The alarm started ringing at 7:00 am and I got out of the bed at once. The sun was slowly rising over Fourni putting a big smile on my face. Try to wake me up so early during the work week and God knows what I’ll do to you, but today I have a mission: I’m gonna claim the mountains of my island!
I had bought stuff for today’s lunch from yesterday evening. All I needed was bread. At this hour, there are only two places open in Therma: the bakery, and interestingly enough, the thermal baths. As you would guess from the name, Therma is known for its thermal baths and you can see oldies in white bathrobes queueing in front of the building from early in the morning to late in the evening. Apparently, there is a lot of radioactive radium in the waters and that’s good for you – isn’t that the same thing that killed the Curies? I don’t know. Anyway, I’m not a spa person.
From the bakery, I bought one of those easy to break, hexagonal – flower shaped breads. I used to love those as a kid, but I don’t really see them anywhere at home anymore. It’s all about whole wheat and multi grains nowadays.
After a quick breakfast, I was ready for my first day with my red Rio – Mr. Riodopopoulos, I’ve christened him 🙂. When Christos delivered the car yesterday, he pointed at the ‘check engine’ light and with a thick Greek accent, “Don’t worry” he said, “the light is broken, it’s always on, there’s nothing wrong with the car”. Well, there was a constant noise coming from the engine, the gear stick was ridiculously stiff, and worst of all, the safety belt had no tension, but hey it was able to get my feet off the ground which, to me, practically classifies it ‘almost perfect’.
To get from the south to the north of the island, you have to go up and down the high mountains that run like the spine of Ikaria. The view on both sides is simply breath-taking. One has to be careful enjoying the view while driving in Ikaria though. The roads are all very narrow – at some points to the degree that two cars cannot pass at the same time. On one side of the road, there are rocks and on the other side, cliffs several hundred meters high and more rocks at the bottom. Not to worry, you are more likely to come across a goat than a car while driving on the island anyway.
I arrived at Nas, at the northwest end of the island towards ten o’clock. Nas is a very small village with a few hotels and restaurants that took the healthy-trendy line. Everything here is organic, healthy, super food and stuff. It’s not difficult to imagine people doing yoga on the beach at sunrise, which I’m sure they do.
Ikaria has an unbelievable amount of well-marked and well-kept walking trails – one might say better marked and kept than the roads themselves. The one I was goning to try today was starting at Nas and following the river along the Chalares Canyon. As the trails are never-ending, I decided to walk as long as I found reasonable, then return back either using the same route or some alternative path.
So, instead of descending down to the beach, I turned left and entered the canyon. The route included goat paths, jumping from rock to rock in the river, forest trails and after some stage, some steep rocks that I had to climb. Now when I say climb, I don’t mean technical alpine climbing – I have friends who do that, I’m not there yet. What I call climbing is any time I have to go on all four feet instead of walking around – and there was quite a bit of that today.
After an intensive two hours, I reached the top of the hill just by Agios Dimitrios village. It was a short, but challenging enough section, and the view from the top was – yes, amazing. Just before getting my lunch pack out of my bag, I christened the mountain ‘Agios Tolgas’, the saint of all things unnecessary 🙂.
Thinking I should spare my energy, I decided not to go further, but return back to Nas. The climb was fine, but with only sandals on my feet, no rope and no company, I couldn’t dare to go back the same trail. Those who do a bit of hiking would know that going down can often be more difficult than going up. And with my feet getting wet from sweat making them slippery, it wasn’t something I was going to attempt – not with sandals and definitely not alone. (Still, fair juice to Teva, there’s not even a scratch on them after such a difficult terrain.) So instead, I took the alternative dirt path going from Ag. Dimitrios to Nas beach. The advantage of taking this path is that you can at the same time enjoy the endless blue of the Aegean Sea.
Nas beach is a small alcove with amazing blue waters, nice sand and big waves. It turns out, it is also a nudist beach! Well, what d’ya gonna do! (Now don’t leave this post and go straight to the photo album, there’s nothing there that will make you happy 🙂) The water is also a bit colder than in Therma – Are you kidding me? Nudist beach and cold water? What’s wrong with you? Come on…
After two hours of swimming and sleeping under the sun, it was time for the return trip. On the way, I stopped by at Armenistis village for a coffee break. Armenistis is a beautiful village and the third biggest settlement on the island. It has long sandy beaches which makes it an attractive holiday location for the tourists. There are also some big waves, so much so that there’s even a surf centre – not wind or kite surf, surf surf, like ride the waves surf, here in the Aegean. How cool is that!
Day 3 is almost over. Tonight’s menu: a slice of feta, gigantes and a glass of ouzo, in honour of my grandpa. Wow, it has been 13 years. Γεια μας grandpa, I miss you…
So, that was my day. How was yours?