Tag Archives: Back Packing

Do As I Say Not As I Do!

On 10th September 2008 we woke to a glorious morning on the island of Milos and after a cup of tea I walked briskly into the town to hire a vehicle to transport us around.

I found a place and negotiated the hire of a white, sport model, quad bike, but before being allowed to proceed with the hire I had to undergo a short driving competency test to satisfy the renter that I was safe to go out on the open road.  He explained that as a rule English and French people were generally ok, but Italians, who think they know all about scooters and bikes, are not so good and are liable to fall off and injure themselves sometime during the day but the Americans, who know nothing about them at all, are absolutely hopeless and are very liable to crash and cause a multiple pile-up within seconds.

I passed the test but I couldn’t help but feel a total hypocrite because I have always told my children for safety reasons not to do anything so rash as ride a scooter or a bike like this when on a holiday but I had total disregard for my own advice and was completely euphoric about driving around like Peter Fonda in Easyrider on my four wheels as I returned to the hotel.

Once on the open road the first thing that we had to do was to negotiate our way out of the harbour and this involved a steep climb to the town high above the seafront and this proved quite difficult because it soon became obvious that the quad bike that I had rented was hopelessly underpowered.  It was only 50cc and completely unsuitable for two people, the steering was light because of the weight distribution, handling was a nightmare and it was inevitable that within only a few minutes we had our first near death experience when the thing refused to take a tight hairpin bend with two of us on board and we had a confrontation with the driver of an impatient mineral lorry who was not minded to be very helpful.

I was very careful after that because the thing was very difficult to control, it was hard work, essential to keep your wits about you at all time and the slightest road undulation resulted in wobbles and panics all the way to our first stop.

With some relief we stopped at Sarakiniko beach, which is one of the famous picture postcard sites on Milos.  It was approaching midday and we walked around the sleepy village of Pollonia and up to the top to the inevitable blue domed church and an uninterrupted view of the nearby island of Kimolos.  We left and returned back along the coast road stopping frequently to admire the colourful rock formations, the pretty beaches and the excavations at the Papafragos rocks all of which were along the route.  To be honest I was glad of the frequent stops because I didn’t feel too confident about the quad bike and the way it was behaving with the pair of us, and our luggage, on board.

In the middle of the day we arrived at the main town of Plaka, which overlooks the port of Adamas below and we parked the bike and walked into the little streets of the busy town.  Next to Plaka was the village of Trypiti that had restored windmills and Christian catacombs that were sadly closed due to excavations and an ancient Greek amphitheatre that we missed because it looked like a long way to walk in the blistering heat of the afternoon.

After a couple of Mythos I was much more confident about the quad bike so we left the high level towns and returned again to the beaches on the north of the island and then we had our second near death experience when we stopped for a photo opportunity and I left the bike in reverse and when I started off again almost tipped us backwards into the deep ravine that had provided the backdrop for our dramatic biking pictures that almost proved fatally to be our last.

Later we rested and recovered from our biking experience and debated whether to use it again to return to Plaka for evening meal, but after we had reflected on the earlier dangerous incidents we decided instead to leave it safely parked up and stay instead at the harbour.

Athens, a Taxi ride and The Plaka

Earlier in the month some terrorists had threatened to blow up some aeroplanes and had successfully disrupted check-in procedures at all UK airports so security was on high alert but Luton was quite well organised and the extra safety measures weren’t too much of a problem.

The Easyjet flight was a bit bumpy at times but we arrived on schedule. Well I say arrived on time but that’s a bit of an airline con.  The airlines schedule a three-hour flight to take four, to give themselves a huge margin of error and then claim they made it on time. I’m not complaining though, I like the budget airlines for making all this travel possible.

We collected our bags as they came round on the luggage carousel, left the airport arrival lounge and joined the queue for a taxi. When it was our turn to be directed to a vacant vehicle by the man in charge of allocating transport we gave clear and precise instructions to the driver how to get to the hotel. It was immediately clear that these were not clear and precise enough and he had no idea where he was going and he had to make a number of animated phone calls to establish its location. It was a bit nerve racking being in a speeding car on a Greek motorway in the dark while the driver used his mobile phone to make a phone call with one hand whilst holding a map in the other. Anyway, he eventually sorted it out and we arrived at our hotel without major incident. It cost €30, which was a bit of a rip off but to be fair we weren’t very convincing in our plan to pretend to be familiar with Athens and try to fool the driver into giving us a local’s rate!

