and break my leg so I think you’re very brave ! Fab views !!

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