Friday, 30 July 2010

The Elusive Island

Greece was a much wealthier country and it's clear why it's such a popular holiday destination. People are helpful and friendly, the food's great, it's a beautiful place, blah de blah I could go on. Still, it took us a while to find what we were hoping for. We had caught wind of an island full of springs and thermal waters called Samothraki. Yey, sounded perfect.

In Thessaloniki we tried to get a ferry to take us there, but we were told that no such ferry existed. This was a glitch we were not expecting as our map showed a clear ferry connection between this city on the mainland and the coveted Samothraki. We decided not to take no for an answer (bad move) and hatched our own around the houses kind of route. So we took a ferry to the island of Limnos, hoping to then be able to hop the short distance to Samothraki. Unfortunately when we disembarked in Limnos we discovered that the ferry company had stopped crossing over to our island two years before! OK not so good. We decided to take a different tack and ask the local fishermen in the harbour if they would take us but were met with a resounding NO. Even though this was common practice until a few years back (as well as in the whole of Croatia) the travel agencies on Limnos had put the thumb screws on any independent boats taking tourists out... Great! By this point we had become flippin determined to reach our destination. We had been tipped off by one of the fishermen to try and find a boat in the north of the island which was far less touristy, closer to Samothraki and clear of the all seeing eye of the agencies. Getting there involved a 43km ride to the northern harbour or a reluctant 86km round trip to catch the early morning ferry back to the mainland. Since it was getting on for 2pm the task at hand was no mean feat (or something like that). We cycled, we sweated, we got there, we asked, we begged, we waved money under noses, but those noses were turned up. No way, no-one was going to take us to Samothraki. (We later discovered the Greeks have a very polarized opinion about this island. They either love it because of its beautiful unspoilt nature or loath it because “there is nothing there, just a big mountain”)


Our trip had turned out to be fruitless as far as boat hire goes. But on the way back we received a real gift. Far in the distance, over a lake I noticed a thin smudge of the palest pink. We had to do a double take and could not believe our eyes when we got closer. We had read that this was a rare spectacle of this island ut had never hoped to be part of it. On foot we crept to the shores of the lake. We were looking at a huge flock of flamingos, wading and stretching their wings just before sunset. What an incredible sight. Not a wasted trip after all.


Σαμοθράκη

Now we have spent two peaceful days on Samothraki. We finally got here, after conceding go back and to cycle along the coast of the mainland to Alexandropouli, the only port with a connection to the island. And I'm glad we did as this place was definitely worth visiting. Before we left for this trip I had hoped to find a haven where to stop and truly relax, this was such a place. The island is unlike other Greek islands tourists flock to, no white washed villages or turquoise bays. It's a wild and woolly island consisting of one big craggy mountain, thermal springs and lots of nature loving travellers just chillin (I call them hippies). Our second day there was one of those dream like, special days I will never forget. I took so many mental and actual snap shots trying to preserve such beautiful memories.

 
Following a precarious weaving path up the canyon, which some times required climbing on all fours, past waterfalls and pools we found our perfect spot. Almost beyond perfect. A couple of hidden away pools all to ourselves. This in itself was amazing as lots of people were heading for a dip in this crystalline spring that rushed and burbled down the side of the mountain into the sea. On the other hand not many people were prepared to slog it as high up the mountain, just to get their own private pool.


Our pools were cool and pale green surrounded by huge granite boulders, some hugged by the roots of ancient plane trees. LaStone therapy eat your heart out, the 10min of lying on the smooth hot granite eased our aching muscles and brought us into the present.


Time to just be, watch the blue, black and gold dragonflies, frogs and pond skaters and allow the water to soothe and hypnotise us for a few hours.

Oh, and on the way back we also saw a black snake slithering in a shaded, secluded pool just above the spot where we were swimming. We grinned remembering the warning we had received from the girls at the Environmental Information Centre about poisonous snakes on Samothraki.

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