The hotel was a very nice place with pleasant staff who gave us far too much information to take in all in one go after a long day travelling but it was situated perfectly right next to the Acropolis and the Plaka and we had a comfortable room but with a bit of a makeshift bed for me.

It didn’t really matter very much because suitable compensation was forthcoming in the form of a complimentary bottle of red wine. I opened it and tried it immediately of course and it was drinkable in a Greek sort of way and I made appreciative noises that are exaggeratively appropriate when getting something for nothing. Well, I say for nothing, which wasn’t exactly true of course because the room was quite expensive. We were all very hungry and in anticipation of our first holiday meal we dumped our luggage without unpacking and ventured out into the city streets to find some food.

It was hospitably warm and the Plaka was friendly and inviting, colourful and vibrant and all the tourist shops were open and there were many lively restaurants and bars to select from. After a short walk we choose a pavement taverna on a busy street and Sally & Charlotte wasted no time in ordering their first Greek salad.  The down side was that there was no Mythos available at this taverna and I had to settle for an Alpha instead, an alternative Greek beer which although inferior was ok.

After dinner we continued to explore the Plaka for a while, the atmosphere was distinctly Mediterranean and we all agreed that we liked being here. We went back to the hotel in a contented mood and I finished the wine, Sally and Charlotte got into their comfortable hotel beds with their freshly laundered sheets and I struggled into my cramped little camp bed, I tossed and turned theatrically a few times to emphasise my inferior sleeping arrangements but on getting no response I fell quickly into a deep and contented sleep.

Island Hopping in Greece and my Gladiator Sandals

 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!

A Life in a Year – 10th September, A Quad Bike Against All Advice

On 10th September 2008 we woke to a glorious morning on the island of Milos and after a cup of tea I walked briskly into the town to hire a vehicle to transport us around.

I found a place and negotiated the hire of a white, sport model, quad bike, but before being allowed to proceed with the hire I had to undergo a short driving competency test to satisfy the renter that I was safe to go out on the open road.  He explained that as a rule English and French people were generally ok, but Italians, who think they know all about scooters and bikes, are not so good and are liable to fall off and injure themselves sometime during the day but the Americans, who know nothing about them at all, are absolutely hopeless and are very liable to crash and cause a multiple pile-up within seconds.

I passed the test but I couldn’t help but feel a total hypocrite because I have always told my children for safety reasons not to do anything so rash as ride a scooter or a bike like this when on a holiday but I had total disregard for my own advice and was completely euphoric about driving around like Peter Fonda in Easyrider on my four wheels as I returned to the hotel.

Once on the open road the first thing that we had to do was to negotiate our way out of the harbour and this involved a steep climb to the town high above the seafront and this proved quite difficult because it soon became obvious that the quad bike that I had rented was hopelessly underpowered.  It was only 50cc and completely unsuitable for two people, the steering was light because of the weight distribution, handling was a nightmare and it was inevitable that within only a few minutes we had our first near death experience when the thing refused to take a tight hairpin bend with two of us on board and we had a confrontation with the driver of an impatient mineral lorry who was not minded to be very helpful.

I was very careful after that because the thing was very difficult to control, it was hard work, essential to keep your wits about you at all time and the slightest road undulation resulted in wobbles and panics all the way to our first stop.

With some relief we stopped at Sarakiniko beach, which is one of the famous picture postcard sites on Milos.  It was approaching midday and we walked around the sleepy village of Pollonia and up to the top to the inevitable blue domed church and an uninterrupted view of the nearby island of Kimolos.  We left and returned back along the coast road stopping frequently to admire the colourful rock formations, the pretty beaches and the excavations at the Papafragos rocks all of which were along the route.  To be honest I was glad of the frequent stops because I didn’t feel too confident about the quad bike and the way it was behaving with the pair of us, and our luggage, on board.

