Island Hopping

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Well, it was about time I moved on from Ios. I started the real European section of my journey in Santorini, the most famous of the Cycladic islands, and just a half an hour from Ios. It is, however, about a million miles away in lifestyle. It's more of the "honeymoon" island -- point in case: at 1 on my second night, most of my room was already asleep, at 1 in Ios, most people weren't out on the town yet. (And for the record, that night in Santorini, I wasn't far behind. Even with friends playing drinking games in my presence, I had no interest in going out. If you knew my ratio of nights out to nights in in Ios, you'd understand). I arrived in the afternoon too tired from the night before and too emotionally frayed from leaving to be of any use as a "tourist" again. I did see immediately, though, the impact Ios had on me. Over the last month or so I had become totally unmotivated to actively go up and meet new people. I'd been doing it for long enough and I had a great circle of friends, so I just didn't bother. Not to say I didn't meet new people, I just let it happen. I was wondering, once I was on my own again, whether that laziness would remain or if I'd learned my lesson from Ios and have the confidence to talk to anybody and everybody. Within minutes, I knew the latter was the case. Five minutes after arriving at my hostel I had my two new friends, Jenny and Sarah -- the Stoner sisters -- for my time in Santorini.

My one meaningful day on the island I took a boat tour around the island that the girls had also signed up for, so I had some company for the full day. The tour started on the volcanic island that is in the middle of the crescent that the island of Santorini forms. The volcano has been responsible for all sorts of havoc, least to mention breaking up pieces of Santorini. Disappointingly, there were no pyrotechnics, just a really big hole. Afterward we went to the island next to the volcano to swim in Hot Springs. Alas, since the hot springs are right in the sea, it mixes with the cool Aegean and they're not very hot at all. Gunky though. From there, we went to the island that was formed from the volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, more or less to dump some tourism money into the place. The final stop on the tour was the village of Oia, renowned for its sunsets. Any sunset postcard from Santorini or just about any sunset postcard you'll find in Greece, was taken in Oia. As a result it has become so upmarket, upmarket doesn't give it justice. For example, the Stoners and I had a vicious 250-step climb up a donkey trail to get from the port to the village (and this was a proper donkey trail, complete with real live donkeys, and real live donkey shit. Everywhere,) and after exploring a little tried to find a place to relax and have a drink. Every restaurant in the town sold cokes for 3 euro 50, a markup of roughly 700%. We made sure to stake out our seats for the famous sunset at 7, even though the actual event wasn't until about 8:30. The scene was unreal, people lined every possible square inch of space facing west. It was a fine sunset, but frankly, not all it was cracked up to be. If there were, say, a college basketball atmosphere, Coral Bay in Western Australia would be chanting "OH-VER-RAY-TED" at the people at Oia. Didn't stop a lusty round of applause from the crowd when the sun finally disappeared.

The next day I was in Paros, recovering from too little sleep and an entirely too long ferry ride. The only highlight of the boat ride was recognizing every spot on Ios as we sailed toward it and overcoming the temptation to run off the boat when we docked. For my one full day in Paros, I took out a quad bike (and isn't that an oxymoron?) to go around the island. The highlight of the day came actually in Antiparos, a small island just a short boat ride -- or long swim -- to the west. The main attraction in Antiparos is its caves. I was assuming this would be your standard cave, step in, take a few pictures, ooh and ah, then see the next one. This one however, was enormous, and kept descending and descending into the earth. The stalagmites (I think, maybe tites, but pretty sure mites), were huge, sometimes as large as 30 or 40 feet. Back on Paros, it was just fun running amok on the ATV, checking out beaches and villages and trying to crank that bad boy up as fast as I could. The only problem came when the wind started picking up -- the wind in the Cyclades can be brutal enough (often canceling whole ferry rides), let alone when you're moving at 40 or 50 k an hour. It was a fun day, but I was not as blown away with Paros as I hoped to be. If I were to do it over again, I would've spent the extra day in Santorini, where the scenery probably would've been better and the company certainly was. But as the French say, c'est la vie.
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