In brief: Day 10 was all about a boat trip, with several snorkelling stops and a barbecue. I took pictures of cats. And got sunburned. And then learned more geocache locations on Symi!
This had been the first time since arriving on Symi, 9 days ago, that I had dragged myself out of bed before 8.30am. I was on holiday after all. Having done my pre-spider checks that I’d developed out of fear (tip toe out of bed, turn on all the lights, check every wall and surface, thoroughly check the loo), I showered and decided a hearty breakfast was in order before any form of ventures. Of course I ended up at The Olive Tree. Janine and Tina were surprised to see me. I had left a “many thanks” comment on their website on Tuesday night, so they were under the impression I had left the island without saying goodbye. Not so! Breakfast consisted of an award-winning Olive Tree Breakfast and views of the island. Before I left I bumped into Neil from Symi Dream who had closed down for the season. Knowing I’d unlikely see him again we shook hands, and I was recommended to come back. Something I will likely do. If you are ever in Symi and have ventured up the Kali Strata steps, you’ll find the Symi Dream shop in the same place as The Olive Tree and Georgios. Neil has wonderful photos and prints from around Symi and also organises photography hikes. Well worth the visit.
On Wednesday when I booked the boat trip, the excursion bloke said “be at the harbour for 1029am, the boat leaves at 1030”. When I got there the captain was waving people onboard Poseidon. More people had turned up than I expected. A german family were up on the roof, another older german couple were up front playing Jack and Rose (one of them had an amazing moustache), a dutch couple, a single female who took more photos than I did (I’m very competitive), and a group from canada whom I ended up chatting with along the way.
The itinerary was simple; we go all the way around the island of Symi, we stop at five different places to swim and snorkel, we have a barbecue lunch at one of the beaches before heading home. It would be an all-day excursion taking several hours.
The clock tower of Symi struck half past ten and the boat left Yialos, heading straight out to sea. Thankfully having been on a tall ship only a few weeks back, my body already had an understanding of the random swaying that was likely to occur throughout a day on the sea. No sea sickness for me!
About 40 minutes later, we slowed down and anchored. The first stop was a cave quite far around the island:
The cheerful captain suggested the cave was great for snorkelling and that we would stop for half an hour. “No swim, no ouzo!” he proclaimed. With that, I joined the queue of germans at the ladder and plunged in.
Now, I haven’t been in the sea for a long time. Swimming in a pool is fine where it isn’t too deep and the edges are within reach. This was the opposite of claustrophobia! Below me wasn’t too far away. Though a fellow passenger suggested that when looking down, “it’s deeper than you think”. It was rock face on one side and the Aegean sea everywhere else. There was no way I was going to swim to the cave. I didn’t feel strong enough, and I didn’t have any snorkelling gear. I had jumped in without actually checking with the captain, who said he’d have spare kit onboard. After a brief liaison with the sea people started climbing back on the boat. Seasoned snorkelers were deep in the cave, whilst others skirted the bottom and along the rock face for signs of life. The cold of the water had dissipated quite quickly but for the sake of my own health, and sanity, I climbed back onboard. The german kids on the other hand were bombing (not the best word to use) and diving into the water from a platform on the top of the boat. They were loving it! Onboard, the ouzo was served up alongside a brief snack consisting of olives, cucumber slices and apples coated in cinnamon. I rediscovered I still didn’t like ouzo. Or olives.
Bang on 30 minutes later we set off again. This time was a longer jaunt, but the strong sun was beaming down and everyone was soaking up the atmosphere. We navigated through tiny rock formations that rose from the sea millions of years ago. They looked like they were made yesterday. Being a film buff and working in studios where sets are built, these places could easily be locations for any science fiction movie. Desolate and raw.
In the waters ahead of us, flying fish leapt up and flew across the surface in every direction. I’d never seen flying fish before, so it was a bit of a novelty for me to try and capture a photo. Needless to say, I failed. Even with the camera set to Sports mode for fast moving action I didn’t capture anything good enough to publish. The shame!
After standing in the sun, rotating myself like a doner kebab meat stick, one of the crew headed to the front of the boat to anchor. I’d watched this technique when I was shooting some time lapse stills up on the Pontikokastro hill, where they anchor the front of the boat and reverse into where they want to be. It gives the captain more control.
