My phone camera didn’t have a lens large enough to capture everyone, but you get the idea… That’s Jeff on the left. Teresa hates Jeff (well I do too) because he came over specifically to talk about his experience in a Turkish bath house (which he told me he would have to fill me in on later *wink* which was a “Aw hell naw” from me) and traveling Taiwan while utilizing the services of male prostitutes who looked sad or angsty. Yeah… We don’t like Jeff. And he kept trying to figure out a way to follow us to our room. And then accompany us to the bakery… None of which we allowed, but found out he was rooming right next to us and proceeded to talk very loudly about how awful he was from our room. Anyway, other than that…
The ferry landed in port around one in the morning, we had booked a private double room for only eight euro a piece, and it came with a free ride from the port to the hostel. John, an elderly Greek man who has lived his whole life on the island as a home repairman and hostel owner (12 years) picked us up and let us wait until the next morning to check in. But at the port, it was apparent that the island was entirely sustained by tourism:
This was only about one percent of the tourist trap places lined up along the port.
Our hostel was located in a tiny town called Perissa, about fifteen minutes from the port. Santorini is weird in that every city is connected to the next one by sparse amounts of homes, supermarkets, and touristy places (Teresa and I like to call them tarps as in tourist traps…. But tarps. Look out! It’s a tarp!). Before bed we resolved to wash all our dirt laundry with some detergent Teresa had brought. This was my first time washing clothes in a sink. EW. You have no idea how dirty your clothes actually get until you’ve washed them in a sink. After a few pieces of clothing the water is brown and opaque, and makes you feel bad for being human and gross. I realized then that my clothes needed to be washed several times, but that will have to wait until I gets back to Murcia. For now, I’ll just have to attract all the locals with my natural stink.
The next morning, we were able to rent out an ATV to tour the island on. It takes about an hour to ride from the southernmost point to the northernmost point and is something like 21km long and very mountainous. The island is a product of a huge volcano that built up above the sea and then exploded, causing the center to collapse into a caldera that filled with seawater. As a result, there are a few islands surrounding the caldera with Santorini being the largest. Most of the beaches are black sand beaches because all the rock on the island is volcanic. The ‘island’ closest to the caldera just looks like a giant heap of broken-up volcanic afterproduct, but is nonetheless a sight to see.
Anyway, we woke up the next morning and were finally able to sleep in for the first time. We got a whole eight hours of sleep!
This is the view from our window.
We rented an ATV out and set out to explore the island. We had the whole day and then until 3:30 the next day to see everything before moving on to the island Naxos, between Santorini and Mykonos in the Cyclades island chain.
The woman who had rented the ATV out to us marked a hundred places on a map that was almost the size of Santorini for us to see,mo we headed to those places first. The weather changed rapidly between hot as hell and chilly enough for a jacket, but for the most part it was just cloudy. It wasn’t the best weather by any means, but we made do. Or made due. I don’t know how that expression is written or even makes sense.
Red Beach, west of Akrotiri, the ancient civilization on Santorini buried underneath the ash from the volcanic eruption.
Teresa likes to get pictures with scenery.
This is the sort of stuff you see on most of the island. Lots of manual labor, lots of donkeys and horses, mostly desert areas, punctuated by green shrubs and sometimes trees.
View of the caldera from Fira.
We were lost for a good portion of the middle of the day, attempting to continue along the island but losing the road and finding tiny little residential streets to trek. At one point, we were following some guy thinking he knew where he was going, but ended up at his house…
There is only one real city on the island that has more than just tourist places, which is Φιρα/Fira. It’s still 90% tourism, but there are actual bars and places to eat and such. There’s even a Mexican restaurant owned by a woman from Colorado! After driving around Fira, stalking someone to their home, and hitting a parked car with my ATV going the wrong way down a one-way street, we found the sign for Oia (pronounced ee-uh), which is the northernmost point on the island and is where that one scene from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 was filmed. Don’t judge me. So we continued north!
Look familiar gurls?
The village is BEAUTIFUL. Supposedly the sunset from this point is famous, but we had more island to see, so we didn’t stay. Instead of people climbing up on the stairs by themselves, they rode donkeys up the stairs on the side of mountain into which that section of Oia had been built.
There were hardly any other people there, and the town basically looked like a ghost town with the exception of a few tourists and a couple shop owners. But for the most part, it didn’t look like anyone actually lived there. And of course, like any city, there were abandoned buildings and broken down places that looked like they’d been uninhabited for a great deal of time. The hotels and spas that I assume are bustling during the summer months were all dead and their swimming pools empty (but that begs the question… Swimming pools only meters from the sea?). It actually made it more pleasant, I think. We were able to walk around without bumping into people, didn’t have to wait in lines anywhere for photos, and I’m assuming the cheap prices for our hostel were partially due to our visit being off season. Regardless, it was warm and sunny on the drive back from Oia to Fira, where we enjoyed a frappé and checked out where the best place to watch the sunset was. Several sites recommended Vylchada Beach, which is on the southwest area of the island and was only about 10 minutes from our hostel. Supposedly, the rocks and sand in the area changed colors every few minutes depending on the sunset, which sounded awesome. We planned on swimming a little bit and enjoying the sunset before going out to party in Fira. But nature had different plans.
