Some places are addictive. Nisyros is one of them.
My wife and I visited the island first on a day trip by high speed cat from nearby Tilos in 2001. Along with the herd we took the bus to The Volcano, grinding its way up laboriously before eliciting an involuntary ‘Wow! from everyone as it reached the top of the climb and suddenly the 3-kilometre-long caldera came into view far below, the crater hazy in the distance. Then the long zigzag descent and a race across the caldera floor to the taverna at the lip of the largest of the active craters, Alexandros.
Only an hour to soak it all in and expend two rolls of 36-exposure Ektachrome film before the return to the harbour, let loose on the town to spend our hard earned in shops, tavernas and restaurants. Which we didn’t. Instead we ambled upwards out of the town and somehow found ourselves at the Paleocastro, by far the most dramatic castle/fortress I’ve been to bar none, including all the Welsh castles, French chateaux and the much vaunted Mycenae. Another roll of film.
We were hooked. Every year after that we stayed longer, explored on foot using a very good diagrammatic map, finding more amazing sights each visit. When I had to travel on my own, starting in 2010, I stayed a month at a time and continued to find places and land-forms I had never seen before. Until last year when I didn’t make it back, spending all my time exploring off-piste Symi with brief visits to Kalymnos and Tilos.
Like any addict deprived of a fix I have been suffering withdrawal symptoms. So since I arrived on the island a few days ago I have been pushing the limits of my fading acclimatisation to the heat and loss of fitness after a few weeks in Grey Britain. Arguably I pushed myself harder than I should. Like when I was approaching 30 and rushing around climbing mountains which I was convinced I would never climb again because I would be past it. But this time it was just trying to sate my addiction for the place, soak it in, osmosis.
The treks were familiar but as freshly and powerfully evocative as the first time.
Like north Cornwall and the Dingle Peninsula, the landscape, the ground whispers the past. I try to listen but can’t make much out. Unremitting toil, struggle, survival decided by climate and volcanic eruptions, forces of nature, things beyond control. I have to keep revisiting, hoping I will make out a little more each time.
I get the feeling that there is more respect for the past on Nisyros than some other islands. The Paleocastro has been further excavated and partly restored. Old rural buildings are being renovated. Terraced fields are being brought back into cultivation. Kalderimia and footpaths are being cleared and repaired.
I’m here for 3 weeks before moving on to Kalymnos. For now just a few images as a taster.