So enjoyable was our day-trip to Antikythira (see Explore ! – September 2016) that I thought to re-visit in September, this time with long-time friends Avril and John, who I had told so much about this small island.
The ageing ferry F/B Kornaris had been replaced by the more modern vessel F/B Ionis, but the schedule remained similar, departing from Kissamos on Wednesdays at 7.30 am, reaching the port of Potamos at 9.30 am and returning at 8.45 pm for the journey home, giving us more than ten hours ashore.
Departing and arriving on time, we had coffee in the small taverna/shop above the port, then set off along the path, high above the cliff-enclosed harbour, to the tiny white church of Agios Nikolaus, then down to Chalara beach for a swim/picnic lunch.
Leaving John in the shade, Avril and I climbed to the Kastro, Ancient Aigila, the Hellenistic city constructed between 335-330 BC. Covering an area of 3 km. square, there are still gateways, stone walls and foundations as evidence of a fortified city with an estimated 1000 inhabitants, before it was destroyed by the Romans in 69/67 BC. Wide views out to sea from the highest point, but rather disconcerting were the white horses dancing on the waves …
John opted to return to Potamos, and meet us in the taverna later. Avril and I walked up and across the island, down to the ‘beach’ at Kamarela, with its spectacular rock arches. And then back to Potamos for an ouzo in the shade, and dinner – a limited but adequate menu of Greek salad, goat, lamb tsigariasto (stew), or potato (chip) omelette.
But by 8 pm we were feeling uneasy; none of the excitement and activity which usually precedes a ferry arrival. A young Greek man asked us: ” You’re waiting for the boat? It’s not coming, the sea’s too rough and not possible to turn round.”
“Tomorrow ?” we asked. “No, late on Friday night, maybe …” Where to stay? Phone calls were made, conversations exchanged, and then “Mr Nikos will come soon, don’t worry.”
We pooled our resources. I had a spare T-shirt, a windproof for on board ship, swimming things, and 20 euros. The others similar, except John had fortunately been to the bank, and had enough cash to last us. Plus a UK paper with a large crossword, a pack of cards, cameras, binoculars, and a map of the island. And, thank God, mobile phones – though without chargers – enabling us to notify our delay and arrange cat-feeding.
I was due to meet son Simon at Chania airport on Friday morning – he would have to make his own way to Paleochora and an empty house!
Half an hour later Mr Nikos came and took us to his home, where his wife Sofia had made up a room for John & Avril, with a kitchen and small sofa-bed for me. “For two nights ..” we said. “Tha thoume,” she smiled, ‘we’ll see ..’
Next morning, breakfast at the taverna : Nescafe, bread, cheese, tomatoes, olives, and some fruit. John decided to stay with the crossword and ask around for ‘phone chargers.
We bought enough food for a long walk (bread, cheese, tomatoes, olives, fruit ….. packets of dry biscuits and bottles of water) and set off for the lighthouse on Cape Apolytara at the southern tip of the island. “If you have a problem, ” goes the saying, “and there’s nothing at all you can do about it, it ceases to be a problem, just live with it! ” So we did.
Two students from the bird observatory gave us a lift as far as Galaniana, from where we walked south to the track end, the point I had reached by cycling on my last visit. There was the lighthouse, a long kilometre and 150 metres below us. The path there is similar, if you’ve ever read it, to Virginia Woolf’s novel “To the Lighthouse” – complex and difficult to follow, and when you reach the end, wonder if it was worth the effort.
It took us a good hour, losing the path at times, and scrambling over rocks and through bushes; built in 1926, it’s now unmanned, surrounded by broken glass, and our only reward was the view of the magnificent western sea-cliffs. And like Captain Scott at the South Pole, we turned around and walked back the same way, stopping at the main church of Agios Myronas, the island’s patron saint, for cold water.
And so back to Potamos, and after a shower, out to dinner: same menu, same clientele, different table, but as Greeks say frequently: ” Ti na kanoume ?” – ‘What can we do ….’
Friday; a leisurely breakfast – yes, you’ve guessed, but the bread not so fresh and the fruit all gone.
Antikythira measures just 10.5 km x 3.4 km, and the only part we’d not explored was the NW peninsula, so there we walked, until the track ends short of Cape Kefali. Internationally important on the bird migratory route between Africa and Europe, hence the observatory, we watched spellbound as large flocks of Eleonora’s falcons, an endangered species, wheeled among the cliffs high above us and skimmed the waves far below.
Back in the village, we visited two small churches, tempted to light candles for our safe passage home, watched fishermen mending and drying out nets, then lazed the afternoon away on the tiny beach, swimming in now calm and placid waters.
Optimistically, we ‘checked out’ of our simple but much-appreciated accommodation, and with the ferry not due until 11pm, the paper read and the crossword finished played yet more cards over yet more potato omelettes. The population of Potamos is just 34, and all the male half seemed in the taverna, animated and eagerly anticipating the ship’s arrival, this one from Athens Piraeus via Kythira, bringing friends, relatives, and much-needed supplies.
“It’s coming,” they assured us, and it did, with port and starboard lights drifting noiselessly into the bay, then a loud blast on the ship’s siren. We said our “Thanks” to Mr Nikos, and to Myronas the taverna owner, who thanked US for the welcome and unexpected revenue, then waved from the stern upper deck as the island faded into the darkness. And much later, just over two days behind schedule, “home were the sailors, home from sea …”
Goodbye Antikythira ….. until next time.
Footnote : A new ferry – the F/B Aqua Jewel – operates this summer, departing Kissamos on Wednesdays at 8.30am, returning from Antikythira at 8.20pm. Good Luck, and just in case you need it, Mr Nikos’ ‘phone number is 27360-33040