Tag Archives: Naxos

Terror Drive in Naxos

This morning we had to come to terms with our rash decision of the previous evening and after breakfast on the terrace we set out for a planned full day drive in our hire vehicle.  This wasn’t a regular car or a jeep or even a quad bike but rather a sort of easy-rider roadster dune buggy.  It looked cool and it looked fun but this was to be a full day of terror.

I would not advise anyone to hire one of these vehicles and these are the reasons: to begin with the driver only has about 10% control of this vehicle, the rest is down to pure chance.  There is no suspension so it vibrates through every bone in your body, which is an experience that I can only liken to driving a washing machine on full spin cycle.  There is very little steering control and no effective turning lock so to do a simple turning manoeuvre almost always requires a three-point turn.  In the event of an accident there is no protection from very serious injury as the seat is only a few centimetres from the road surface and your knees are effectively the front crumple zone.  Hit something in this and if you are not killed outright then you face many long painful months recovering in hospital.  In a Greek hospital that is!  Death would be preferable.

To hire one is relatively straightforward, you need three bits of documentation, a driving licence, a credit card and a letter certifying that you are clinically insane!  And then you are completely on your own!

We were heading for the Temple of Demeter somewhere in the centre of the island and it was quite difficult to locate.  This was because it wasn’t a very big site and there was only enough to see to provide thirty minutes or so rest from the killer vehicle and soon it was time to return to the buggy and continue our adventure.  This time Kim decided she would like to try to drive and this, if anything, was even more terrifying.  It is comforting to be in some sort of control but to be in the passenger seat as we flashed past dangerously adjacent rocks and vegetation as she clung to the edge of the road where the tarmac gave way to pot holes and and loose stones, was a complete nightmare.

After a while I resumed driving duties and we decided to drive south back towards the coast and the small map that we had for navigation purposes indicated a straight road through to the beach at Agiassos, which looked like a good location for a lunch time drink.  The road was ok for a few kilometres and then the paved surface suddenly ran out and was replaced by unmade shale road and a big sign saying that the new road was under construction with the generous assistance of EU funding. We had a short debate about whether to continue or turn back and as other people seemed to be using the road we foolishly choose to go on.  Foolish because most of the other people were using proper vehicles – usually four by fours!

Although the buggy had been hard enough to drive on a regular road that paled into insignificance now that we started to drive down this gravel highway because now it was like trying to drive a fair ground dodgem car over a frozen lake.  The loose shale was like ice under the wheels and we skidded uncontrollably as I tried to negotiate deep potholes that could have rendered enormous damage to the underside of the vehicle.  There was no protection from the dust and the stones that were thrown up by other passing vehicles and just to make driving even more difficult it was necessary to close my eyes every time someone went by in the opposite direction or overtook us.  We were being shaken like a vodka martini and the road surface seemed to be deteriorating with every kilometre that we went on.  Eventually it became so bad that we stopped and turned around even though there was about ten kilometres of sheer hell to renegotiate.

As we stopped to take a breather a young couple in exactly the same sort of buggy pulled up and asked for answers to the same questions that we were asking ourselves, ‘where are we? what are we doing here? Will it ever end?’ Of course we couldn’t help but we took comfort from being able to share our ordeal with someone else and when they announced that they were pushing on to the coast we turned around again and intrepidly followed them.  Soon we did arrive at the coast but this did not bring any respite from the wretched gravel road that just kept on going and going and brought unending agony.

Eventually we chanced across a taverna next to the beach at Pyrgaki and we had no hesitation in pulling in and getting out of the vehicle for some recovery time.  My whole body was shaking, especially my hands and arms because of the severe vibrations that came up through the front wheels and the steering wheel, I felt like Shakin’ Stevens and it took all my concentration and considerable effort not to wobble my beer glass so violently that I didn’t distribute the top half of the contents of cold mythos all over the fresh check tablecloth.  It took a good thirty minutes and another glass of beer to stop vibrating and return somewhere towards normal.

The bad news of course was that we had to return to the vehicle because there was still a long way to go to get back to Agios Prokopious but fortunately very soon after this we thankfully returned to a paved road and we came across a nice beach at Aliko which was an attractive bay with cream sandstone cliffs and ochre red rocks and fine sand.  There were some big waves in the sea and we enjoyed cooling down and cleaning off in the water that’s for sure as we swam and washed the dust from our cracks and crevices.

