Its our first day in Santorini.
We have nothing planned.
Bec, being the hero she is, has found a whole heap of things that are “Must Do’s” in Santorini. Actually, a little travel hack right here, she was telling me that if you wanna find all the epic stuff to do at a destination of yours instead of googling “Things to do in ______”, search instead for “Bucket list activities in ________”. You’re guaranteed to find out about all the epic things that you usually wouldn’t find out about, and you don’t get encouraged to go to things like “Gary’s bar on a Friday night”, cos that’s what Gaz reckons.
One thing that she came across was this place called Red Beach.
In my mind, Red Beaches are exactly like normal beaches, except red.
I have grown up in the red dirt of Australia, so I can just use my imagination and combine the red dirt of the bush with the waves from the beach, and just like that, I’ve visited Red Beach.
However, Bec assures me that my sad attempt at mentally recreating Red Beach is going to pale to insignificance compared to the beach in real life.
No worries then.
We are in Fira, and Red Beach is 12km away from our place. We have got more time than money, so we just decide to walk to Red Beach. The walk takes us a cool 2.5 hours. I don’t know what has been going on recently, but my massively muscular god-like thighs have been maintaining too much contact in recent time, and consequently, I end up walking with a waddle to keep the chaffing at bay.
Really not such a grand situation to find yourself in.
We come across this guy’s house which has got a turkey in a cage with some chickens and a duck. What the hell? This turkey begins hurling feathered abuse at us, so we retaliate with the appropriate abuse. This goes on for a little while.
Only in Santorini…
We walk and talk and I keep stepping on Bec’s feet. Not intentionally, but we need to keep moving off the road so the cars can pass us, and I also want to stay at a distance that we can still talk easily and kinda hang out while we are walking.
Unfortunately, this results in me crunching Bec’s heels from time to time, regardless of how hard I try to avoid her feet.
Just can’t win.
Among my heel-stomping efforts, we think to ourselves that since we are not blessed with the skin of the gods, unlike our greek counterparts, we think that we should get our hands on some sunscreen.
There was only one small thing that we forgot to consider.
Our greek counterparts, who have been blessed with the tanned skin of the gods, have little need for sunscreen, hence our greek counterparts don’t stock any sunscreen. We pulled into a plethora of supermarkets, mini markets and gift shops, but there was only one place where they sold sunscreen, and they didn’t accept credit card. We didn’t have cash, and this was beginning to get too hard, so we just opted to accept our fate and sacrifice our unconditioned white skin on the altar of beach leisure.
We finally reach the beach, and then follow the signs around the rocky peninsula, all the while being inundated with how unstable the rocks are. The old landslides from times before is evidence that the signs aren’t for ornamental purposes.
But, we treat them like they are.
We spot a goat path that looks like it is just the most logical way to avoid disturbing the fallen rocks, which pretty much everyone else in the history of Santorini seems to have walked. The path is pretty well packed, and obviously has been used well.
Not to say that we still weren’t dubious about walking beneath cliffs of red crumbly soil. Our eyes remained turned skyward, just incase (for whatever reason) the soil above us decided that it’s had a guts full.
We make it on the soil, and wander the beach ’til we find a nice little spot to pull up and have lunch. There seem to be all these old structures that are largely uninhabited nowadays, and there is a boat that is falling apart just to the side of the building. For a place that is pretty well known, it seems a little unused.
There are these doors that just open into the cliff for no reason at all. One of the doors has been kicked in, and it just looks like someone has made a cave, fitted the place out as a very humble living quarters, and slapped a door on the front. There are 3 of theses set ups still locked up, and one thats kicked in. It makes no sense at all, but we just roll with it.
We settle down and spend the next hour or so just lazing around on the beach. The water is pretty damn cold. I mean, we were skiing last week. It’s not exactly summer in Europe right now. The beach is meant to be for 30+ degrees weather, not 15 degrees. Just in case you were wondering, it was 15 degrees. The water was cold. We eat and sleep and spoon and shoo stray dogs away on the beach, and then something terrible happens…
Just as we are about to leave, these two girls arrive at the other side of the beach. Bec and I can’t tell what they are doing, but in a mere matter of minutes, my greatest fears were realised. They were stripping off to jump in the water.
I was able to leave with the knowledge that it was too cold to swim in the water.
Not really, but I just wanted to be a pussy that day.
With these two girls swimming, and my wife wondering what I was going to do, I knew I couldn’t leave Red Beach without getting wet. So, I strip off to my undies, and hobble my way across the pebble beach to the water. Slow entry is prolonged suicide, so I just run and dive in. Just as I am about to dive into the water, I see that there is no sand, but bulk oversized pebbles, pretty much just river rocks waiting to greet my forehead.
