OK, let me just clarify something. I’m not driving a chevy or a vehicle of any kind here in Greece (you know my nerves won’t stand it!). My pants aren’t heavy nor do I have any kind of stomach disorder. When I first came to Ikaria two years ago a particular song from the film Parenthood jumped into my head and now whenever i hear the word Ikaria – in jumps that song too! Dammit! Anyway – it’s as good a blog title as any. Farewell such and such island hello new island isn’t very creative!
Just to clarify – I’m still on Syros at this point and busy trying to cram everything into my suitcase for this afternoons ferry trip to ………….. the island of long life and good health!
Although I’d planned to stay in the apartment until it was time to go to the ferry I’d realised that my sunglasses had broken. I didn’t want to buy another expensive pair as they really will get a battering when travelling with me so I catch the bus down to the town to visit the Chinese shop behind the bus station. As far as I can see the shop doesn’t have a name but it really is an Aladdin’s cave. Off I go with my 5€ sunglasses to Miaouli Square for a light lunch and a last bit of back street wandering before returning up to the mountain.
On this occasion the bus driver refused to drop me at the wind turbine which is the closest point on the road to the apartment. Apparently it is “the rules” despite probably being a safer place to stop rather than the top of a hair pin bend. Anyway, it gives me another chance to take in the views over the Neirion shipyard. The haze of the last few days has cleared so I’m pretty sure the sunset tonight is going to be a good one!
My lovely neighbour in the next door apartment – a beautiful young Mauritian lady called Reshma who is living in Saudi (and a successful lawyer), tells me that she is cutting her holiday short and will be catching the same ferry as me to Mykonos. We arrange to share the taxi to the port.
I spend my last thirty minutes sitting on my little terrace taking in the views down to Kini. This has been a lovely stay and I highly recommend Voulias Apartments if you want a place away from it all but within easy reach of the beaches and town.
The taxi arrives and down the mountain we go. We take our seats in the shaded waiting area and wait for the Blue Star to appear. I have all of the necessary paperwork close at hand and quickly update the health questionnaire just in case they wish to see it.
Around the corner she comes – the Blue Star Chios. I have sailed on her several times before and remember the first time being ushered up the escalators with suitcase. There is a luggage hold up there but it’s not so easy when you have to then carry your luggage down the stairs as the escalators are switched off for disembarkation. I’m able to squeeze between vehicles to get my luggage in the hold on the lower deck. By the way there are no checks of documentation at all – they only want to see the ferry ticket.
Up the escalators I go and make my way to the lower deck to say farewell to Syros. I’ll be honest, I didn’t fall in love with Syros as I have done with so many other islands. It has a lot of redeeming features and of course the architecture of Ermoupolis and the charming Ano Syros are absolutely delightful. It is definitely worth a visit but will I be back? I’m not sure.
I sit on the outside deck watching the magnificent sunset. The wind turbine on the mountain top by Voulias eventually disappears into the darkness.
The ship pulls into Mykonos, an island I haven’t been to for nearly 30 years. I’ve been tempted over recent years to visit just for a day to see if it has changed beyond recognition or not. It was considered quite a cosmopolitan island then and was probably one of the most expensive islands I had stayed on at that time. Now a destination for those huge cruise liners I still don’t know whether to just keep the memories of it rather than be disappointed. We’ll see.
After three hours it is time to disembark at the port of Evdilos on Ikaria. I also remember from previous sailings on the Blue Star Chios how chaotic the disembarkation can be. We are kept standing by the reception area for a good thirty minutes. Drivers are invited to go down to their vehicles first. In front of me are a couple with a crying baby in a pushchair, dog on a lead, luggage, another animal in a pet carrier – even these poor people were left to stand. The ship has moored but we are still standing and there is now a huge crowd of frustrated people gathered in a confined space. For such a large ship this is just appalling.
Eventually we are told to go. There is a rush to get to the luggage which is a challenge as the cars are parked so close to the luggage hold. I discover a ton of suitcases have been placed on top and around mine but somehow I manage to lift it out over the pile. Now the next challenge – trying to get a taxi. It seems that to get a taxi on Ikaria you need to pre-book one. Although there are about 8 taxi’s waiting at the port they are all pre-booked. A lady who seems to be in charge of the taxi’s asks me where I am going and she points me to a driver. I tell him I want to go to Armenistis and he says he has some people to take to a town closeby but he will come back for me. He is actually taking the couple with the baby and pets and I honestly can’t believe that he is able to pack everything they have with them into his taxi.
By now all the cars and lorries have disembarked and mostly loaded up for it’s onward journey bar a few lorries. I sit on the harbour wall hoping the taxi driver is a man of his word. Even the port policeman asked if I was OK and offered to phone a taxi for me. I thanked him and explained that one will come for me shortly. It is now nearly midnight and the port policeman points and tells me a taxi is here – and sure enough the man had come back for me.
