Sailing to Santorini
29 Apr 2011
|It is dark when we wake just after 5am, an overcast sky, but no rain, and warm enough. Not so noisy last night, but we didn’t have a restful sleep. We try to get breakfast early, but Tony is told breakfast is at 7am. We are bit pissed off because we knew it was all there and ready in the bar, and the bugger at reception had the key to it. It is not as though we going to be waited on either!
We decide to walk the 300m to the bus station, shouldn’t be a problem, we have walked further at the airports, but it is still dark out, although the streets are well lit. There are quite a few people around, but no one is looking too dodgy.
We get to the bus stop and our timing couldn’t have been better, the bus to the port is there waiting. Tony asks the driver if he goes to the ferry port at Pireaus, and he nods, says yes and tells us to board.
It is hard to track the direction the bus is going, but for the most part we seem to be heading the right way. As we near the port we start ducking around the streets, and we are now lost. We were told it would take 20 minutes if there was no traffic problem, there hasn’t been any delays, so we should be there by now, besides that we feel we are driving parallel to the port, rather than towards it. Cynthea goes to the driver when we are stopped at the lights, but he ignores her and then waves her away. Not sure if he doesn’t understand, or if he is not allowed to talk to passengers while driving? Doesn’t stop him talking on a bloody cell phone though! We ask other passengers who tell us the bus doesn’t go to the port. One of the passengers says he will help us find the way, but we need to get off with him at the next stop. We are wary of this, but feel we have to get off anyway, so we do. It is now 6.30am, so we hope we still have plenty of time.
We are taken to the top of the hill where we can see the way to go. The port has a system of gates, like the airports do, and we are looking for E7. We head down to the port area, and find we are at E10, we have come too far, way too far. There are no buses or taxis to be seen, so we start walking. It is hard going after a while, especially as we didn’t have breakfast or a drink before leaving the hotel. It is also very warm and humid. We see buses at a stop along the road, and figure we can just go a few hundred metres to get us closer, but we just miss them and it is back to walking at a brisk pace. The sun is up by now, so at least it is light We know that there is a short cut to the E7 passenger terminal from the E8 exit, so we take that
It is just on 7am, so we still have heaps of time, but there is no bloody boat at E7, so that is a hell of a worry. We ask at the café and the guy tells us that the ferry office is around the corner. At the ticket office they show us where to go, the ferry is across the water at another gate, E4. We haven’t a hope of walking there in time. Many other passengers are also here looking bewildered, so it isn’t just us that have screwed up. We hail a taxi, show him the ticket and he tells us we are already there, we show him where the ferry is and he takes us. When we get there we are at E4 – the bastards changed the gate late yesterday afternoon and didn’t tell us despite having our phone number.
Tony gives the taxi driver EUR5 ($9) and goes to get the packs out of the boot. The taxi drives off and he asks Cynthea how much change we got, and she tells Tony she thought the driver had given him the change. Bastard rip off (we find out later the minimum charge for a taxi at the port is EUR5). At least we are at the ferry in time, but as we approach they pull up the gangplank. Tony shouts at them to wait, and we are pointed to the vehicle drive on ramp, so we, and quite a few others, hurry aboard. We complain about the gate change and all of a sudden they don’t understand English that well. We leave our packs in the luggage room and wonder how many will miss the boat today. Tony’s Tshirt is soaking wet, he must have had a good workout this morning!!
Bang on time we leave the wharf, much to our surprise. Several people are still hurrying to the boat as we leave. Tony mentions to the crew that it is hardly fair to change the gate and leave people behind, but they correctly point out that if they had been there for the 7am check in they would not have missed the boat.
The ferry is quite full, and we sit outside downstairs where it is sheltered from the breeze. There are a couple of chairs free at a table where the couple already there have pushed the ashtrays away from them, so we figure they wont be smoking and park up next to them. Peter and Coral are Aussies, and we spend the trip with them.
The day is a bit overcast, but not too cold. We expected to see more islands dotted around the place, but it is quite some time before we see any at all. Heaps of other ferries though. About four hours later we are at Paros, from a distance it looks like there has been snow, but it is the houses we see, perched on top of vertical cliffs. We are standing at the stern watching as they lower the vehicle ramp. Tony thinks OSH will have a field day here too as crew walk around the ramp with the only safety gear being a hi-vis vest. They put the ramp sides up, but they are standing on seaward side with little more than a metre to move on – nothing at all to prevent them failing in the drink! The ramp drops and people come swarming off, it is a sight to see. Not many vehicles come off, and they had to wait for foot passengers to get out of the way first. Certainly it was quicker to unload than using the footbridge! We head inside now there are more seats, but it is hot and stuffy inside, and the boys keep falling asleep. The girls are busy watching the royal wedding until a regular news bulletin interrupts.