In the middle of the day we arrived at the main town of Plaka, which overlooks the port of Adamas below and we parked the bike and walked into the little streets of the busy town.  Next to Plaka was the village of Trypiti that had restored windmills and Christian catacombs that were sadly closed due to excavations and an ancient Greek amphitheatre that we missed because it looked like a long way to walk in the blistering heat of the afternoon.

After a couple of Mythos I was much more confident about the quad bike so we left the high level towns and returned again to the beaches on the north of the island and then we had our second near death experience when we stopped for a photo opportunity and I left the bike in reverse and when I started off again almost tipped us backwards into the deep ravine that had provided the backdrop for our dramatic biking pictures that almost proved fatally to be our last.

Later we rested and recovered from our biking experience and debated whether to use it again to return to Plaka for evening meal, but after we had reflected on the earlier dangerous incidents we decided instead to leave it safely parked up and stay instead at the harbour.

A Life in a Year – 28th August, Athens, a Taxi ride and The Plaka

Earlier in the month some terrorists had threatened to blow up some aeroplanes and had successfully disrupted check-in procedures at all UK airports so security was on high alert but Luton was quite well organised and the extra safety measures weren’t too much of a problem. We had a drink in the bar and Sally and Charlotte bought some sandwiches from Marks & Spencers. After boarding our plane we had a good flight to Athens, I had a gin and tonic of course and that helped pass the time and so did the sudoku. The Easyjet flight was a bit bumpy at times but we arrived on schedule. Well I say arrived on time but that’s a bit of an airline con.  The airlines schedule a three-hour flight to take four, to give themselves a huge margin of error and then claim they made it on time. I’m not complaining though, I like the budget airlines for making all this travel possible.

We collected our bags as they came round on the luggage carousel, left the airport arrival lounge and joined the queue for a taxi. When it was our turn to be directed to a vacant vehicle by the man in charge of allocating transport we gave clear and precise instructions to the driver how to get to the hotel. It was immediately clear that these were not clear and precise enough and he had no idea where he was going and he had to make a number of animated phone calls to establish its location. It was a bit nerve racking being in a speeding car on a Greek motorway in the dark while the driver used his mobile phone to make a phone call with one hand whilst holding a map in the other. Anyway, he eventually sorted it out and we arrived at our hotel without major incident. It cost €30, which was a bit of a rip off but to be fair we weren’t very convincing in our plan to pretend to be familiar with Athens and try to fool the driver into giving us a local’s rate!

The hotel was a very nice place with pleasant staff who gave us far too much information to take in all in one go after a long day travelling but it was situated perfectly right next to the Acropolis and the Plaka and we had a comfortable room but with a bit of a makeshift bed for me; It didn’t really matter very much because suitable compensation was forthcoming in the form of a complimentary bottle of red wine. I opened it and tried it immediately of course and it was drinkable in a Greek sort of way and I made appreciative noises that are exaggeratively appropriate when getting something for nothing. Well, I say for nothing, which wasn’t exactly true of course because the room was quite expensive. We were all very hungry and in anticipation of our first holiday meal we dumped our luggage without unpacking and ventured out into the city streets to find some food.

It was hospitably warm and the Plaka was friendly and inviting, colourful and vibrant and all the tourist shops were open and there were many lively restaurants and bars to select from. After a short walk we choose a pavement taverna on a busy street and Sally & Charlotte wasted no time in ordering their first Greek salad and I had lamb in lemon sauce, which was much nicer than it sounds.  The down side was that there was no Mythos available at this taverna and I had to settle for an Alpha instead, an alternative Greek beer which although inferior was ok.

After dinner we continued to explore the Plaka for a while, the atmosphere was distinctly Mediterranean and we all agreed that we liked being here. We went back to the hotel in a contented mood and I finished the wine, Sally and Charlotte got into their comfortable hotel beds with their freshly laundered sheets and I struggled into my cramped little camp bed, I tossed and turned theatrically a few times to emphasise my inferior sleeping arrangements but on getting no response I fell quickly into a deep and contented sleep.

A Life in a Year – 27th August, Island Hopping in Greece

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 we 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 – 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!