It is about a 25 minute drive to Armenistis and the taxi costs 20€. I tip him 5€ out of sheer relief that I have made it. I’m exhausted. I think with age you lose some of your resilience to shake these things off and living in a covid cocoon for 18 months hasn’t helped.
I have a lovely sea view room at the Daidalos Hotel. This is my bit of luxury of the trip – and the hotel even has a pool. I don’t even unpack or shower. I throw myself into bed and am lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves below.
I wake up quite early and shower and dress for breakfast – what a treat this is having breakfast included. Oh and having your bed made every day – I’m really living the high life!
The hotel has a small outside area under several cedar trees overlooking the sea which is where I have breakfast. There is a really good selection of yoghurt, fruit, ham, cheese, cheese pies, sausages and fried or boiled eggs. I think I’m really going to like it here.
Today I’m going to allow myself to acclimatise and spend some time on the beach. There are several beaches in close proximity to the hotel several of which I have visited before during my last stay on Ikaria – or rather I viewed them from the road rather than spent time on them as I was on a day trip from Therma so there was limited time.
The closest beach at Armenistis is a sand pebble beach – I don’t know its name as it isn’t showing up on Google Maps. There is plenty of shade and is close to shops and amenities.
The next beach is Paralia Armenistis or Livadi (on Google maps it is unclear). Here you can see the fresh water turtles where one of several rivers outflow to the beach creating small lagoons. I read that these are actually Caspian terrapins. It is unusual to see these on a Greek island but Ikaria has a diverse habitat which creates an ecosystem that supports a wide range of wildlife.
The beach is a course golden sand – the type that exfoliates your feet when you walk barefooted on it. It is mainly unsupervised apart from one end where there is a coffee bar and sunbeds with umbrella’s to rent. There isn’t a lot of shade on the beach but there are a few tamarisk trees close to the coffee bar and car park at the back of the beach. Most of these are taken up with a couple of small tents but there is enough space for me at least.
The sea looks so tempting so I decide to brave it. The water is fairly warm despite being open to a wide sea. The waves are quite high and crash violently onto the shore. I stand at the waters edge for a little while and gain a bit more confidence when I see a few other people make their way in too. I soon discover that there is a technique to this. You need to get into the deep water pretty quickly – don’t stand where the waves breaks or they will destroy you! I get into the water and swim out until I can no longer touch the floor. As the large waves roll in they lift you up over their tops and it’s invigorating! However, I made the mistake of allowing one particularly large wave to throw me to the waters edge.
Once in this position it is almost impossible to stand. The incoming waves batter me and then drag me on my bottom across the pebbles to then smash into me again, pushing me to the edge of the shoreline. They come in so thick and fast that it’s almost impossible to stand – especially with my creaking old bones. I get a real pummelling especially on my derrière. At one point I notice I’ve literally been thrown out of my bikini top – not the most pleasantest of images to be conjured up!
Eventually and rather inelegantly I am able to stand and then throw myself back into the deep water again where I try to regain some dignity and composure!
I spend the next hour or so under my tamarisk tree relaxing.
I’ve never been able to lie on a beach for very long so decide to walk to the little church further along the coast that juts out into the sea. I don’t know how far it is but I’d spotted it on my previous visit and was curious to see it.
The walk take me past another long sand beach called Paralia Mesakti. Similar in size to Livadi beach but with more sunbeds.
The road is very windy (as in twists and turns) so the walk is further than it looks but still doable, especially as part of the walk is in shade and there is a nice breeze blowing along the coast line.
Shortly after Paralia Mesakti I can see the church but realise that I have to navigate around a small hill covered in pine trees. Another river runs along the edge of it which I guess is also habitat to the turtles.
At the other side of the wooded hill a steep path leads down to a fish taverna where I follow the path around to a small marina and then the church. Google Maps tells me that I’ve walked to the next village of Gialiskari and that the church is called Naos Analipsis the Church of Ascension.
Mission accomplished. I take a slow walk back to Livadi beach where I stay until the beach is in shade. The turtles seem rather curious – or rather hungry.
Back at the hotel I shower and an avalanche of pebbles fall from my bikini bottoms onto the bathroom floor. Er – I guess my pants got kind of heavy after all! This brings a smile to my face. You give up caring about dignity when you reach a certain age!
I use nature’s hairdryer on the balcony whilst watching the sun set. To the left of me my neighbours are drinking white wine from nice wine glasses and to the right of me my neighbours are drinking beer. I drink retsina straight from the bottle.
A short walk from the hotel is Taverna Baido, a small place just off the road overlooking the sea that serves good traditional Greek fare. I have skordalia and gemista and I think I can say this is the best gemista I have ever tasted – the stuffed tomato and pepper are so sweet. Of course more retsina helps to wash it down.
What a good start to my stay on Ikaria!