Nisyros: Avlaki, another time-warp

Apologies: mega blogus interuptus this morning.  All pics now inserted. Weather event here — howling wind probably interfering with internet signal.  I’M PAYING FOR THIS UPDATE!!!!!

A lot of rambling on Saturday too, but more in the physical sense.  I decided to go to the tiny harbour of Avalaki on the far side of the island.  There are problems getting there and back with the minimal bus service there is at the moment.  I worked out that the only way I was going to do it without getting up ridiculously early (06.30 bus) was to go on one of the trip buses to the floor of the volcano, walk up the steep kalderimi to Nikia perched on the rime, then walk down the path to Avlaki, then back up to Nikia and from there back to Mandraki.  I had done the whole thing in bits but never put it all together as a single walk.  And I knew I would have to push the pace in order to get back at a reasonable time.

The path from the volcano to Nikia is now fairly familiar and presented no problems other than being a tiring 45 minute, 1000 foot climb.

The path from Nikia down to the coast I had done on only one occasion with Enfys and I struggled to remember where it started.  It obviously isn’t much used now because it was getting seriously overgrown not only with grasses and cereals but a number of types of very prickly plants.  But it presented no real problems and was quite a dramatic walk. Much of it is paved kalderimi, in places very wide, anything up to 3 metres, in other places narrow between walls and barely half a metre.  The tall, ultra-prickly thistles I had noted in flower on Tilos but not Nisyros were prolific along this path, presumably because it faces south and so is warmer.

Paved kalderimi, becoming overgrown

Looking back up towards Nikia

It passes fascinating old settlements and terraced fields all the way down to the coast.

One of many houses. The number '1880' over the door is more probably the date it was built rather than the postal address

Some of the terrace walls are amazing colours

Avlaki is an amazing place, very different from anything I have seen on any of the islands.  Basically it’s a scene of industrial dereliction, another time-warp.  It would not have looked out of place in the South Wales Valleys 40 or 50 years ago, apart from the cloudless sky, hot sunshine and the bright blue Aegean that is.  The tiny harbour was used until the 1950’s to bring in supplies for Nikia, goods being loaded from larger ships into rowing boats to bring them through the narrow gap in the rocks which give partial protection from the rough seas. The rocks in the sea, on the foreshore, in the cliffs are amazingly variable somejet black others bright coloured reds, purples and ochre.

Avlaki: abandoned houses, tiny harbour, weird cliffs

Volcanic ash deposits in the cliff

Thankfully some people just love to add even more colour

Now it is used only as a place for swimming.  There is even a stainless steel ladder down into the water from the ‘quayside’.  The ladder would not look out of place in any modern swimming pool except that the handrail on one side has been broken off, presumably in winter storms which must swamp the place.  I swam out through the gap in the rocks into the open sea and realised how much protection the line of rocks does in fact afford.  I wouldn’t like to row a boat laden with goods in through that gap, get it slightly wrong in the swell and breaking waves and it would be crunch time.

The swimming area at Avlaki: note the black lava bubble and the ladder

After drying off leaning against a piece of bubbled black lava built into the quayside, I headed back up the paved kalderimi, the route the donkeys would have taken loaded with supplies for Nikia.  It was a long pull-up back to Nikia, nearly 1500 feet and it was hot work in the afternoon sun.  The path gets narrower, steeper and more overgrown as it comes into Nikia before giving way to the white-painted concrete steps of the village.  Suddenly the steps emerge into a small, bright, cool square with bench seats. Very welcome.

Cool square

On up to the main square at the top of the village and then it was time for the 2-hour yomp back to Mandraki.  Strange word that ‘yomp’.  I remember news correspondents introduced it into common parlance during the Falklands war.  Apparently it was (maybe still is) a term used by the Paratroop Regiment to describe marching cross country.  It certainly seemed hard going on the way back to town, particularly the 30 minute pull up to the col after leaving the crater rim.

I was tired when I got back to the hotel and pretty grubby and sweaty so I took the dirt and the sweat down to the sea and had another swim before my evening shower.

That EU Luncheon Voucher Scam?   There is some kind of EU-sponsored film-makers festival going on at the moment with about 50 or 60 people on the island, many in the hotel I’m in.  I see them occasionally paying for meals and drinks with coupons torn off a little wad of them. Some evening there are long tables set outside a restaurant where they all get together for a convivial evening.  But they haven’t been in the restaurant where I eat which is surprising because it is iconic on Nisyros and listed as a good place to eat in the Rough Guide among others.  It turns out that the same festival with the same voucher scheme ran on Nisyros last year and the vouchers have not been redeemed.  At least one restaurant business is now owed several thousand € and so has told the diners that they are welcome but only if they pay cash.  I don’t know what the reason or the excuse is for not paying but penalising small family-run businesses because of the economic ills of Greece is most unreasonable.

Last night they were gathered in the taverna next to where I was eating.  I hope the owners get paid.

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