Nisyros: rock hopping along the coast

I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen the Disney film ‘The Jungle Book’.  I saw it 5 times in cinemas before I could use having children, and now grandchildren, as an excuse for watching it on video.  I can close my eyes and see Balu spinning the fruit of a prickly pear cactus and warning Mowgli to ”use the claw”.

This is prickly pear fruit season on Nisyros and tree-sized cacti are loaded down with bright red, ripe fruit. So at the finish of the walk back from the crater on Sunday I decided to pick one which was overhanging the path at head height.  I grow them in the Blue House at home and know the spines are a nightmare to extract.  Therefore, being a clever sort of a guy, I used my Swiss Army Knife to scrape off the spines before attempting to touch it.  Unfortunately, NOT being such a  clever sort of a guy, I didn’t put on my reading glasses so couldn’t see how well I had cleared them of spines.  You very definitely need reading glasses to deal with prickly pear fruit.

I spent an hour on Sunday evening trying to get the spines out of my hands with a tweezers.  One problem was that I couldn’t tell the difference between the sun-bleached hairs on the back of my hand and the cactus spines.  Painful! Monday morning and every time the fingers on my left hand touched each other I could feel the discomfort of prickly pear stubble and touching anything unyielding with the ends of my fingers was painful.  Monday evening was little different.

That, however, had nothing to do with my decision to forego the mountains on Monday and walk along the coast.  I have been up in the mountains for the last week and thought that it was time to prove that this is an island …. with a coast and not just a hole in the middle.

It wasn’t a cliff path walk, there is no such thing as a cliff path here.  Not a beach-walk because only the first short distance is ‘beach’.  More long-distance rock-hopping or maybe more accurately, ‘boulder-hopping’.

I hopped along the coast about 3-4 kilometres and then back but it took about 5 hours.  Partly that was because of the need to be careful.  There had been a great deal of ‘cliff-fall’ since last year and the massive rocks hadn’t been ground around by winter storms to make them stable.  Even boulders the size of a table could be delicately balanced and teeter alarmingly, potentially disastrously,  as you hopped onto them.

But the slow progress was more to do with the fact that I kept stopping to look at and photograph rocks and views.  The waves along this bit of coast are usually pretty large and on Monday the breaking waves were very dramatic.  Between the two things progress was very slow.

The rocks were obviously all volcanic.  Rocks/stones/pebble/sand on the foreshore and beaches here are all ‘locally sourced’, there is no major movement of eroded materials along the cost as there is in the UK.  Though all volcanic, the variety of rocks was amazing: black, grey, red, purple, brown, sulphur-yellow, white.  Lava which was intricately honey-combed or extremely gnarly; igneous rocks which were smooth and square; some were in long columns as if carved by a master stone mason.  All had come tumbling out of the cliffs, some as big as a shed.  They were so distracting that it was difficult to focus on staying safe.  But I did.

Looking across Hochlakos beach at the start of the walk. The rope across the foreground is so that people can pull themselves out and float above the thermal hot spring which emerges here.

A huge finger of rock conveniently points to the only place where the cliff can be scaled

This is the nature of the foreshore I hopped along

A small cave above the headland which was my target

The ‘ceiling’ of the cave is encrusted in sulphur

…. close up

Even the flowers outside the cave were sulphur-yellow

And so to the rocks. Dramatic colour variations everywhere.

Blocks of honeycombed lava

Stretched like molten toffee

… in fact all kinds of contorted shapes

…. and colours

Columns as if cut by a stone mason

Just to prove that this is all next to the sea and not in the crater

Great to see art and a sense of humour

… and again

Looking across Hochlakos beach at the end of the walk. Monastery and castle on the headland


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