There was a wonderful shingle beach about 20 feet away, and some folks had made the swim over for a little sunbathe and walk around. Others snorkelled the base of the bay whilst the kids took to the great leap off the roof. If I’d had one of those water tight bags that you roll your stuff in I’d have swam over to the shore with my camera for some photos. It’s a great location!
In the waters below, shoals of not-so-flying fish were visible. They seemed happy enough drifting from one side of the boat to the other, passing directly underneath us. These ones didn’t feel threatened enough to leap from the sea.
An hour later we ventured further away from Symi and toward another island. It was lunch time and the captain had scheduled in a stop on Sesklio. This island is much smaller than Symi, so much so I struggled to find any information or history to do with it. Facebook didn’t recognise it as a place when I uploaded and tagged my photos!
When we arrived we were greeted by a dozen cats. Something I’d come to get used to around there. It was lunch time and the crew started a fire on shore, just by the dock, and barbecued the meat. The cats kept an eye on them, making sure they were doing it properly. The captain suggested it was an hour to lunch so we could swim or hike the island. I took to walking, but got as far as a tiny whitewashed church about 200m from where we were docked. There was a huge flat area that was fenced off and a cement bunker way up on the other side of the mountain. If anything, it looked like a test area for something. Hopefully nothing nuclear!
After a few photos I headed back. Lunch was amazing. The food was on par with some of the better places I’ve eaten. Ever. Chicken, lamb, beetroot, rice, green beans, feta, potato salad. All of it was full of flavour and succulent. Lunch alone was worth the cost of the trip. It appeared the captain had a long standing bargain with these cats; stay off the boat, you’ll get the bones at the end. As we departed, a plate of scraps were left on the dock. True to the captains word.
The boat carved through the waters, hugging the island on our left before heading back towards Symi island. We had one more stop left. The sun was still as strong as before, this time on our left. With lunch settling in our stomachs and a lack of energy through swimming, people started to lay down. Some read books, others use the quiet time to snooze. I just stood in the sun and watched our beautiful world go by.
The last stop was perfectly timed. The sun was sinking to the west behind the high peaks as we headed into the last cove. The difference in temperature between sunlight and shade was quite noticeable. But the captain was a sun-chaser. He took us right up to the rock face where the last pool of sun lit up the sea floor. There were colours down there I’d never seen before. Purples and greens, aqua and turquoise. Even black wasn’t the black I knew. It was more tranquil around here, and obviously more popular. A stretch of shingle beach had tavernas and a small building where someone’s set up shop for tourists. There was also a small dock where a yacht was already tied up. This sun trap area looked like the sort of day-trip location a lot of these boats would likely go for swimmers and snorkelers.
The shadows grew longer and the mountain took the last of the suns rays away from us. One by one we climbed back onto the boat for coffee and biscuits. And bloody good coffee it was too. A perfect end to a perfect trip.
Back in Yialos, after narrowly avoiding the Blue Star Diagoras ferry, the boat docked and each person shook hands with the captain as they took to the gangplank. With a firm grip he thanked us for travelling with him and suggested we try other trips. It was already the end of the season and many others had closed down. If I had more time and had come earlier, I’d probably have booked something else.
Back to the normality I’d adjusted to on Symi, it was back to those stairs. I’m pleased to say I never once took the bus to Chorio, only ever opting to walk the 360+ steps up the Kali Strata. An unconscious decision to keeping fit whilst on holiday. And saving myself one euro fifty cents. It wasn’t till I got home and the backpack was off that I looked at myself in the mirror. I was red. Quite red. Somehow, after applying “factor 30” lotion every day, I had managed to get sunburn. Although the lotion was the sports type, it appeared it wasn’t as water proof as the label had suggested. Mind you, I’d had worse sunburn.
Whilst downloading all my photos I did a quick geocahe check (as you do), seeking out the two other locations I had planned to find before departing on Monday. Turned out there were dozens of cache locations on Symi. Dunno how I got that wrong. And one of them was on a beach in one of the coves we had just visited. In dramatic fashion, I’m comparing it to the Apollo 13 astronauts who got right up to the moon, but never made it down. So close, yet so far. And with that news, tired and weathered, Wednesday was an early night!
Here’s todays entries for Cat(s) Of The Day: