A Symi Holiday: Day 12 – The Last Day

In brief: Friday was all about packing up and moving on to Rhodes. Leaving the beautiful island behind, I give my final thoughts on such a wondrous place and it’s importance to the world.

I woke up in Symi that morning determined I would be able to continue my new ‘treasure hunt’ hobby before setting off for Rhodes. I’d been keeping an eye on the geocache website to see if anyone had been to the two locations I had already “found”. So far, no new logs. Two more finds were within reach; one on a hillside in clear view of the town (in view of muggles). Another was in the catacombs, a fair hike away but seemingly easy to reach. My main problem was time. I had packed the majority of my stuff the night before, but there was still stuff to do. If I wasn’t out of bed by 9am, this day wasn’t going to happen. I got up at 11am. There was no way I was going to make it down the Kali Strata steps, walk through the town and then risk a hike along footpaths I hadn’t been on, before heading through an ancient site full of photography opportunities. And after all that I’d have to head back again. On top of that, I still didn’t have a pen. Was it going to be worth my time getting all the way there and not being able to log the find in person? You can see already that I had talked myself out of it. Both of them.

Mind you, I was on the verge of heading out the door. One of those fork-in-the-road moments. Do I? Do I not? But it came down to how nackered I was going to make myself by trekking several miles around the island and then heading back up those 360 steps to grab the bags. Even then, the day wouldn’t be over as I’d have the transfer to Rhodes to complete too. In the end I took the time to pack. Slowly.

I had visions of newspaper headlines: “UK holidaymaker brings lethal tarantula to Britain!“, or “Snake on a plane! Brit brings python undetected through Customs!“. Not wanting to be that guy, I studied every item of clothing as if they were items from a crime scene. One by one, sock by sock. Considering the only extra item of clothing I had bought was a thin pair of webbed ‘beach shoe’, there wasn’t much space in that rucksack. Hang on. Are shoes considered clothing? That’s one for the comments section…

The lovely people from Symi Visitor had invited me to their “end of the season” party. It was scheduled to be onboard Poseidon, and “the more money in the fuel kitty, the further he will take us”. I’d already been onboard Poseidon for the island excursion and knew their food was excellent, as well as their company. Sounded good to me. And if I was able to buy Ian, The Saviour, a drink for being the rescuer of the now-fabled arachnid hostage situation, all the better. To top it off the weather wasn’t to break till the middle of the next week.

But things had changed quite rapidly after the discovery of the ferry schedule. With the plan now to go to Rhodes on Friday evening, it meant I would miss the party on Saturday. Such a shame. It would have been a nice way to round off the Symi adventure.

A few emails and calls later my arrangements were changed and the taxi was to pick me up at 3.30pm with the Dodekanisos Seaways Express catamaran scheduled for departure at 4.30pm. I would have quite happily attempted the Kali Strata stairs with a rucksack and extra bag, but the transfers were already paid for. And it made sense not to expel more energy than required.

I did have a moment of panic. Everybody I asked about buying a ticket pointed me in the direction of the only kiosk on the island to sell them. It was closed. Outside the kiosk, a little girl practiced her best dance moves and shouted “CLOSED!” in time with her imaginary music when I gestured toward the kiosk. “CLOSED!”. The look of panic on my face caused her to shrug her shoulders in time with her music. “CLOSED!”. It was Cute. And annoying. So I walked back to the catamaran to enquire again, lugging back the heavy rucksack and camera bag on one shoulder. For the second time a now-angry(ish) member of crew pointed over to my shoulder towards the kiosk, mumbling in non-English. I sighed and shrugged myself. A sign of defeat. Sure as hell, as I turned around, the kiosk was open. Like some form of choreographed magic show. A segment I suggest would be called “trick the tourist“. Normally I like magic. That was rubbish. To top it off, as I approached the kiosk to buy the ticket, inside was a young lady with a big smile. And the little dancing girl perched by her side. “HELLO!” she proclaimed. She’ll probably never know the dread she helped set deep in my stomach.

At 4.30pm, we drifted away and with that my Symian life was gone.

I hadn’t expected to do frequent walking and hiking on Symi. But then I had no expectations whatsoever. Wonderful weather, gorgeous views, meeting new friends, finding hidden places (literally), eating fantastic food, discovering Greek history, snapping hundreds of photos, travelling to tiny islands and swimming amongst shoals of fish in the ocean are just some of the things I’ll remember from this amazing place.

Symi is a dream destination. A tiny and largely unspoiled location, steeped with important history on every one of those Kali Strata steps. With real and pure archaeological and historical sites of genuine Greek importance, Symi should really be a place of study and documentation. But in our economical times, income of any form is as important now as any study. And so the tourist industry wins. It’s sad that holidaymakers have become a historical part of Symi. You could literally date the arrival of tourism by the designs of soft drink cans and bottles strewn along the northern cliffs.

With the beauty that Symi has, I understand the feeling ex-pats describe when they made the decision to stay. I only hope the history stays long enough for more people to have some sort of experience similar to what I had.

A Symi Holiday: Day 11

In brief: The quietest day ever! I shuffled the holiday around to fit in a one-day scuba experience in Rhodes, searched for another geocache and ate in an empty restaurant!

I hit the sack last night before 10pm, clearly shattered from swimming during the days round-the-island excursion. I didn’t wake up in the morning, I woke up at 1pm. With nothing formally planned, except a small hike to find the closest geocache, what I really had in mind was an office day. I managed to finish writing yesterdays blog in between returning work-related emails. Several job offers had come through in the last week but all during the time I was still out of the UK. It’s a pity no jobs came up in Greece. Damnit. Should have thought of that!

