Saturday 30 April
We decide that the heavier clothes need a decent wash, and head to the laundrette, but it is a laundry service, and they want EUR8 ($15) to wash, dry and fold a basket of clothes. We gather up all we can find to fill the basket, and then go to check the bus service into town. The timetable changed overnight, and the next bus isn’t until 11am. It finally arrives at 11.30 and we head into the capital Thira. The buses are not in the best condition, but we have seen worse. We get a good tour of this part of the island, and by noon we are in town. It is busy, but not crowded, and we are glad we are not here mid-summer to put up with the heat and the crowds.
We grab a pita for brunch, and go walkabout. The streets are little more than a maze of alleyways, and it is easy to lose your bearings, we often find ourselves going circles some of the time. We wonder how people find their way, as there are no numbers on the shops, nor names to the alleyways, well, none that we can see that is. It is enjoyable wandering through the town, and we are not hassled by the shopkeepers like we had been in Turkey and China.
We head to the cable car station, but decide not to use it after all. We figure that we won’t see anything different from the old port down at the bottom of the cliff. We have stunning views up here, just like you see in the postcards and magazines. We look at going to the end of the island, to Ia, but figure we won’t see anything different there. We spend a lot of time overlooking the caldera, and marvel at the force of the explosion that created the crater some 3600 years ago. It must have been massive.
At the travel agent we run into Peter and Coral who are having to recheck their travel plans. They had booked a cabin on an overnight ferry to Rodos, thinking they would save on a hotel room. We had been told not to try and travel on the 1st of May, because they always go on strike, and sure enough that is what happened. Their trip is rescheduled to 5am on 2nd, so they need a hotel room after all. They try and cancel the cabin now that they don’t need to sleep, and are told tough. Peter and Coral at staying in Ia, apparently it is more expensive there too, you are paying for those stunning views.
We look at ferry options to leave on the 2nd, and decide to head to Paros for a night, then Sifnos. We are couchsurfing there on the 5th, but will arrive on the 3rd so hopefully there is cheap accommodation to be found. We tried to stay in Paros another night and go on the 4th, but there is that language barrier there? We had been told ferry services are not regular, but Tony is sure there is a daily service. Tony goes to pay and is told cash only, so he goes to the ATM, but it is the wrong bank, and they wont accept the card. He goes back to the travel agent and suddenly yes they do accept visa after all.
We head back to the bus depot and at the mini market Cynthea looks for some fruit, but there isn’t any despite the sign outside. We decide to head to bus early, and as we get there see a huge line up, the bus back is packed. And it leaves early. Down the track it heads off in another direction, and a few of us look and wonder if we are on the right bus. But it is taking a detour to Red Beach. We had looked at going there tomorrow, but the beach isn’t that flash, so we are pleased we didn’t waste time and money to get there.
We get off at our hotel, Cynthea goes to the 24 hour bakery along the road for tomorrow's breakfast, Tony goes to collect the laundry, but it is closed until 5pm. Enough time for a coffee while he waits then. Back from the laundry and there are a couple in the pool, so they must be Kiwis. Yep, Aucklanders… Tony goes in for a swim, it is not too bad once the numbness sets in. He catches the last of the sun while reading a book and having a coldie.
There is a hell of a racket, car horns blasting and firecrackers going off. That is the second time today. We head out for a look, a dozen cars drive by with their hazard lights on, then six empty buses, ditto, all blasting their horns, all with ribbons on the bonnets. Maybe a wedding? But why the empty buses? Then there are dozens of cars doing the same, tossing firecrackers out of the windows, car horns going and what a noise they made.
Around 7.30 we head to the beach café we saw yesterday, it has cheap food and free WiFi so we take the laptop with us. The connection is not too bad, but trying to Skype Amanda and Gaynor was a bit hopeless. We had a lovely meal and headed home about 10pm, just as the only nightclub in town was cranking up. The few shops open in town are open until very late (but they are closed during the afternoon, usually from about 2 until 5). We buy bananas and tomatoes at the supermarket to go with the bread for tomorrows’ breakfast.
Sunday 1 May
Another day to relax, and Tony reads by the pool, it is too early to swim. It is overcast and warm, the sun tries to show its’ face from time to time. Mid afternoon Tony heads to the beach for a walk to the cliffs. The water is warm, but the surf is very heavy, and not pleasant, so no swim at the beach today. There are a few people sunbathing on the loungers at the beach bars, and there seems to be a hive of activity as bar owners prepare for the summer season.
It seems to us that a lot of places simply close up for the winter, being open only for the tourist season that is nearly upon us. The locals tell us they were told to expect 30-40% more tourists early in this season, but so far they feel it is down by 50%.
Back at the hotel the pool almost looks good enough to swim in, it is cold at first but not too bad in the sun. Time to read a few more chapters, then it is back to the café at the beach for a feed and more free WiFi!