I retreat from my dive, and pull up after breaking the surface of the water to ensure that I don’t cause any necessary damage to my face hole. Luckily, my cat-like reflexes ensured that my face remained intact.
With my dignity intact, and having at least matched the standard of activity set by strangers, without them even knowing, we made our way back home. It’s another 2.5 hours, and that is something that we are not looking forward to. We decide to take a different path, but this means that we have to go up through the area of Red Beach that isn’t used so much nowadays.
This meant that we pretty much rocked up at the back of some punter’s property. We don’t know how this happens, but it does. Santorini is pretty much an amalgamation of roads that have a lack of direction and lead you places you probably shouldn’t be. We were walking through what looked like some sort of greek farm land with caves just edged out of the rock face everywhere. They are big enough that you could actually live in them. No word of a lie. It’s almost like someone has just blown a hole in the side of the rocks and left it to work itself out.
Kinda cool. We get walking for a few more minutes, periodically stopping to catch our breath.
We very quickly discover that we really don’t want to walk for the next 2.5 hours. Admittedly, we are walking uphill (very uphill), but there is also that issue of the chafing in my legs kindly reminding me that my inner thighs were meant to be gently caressed by the tender touch of cloth.
Not being gripped by their sweat smothered, bacteria farming counterparts. This is a hard thing for my thighs to remember, but unfortunately, not a hard thing for my brain to remember, so I trade the walking of the feet, for the holding out of my thumb.
We get all sorts.
The “just don’t make eye contact”, the “I can shrug my shoulders because my car is blatantly full”, the “double take” and the “Huh. The other side of the road is really interesting all of a sudden”. Luckily, we also got the “You guys are in luck”, as Paul, our newly acquired vehicle-host put it. We told him that we wanted to get to Fira, and he was headed just that way.
We do the formalities, and he begins to tell us about the island. He is from mainland Greece, but has been here for the past 17 years. “Well. In Santorini, it is Saturday for 6 months of the year, and Sunday for 6 months of the year”, he tells us. I like it. We are naturally in the Sunday part of the year, but things are slowly ramping up to lead into the Saturday part of the year. The more we get talking with him, the more we realise that he is actually a wealth of knowledge, so we ask him a few questions that we have had brewing since we arrived.
We have noticed that the vines in vineyards are all coiled up on the ground. At first, Bec and I thought that the might have coiled them up for the season, but upon closer inspection, we noticed that there is no way that they would be able to uncoil some of these vines. We don’t quite get it, so this was our opportunity to find out. Paul tells us, “Because of the lack of moisture in the air, the grapes grow into the middle of the vine, which is protected from the outside elements. They can draw the moisture from the ground, instead of the atmosphere”.
The only issue is that they only really yield around 15% of what you would usually expect to collect from the same size vineyard in another region. That being said, Santorini is to thank for every having wines in out modern day and age. Go back a few decades, and there was a huge epidemic around the wineries in Europe, so much so that it practically wiped out the entire wine production throughout Europe. Being that Santorini was so far removed, the vineyards here and in Argentina were safe.
They then collected vines from both nations and re-planted them throughout Europe. So, if it wasn’t for Santorini and Argentina, wine would not be what it is today. Not only that, but because of the soil on Santorini, it is absolutely perfect for keeping wines. All year round it stays at exactly 14 degrees. Not too bad at all.
While we are on the topic of questions, we ask Paul why there are doors in the side of the cliff. He is a builder, so he tell us that back in the day, Santorini had few trees growing, so people would dig into the rocks and build their houses into the ground instead of building them externally. We spotted another house while we were walking to the road to start hitch hiking, which was pretty much just a few doors, built into a small cliff face.
This makes a lot of sense, being that there was a volcanic eruption back in the 15th century, which decimated the island. It was uninhabited for 2 centuries while the island cooled and vegetation began to grow again. I can’t imagine that many trees would come back from that. He also began to tell us that the soil which makes up Santorini is perfect for construction. It is actually so good, that when they were building the Suez Canal, they came and harvested some of the island for the building material.
When we say that they took some of the island, I mean that they took a stretch that was a good couple hundred meters long, and maybe 50m wide out of the side of the island for the canal. Its mental. You’d think that it was just the land if you weren’t told, but it stands out like dog’s balls, and is absolutely massive.
We chat with Paul and his mate until we get to our drop off.
We walk down to out bakery, collect our coffees, and then head back home to eat our desserts. We are sitting there playing dice and eat our cake when we hear explosions going off in the distance. My initial thought was that someone was firing a gun, but then we see that over the buildings to our right, there are fireworks going off.
Just casually, for no reason.
At least none that make any sense.
Only in Santorini.
We laugh and enjoy the night and send a few applications out through HelpX.net before tucking in for the night.
It’s been a great day and would do again.
Come back for the next story,
**nobody actually calls me the Zeus of Australia.