Nisyros: Pinnacles of cowardice and lava art.

Friday was the first time I have made a decision based on cowardice.  Maybe that’s a bit strong …. a decision based on circumspection.

Thursday evening it became clear that the hunters were once again descending on Nisyros.  It’s an annual happening, sadly. Over a large part of the island hunting is prohibited, the core area of the mountains are a permanently protected area.  There are blue signs saying so, most of them with bullet holes in.

Hunting prohibited. Permanent refuge.

Other parts of the island, mostly the areas closer to the coast, are not protected.  And the open season begins on Saturday.  I had forgotten!  Thursday evening and the hunters started appearing: easily identified by their dogs, their guns, and their manner.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with locals shooting birds for food but these are people who travel for the ‘sport’.  If it was meat they were after it would be far cheaper to buy it in the most upmarket ‘charcuterie’ in Athens.  These are people who like killing, disguised as ‘protecting traditional ways’.

On Tilos hunting was banned completely a few years ago, tourism being considered more important than protecting tradition.

Another walk I had planned for my remaining time on Nisyros was to walk down through the Argos area again and carry on down to sea level to try get a better view of the lava pinnacles.  The route would take me down through major hunting territory and I didn’t fancy being collateral damage for a brace of chukkas. (rock partridges to you).  So I brought the plan forward to Friday.

It isn’t that I’m afraid of being shot.  I’m not.  Genuinely.  I suppose it’s that I’m afraid of personal confrontation, particularly in a language I’m not master of.  In a work context I like to think that I actually thrived on confrontation.  Try to avert it if all possible but when the gloves were off I knew the rules.  But on a personal level it just isn’t me.  Confronted with armed blokes with dogs complaining and shouting that I was in their way, interfering with their sport, just isn’t my idea of fun and I don’t know how I would react.

Despite the fact that the season doesn’t begin until Saturday I was passed on the track section of the walk up to Argos by 4x4s with cages with dogs in strapped to the back and scooters with dogs in the footwell and rifles slung over the back of the rider.  Cum Saturday the scooter riders will have the rifles barrel up, stock balanced on the knee.  I’ve seen it before.  Fortunately today they must have been on a practice run.  Having passed me I didn’t see them or their parked vehicles again.

The walk was great.  Summer has definitely returned and there was little breeze so it was very pleasantly hot.  The walk down to the coast was partly over ground which is, after 2 previous walks this summer, one each way, almost familiar.  Minor problem overcoming a goat fence  close to the coast but no real problem a climber couldn’t surmount.

Once down at sea level the pinnacles were even more dramatic than I had anticipated.  The position of the sun made for silhouettes and washed-out sky rather than detail of the rock but it was great simply being there.  Just me with the camera and a couple of bananas and a lone fisherman fishing from the beach.

I managed to explore half the length this stretch of coast so I may have to risk the hill-billy pot shots towards the end of the week when the initial exuberance has subsided and the hunters have realised the chukkas have built-in calendars and have all gone into the central mountains, and go back to explore the other half.

Looking along the foreshore and beach from the pinnacles

The strata at the top of the cliff

Lava sculpture: ‘camel with the hump’?

From the other side

Close-up of the neck and head

Detail of the rock

Same rock from the seaward side

Approaching the lava pinnacles in the sea

Lava sculpture: ‘Seahorse’?

Lava sculpture: ‘leaning away from each other’?

Cluster of pinnacles seen from the cliff above

Zooming in

2-metre diameter globe of the Planet Zog

Friday evening back in Mandraki and a very pleasant meal with a French Canadian couple and then back to the hotel via the usual nightcap.  And the barking of hunting dogs tied up close by, continuing into the small hours.

I have two T-shirts for walking.  One is grey and blends in nicely with the lava.  I’ll be wearing the bright red one tomorrow.

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