July 11, 2005

My Greek Ferry Disaster

At 3 o'clock in the morning I found myself wandering the central village of a small Greek island looking for a room. It turns out I was more lost than I thought - I wasnt even on the right island!

Earlier that day I decided on a whim to head for the island of Folegandros in the South Cyclades. It is famed for beautiful cliffs and beaches, and makes a cosy stop-over on the way to Milos. I figured if I had to find a new room tonight anyway then I may as well start in a new island.

Not many people travel this direction it seems. The ferry was not even half full and there ample room to sleep in the bar lounge. I had set an alarm to wake me and a little after 2 in the morning I ripped myself away from an exciting dream which featured time travel and large cruise liners full of Italian students. I took a stroll outside to see where we were. In the distance I could see lights from an island, and guessed it was probably Ios. I found it impossible to discern when the ferry was moving and when it was docked - the roar of turbines droned incessantly in either case and the tall steel hull cut a stealthy path across a flat and windless sea. I approached the port side and was happy to see the stern wave below confirming we were still underway.

My thoughts turned to food and drink but at that same moment an announcement came on. I dashed across to the starboard side of the boat and realised to my surprise that the ferry was about to dock. I tried to listen for the english version of the announcement, the speakers were very muffled and the was thick and fast. I thought I heard him say Folegandros, I swear it! I checked the time, we were due to arrive 25 minutes ago and we left Paros about 30 minutes late. This must be it. I joined the small band of passengers and stepped onto the gangway without delay.

As I had hoped there were indeed a few people touting for rooms, even at this hour. Beyond expectations was a local bus with 'Hora' written in Greek. I had read in my Rough Guide that the Hora on Folengandros was the best place to stay and one of the most beautiful Hora's in all of the islands. I turned down an offer for a 20 Euro room nearby and got on the bus. At the bus stop there was no one touting for rooms. I pondered what this scene might have looked like had I not been travelling alone but with one of my highly strung ex-girlfriends who at this point would either be yelling or crying - possibly both. I was not daunted. Rough Guide told me that east of the bus stop was a tavern offering good value rooms in my price range. I looked up at the night sky and wondered which direction was east.

Plan 'C' kicked into action, and I picked up my bag and headed up the hill in the hope of finding the heart of the Hora and a sign for rooms. Eventually I encountered three people outside a little cafe enjoying a very late ouzo. They told me how lucky I was to find anyone up this late, let alone three people. They knew a fellow who had a room and would call him. This was typical of the easy and kind manner in which Greek people have treated me for the past two weeks. On the wall of the dimly lit cafe I saw a map and strained my eyes to take it in. I thought it odd that a map of the neighbouring island, Sikinos, was on display. But the two islands are often referred to in unison and maybe the connection goes deeper. Then I looked at the name of the harbour town on the map. My mind flashed back to the bus, it had written in greek "Alopronia - Hora". I stepped outside, unburdened my backpack and asked the remaining two people which island I was on. "You are on Sikinos. What island do YOU think you are on?" I had a flashback to my Rough Guide - several days ago I was reading about Folegandros and chanced upon the next page and a breif description of Sikinos. It was described as so small a population that it was not until 1980 that a road was put in from the harbour to the Hora and a bus service instated. Donkeys had done all the work until this time.

So now I am sitting in a studio apartment overlooking the sleeping Hora in Sikinos. The nice man who was awoken to arrange my room did me a deal and I have two nights for 50 Euros in total. He could have charged me anything and I would have no choice but to pay it, but he showed his character in our dealings and after he discounted the price for two nights instead of one I made no attempt to bargain any further. The room is equipped with everything except a fan. It even has a laundry tub and detergent which is no small consideration given the state of my clothing after two weeks on a yacht.

In summary my studio is spacious and comes with a killer view. I think. The sun hasnt come up yet but I can see the lights of the village not far below and I can see the lights of Santorini far off in the distance. When the dawn breaks I should also have sight of Folegandros, just a few miles to the west. Teasing me. I can hear a few roosters calling out to the stars already - must be time for bed.

It will be a treasure in the morning to awake and find out exactly where I am - at last!

1 comment:

Brian Yap said...

Hi Ewen. I has a similar happening in Finland, though it worked out the reverse. I had hired a bicycle in Turku (http://www.turku.fi) and was about to ride it around the islands of the archipeligo between Finland and Sweeden. I caught the ferry and made careful note that I had to get off at the second stop. Then I fell asleep. The ferry arrived at this port (of course everything was written in Finnish). There were no signs I recognised (like the name of the Island) but it was about the right time for my stop. I got off anyway. For me it turned out that I was on the correct island.