Friday, 7 October 2016

Onwards to Karpathos: Atop The Slumbering Titan (The Corpse of Agios Diggyos)

Crete, Greece (Κρήτη, Ελλάδα) 
23 July 2016
After a leisurely morning spent eating breakfast out on François' balcony at our hotel in Mochlos, we set off in search of a beach.
A nearby carpark on the coastline was open to the public, but was shared with a resort catering to German tourists. A sign on the beach read 'ACHTUNG', meaning "danger", and it was strange to see a sign only in German, as often English also accompanied French or German translations. Fulfilling our need to dunk ourselves in the sea, we moved on to Sitia, where we would be taking a ferry later that day to the island of Karpathos.

In the lead up to lunchtime, we utilised a café's wifi and chilled drinks. Being kind Greek folk, they also provided us with a little plate of olives, bread and slices of cucumber! Making good use of the internet access, I looked up a well-reviewed spot for lunch and we meandered over to the restaurant: Inodion. It was a charming place, furnished with solid wooden tables and backgammon sets. We hovered around the tables and the entrance, but could see no members of staff. Once a waitress did finally arrive, she explained with the help of some old men at the neighbouring restaurant that they weren't serving food on that day.

Spirits dashed, we wandered around the waterfront peering at each restaurant's menu in turn until we decided on one that served dolmades, gigantes and Cretan spinach pies. Though the dolmades were dry (cry!) everything else was very tasty and we were able to while away plenty of time waiting for our ferry. In an interesting turn of events, we had asked for white wine and were presented with chilled red wine. Thinking there had been some mistake, after finishing the wine we asked a different waiter for a carafe of white wine, only to be given the same chilled red wine! Though strange, we couldn't complain because it tasted so nice.
Driving over to the port to check into our ferry crossing, we were told that the ship was late (as is every Greek ferry ever), so we returned to the waterfront to read and drink at another café. It was a day full of waiting.

Once aboard the delayed ferry, we read and shifted uncomfortably in blue armchairs. At one point we shuffled out onto the deck to stretch our stiff limbs and watch the sun set over the waves.
Upon arrival to Karpathos, we drove up the coast to the village that would be our home base for the next couple of days: Kira Panagia. Severely delayed due to our errant ferry, we met the AirBNB host's mum at a taverna in the village for the exchange of keys. In a strange turn of events, she would actually be sleeping in the lounge of our rented apartment that night as she had an early flight to catch. In order to be able to fit her into the car, we had to remove the boxes of wine from our spare seat and hold hem on our laps as she guided us up the windy road to the apartment. We were tired and hot, but we took the time to have a dinner comprised of melon, stone fruit and grapes that our host had provided for us.

24 July 2016
In the morning we looked out and saw the view from our AirBNB in the daylight for the first time.
What a beautiful place! #islandlife

Of course, we had to get down there and go for a swim. The sea was calling to us.
After dipping into the crystal clear water and then rinsing off at home, we drove further north along the coast to commence our exploration of the island.

Setting out on our expedition, we realised fairly quickly that to really make the most of Karpathos we would need a four wheel drive. We noticed a few roads that either expressly indicated you would need an off-road vehicle or looked generally too rough for our urban vehicle. And the roads led to beaches! Who knows what wonders we missed out on? At some points along the route we were able to pull over and look out over unreachable destinations (and in my case, weep). One such vantage point, however, looked over the village of Agios Nikolaos which did happen to be accessible via our standard Peugeot 308.

Before I get to the village itself, let me explain that the name 'Agios Nikolaos' was a ridiculously common one along with 'Agios Georgios'. We knew from experience that typing the name into our navigation system would be completely pointless as there were so many places christened after saints ("agios" means 'saint' in Greek). We would have to travel the old fashioned way: tracking our progress on the map, reading street signs and sometimes just guessing which way to go.
Now that I've delved into the Agios phenomenon, I'll stop rambling and say that this particular Agios Nikolaos was rather charming aside from all the wind. (Also, were you aware that good ol' Saint Nick was Greek? #TIL.)

After tiring of passing by off-road tracks that led to sweet beaches, we decided to test our car and give one a go. Now, it didn't have any signs telling us not to, and though the road was unpaved it didn't look like terribly rough terrain. We traversed several kilometers before reaching the beach, along a narrow gravel road that spanned a hill-range. At times I became worried, such as when I looked out of the window to find a steep drop just to the side of our car, or when I wasn't sure if our car would have enough power to make it up a steep incline. Worrying aside, we did make it without mishap and took a dip in the sea at Agios Minas beach. There was almost nothing around except a few freedom campers, olive groves and a single dusty taverna.

Resuming the drive up the coast, we began to head inland and came across our first discovery: hillside ruins. We were able to pull over very near the ruins, but didn't want to venture too close in case we slipped on the loose rocks along the way and tumbled down the side of the hill, rolling all the way back to the beach. The danger was heightened by the ferocious gale that threatened to teeter us off the edge or upturn my dress. The ruins didn't seem to be exceptionally old, though more modern buildings might have been constructed over older remains. If someone did build a house there, they would have a lovely view.

Our second discovery was an abandoned digger by the side of the road. It was completely rusted over! Who knows how long it had been sitting there, all alone. Perhaps, like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, his abandonment led to a fit of crying which rusted his joints together so that he could no longer move.

Just a few meters away, an old toolbox full of nuts, bolts and washers lay discarded. There must have been an interesting story behind the forgotten tools  - I can imagine leaving a digger behind as it's so large, but who would leave their toolbox behind?

And somehow even this sad, lonesome digger had an amazing view over Karpathos and the sea.
Stay tuned for the next instalment, featuring the pretty towns of Diafani and Olympos. 

Today's post was almost called: Just Sitia and Wait For Your Ferry