We ended up at the beach after walking past several fisheries and half a kilometer of docks for fishing ships. It was the first black sand beach I’ve ever seen; when you walk on the sand and it sticks to your feet, it looks like someone has mushed a bunch of Oreos on you. And of course, as soon as we arrived, it became cloudy, so we weren’t going to be able to see the sunset.
I hadn’t been swimming on an island before, let alone on a black sand beach, so I got in. For like ten seconds. The water around black beaches are warmer than in other areas because the black sand acts as a heater by absorbing more heat than white sand and heating the surrounding water. I got out because sometimes I get this weird phobia of whatever might be in the water. It usually happens when I try to swim alone, but I’ve been trying to get over it. Blah. 🙁
Perfect weather for a sunset, right? Also, Oreo covered feet.
As soon as I had gotten out of the water and dried off, it started to rain. A lot. Teresa and I ran back to the ATV, put as much of our clothing in the plastic box on the ATV as possible, and rode back shirtless through the rain to our hostel. We smiled and laughed at people who saw us on the way back, laughing at us and giving us strange looks because we looked ridiculous. I only have so much clothing with me, I can’t risk getting my stuff soaking wet!
Back at the hostel, we started meeting and talking to people for the first time since coming to the island. We met two girls from Idaho (one, Sam, who was currently living in Spain, and Lindsey, who was an absolute blast and was SO Midwest it hurt [in a good way! …?]), a recently married couple from Japan who were traveling the world together for a whole year (hi Yuuki and Kyoko!), two women from Paris, an Australian named Dave and his girlfriend (name?) who were traveling around the world in their Van (named Vince) for the foreseeable future, and creepy Jeff from Seattle on vacation. Teresa hates Jeff. More on that soon. It’s always an amazing time listening to other people talk about their travels and getting tips from them about where to go and what to see. It’s almost like you’ve got a little piece of those countries with you right there in the conversation! I finally got to practice speaking Japanese which was awesome, and in four months when Yuuki and Kyoko go back to Tōkyō get to go visit them and surf their couch! Oh hells yes.
They all planned on going to a bar later that night called Atlas which was owned by a Canadian (how many countries can we bring together in one place?). There, I got a bunch of local wine for less than €5 and everyone sat around eating brick-oven pizza that was made two feet away, tzatziki, and exchanging travel stories, contact information and basically earning couches in different parts of the world in a matter of minutes. I also made friends with a Swedish woman at the bar when ordering water, who offered me a couch after I introduced myself in Norwegian (Norwegian and Swedish are basically mutually intelligible).
Greatest. Night. Ever. It felt really late, but we got back to the hostel around midnight and got an amazing night of sleep as a powerful thunderstorm rolled up and lit up the outline of the mountains around the island.
I forgot to mention the AMAZING 24-hour bakery just across the street from the hostel (which by the way is ‘Katerina and John’s Hostel’, Perissa, Santorini, Greece) that has a million kinds of cookies, pastries, doughnuts, chocolate covered monstrosities (no gofres though), a cafe, pizza, and pastries filled with different kinds of meat and cheese. If you try to speak Greek to the guy who’s working, he’ll give you free samples. Just FYI.
Unfortunately the weather forecast called for rain the whole next day, but we were hoping for some sun so we could actually go swimming before leaving the island. Then we woke up and saw this:
Island weather is evidently difficult to predict. It stayed like this the whole day.
We asked one of the hostel workers which beach was best to go to, and they suggested the one that was just a couple minutes away. It was perfect.
We still had a couple hours before we had to get back to the port for our ferry to Naxos, so we decided to try and get up to the highest point on the island, in Pyrgos. We only made it about halfway up after getting lost in a construction zone and being pelted with rocks in the wind. To get to Pyrgos, we drove through some really tiny residential streets some more up towards a walkway.
At one point it became too steep and narrow for the ATV so we continued on foot for a few minutes before heading back to make it to our ferry on time.
Old cave dwelling?
View of the sea from halfway up the mountain.
There are lots of cacti on the island that bear this fruit. I don’t know if it’s edible or not, but when you squish the guts out, it looks and smells like a tomato.
We managed to make it onto our boat on time by hitching a ride with the hostel owner who was taking his grandson there as well.
The volcanic debris that makes up the center ‘island.’
It got really cold really fast on the boat, and suddenly it started raining. It only rained for about thirty seconds, but it was enough to make people scream and scurry under the cover of the boat’s upper deck. When the rain stopped, the heavens suddenly opened up and we were treated to a double rainbow to see us off, and then everyone who ever existed went “Ooh!” and rushed out to the deck to take more photos.