There was a final thirty-minute journey back to the hotel and I was so pleased to get back.  On the way we stopped to refuel the vehicle and the man at the filling station squirted about half a litre of fuel in the tank and enquired if we liked driving small cars.

No we just made a big mistake OK!

A Blue Star Ferry to Naxos

I was conscious that we had to get up very early and consequently I had a restless night and woke prematurely sometime before the alarm because it was on my mind that we had to catch the seven-thirty ferry to Naxos.

It was still dark when I got up first at about six o’clock and then used my banging about and switching the lights on technique to wake the girls. Not very sophisticated I have to concede but it worked well enough.  Packing a rucksack is quite straightforward and the girls had already perfected the back-packers art of cramming without folding so it didn’t take long to get ready.

The Blue Star ferry was much bigger that I had imagined it would be and we made directly for the top deck and found ourselves a nice seat next to a young German couple. The sun wasn’t up yet but dawn was spreading in a rosy-fingered sort of way that Homer would have recognised across the already busy port and the first bit of early morning Mediterranean sun was bathing the boat with a teasing morning warmth and solar cheer.

The ferry left precisely on time and cast off was accompanied by the sun rising majestically over the city. Unfortunately as we left port it disappeared on the other side of the boat! Being some time since I was in the Boy Scouts and not having a compass with me I’d misjudged our position and direction of travel and set us down on the western side of the deck. It was a bit chilly in the shade and we had to wait about two hours before the ferry and the sun synchronised their position in our favour and we were able to fully enjoy the warm rays of the morning sun.

It was a good journey and the German couple were very entertaining. They were on their way to Santorini and had arrived the night before on a flight from Hamburg and had spent the night drinking in a bar in Piraeus, they hadn’t slept a wink all night and were in a very bad mood with each other. We couldn’t understand German of course but there is an international language of grumpy and we could comprehend that well enough.

Being on the top deck of the ferry had kept us quite cool but when we arrived in Naxos it was one o’clock and really very hot. We got off and ran the gauntlet of the frantically animated Greek apartment owners all imploring us to choose their accommodation. The associated chaos was not dissimilar to a French bus queue and I’m not sure which part of ‘no thank you’ they didn’t fully understand but it was an entertaining passage from harbour to town nonetheless and we knew that we would have to go through the whole experience whenever we got off of a ferry again for the entire holiday. And we looked forward to it!

The sun was strong and we walked into town and choose a taverna using tablecloths as a primary selection criteria. We found what we were looking for, a nice green check, and I ordered a Mythos! To my complete surprise Sally and Charlotte choose a Greek salad so just to be different I had a Naxion salad instead. I don’t think I will be having another one! It was just smothered in a sort of cottage cheese, which was a bit sticky and there was an awful lot of it! I had to have another Mythos to wash it down!

We decided that it was time to find our accommodation so we looked for a taxi to take us there. We found one without any difficulty at all and after loading our backpacks in the boot I jumped into the passenger seat and burnt my arse on the red-hot vinyl that had been baking in the hot sun all morning. Sizzle, sizzle no warning or anything! I felt like a griddled steak and I noticed that the driver’s seat had a towel strategically placed across the seat to offer protection but there was nothing for the passengers.  In England we are so obsessed with health and safety that there would surely have been a warning on the dashboard or something but there was nothing here to advise that I might suffer 1st degree burns just by getting into the taxi and sitting down.

It was just a ten-minute ride to our hotel, the Agios Prokopios, which turned out to be a good choice. Nice people and a very agreeable room with balconies front and back so that we could get the morning and the afternoon sun. We quickly unpacked (well not so much unpacked but threw our bags untidily on the floor) and went to the pool where we chilled out for a while.

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 – 4th September, Terror Drive in Naxos

Naxos Terror Vehicle

This morning we had to come to terms with our rash decision of the previous evening and after breakfast on the terrace we set out for a planned full day drive in our hire vehicle.  This wasn’t a regular car or a jeep or even a quad bike but rather a sort of easy-rider roadster dune buggy.  It looked cool and it looked fun but this was to be a full day of terror.

