Nisyros: teetering on the brink, an inside curve, and the unexpected.

Friday.  Last day on Nisyros.  Difficult to believe that what has become so familiar will soon be a wistful memory.  The plan was to see as much of the island as I could in one long walk. The route would take me up to the rim of the caldera and then around the inside of 3 sides of it before the return to sea level. A kind of circumnavigation of the island on an inside curve.

Set out from the hotel in Mandraki at 10.30, later than planned, and headed up the western side of the island to the edge of the caldera and then up to Nikia perched right on the rim at 415 metres ASL.  I went that way because I wanted to take in the views of the crater from that end of the caldera rim.  I don’t know how many photos I have taken from along this bit of track but I added more today.  Every time it has that ‘Wow!’ factor in bucket loads.

First sight of the caldera coming from Stavros monastery

From the low part of the rim

… and heading up towards Nikia

Despite repeated photo stops the walk to Nikia took exactly 2 hours!!! My very ambitious target.  Rewarded myself with a frappé.  In fact I would have had one even if it had taken me 3 hours.

But then the targets went haywire.  Completely AWOL.

Mid frappé and gazing admiringly at the white-and-pastel-blue Agios Nektarios church perched very decorously on top of the mountain overlooking Nikia I was jerked back to the here-and-now by the arrival of a young couple who had been in a scooter accident on the way up the mountain and were bleeding from various limbs.  Would you believe that the first aid kit which I carry with me everywhere in the mountains was the only one available in the village.  Well, the only one which could be found at short shrift.   So a good bit of time was spent cleaning wounds, applying antiseptic and temporary dressings, until the couple could be taken down to the surgery in Mandraki by a generous visitor with a hire car.

That was the third scooter accident involving significant abrasions to limbs I have seen the results of since I got here.  All thoughts of possibly hiring a scooter sometime to get to a couple of really isolated places in the far south of the island evaporated completely as I cleaned and dressed the wounds.  Hiring four wheels is safer than hiring two, even if they are more expensive.

When I eventually set out from Nikia again my targets were blown so I adopted a more laid back approach and settled in to enjoy the route and particularly the dramatic lava extrusions along it.

Rock pinnacle in the shade

Lava and caldera

One of my main objectives was to get back to the rock pinnacles at Parleta.  The old castle nestling in among the giant fingers of lava like an eagles eyrie has become my favourite place on Nisyros, pushing the summit of Oros Diavatis into second and the Paleocastro into third.  One smug pleasure I get from Parleta is the knowledge that very few people will ever get there because the path must be classed as pretty extreme and to reach the top of the eyrie requires basic rock climbing skills and a bit of bottle to climb the somewhat precarious fortifications.

Approaching the Parleta crags

The route to the top, straight up the rock

Probably he most impressive pinnacle

Blue Rock Thrush on the top

But another reason for wanting to come back to Parleta was to expunge the sense of failure at having made a mess of the difficult bit of path immediately after the pinnacles earlier in the week.  I wanted to move on knowing I had done it right.

There are two walking maps of Nisyros, one by SKAI (Murdoch’s Greek outfit) which shows the path and one by a German couple who produced a map for the love of it and which doesn’t show the path.  Which is right?  There is a path but there are a couple of sections which are unstable and difficult.  In particular about 30 metres east of Parleta where it is so precarious that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone outside the rock climbing section of the mountaineering club.  It’s obvious from the absence of hoofprints that even the goats don’t use this as a path.  So, although it’s only short sections of the path which are extreme, because most people couldn’t use it to get from ‘a’ to ‘b’ (or even from Nikia to Emborios) it doesn’t function as a viable path.

Friday and this time I got the line and the speed right.  Linger fractionally too long on one foot and the whole lot starts sliding. Dead smug!!

One of the places where the path has collapsed completely requiring a rock traverse along the wall

Spot the path

Take a closer look

That’s where you go if you get it wrong

I had been slightly tense up to that point in anticipation of what was to come but from then on it was pure enjoyment all the way to a final frappé and bid the owners ‘kalo heimona’ (have a good winter’) in the Balcony Taverna in Emborios and then back down to Mandraki.

Not in time for a swim unfortunately due to unforeseen delays in Nikia.  Scooter riders wearing only shorts and T-shirts should be aware of the consequences of their actions.  Making a chap miss his last swim on Nisyros!  Harrumph!! Still I took my swimming trunks and towel for a good walk.

Seriously, no regrets.  Only too pleased to help.  That’s what mountaineers do.

The cliché “expect the unexpected” is in some ways a non sequitur.  One thing I have learned travelling around Greece this summer more than any other, is to be prepared to deal with the unexpected.

It has been really great being on Nisyros for a month and exploring it in detail but I guess I got the bug for travelling in Part 1 of my 2012 Greek Odyssey.  Who knows what will happen when I move on Saturday.

Natural art en route: ‘Turkey struggles with Octopus’

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