Trip Start Mar 05, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tuesday 1st July: Paros
If you were to ask me if I believe in God, an all powerful creator, a master puppeteer pulling the strings of our lives, then my answer would be 'no'; but if you were to ask me do I believe in fate, a destiny, believe in something more than just mere coincidence then my answer is most definitely 'yes'. "What makes you believe in fate so unreservedly" you might ask, well to answer that question I must impart to you a sequence of events that brought me to the night of Thursday 3rd of July, a night that was one of the most beautiful, most perfect, nights I've ever experienced in my life. Before I can tell you about that night you will have to allow me a little indulgence for I first need to take you back to the 30th of June and a conversation that became the first link in a chain of events that eventually led me to that wonderful night. This might sound dramatic, maybe even a bit exaggerated but I kind of feel like my whole life has been a sequence of events geared towards getting me to that night, that moment in time.
We rarely devise travel plans or itineraries but we had the basic skeleton of a route that would get us to Santorini in time to celebrate my birthday among the glamour and the well to do. After Milos the idea was to get the ferry to Ios and spend 4 nights there before getting another ferry to Santorini. While driving to the ferry ticket office I was flicking through the lonely planet guide book and a seed of an idea began to take root, we could go to Paros for 2 nights, spend 2 nights in Ios and we could still be in Santorini in time to celebrate my 30th birthday on the 6th of July. We wanted to try and cover as many islands as possible and the proposed 4 nights in Ios seemed a little extravagant and wasteful. I'm writing this from a position of hindsight so knowing what I know now the decision to go to Paros would have been made without any hesitation at all but as we approached the guy behind the counter we were still undecided and it was not until discovering that a ferry would be leaving for Paros that we threw out our rough idea and booked the tickets. How life changing that decision turned out to be, for it was one of those pinnacle moments in life where if the decision had been the other way I would have robbed myself of a most remarkable experience. If the conversation in the car was the first link in the chain, then the availability of the ferry was the second and the third became the decision that we would try camping for the next few days. It was approaching the peak holiday season and the cost of rooms was inflating rapidly due to the increase in demand. The holiday was already blowing a gaping hole in my budget and trying to cut corners wherever possible was becoming a priority. We would be arriving in Paros with no accommodation pre-arranged but this was nothing new to us as it was in exactly the same fashion that we had arrived to every island thus far. As we rolled off the ferry and into the throng of hotel and domatia owners touting for customers it was approaching 10pm so with no time for messing around we were looking for the first person we could see that was holding a sign for a campsite. It was in that moment we spotted a blond, frizzy haired girl holding a sign for 'Camping Naoussa'. Within a minute of rolling down the window to speak to her she was in the back seat of the car and we were heading off into the night, laughing loudly as we drove. Her name was Monika, she was from Switzerland, and she was working in the campsite for the summer. She was loud, brash and great fun. After we pulled into the campsite Monika led us to what would be our tents, we took one look and that was enough. To be honest I think as soon as Monika climbed into the car she had us sold on the place. There was a chilled out, relaxed atmosphere and it was much more in keeping with the kind of places id experienced so far on my travels. Up to that point we had been to some quiet islands and stayed in apartments and hotels that didn't lend itself to meeting other likeminded people, they tend to be frequented by couples, families or people that prefer a more private and secluded holiday. I had just spent the last few months backpacking in hostels around Europe and id come to meet lots of people and shared some wonderful experiences; the campsite offered me the chance to return to that type of adventure. Monika had explained that the campsite was owned and managed by a Greek guy called Yorgos and his Scottish girlfriend Lisa and that they also had a 10month old son together called Dimitris. With a mini-market, restaurant, and BBQ area, it had all the facilities you would ever need and that's not to mention the beach was just across the road and we were in close proximity to the town of Naoussa, which along with the port town of Parikia is one of the more lively places to party. We had a quick beer in the campsite before deciding that there was no time like the present to introduce ourselves to Naoussa. Situated on the north coast of Paros, Naoussa is a town that has developed over time into a popular tourist haven with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs yet amazingly it's managed to somehow retain the charming ambiance of a small fishing village. With small fishing boats moored along the harbour walls and quaint squares full of little taverna's and bars it's a gorgeous setting. It was a real lively spot and exactly what we were looking for. We got chatting to these 3 women from America for most of the night. They were good for a laugh and were well able to take a jibe and give it straight back. Jen was much older than the other two and I presumed that she was the mother and that Catherine and Julie were her two daughters. I cheekily asked where the husband was and nearly died when she said that the three of them had met in a divorcee help group and because they got on so well they decided that they would go on holiday's together. When you put your foot in it like that, and I'll be honest here I tend to do it a lot, I find there are two ways you can try and get over any awkwardness: 1) is to apologise and quickly change the subject or 2) crack a joke. Maybe it's the dark Irish sense of humour but I opted for number two and my reply was 'ah, man-haters on tour'. Thankfully they found this equally as funny as I did. They were great company to drink with and for me it was the best night out we had since getting to the islands. It was daylight by the time Boyce and I made our way back to our tents and as I lay down to sleep I was thinking how brilliantly things had worked out since we got here. Already I loved the island of Paros and wondered if it could get any better.