I would not advise anyone to hire one of these vehicles and these are the reasons: to begin with the driver only has about 10% control of this vehicle, the rest is down to pure chance.  There is no suspension so it vibrates through every bone in your body, which is an experience that I can only liken to driving a washing machine on full spin cycle.  There is very little steering control and no effective turning lock so to do a simple turning manoeuvre almost always requires a three-point turn.  In the event of an accident there is no protection from very serious injury as the seat is only a few centimetres from the road surface and your knees are effectively the front crumple zone.  Hit something in this and if you are not killed outright then you face many long painful months recovering in hospital.  In a Greek hospital that is!  Death would be preferable.  To hire one is relatively straightforward, you need three bits of documentation, a driving licence, a credit card and a letter certifying that you are clinically insane!  And then you are completely on your own!

We were heading for the Temple of Demeter somewhere in the centre of the island and it was quite difficult to locate.  This was because it wasn’t a very big site and there was only enough to see to provide thirty minutes or so rest from the killer vehicle and soon it was time to return to the buggy and continue our adventure.  This time Kim decided she would like to try to drive and this, if anything, was even more terrifying.  It is comforting to be in some sort of control but to be in the passenger seat as we flashed past dangerously adjacent rocks and vegetation as she clung to the edge of the road where the tarmac gave way to pot holes and and loose stones, was a complete nightmare.

After a while I resumed driving duties and we decided to drive south back towards the coast and the small map that we had for navigation purposes indicated a straight road through to the beach at Agiassos, which looked like a good location for a lunch time drink.  The road was ok for a few kilometres and then the paved surface suddenly ran out and was replaced by unmade shale road and a big sign saying that the new road was under construction with the generous assistance of EU funding. We had a short debate about whether to continue or turn back and as other people seemed to be using the road we foolishly we choose to go on.  Foolish because most of the other people were using proper vehicles, usually four by fours!

Although the buggy had been hard enough to drive on a regular road that paled into insignificance now that we started to drive down this gravel highway because now it was like trying to drive a fair ground dodgem car over a frozen lake.  The loose shale was like ice under the wheels and we skidded uncontrollably as I tried to negotiate deep potholes that could have rendered enormous damage to the underside of the vehicle.  There was no protection from the dust and the stones that were thrown up by other passing vehicles and just to make driving even more difficult it was necessary to close my eyes every time someone went by in the opposite direction or overtook us.  We were being shaken like a vodka martini and the road surface seemed to be deteriorating with every kilometre that we went on.  Eventually it became so bad that we stopped and turned around even though there was about ten kilometres of sheer hell to renegotiate.

As we stopped to take a breather a young couple in exactly the same sort of buggy pulled up and asked for answers to the same questions that we were asking ourselves, ‘where are we? what are we doing here? Will it ever end?’ Of course we couldn’t help but we took comfort from being able to share our ordeal with someone else and when they announced that they were pushing on to the coast we turned around again and intrepidly followed them.  Soon we did arrive at the coast but this did not bring any respite from the wretched gravel road that just kept on going and going and brought unending agony.

Eventually we chanced across a taverna next to the beach at Pyrgaki and we had no hesitation in pulling in and getting out of the vehicle for some recovery time.  My whole body was shaking, especially my hands and arms because of the severe vibrations that came up through the front wheels and the steering wheel, I felt like Shakin’ Stevens and it took all my concentration and considerable effort not to wobble my beer glass so violently that I didn’t distribute the top half of the contents of cold mythos all over the fresh check tablecloth.  It took a good thirty minutes and another glass of beer to stop vibrating and return somewhere towards normal.

The bad news of course was that we had to return to the vehicle because there was still a long way to go to get back to Agios Prokopious but fortunately very soon after this we thankfully returned to a paved road and we came across a nice beach at Aliko which was an attractive bay with cream sandstone cliffs and ochre red rocks and fine sand.  There were some big waves in the sea and we enjoyed cooling down and cleaning off in the water that’s for sure as we swam and washed the dust from our cracks and crevices.

There was a final thirty-minute journey back to the hotel and I was so pleased to get back.  On the way we stopped to refuel the vehicle and the man at the filling station squirted about half a litre of fuel in the tank and enquired if we liked driving small cars.

