Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
John Keats – On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
Island hopping with a backpack was an immediately brilliant idea when Sally mentioned it in May 2006 and invited me to bring my credit cards along and join her for a week or two in the Greek islands starting on 27th August.
Sun drenched beaches, friendly tavernas, Mythos, Metaxa and Ouzo, I knew immediately that I would take up the offer but at first I was slightly wary of committing to a holiday with two girls addicted to the internet and who sleep with their mobile phones but I have always wanted to be more imaginative about my holidays, to take control and make my own arrangements rather than rely upon a holiday rep from Thomsons or Airtours and those tedious welcome meetings that seem to go on forever in a dingy hotel lounge when all you want to do is get outside in the sun.
So the chance to do things my way was a real opportunity and I signed up.
Preparation involved booking the flights and finding suitable hotels on line. This, I later had to concede, turned out to be a bit of a cheat because proper back-packers, I’m told, take their lodgings chances when arriving in port, but I just wanted to be certain of a basic level of accommodation. I was fifty-two years old and had certain standards to maintain! I wanted Olympic size swimming pools, air conditioning as fresh as mountain air and at the very least a minimum standard of bathroom facility!
Packing the rucksack was quite a challenge! There wasn’t a lot of room in there and it took a number of trial runs before I achieved the perfect combination of items. I needed my snorkel and essential bathroom items and some books of course and after that I had room for some clothes. It was like doing the hokey-cokey, in, out, in, out and shake it all about until I got it right. Like most people I always take too many clothes on holiday, that extra pair of shorts, another shirt just in case, and usually some items just go for the ride there and back, this time I was sure I had got it about right but for some unexplained reason I took some socks along for the trip. I didn’t wear them of course because all I had for foot attire was two pairs of sandals including my famous gladiators.
I had had the gladiator sandals since 1999 when I went to Rhodes and they had accompanied me abroad on every single beach holiday since. They were showing signs of wear and were not expected to see through this adventure but I had made it my mission to see how long I could make them last.
Footnote (no pun intended) – the sandals lasted until 2008 when the straps gave way. I tried to repair them but it was impossible so I had to admit defeat and throw them away!