I was in great form rising the next morning despite the amount of alcohol consumed the night before. I don't know what it is about hot climates but I never seem to get hangovers. It's almost like you sweat the alcohol out of your body before it gets a chance to do you damage. We packed the car and went for a drive around the island. Paros is the main ferry hub of the Cyclades group of islands but it is also a major transport hub when trying to get to other island groups. Full of undulating slopes, great swimming beaches, and quaint little towns and villages it's for me the most attractive island we had visited. With plenty of vegetation it's not as rugged and barren as Kynthos and Serifos. The island is famous for white marble and although the statue was not carved here its Parian marble that was shipped to the island of Milos and then used to make the world famous Venus de Milo. It's also a popular island for water sports with windsurfing being the most favoured. After driving around we opted for the beach at Santa Maria which is just over the eastern headland from Naoussa and spent the afternoon relaxing under a sun umbrella while sipping a few beers.
Getting back to the campsite that evening we got the opportunity to introduce ourselves to Lisa. I've got a great affection for the Scottish; after all they are our Celtic brethren. They generally have a similar approach to life and the same dark sense of humour like the Irish. Lisa was a beautiful girl, really sweet and placid, and with what seemed to be a constant smile on her face. We had been trying to keep the costs down by cooking for ourselves as much as we possibly could and thus avoid having to eat at restaurants every night. I was asking her if it was possible she could lend us pots to cook up some dinner, pasta with vegetables and some kind of salami. Not only did she say she could lend us some pots but she offered us full run of the restaurant kitchen. It was real nice of her and I could tell it wasn't something they allowed very often, if at all. It was still quite early in the season so the campsite was far from full and I think she was enjoying having the company of some English speakers. We had been telling her about meeting the American divorcee club the night before and were having a good laugh about it when Boyce asked her where all the women were. While admitting that she didn't know where they were she did happen to mention that her cousin had just arrived over from Scotland that afternoon to work in the campsite for the summer. As she called out I turned to see a girl sitting in the campsite restaurant. She had her back to me and was some way away but when Lisa called she rose and began to make her way over. She was wearing baggy loose fitting blue jeans and a green top but the first thing I noticed about her was her stride; she was so assured and confident. As she drew closer I couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was. Her hair was dark and in a style I had never come across before but it suited her so well that I felt it could have been designed specifically for her, if not she had definitely made it her own. Her voice, her smile, her eyes, she was immediately captivating. She introduces herself as Heather while also holding out her hand. Her skin felt so soft as I place her hand in mine. I've always thought the Scottish accent was alluring but hers more than that. It was so gentle and incredibly sexy, if she was telling you the worst news possible her words would still sound good. It was like music to my ears. Do you think it's possible, love at first sight?? You hear people talk about it but can it actually happen. I mean love is such a powerful emotion and you couldn't possibly get to know someone the first time you see them. Maybe people confuse love with a physical attraction. If love at first sight is possible then the first sight of Heather is the closest I've ever come to it. I can honestly say that nobody has had such an immediate impact on me as she did. As we are all chatting away she explains that she practices Reiki. For those of you that are not familiar with the concept of Reiki then I will explain; every one of us has a life force energy that flows through our body, it's what causes us to be alive. If our life force energy is low then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress and consequently if our life force energy is high we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes the healing of our life force energy. The technique is administered by the laying of hands over various points on the body by a trained practitioner in the art. I couldn't believe it when she told me that she is trained to practice it as my mother also a practitioner of Reiki. Heather really impressed me by this as I felt it said a lot about her and how open her mind is. I was also delighted to have such a personal belief in common with her. As I watched her I was thinking how I wanted to know more and more about her. I don't even remember if I offered to Lisa, I hope I did but I definitely invited Heather to join us for dinner and when she responded with her observation that the way I was holding and caressing the elongated salami I wasn't making the dinner an attractive proposition, I was mortified. With everybody laughing I made a bee line for the kitchen in an attempt to hide my embarrassment. As I walked I smiled to myself thinking how quick witted she was.
