After a pretty restless sleep due to a hard bed, flat pillows, and rough sheets, we awoke to a beautiful day. We headed over to the main office and made a reservation to sail over to the volcano and hot springs. The proprietor was very friendly and helpful, but his sexist jokes from a bygone era about women spending their husband’s money had me wanting to groan and roll my eyes. I’ve found the “women spending all the husband’s money” meme to be pretty common with Greek men over a certain age, so I just roll with it – I shook my head at him, but chuckled along.
After breakfast, we walked down the cliff path to the waterfront. The path is made up of very long, shallow steps made up of irregularly sized stones. I’d have to take about 2 and a quarter steps on average in between and couldn’t get a regular cadence going. I was super jealous of a tall man who passed us by, taking in each step perfectly, and somewhat leisurely, while I felt like I was scampering all the way down, from stone to stone.
View of the waterfront from up above on the path. There’s a bunker on the corner there.
Back end of our ship.
Front end of our ship.
Not long before we were due to leave, a couple showed up claiming they’d lost their tickets. I figured they were probably out of luck, and we’d be leaving them behind, but the office was able to confirm they had bought tickets so they let them on at the very last moment.
This region became active about 3 to 4 million years ago, and volcanism began here about 2 million years ago, down south around Akrotiri (which we visited yesterday). The island of Santorini is the remains of a single island after an enormous volcanic eruption destroyed it, 3,600 years ago, creating the current caldera. Steep cliff sides rise up from the lagoon and then the land slopes down to the other side of the island. It appears as if the island was sunk in the centre and pushed up from underneath.
Alternately called the Minoan and Thera eruption, it created a giant tsunami that is thought to have hit and decimated the Minoan civilization in Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south. It is theorized that the Thera eruption is the basis for the legend of Atlantis.
Our first landing was just south of the town of Oia (shown up there on the cliffs) and immediately west of Thera aka Thira aka Fira, the main town of Santorini.
In the summer months, there are multiple trips per day on multiple boats. This time of year, there is exactly one boat and one trip.
Looking back to Thera/Thira/Fira. You can make out the path snaking back and forth up the cliff side.
From the time we got on the island, this guy kept blowing his conch every 2 minutes. It was cute at first, then perplexing. Why would anyone carry a conch with them and what was the purpose of blowing it again and again?
I made a joke to Harold about throwing him in the volcano, and saw a woman behind me smiling. I figured she’d overheard and agreed. Two minutes later the conch blower caught up to us and I realized they were part of the same group. Then I felt embarrassed. Five minutes later I realized none of them spoke English. Saved!
This was the smokiest hole, the main release of the volcano. There was lots of steam and boiling water and a wonderful aroma of stinking eggs. If one were going to push someone like a conch-blower in, this would be the place.
Up higher, we came to a stovepipe. We guessed it was a steam release for the volcano. The sign had us a bit kerfuddled however. Is that supposed to be a tent? Why would anyone camp here? We kicked over that Inukshuk wannabe over on the right there – it’s our duty to stamp out that nasty cultural misappropriation. Plus it’s fun. It’s like we’re superheroes – we have to hide our good deeds because regular Joe’s couldn’t possibly understand.
This is looking out south towards Crete and Libya. Of course we can’t see either one from here.
This is the main depression of the volcano – where sacrifices would be thrown, if we had any conch-blowers.
This is when things got a little weird. We saw the conch-blower and his wife, the drum-bonger getting their group together in this circle. It turned out that nearly half our boat was made up of these crazy volcano cult people. They all closed their eyes, joined hands, and chanted along with each other, while the man blew and blew and the woman bonged and bonged. It was kinda beautiful but also very weird. Were they serious? Was this spiritual to them? And how would it all end? Not in sacrifice right? I quickly counted them up. “Count them Harold!” and we compared our numbers. “15!” We agreed.
We watched them for a while as we walked around the other side, but eventually we had to make our way back down. We’d been warned, the boat leaves right on time, and if you’re late, you’ll be spending the night.
But they stayed up there. They didn’t make a move to come back, and I kept wondering and worrying. Surely they wouldn’t miss the boat?
We got back to the boats, climbed over the other 3 to get to our’s and found a seat. Most of the rest of the people were already here and a few more came behind us. But nobody from the group appeared.
I saw crew members looking at their watches. I looked at my own. They were already 5 minutes late.
5 minutes became 10, and the captain blew the horn. Come on guys! Get down here! I was ordering in my head. But then 10 minutes became 15 and I was becoming more sure that they’d all done something. Something really bad. Bad like sacrifice or suicide or at the very least – KEEPING A BOATLOAD OF PEOPLE WAITING FOR 15 FREAKING MINUTES!
And then they began to appear. Straggling in like they had all the time in the world. Smiling and sauntering down the path in small groups. I counted them as they came. 3 – 7 – 10 – 12 – 14 – 14 – 14. Did we count wrong? Or did they leave someone up there? Number 15 didn’t appear. I started looking at them all, trying to remember who all was in the group, but I hadn’t paid enough attention to them all. All those who stuck in my memory were on board. Then we left and I thought “Great, now I’ll never know. Farewell number 15!” But he was probably on board. Right?
Next stop was the hot springs on the island in behind the volcano. Those are goats sitting up there watching us.
I think this guy was the King of the goats. He stood up at the very top of the cliff glaring down at us. He was so still I almost thought he was fake, but then he moved and I knew he wasn’t. He made me think of one of those old 70’s movies where the chief of the island tribe would look down on the newcomers and then make a hand motion to attack. Thankfully, this was a goat, and he had no hands to make attack motions with.
To the left of the Agios Nikolaos (Church of St Nikolaos) are the hot springs. It was about 15 celcius (60 F) tops out here and the water was near hypothermic, but still, everyone got changed into their bathing suits and jumped in. One woman jumped in, and started hyperventilating from the shock of the cold water. She sunk like a rock and had to be rescued by one of the crew. Everyone else swam like crazy to the hot water over there.
Five minutes later, the captain blew the horn, and a mass groan went up. “Already? We just got here!” Nobody wanted to swim back through that freezing cold water again. The alternative was to be left here however, so one by one, everyone returned.
There are three ways to get back up. One is by donkey – I consider that inhumane. The second is to take the stairs on your own – better than the donkeys. The third was the cute little cable cars – how could we resist?
Overnight spot: Dina’s Place
Includes: breakfast-coffee, tea, biscuits, wifi, swimming pool
Notes: My daughter and her friend visited Greece in August 2014. This was their first trip all alone, so I built them a very in-depth itinerary. In Santorini, I booked them into Dina’s Place in Fira. They loved it, so I decided we’d also give it a try. It was clean, and pretty, with rooms based around a central courtyard and pool. The bed was hard, the pillows were thin, and the towels were very rough, but the location was great, the price was fantastic and the host was friendly and helpful – as long as you don’t take offence to sexist jokes from your parents’ (or grandparents’) generation about how women like to shop and spend all their husband’s money.