Greece 2011: Symi – irritation, challenge, relaxation and entertainment

For once I had no idea what I wanted to do on Saturday, aside from making sure that I bought bread because the bakery isn’t open on Sundays and I needed bread to mop up the sauce on the next couple of helpings of fasolakia.

I finally decided  on a circular walk which turned out to be irritating, challenging, relaxing, and entertaining, in that order.

The first part of the walk was up along a ridge topped by a string of a dozen or more windmills and a large ancient stone structure nobody knows the purpose of though there are theories.  As I moaned about last year, the Municipal Council has planted shrubby things along this section of path and they have got out of control, not only overhanging the path but growing up in the middle of it.  Unless something is done to remove them it will not be long before the path will not be worth walking unless armed with a machete. In places it goes over rocks and the options for going around the obstructions is risky.

Shrubs now grow in the middle of the path

But muttering and grumbling to myself  I persevered and passed the obstructed bit and then on through the barren landscape heading towards my first goal, a rocky peak just to the side of very a barren col.

Walking towards the col, mountain to climb on the left

In the col

I haven’t climbed this mountain for a few years, partly because I don’t walk this path very often as the once-laidback beach it leads to has been turned into an up-market sunbed beach, very regimented and formal.  Somehow when I got to the col the mountain seemed higher and more craggy than I remembered but as it was now in my mental game-plan I  went for it anyway.

In several places on Symi the rocky limestone crags are razor sharp and great care is needed.  The challenge was not so much the energy required to reach the top, only 100 metres above the col, as to get there unscathed.  It was a mixture of rock climbing and scrambling over razor blades.  Once I did reach the top, which took longer than expected, the problem was to find somehow to sit  in order to lick my wounds.  Well, not literally of course, I haven’t yet managed to lick my shin.  Perhaps a few more Advanced Yoga classes will do the trick.  Perhaps I should also go on a course to learn how to lie on a bed of nails.  Maybe just Level 1, to learn how to sit on a bed of nails. At least I came off better than the German guy a few years ago who arrived at the beach with his face lacerated from a fall on the rocks and I had to perform open-face surgery to close up the wounds and hold his nose in place while he was rushed by fishing boat back to the town.

Photographer's leg on very sharp mountain

One bit of sharp mountain

Another bit of sharp mountain

Wounds licked and banana eaten it was back down to the col and then down to the beach.  Not really a beach, more concrete platforms with sunbeds, restaurant and taverna.  I wasn’t staying long, not my kind of place, so I perched on a bollard on the small jetty or quay or whatever the technical term is, while I changed , had a fabulous swim, dried off and was then on my way again.

The island at Agia Marina

I walked around to Pedi in the next bay.  After getting past the rocky outcrop which the Council has also planted up with weed-trees it was a pleasant amble, camera in hand.

Don't know if the turkey is following the guy with the food or running away from me


This is still a fishing community

I thought I came up with the boot idea!!!!

I was heading for the slab of rock on the far side of the bay which I visited for a swim most days last August and September.  Just big enough for one person, two if they are very close.  Apart from the odd youngster trying to go as fast as he can in a speed boat this is an amazingly tranquil and peaceful place.  Last year I knew I would miss it when I left and this year the same.

That’s the irritating, challenging and relaxing dealt with, now the entertaining bit.

After yet again drying off it was time for a frappé in a water-side taverna.  I sat at a table right at the water’s edge next to small fishing boats tied up, looking along the length of the narrow bay at the posh yachty things anchored there in order to avoid paying the harbour dues in the main harbour.

The problem with anchoring in the bay is that you have got to get to the land in order to have a drink or meal in the taverna, usually not a problem because you get James or one of the other crew to ferry you across in the dinghy or lighter or whatever the small boats tied on the back of posh yachts are called, and then come and collect you when you are full of food and booze.  But sometimes you do it yourself and with landlubber friends you are trying to impress.  Just so at the end of a very tranquil Saturday afternoon.

I must add here that I m very much a landlubber with no idea what a mainbrace is never mind how to splice one.  The nadir of my nautical experience was paddling my sea canoe back into Solva harbour after an early morning trip and being asked by a guy on a posh yachty thing “couldn’t do us a favour old chap and pick up that bouy for us”.  Feeling  smug at knowing the difference between a boy and  a buoy I canoed over to it, plucked it out of the water, put it on the front of the canoe and started to paddle back towards the yacht.  Of course it wouldn’t reach being tied to the seabed.  The yachties meanwhile had all fallen overboard laughing.  It seemed that the intention was that they would throw me a piece of rope which I would then tie to the buoy.

Tied up next to the taverna

I was therefore quite prepared to be entertained by the lack of sea-lubberiness about to unfold. A posh inflatable dinghy thing appears from one of the anchored yachts and is coming in to the little jetty which the taverna sits on.  There is one parking place between the small fishing boats but nowhere to get off because the entire frontage is taken up with people sitting at four small tables.  I should explain that the inflatable has what looks like a small two-man tent occupying the front half of the boat.  Anyway, the guy with the steering wheel standing up  amidships (the middle of the boat), with a couple of bikinid ladies and another bloke behind him and assorted kids in the tenty thing at the front.  He very gently and deftly manoeuvres the boat into the parking space and then just at the last moment his hand slips on the throttle, the boat surges forward hurling everyone except the guy clinging onto the steering wheel backwards.

Not the impressive, graceful arrival he had doubtless hoped for.  But it got better.  Better in the sense of more entertaining.  He has another 4 or 5 attempts before he is satisfied that he has got it right.  It seems that his prime objective is to ensure that the rough fishing boats don’t scuff his nice paintwork. Then he dispatched the other bloke to crawl through to tent and hang out of the front on his stomach in order to grab hold of the jetty.  Only he can’t reach so a kindly elderly lady at the next table to me reaches down a kindly hand to help him.  Of course she is perched on a chair with her weight on the two outside legs and with the best will in the world is nowhere near as heavy as 4 adults, assorted kids and a boat.  Result, she only just avoids toppling into the water.

I was sorely tempted to let the entertainment continue unfold unaided but thought that might look sadistic so I got off my chair, wedged a foot, grabbed the bloke’s hand and pulled the boat in.  He didn’t say thanks but then he was in extremis.  He continued to lie on his stomach hanging out of the front of the boat, grovelling at the feet of the two elderly ladies at the next table who continue sipping their tea as if he isn’t there, while the driver starts to tie posh torpedo-shaped plastic protectors to hang down the side to stop the boat brushing against the rough fishing boats.  Then he dives off the back with a snorkel to look for a rope tied to a 5 litre plastic bottle which evidently serves as a buoy.  All this while the his mate is lying on his stomach clinging onto the jetty and obviously getting quite tired.  Beefy as he was his arms were trembling with the exertion.

Driver than gets back on board and starts shouting at the prostrate human anchor, throws him a rope and tells him to get onto the jetty.  He does so and pulls the boat in fairly easily.  The others then get off pushing past the people seated at the tables and leaving him holding the rope, there being nowhere to tie it.

I leave the story there.  Save to add that while this was unfolding at our feet, just a few yards further out a guy swims into view wearing what looks like a Tilley hat, adding an air of surreality to the whole episode.  One of the most entertaining 20 minutes of the entire summer.  I have no ambition to become a sea lubber.  The learning process looks to complicated. 


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