Tuesday, the setting in motion of the Exit Strategy to get me back to the UK …. and, a new experience for this trip, I was going back to a place I had been before! Until today every single place I have been has been new and unknown. With the sole exception of Paxos, where I had been met on the harbourside by friends who knew the island intimately, in every instance I had no idea of the layout of the place at all This was the first time in nearly two months that I arrived somewhere and knew the layout and exactly where I was going.
As I rambled on about in an earlier blog, constantly changing locations has the effect of distorting the perception of time so that looking back it seems that I have been away from home for considerably longer than I actually have.
But in a strange way it is also very draining of energy, constantly dealing with new problems as well as enjoying new places and interests. This is especially the case travelling on one’s own, no-one to help with problem-solving or look after the Big Bags while a decent hotel is tracked down. There is something very comforting and relaxing in the familiar. Familiar places, familiar people, familiar everyday situations all contribute to wellbeing. I think a healthy balance between the new and the familiar is ideal, but how that balance is drawn depends on the individual.
That’s very much how it struck me today.
Strange as it seems, the first bus of the day to Areopoli from Gerolimenas is at 14.30, the second, and only other, at 17.30. There must be a rationale there somewhere. I had breakfast, packed, sat on the balcony and read … a very arduous start to the day! Then I checked out of the hotel, left my Big Bag in the restaurant and ambled along the coast, rock-hopping across some amazing geology, intent on not wasting time just loafing around. I found a secluded spot in the rocks where I could have a swim. It needed to be secluded because I had packed my swimming gear in my Big Bag.
After that there was just time to sit and relax with a frappé on the hotel terrace. And that was when it struck me that Gerolimenas had become ‘comfortable’, the place and the people were now familiar and I would miss it and them. The hotel, the ‘Akrogiali’ is at the junction of the beach and the small quayside, probably the most ideally located place I have stayed. Come back from a long, hot walk, straight off the other end of the hotel terrace onto the beach and within a couple of metres into the sea.
And there had been good company. I had met and enjoyed chatting to a guy from Switzerland and the hotel owners and waiters were very friendly and ready to stop and chat. Turns out that one of the owners had lived and studied in Swansea for 3 years and spoke very fondly of South Wales. Sitting there gazing at the bay I knew that it was time to move on but I also knew that I would miss the place and I had only been there 3 days! That’s time-warping for you.
When I arrived in Areopoli on the bus, only half an hour away but a different world, busy and almost cosmopolitan in comparison, I felt almost at home. I knew where I was going, knew the people at the hotel were very friendly and helpful and that there was the prospect of internet connexion in the room so I could Skype family.
Having had an idle day so far, after unpacking a few things I headed down to a beach. Areopoli is at 250 metres ASL and so any walk to the sea is hard going but I was glad to stride out and stretch my legs. Barely 45 minutes later I was in the sea. Good refreshing swim than back up to the hotel for a shower. All the time it was bearing in on me that I would only be able to do this once more on this trip. Wednesday is my last day here. Then the Exit Strategy gets into full swing.
I am the guy from Switzerland, and I enjoyed the talks with Barry very much indeed. His knowledge and experience are so wide and well-founded it was was a profond pleasure toi talk about ‘God and the world’, as we say in German.
Because I’m a rambler myself I ook up his idea of walking the hills that connect the two seas aside Mani, and I found settlements and stone walls from days gone by, met cows grazing (what?) and having no water hole to drink from. The hills and barren slopes, and the loneliness up there remotely reminded me of Cader Idris, which I had loved to hike some thirty years ago. Up there I met a quiet that I’d have to climb very high in Switzerland to arrive at. I felt at ease with myself and the world. The same had happened to me when going as far as to the southernmost rock of mainland Greece, Cape Tenaro. Only the blue sea was to be seen from there.
Thank you, Barry, for extending my experience of one of the most beautiful spots on earth .- and keep on doing what you’e up to.