The kitchen was massive and I found it quite a thrill getting the chance to cook in a proper restaurant kitchen. I was in the middle of dicing an onion when I was joined by Boyce and as men tend to do, id be quietly confident that you women are the same, we got chatting about the two girls. I was in the middle of saying that I thought Heather was gorgeous when she entered the kitchen drinking some wine. She strolls over to the bench where I'm doing my dinner preparations and kindly offers me a glass. I politely refuse as wine has not been friendly to me in my drinking history and although id braved a few glasses with Boyce over the last week or so I didn't want to chance playing out a drunken episode in front of her. As I chop some peppers we are all chatting away when I crack a joke. I couldn't tell you what the joke was all I can remember is her laugh. It was a laugh that reverberated through my whole body, a laugh that once heard you will never forget. Making her laugh felt amazing; all I wanted to do was to keep making her laugh. I felt as if it was almost a purpose in life. When the dinner was done we all went outside to the restaurant area and we were joined by these two guys from the Lebanon and Chris and guy from England. As we all eat dinner Heather is sitting across from me. I'm so drawn to her that I can't help but steel glances but like a schoolboy I turn away before she looks back. When are eyes do meet she smiles and says that the dinner is lovely, what the simple few words of her compliment did to me is indescribable. It was almost like I was floating, that if I walked I would be a few inches of the ground. As we finished up on dinner we were all entertained by one of the Lebanese guys telling loads of dirty jokes. He was hilarious and id never heard a Muslim talk in such a fashion. Boyce and I had another big night planned and we were trying to get as many people out as we could. I was dying for Heather to come out with us but she said she would need too much time to get ready and was going to give it a miss. She looked amazing to me just as she was but I didn't want to come across too strong so I didn't push her. A little dejected I slumped off too get changed and discovered that we had locked the car with the keys in the boot. What a nightmare but a problem that would have to wait till tomorrow to be solved for tonight our destination was Naoussa. As Yorgo pulled the bus out of the campsite I was watching Heather still sitting in the restaurant, she looked so lonely that my heart went out to her. She was still on my mind when we sat down to our first beer.