Whilst going through my emails I discovered a diving school in Rhodes had written back to me. Last week I had enquired about a one-day scuba diving experience with them. I figured the slow reply was due to it being near the end of the season and business tailing off. Nevertheless they did get back to me, and informed me they could still take a rare booking and I could either book to dive on Thursday or Saturday. Today was Thursday, so that was ruled out. So off I went to look at ferry timetables from Symi to Rhodes on Saturday. I had meant to look at times sooner as transport wasn’t running as often as they did when I arrived just over a week ago. End of the season. Blah blah. The Dodekanisos Seaways catamaran I had arrived on was already dropping Mondays and Tuesdays from their timetable.

This was a problem. My first flight back was on Monday evening from Rhodes to Athens. Meaning I’d have to get the catamaran or ferry from Symi to Rhodes on Sunday, and stay over somewhere (preferably not the airport. Been there, done that. Never again). With the diving experience now on the cards it sort of made sense to get the ferry over for Saturday morning. But that wasn’t running either. The answer was to leave behind the beautiful island of Symi on Friday evening to stay in Rhodes for 3 nights. Not only did this plan allow me the scuba experience on Saturday, it allowed me the weekend in Rhodes. In an actual hotel!

So the accommodation was booked, the diving was booked and I was more organised for getting myself home. I’d be sad to leave such a beautiful and wonderful place behind. So many friendly characters, both the locals and the ex-pats.

Having been in my make-shift office (sat on the spare bed) for far too long I had the urge to complete one simple task for today. I say simple. It could have been excruciating. The geocaching.com website informed me there were eight cache sites on Symi, as opposed to the three I seemed to think there were. From the choices available I decided I was likely only going to have complete four of them by Friday, including the one I managed to find on Tuesday. With the light fading I chose to go for the closest one entitled The Beauty Of Symi.

Knowing the short cut to the church behind the apartment saved me probably an hour. I imagine most people hiking for this cache would be day-trip visitors to Symi who’d need to climb the Kali Strata steps first, as well as make their way through the ancient ruins towards the church. It took me 5 minutes to get there. Another half hour later I was still marching around the rocks, on several occasions just stood there like a lemon, staring at my phone. I got caught at one point, by muggles; non-geocachers who aren’t playing the game. They were walking along one of those conventional walkways. Oh, you know, what are they called? Ah yes, pavements. Those things I’ve hardly used this holiday. I was up a section of rock, where there clearly is neither a route nor anything of general interest. I had my phone outstretched in front of me, using GPS to hone in on the coordinates of the cache. I must have looked like an extra from Star Trek. I should have played on it, putting a finger up to my ear and pretended to talk to some other being whilst scanning the rocks for life. Then again, perhaps not.

Using the geocache app made the find much easier, considering it shows you a map and draws a line from you to the cache, telling you how close you actually are to the find with an arrow and a distance. I didn’t have the app on Tuesday when I was up by the windmills. Back then I did it by sheer determination. And the help of Google. This app is my new best friend.

Five minutes after being muggle-spotted, I had scampered further up the rocks. I’d come to realise I should have used my eyes more than the app. Looking for different coloured rocks that seem out of place in an unnatural formation, seemingly hiding something, are how I’ve come across both caches so far. And there she was…

The Beauty Of Symi GC13WNY

This was a micro cache. A tiny old plastic film roll, with a wrap of brown tape around it, wrapped in a worn zip lock bag. A very small item to find. Inside the film roll were two sheets of post-it notes with scribbled names and dates on. Page one stated “Temporary Logbook”. Again, I had no pen. I’d figured I could probably find a pen from somewhere, if not buy one, and maybe I could hit the two caches again to get my details onto the logs. Time was a challenge now. So if not, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

The Beauty Of Symi geocache GC13WNY

As you can see from the image, it would be a shame not to have an entry in the logbook. Geocachers from Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic had found it. And The Lighthouse Family. I wanted my name on there too. and a stamp for the UK.

Darkness was rapidly descending as I snapped the picture and hid the cache away again, leaving it just as I had found it (unofficial Rule 3). The only thing left on my mind was food! climbing back down from the church, I wandered back down to the local shop and bought some milk for the next mornings Coco Pops, and my coffee that I still had left in the apartment. Whilst walking back I wandered passed a restaurant that hadn’t been open on other days. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed. It looked like a couple were enjoying dinner and the menu looked alright, so I popped in. I then discovered it wasn’t a romantic couple. It was the owner and the chef, playing backgammon. In fact the place was completely empty. The owner seemed genuinely shocked that he had a customer, his eyebrows raised and his mouth open. I asked if they were still open and he smiled and waved me to a table. The backgammon disappeared. Suddenly a greek CD started playing, or at least skipping, and I was offered the days specials.

Yet again the food was great. The salad was suffice, and that was just the starter. It must have had two whole tomatoes (large), a whole onion (large), green peppers (large), lettuce (fresh. And large) and a fair chunk of seasoned feta cheese in it. Then came the lamb with potatoes. Succulent is one word to use. It fell off the bone when you touched it. Perfectly cooked. And after that I was given a small cube of spongecake with a sticky base and coconut sprinkles.

I thanked the owner, and made sure my shout of appreciation was loud enough for the chef to hear too.

Overall, a short day with a wonderful last supper on Symi.

Oh and of course, Cat(s) Of The Day:

Symi Biker Kitten

Symi Biker Kitten