We left Santorini at 1am on Friday morning which made for a very long day. Fortunately we were able to stay in the Cave House until noon and the hosts had arranged for our bags to be stored at a restaurant until we picked them up at 9:15pm. They also organised a taxi and escorted us to the pick-up to ensure that got away ok.
Thankfully the taxi driver was not the same “death-wish” driver who picked us up as I was not looking forward to a similar trip in the dark. We did note that the driver did not use his headlights unless he saw an oncoming car and he did undertake some interesting passing manoeuvres, suggesting that the ethnicity of the driver being passed were the worst drivers in the world, we held our tongues.
We completed the walk along the caldera, it climbs to just under 1,000ft so a little perspiration was lost in the hot humid conditions. Ruth was tempted to get a donkey ride but when I told her the return trip was by bus she perked up considerably.
Santorini was barren, it receives around 15 inches of rainfall a year and this shows in the lack of any significant vegetation. There were lots of tiny lizards sunning themselves along the caldera walk but other than them; the cats, dogs and donkeys, there were no other animals to be seen. The water on the island comes from the sea via a desalination plant. Without the tourists, there would be little reason for human habitation.
Rhodes or Rhodos has been a pleasant change from both Santorini and Crete.
The focus for our stay was Rhodes town and we had accommodation in a restored medieval building in the old town, near the port and well removed from the “beach-n-bake crowd a little further around from the harbour.
The old town is completely circled by a very well preserved fortification wall. The new town is very clean and well laid out and has an abundance of trees of all description which gives it quite a lush tropical feel and they provided great shade on the daily walks.
You are very close to Turkey so it is no surprise that there is a much more significant Turkish influence on most things in Rhodes.
We visited the Grand Masters Palace which is now a museum and that takes you through the procession of different cultures from early Hellenic through to the Italians who were that last to have control from WWI ending during WWII.
This morning we boarded a smaller ferry which took us firstly to the island of Symi which I very much regret not researching a little more before we left, it looked magical. Then we made our way up the Turkish coast to Kos which is essentially a transit point (for two nights) before we cross to Turkey.
Kos has become better know this year as a landing spot for refugees from Syria and Iraq and unfortunately the publicity that has gone with that looks to have had a pretty significant impact on the economy of the island. Compared to the other islands we have visited it is very quiet here. We appear to be the only residents in the apartment block we are staying in, the owner upgraded us from a studio to a full apartment (“big enough to play basketball in”). When I asked about luggage storage on the day we leave, he said, “don’t complicate it, just stay in the apartment as long as you want”.
However, it is a very nice place but currently the contrast is stark. On the waterfront, from the port to the police station (about 500m), is a refugee camp consisting of tent accommodation. It is a transit zone where they wait for their status to get determined. If they get “the nod” they then go by ferry to Piraeus and run the gauntlet of trying to get to a new life in Europe.
As I write this the ferry for Athens has just arrived and a large number of the refugees have boarded. As it pulled out a huge cheer went up from those who had embarked and those still waiting their turn. We hope it works out for them.
Sitting on the deck of our apartment we look across to Turkey which looks little further than Rangitoto island does from Auckland city. While not far away, it was windy today and I certainly would have been reluctant to take my chances crossing the narrow strip of water in a small inflatable. We know from first hand experience about inflatables and “choppy” seas.
It does not feel that we have been in Greece for a month. Without doubt, one of the joys of our stay has been knowing that tommorow will pretty much bring the same weather as today. With the exception of two slightly dodgy days in Santorini, each day has been hot and cloudless. Ruth has loved fossicking around the shops and is sharpening up her haggling skills for Turkey. We have found each island to be different enough to create a new adventure discovering them.