Once upon a time the people of the small fishing village of Palloi on Nisyros, so it is said, got fed up with being raided by the Pirates of the Aegean, upped sticks and moved from their harbour-side homes to the old mountain village of Emborios. They clearly thought the dangers of living on the rim of the caldera of a volcano less threatening than the pirates.
The pirates for their part, lacking in true grit as well as morals, didn’t fancy the 1,000 foot climb to do their pillaging, even if they could find the way.
For the people of Palloi their new home in Emborios had the added advantage of under-floor heating from volcanic vents, so saving on energy bills. Who needs price comparison web sites? It did, however require that they go down to the coast for the odd bit of fishing and trading.
In more law-abiding times Palloi became once again a thriving village, connected to Emborios by a road zig-zagging up the mountainside. But the old, more direct routeway between the two remains, albeit little used now except by local goatherds and the occasional wild rambler.
Part of the route, especially the upper section, is a paved kalderimi (mule track) but lower down the way becomes less obvious, lost in a maze of goat paths. Indeed there are different options, one following a dry stream bed to emerge a mile or so west of the village, another meandering over the shoulder of a hill to come out closer to the village.
Having followed the stream bed down to the coast, negotiating a few interesting vertical rocky outcrops on the way, a fascinating addition to the walk is to turn westwards along the road for a mile or so as it climbs over the shoulder of a small hill before dropping down again to follow Lies beach. The hill is made of pumice, quarried on the landward side, and just before the bottom is a narrow vertical cleft, barely shoulder width, which comes out onto the beach.
This is a section of coast quite unlike anything else on the island. The cliffs , made out of multicoloured deposits of pumice and ash stretch northwest towards a huge clam-shell of lava protruding into the sea, completely different in colour and texture from the pumice cliffs. The pumice is so soft that it can be rubbed away with the fingers and in places is sculpted by the wind. Shallow caves at the foot of the cliffs give shelter to young people camping out for the summer.
From the south side of the lava plug there is a straight choice. Go back the way you have come. Or take to the steeply inclined pumice scree and follow it ever higher to the base of the vertical cliff. There used to be a path but it has slipped into the sea gradually over the last ten years. Now you pick a line which you feel comfortable with and trust to your judgement. Confidence and sure-footedness are essential. After a couple of hundred metres, the faint remains of the path comes out at the top of the black and red lava extrusion, unyielding to erosion, contrasting sharply with the light coloured soft pumice cliff. Despite the spectacular location there is little sign of visitors up here.
The rest of the trek to Palloi is along the road. Ignoring the hire cars whizzing past en route to the beaches of Lies and Pachi Amos beyond the pumice cliffs, the walk into the village is pleasant, enlivened towards the end of September by the myriad of Sea Daffodils (Pancratium maritimum) thriving in the sandy soil at the edge of the sea. At the outskirts of the village, drawn by the sense of history and the perverse thought that something hidden is somehow special, I always make a minor diversion to the underground church and the thermal spring in the cave behind.