I’m now on countdown for leaving Nisyros. Not that my return to Grey Britain is imminent, I move on to Symi on Saturday to meet up with family and friends.
As an aside, the hotel has now been invaded by two large walking groups, one from the UK and the other from Germany. Therefore I made sure that I went down to breakfast half an hour earlier than usual as big walking groups tend to breakfast earlier than the average visitor in order to set out earlier. Military precision in the organisation!! Major Bonus … really good wholemeal bread as an option. And I managed to get a table outside on the terrace.
There are a number of things I want to do while still on Nisyros, an unwritten list. Long list. Indecision. Finally, over breakfast I decided to go back to the last crater I visited in the caldera, explore and photograph it some more and collect some samples to take back for a friend. Why he wants sulphur crystals I don’t know but if brimstone fires his imagination, fine. (URL below)
Ramble coming on. My late wife’s grandfather was a lead miner (that’s mining lead, not leading miners) in Cardiganshire and, as was the custom at the time, he worked in whatever mine needed labour. This meant that he frequently had to walk over the top of the mountains from the Rheidol Valley to the Ystwyth Valley, Ystumtuen to Cwmystwyth, carrying his tools in a canvas bag. He would then do a 12 hour shift and walk back. All seasons!
It struck me today walking over the mountain pass into the caldera that that was kind of what I was doing, walking to where I wanted to be to do the stuff I intended to do. In my case it was warm and sunny and pleasant, not raining and cold and wet underfoot (and that’s in the summer in Cardiganshire). And then there’s the important psychological factor: I was doing it because I wanted to, because I enjoyed it, rather than because I had to do it as part of the daily grind. I revelled in the walk and the anticipation of exploring somewhere interesting. I got to the caldera in 1½ hours. Dead chuffed. Despite what I said in Sunday’s blog, I’m basically a driven person. Most of the time I have to push targets as an inner necessity. I wish I could be more relaxed about it more of the time. Ramble over.
The crater I went back to was just as fascinating as on the first visit. I spent nearly 2 hours exploring around its flanks as well as re-visiting the core area. There were more fumaroles to look at photograph and further to the west an outcrop heavily coloured by red sulphur.
To add a little contrast to the photos some cloud had built up over the mountains in the morning and then cleared except for one bank of dark black cloud off to the east over Turkey.
I collected some samples. Someone had clearly been up there with a pick axe breaking the sulphur outcrops so I had fragments to work with. I wouldn’t take from intact sulphur encrustations, they are just too intrinsically aesthetic. The rock fragments bearing the yellow sulphur was soft enough to break using the point of my Swiss Army Knife as I wasn’t using it to amputate any limbs at the time. Then I carefully packed them away in the cut-off end of a water bottle as they are so fragile. Main problem was that the rocks in the area have underfloor heating and the soles of the feet get very hot if stopped too long in one place. I shall expect an ice cream as a reward for diligence, effort and ingenuity.
I lost all track of time until when I checked I found I needed to move on smartish in order to get back to Mandraki, still a couple of hours walk away by the route I was taking. But time first for yet another frappé in the crater taverna. I have been there more times in the last 3 weeks than all the rest of the visits to Nisyros combined. I think I’m regarded as some weird itinerant who wanders around the caldera in shorts and sandals and drops in every few days for a frappé μέτριο, χωρίς γάλα (sugar but no milk)
I’m not really a nervous sort of guy but one of the things I openly confess to is being nervous about free range pigs, especially a sow with piglets. They wander the floor of the open caldera and can be seen moving through the trees at a distance. On the way back from the caldera the path took me through what in the UK would be an un-gated farmyard and just as I went through the narrow opening a massive sow with about 10 freshly hatched piglets was crossing in front of me.. I made sure that the sow was between me and the piglets but being skittish they were running around wildly. The sow, which up to the point I appeared on her scene, had been making kind of contented deep grunting noises, suddenly started snorting aggressively and moving towards me purposefully
I changed direction to get closer to a tumbledown stone wall. The thinking was that if she went for me I could get up onto the remains of the wall and make like a mountain goat. The sow, heavier than I was but I’m sure less agile, would find it slower going over the rocks, particularly so being low slung and with a dozen teats heavy with milk hanging below. The assumption was that though pigs might fly they would not hop sure-footedly from rock to rock. Fortunately I was spared the indignity of putting my subterfuge and doubtful logic to the test.
The walk up the steep zigzagging path to the rim of the caldera which I successfully followed from the top a week or so ago, posed no problems, helped by the fact that Red-Spot Man had positioned his daubs to assist going up rather than down the path. Close to the top I had to duck underneath a dead goat hanging from a tree by a broken back leg. Even mountain goats get it wrong sometimes. Salutary lesson!!!!!