When the ocean met the sky

"I'm gonna carry you in, in my head, in my heart, in my soul...
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old

Well I don't know, I don't know, I hope so


The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul?

The more we move ahead the more we're stuck in rewind
Well I don't mind, I don't mind, how the hell could I mind?"
-- Modest Mouse

I awoke to a hot hotel room but as soon as I opened the window I felt the cool, Mediterranean breeze and was blinded by the intense sunlight.  These factors made the day's temperature perfect.  To avoid my morning ritual of vomiting, Mom & I raced to a nearby creperie.  Much to my surprise the egg in the crepe was a chopped up hard-boiled egg, but it tasted very good.  Despite suddenly feeling queasy, major heartburn, and a 10 minute hiccup session, I did not throw up... thank God!

Our original plan was to hop on a ferry to Folegandros -- another Greek isle -- because I wanted to go to a nude beach.  Where better to do that than on an isolated, European island?  However, the manager of The Tataki Hotel mentioned a nude beach on Θήρα/Thira a.k.a. Santorini.  Mom & I decided to save time/money by foregoing Folegandros.  Unfortunately, the travel agency we visited had no account of a nude beach on Santorini, but mentioned other remote beaches where swimming naked would be appropriate.  These beaches were not along the bus route so we opted to rent a four-wheeler a.k.a. quad.
Since Santorini is shaped like a backward "C" and Fira was centrally located, we decided to explore the northern half on day one.  Given our recent snafu with the Greek language, Mom & I were pleased to learn there was only one main road to Oia (pronounced "ee-ah").  About two kilometers outside of Fira, the buildings disappeared and we were able to see the countryside.
Scattered around the flatter part of the island were quaint houses in dull pastel shades.  Many of the dwellings had places for windows cut into the frame, however, we saw no glass panes in the empty holes.  I assumed it was part of island living and -- like in Hawaii -- the houses usually remained open to the elements.
We continued to drive north, unsuspectingly when BAM!  There it was to our left.  The experience reminded me of the first time I saw Uluru.  Santorini's caldera had been there since my arrival but to see the terraced buildings in person, smell the salt from the Aegean Sea, hear the birds singing, and feel the sun browning my skin was irreplaceable.

Back on the four-wheeler, the caldera vanished behind cliffs -- typical landscape for western Santorini -- and the singular road weaved up & down, back & forth to compensate.  Now in Oia (population 763) we parked the quad on an offbeat road that ran alongside the sea at a rather steep angle.  I must admit, I become a bit autistic whenever I first lay eyes on beautiful scenery... I have to touch and afferent everything.
There was a colorful red, white & blue dinghy anchored next to boats similar in size.  Each boat looked like it could seat two sailors at best.  Cut into the rockside were a few boutiques; tavernas lined the water's edge.  What stood out most was a zig-zagging white line juxtaposed against the red rock background.  As Mom & I walked closer, we realized the white line was a paved trail for the donkeys that still transported people/cargo to the top to Oia.  This area was distinguished as Old Port.
I kept seeing soaking wet people walking around Old Port in swimsuits.  Where were they coming from?  Again, the autistic child in me had to know!  Mom & I hugged the rock wall and followed a gravel trail as far as we could.  We rounded a point and 30 feet off the mainland was a boulder about three stories tall with fifteen people swimming in its shadow.  I had found the source!
The water was so transparent I saw all the large, smooth stones that made up the sea floor (though they were deceivingly deep).  Some were moss covered & slippery.  Others were a bit jagged and I had to carefully find my footing, especially given the ebb & flow of the Aegean Sea.  I swam toward the disjoint crag because -- again, the autism rears its head -- I secretly wanted to jump off it.  Amidst climbing out of the water, I placed my right hand on another stone and immediately felt a stinging sensation.  I jerked my hand out of the sea & saw three, black sea urchins nestled in the rock's crevice.  Upon closer inspection, there were black patches (of sea urchins) on many of the stones!  It reminded me of my Australian experience where I realized, much to my horror, I was standing on a thousand Soldier Crabs buried in the sand.
I feel I am rather bold but one thing I do not mess with is the ocean.  Its creatures, temperment and mysticism earn my total respect.  I push the limits in the air by skydiving, on earth by camping in the Aussie outback, but I will always back down to the water.  So I floated on my back, stared at the infinite sky, listened to my ears fill with water, and felt rejuvenated after the trials of the last few days.
 Mom & I hoped to observe Oia's famed sunset but it was an overcast evening.  Truthfully, I was in too high of spirits to care.  I had a blast already and a fiery sunset simply would have been icing on the cake.  We wandered around the town and ate dinner (Dolmathes a.k.a. stuffed grape leaves + Souvlaki a.k.a. meat kebabs served with customary lemons) before returning to Fira. 

Back at the hotel Mom & I debated whether or not to walk to the rim of the caldera.  On one hand we were both full, tired and a tad sunburnt.  On the other hand, this was our last night on Santorini... and when would we be in Greece again?  So, we dragged ourselves uphill a few blocks and were pleased with our decision.  The buildings cast the only light.  I could see the different terrace levels, followed by endless darkness where the caldera dropped off into the Aegean.  En route to the hotel Mom wanted to drop some coins into a street band's cup.  As she walked away, I could hear the band thank then serenade her.  We giggled and jubilantly started for the hotel.

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