We are in port for a very short time, and head off to the next stop, Naxos, a bit over an hour away. There are lots more islands now, and many look sparsely populated. The royal wedding is back on the telly, but not for long as a Greek soap opera is apparently more important. At Naxos there is another quick turn around and we head for Santorini. The view as we approach is stunning, but we are being told to hurry to the vehicle bay, so we don’t get much time to look. We are all crowded at the vehicle ramp, it is bloody hot and stuffy, and it seems we wait for ages.
As the ramp lowers we are treated to an amazing sight. Sheer cliffs tower above, and white painted houses are perched at the top on their terraces. We are met at the port by John from the hotel where will spend the next three nights. A very, very narrow road winds its’ way up the face of the cliff and 10 minutes later we are at the top. Santorini is as stunning as we had expected. We head for the beach on the other side of the island, the hotel is about 30 minutes drive from here. Water must be scarce here, as all the cars are fairly dirty, including the one we are in.
We arrive in Perissa and are shown a ground floor room, with kitchen and bathroom, but quite dark. Every room has a view of the pool! Yeah, right, if you crane your neck you might be lucky. The pool has only two sunloungers and a chair for guests to use. Hopefully it won’t be too busy and there wont be any fighting for them! We are told we can choose one upstairs, and go for a look. No kitchen (not a problem), bright and airy, a bit smaller, but much nicer. We ask about a jug to boil water and are given one, with two coffee cups. The water tastes “funny”, lots of minerals in it we suppose, from the volcano nearby. We will need to make the coffee stronger! The shower is just the base, no walls, so the floor gets pretty wet and slippery, and the showerhead is not attached to the wall, again. Single beds again, and they are low to the floor. The windows are small, and the one in the door opens up. If you stick your head out the door window, you can see the pool. The bedroom and bathroom windows look back over the town entrance. There is solar water heating on the roof, but it gurgles away, maybe it has a bit of a blockage? Cynthea asks what the noise is and Tony tells her it is pigeons, LOL. The beach looks to be some distance away, and the pool looks nice, bet it is cold though.
Tony heads down for a swim, and yes it is cold!, so he doesn’t stay in long and dozes in the sunlounger instead. Cynthea comes down too, and she doesn’t stay in long either. Later Tony is having a wash before going out, and Cynthea touches his back with cold hands. He jumps and knocks the gooseneck shaped centre tap, and the bloody thing falls off. It takes a bit of putting back on, but we get there before too much of the floor is flooded. We decide to have a wander about before anything else falls apart!
Downstairs below our rooms is a “travel agent”, turns out to be John’s son, he hires bikes and ATVs, runs an internet café (EUR2 per hour!), sells tea and coffee. He gives us information on the bus timetable, but advises it is likely to run late. We also have a map of the island so we can find our way around.
The streets are very narrow, and we wonder how some traffic can get around here. There is no footpath as such, and there is barely room for two cars to pass, let alone room for people, we have to keep our wits about us. The road has been dug up down the left side, and cars are veering away to avoid the potholes, so we have to be even more careful! We had been told there wasn’t much open because the season hasn’t started, we figure that is maybe a good thing, they haven’t jacked their prices up yet. It seems every second shop is a tourist agent, and we go into one to see what tours are on offer. There is a day trip around the island, visiting the (active) volcano in the harbour, but even at the discounted price EUR48 ($88) is a bit more than we should be spending this early on. We can always come back tomorrow and book for another day.
The recession has hit hard here it seems, there are many unfinished building projects that appear abandoned.
We head away from the main street to the beach, and find a number of bars and cafes open, not very busy, but then over here things don’t appear to crank up until late. Restaurants don’t open until after 7 or 8pm, and bar happy hours don’t start until 10pm. We check out a couple of places for tomorrow, and spot a few with free WiFi, so plan to come back tomorrow. We walk along the coarse black sand beach, it is not what we expected.
We head back to the room just as it is getting dark, there are not many street lights here. Bikes without lights whiz past, and we need to be extra careful all the way back. Now it is later, there are a few people around town after all. Back at our room the “pigeons” are still coo-ing well after dark. Cynthea isn’t impressed that Tony has had her on again.