Nisyros: the eagle and the snake

Saturday I thought I would have an easy day but, when it came to the crunch (whatever ‘coming to the crunch’ is), I decided not to.  I have been conscious of the fact that by this time, and therefore this heat, last year, I had been walking for 6 weeks and was thoroughly acclimatised and very fit.  I’m not as unfit this year as I thought  might be but there is still a long way to go to get to the level of stamina and fitness of mid-June last year.  So, to use a phrase very in-vogue many years ago, I decided to ‘go for the burn’.

What a lot of total twaddle ‘fashion’ is and in particular fashion in language idioms.  We pick them up because they are trendy, or rather, we think we are trendy if we use them, dropped casually into conversation.  Language is dynamic and rightly so. The French lose out by trying to insist that new words and concepts should always be derived from the French and even have (or used to have, I don’t know if it still exists) an Institute to vet new words coming into the language.  Greek isn’t like that.  They have the word υπουργείο but the vast majority of Greeks would say and write ‘computer’.  The strength of English too is that it has always been happy to borrow words from other languages.  But ‘go for the burn’,  what does that really mean??

Anyway, I decided to do another moderately hard walk in order to push myself a bit more physically and move closer to ‘fitness’, however that is measured.  Because of the very limited public bus service at the moment I’m working on options for walking out-and-back from the town.  Longer, harder walks than using the bus to the villages on the crater rim and then walking downhill to get back and so more challenging.  So I walked over the col and down into the caldera, and then up to the caldera-rim village of Emborio and back from there.

I decided to concentrate on the walking rather than talking photos but a couple of things presented themselves as photo opportunities not to miss.

First off I again saw and got long shots of an eagle while at the Balcony Taverna having a frappé. Seems it regularly flies from one crag to another towards the end of the morning.  Straight-line fast glide to thwart attacks by the hooded crows which try, completely unsuccessfully, to mob it.  Anyway, I rattled off a couple of long shots.  May not amount to much in photographic terms but I’m please with them given the difficulty of focusing on a pinprick travelling at some speed way out from where I’m standing.

Against blue sky

Against mountainside

The second photo opportunity probably ranks as The Most Bizarre Of All Time.  You may remember me bleating that I would like to, though had so far failed to, photograph a snake in the wild but was hopeful of seeing one along a particular section of path.  I walked that path at the end of the Saturday route and had camera in hand as I approached it.

Slight digression.  I would not consider walking in any footwear other than sandals over here.  One of the arguments I muster to the many who attack me for such foolhardiness is that one of the several advantages is that it makes you more aware of what is at your feet.  It is essential to monitor foot placement more carefully so you see lizards and a lot more ground-level stuff.  On disadvantage, which I somehow forget to mention, is that you can’t always monitor head-height stuff like overhanging thorny branches and spiders’ webs.

Anyway, zooming along the last section of path on Saturday my thoughts were on a refreshing swim and so I was more focused on my feet while keeping half an eye open (how on earth can you keep half an eye open?!)  for a snake on the high stone wall up on my left.  I was walking so fast I went past it and had to back-track a few feet. The rear portion of a snake with its head and who knows how much else firmly wedged into a hole in the bottom of the wall of an EU-funded renovated ancient stone-built house!!!!!!!  It was knotted up and mostly upside down (the snake not the house).  I took a photo and then tentatively, very tentatively, took hold of it and straightened it out.  It was warm and very flexible so clearly hadn’t been there for long.  The bit outside the wall was over a metre long.  What I didn’t know was if it was alive or just-dead so I didn’t give it a tug to see if it would come out from the wall.  The other end was probably a bit sharp and even more probably a bit cross at being disturbed at whatever it was doing.

Head in the wall attitude

Straightening things out a bit

87My theory is that it had got a mouthful of rat which increased the size of its jaw (they unhinge you know and can get about 4 times the diameter of the snake) and so it couldn’t back out and couldn’t go further into the hole.  It was clearly heating up a lot as it was now in full sun.

Having done as much as I could to record and retrieve the situation I headed back to the hotel and then a swim but resolved to return to that section of path on Sunday to monitor the outcome.

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