 ‘No we just made a big mistake OK!

A Life in a Year – 30th August, A Blue Star Ferry and a Greek Taxi

I was conscious that we had to get up very early and consequently I had a restless night and woke prematurely sometime before the alarm because it was on my mind that we had to catch the seven-thirty ferry to Naxos. It was still dark when I got up first at about six o’clock and then used my banging about and switching the lights on technique to wake the girls. Not very sophisticated I have to concede but it worked well enough.  Packing a rucksack is quite straightforward and the girls had already perfected the back-packers art of cramming without folding so it didn’t take long to get ready.

The Blue Star ferry was much bigger that I had imagined it would be and we made directly for the top deck and found ourselves a nice seat next to a young German couple. The sun wasn’t up yet but dawn’s rosy fingers were spreading across the already busy port and the first bit of early morning Mediterranean sun was bathing the boat with a teasing morning warmth and solar cheer. The ferry left precisely on time and cast off was accompanied by the sun rising majestically over the city. Unfortunately as we left port it disappeared on the other side of the boat! Being some time since I was in the Boy Scouts and not having a compass with me I’d misjudged our position and direction of travel and set us down on the western side of the deck. It was a bit chilly in the shade and we had to wait about two hours before the ferry and the sun synchronised their position in our favour and we were able to fully enjoy the warm rays of the morning sun.

It was a good journey and the German couple were very entertaining. They were on their way to Santorini and had arrived the night before on a flight from Hamburg and had spent the night drinking in a bar in Piraeus, they hadn’t slept a wink all night and were in a very bad mood with each other. We couldn’t understand German of course but there is an international language of grumpy and we could comprehend that well enough. He was the worst and really very argumentative, I especially liked it when he returned a piece of litter to another passenger that they had inadvertently dropped and it had blown his way. Don’t get me wrong I admire that sort of environmental awareness and litter enforcement zeal but I think it’s wise to check on whom you are picking on before making a fuss over a sweet wrapper (size, muscles, tattoos etc.) After all mid-journey it’s a long swim to Naxos or back to Piraeus. We had a good rambling gossip about them (and Germans in general) and then later realised that they could speak excellent English (doh!). It took about 5½ hours to sail the one hundred and three nautical miles to Naxos including a stop off in Paros and it was a good journey except that there wasn’t any Mythos in the bar.

Being on the top deck of the ferry had kept us quite cool but when we arrived in Naxos it was one o’clock and really very hot. We got off and ran the gauntlet of the frantically animated Greek apartment owners all imploring us to choose their accommodation. The associated chaos was not dissimilar to a French bus queue and I’m not sure which part of ‘no thank you’ they didn’t fully understand but it was an entertaining passage from harbour to town nonetheless and we knew that we would have to go through the whole experience whenever we got off of a ferry again for the entire holiday. And we looked forward to it!

The sun was strong and we walked into town and choose a taverna using tablecloths as a primary selection criteria. We found what we were looking for, a nice green check, and I ordered a Mythos! To my complete surprise Sally and Charlotte choose a Greek salad so just to be different I had a Naxion salad instead. I don’t think I will be having another one! It wasn’t inedible or disgusting or anything, it was just smothered in a sort of cottage cheese, which was a bit sticky and there was an awful lot of it! I had to have another Mythos to wash it down!

We decided that it was time to find our accommodation so we looked for a taxi to take us there. We found one without any difficulty at all and after loading our backpacks in the boot I jumped into the passenger seat and burnt my arse on the red-hot vinyl that had been baking in the hot sun all morning. Sizzle, sizzle no warning or anything! I felt like a griddled steak and I noticed that the driver’s seat had a towel strategically placed across the seat to offer protection but there was nothing for the passengers.  In England we are so obsessed with health and safety that there would surely have been a warning on the dashboard or something but there was nothing here to advise that I might suffer 1st degree burns just by getting into the taxi and sitting down.

It was just a ten-minute ride to our hotel, the Agios Prokopios, which turned out to be really good. Nice people and a very agreeable room with balconies front and back so that we could get the morning and the afternoon sun. We quickly unpacked (well not so much unpacked but threw our bags untidily on the floor) and went to the pool where we chilled out for a while.

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!