My theory on why I don't get hangovers in hot climates was blown completely out of the water this morning. I woke with the most savage of hangovers you could ever imagine. The sweltering heat in the tent wasn't helping matters. My mouth felt like I'd just eaten a full packet of cream crackers, it was so dry. You'd find more moisture in the Sahara Desert. I don't half come up with the stupidest theories sometimes. Boyce was already up and about and was making plans to go back to the same beach we had been to the previous day. I didn't feel up to much and an afternoon lying at the beach was about as much strength as I felt I could muster. The car was open but unfortunately to achieve this feat the two guys that said they knew what they were doing ended up breaking the lock. With the car having central locking it would be expensive to repair. As I contemplated this, the words 'ah sure we don't need to take out comprehensive insurance, what could possible happen' were bouncing through my mind. I perked up when I heard that Heather would be joining us for the afternoon. I didn't remember much about the previous night but I remembered dreaming about her. I don't exactly know how it happened but this girl had some got inside my head and honestly I wasn't about to ask her to leave. I was more than happy to have her in there. By the time we pulled up at the beach all I could think about was the water. I was longing for the energizing and healing properties of the sea to work its magic on my dehydrated body. I had just about managed to drop my stuff to the sand before I was diving into the water. The feeling was incredible. It was like being baptised as a new man. As Boyce lay under a sun umbrella I sat chatting to Heather, delighted with the chance of some time alone. She is so easy to talk to and as she spoke I would find myself hanging on her every word. She wants to be a writer, well she is a writer already but she has ambitions to get a book of short stories published. She already writes reviews of plays for her local paper and she often reviews travel blogs too. When she said she would love to have a look at my blog I got incredibly nervous. My poor spelling and bad punctuation have me embarrassed for someone of her quality to see my work. She would think me to be stupid so I dodged the request for my blog address. After a short swim to cool our bodies down from the hot sun we lay in the shallows. The drops of water were glistening off her lightly tanned skin. As she spoke I was trying to listen but all I could think about was how amazing she looked. It was almost painful she was so beautiful. I was enchanted by her; by the way she spoke, by her beauty, and by the confident manner with which she carried herself. I found myself getting all flustered and tongue tied resulting in some of the things I said coming out a disjoined incomprehensible mess. I would try and take deep breaths before I spoke but one look at her and my heart would race and I would forget what I wanted to say. At one point she told me how she loved Irish men, like Colin Farrell and that she thought she would love to marry one someday. Is she flirting with me I thought but I dismissed it almost immediately. It defied all my logic to have a girl as amazing as her wanting to be with me. I was a little disappointed when the time came for us to leave and head back to the campsite. She was due at work in the mini-market at 6. As we collected our things from the beach I asked her if she would like to come out with us that night. She said she would love to join us but that she didn't get off until 12am. No matter I said, I will wait for you.
That evening I paid a call to the mini-market for a drink and as I approached the fridges I glanced toward the counter as I walked. There she was, sitting behind the cash register, already dressed for the night. It has never happened to me before but she actually took my breath away, she looked gorgeous. I've seen so many beautiful things in my life time, the Grand Canyon, Kakadu national park in Australia, the island of Boracay in the Philippines, Ireland beating England in rugby, not to mention the summit of Kilimanjaro; I can honestly say that they are all second best, beaten by the wondrous sight of Heather. I was so nervous and stuck for words and all that came out of my mouth was "you scrub up nicely". When I think of it now I can't help but cringe, if ever there was a moment that deserved better words, something poetic, a moment that deserved some class, then that was it. I should have said that she was the most beautiful woman that I had ever seen for that was exactly what she was. Kicking myself for the words I used I left the shop for the restaurant kitchen to cook the dinner. It took me an age to get ready to go out. The whole time I had the picture of Heather in my mind and how amazing she looked, in comparison the limited clothes I have are looking a bit drab at this stage and I wasn't happy with anything I put on. With time running out I had to just go with the shirt and jeans. I was close to panic when I discovered that I was nearly out of hair gel. I was desperately in need of a haircut; the mop I was cultivating was becoming uncontrollable and required a strong gel to hold everything in place. Scraping every corner of the container I gathered up just enough to make me look presentable. It's not just you women that stresses about looking good before a night out. When I rejoined Chris and Boyce in the restaurant to wait for the taxi and of course to wait for Heather, I found them chatting to a guy from Brazil, Silva. He was one of these well travelled, dread locked, men of the world. He has been travelling for the last 9yrs and where ever he goes he gets money by teaching Capo-era classes and selling jewellery that he makes or busking with his digigerdou. It sounds at first glance like a great way of life, travelling from country to country and living of the fat of the land so to speak but I think that the reality might be a little different. For me I think that the life doesn't lend itself well for having a relationship, getting married or having children. Finding that special someone and building a life together is something I would like to have in the future. Travelling can be a solitary experience sometimes and I guess I'd like the opportunity to share my life with someone one day. Wow, could I be growing up, getting all mature....?? I wouldn't be so sure but I suppose I'm just considering that there is more to life than what I'm doing and while for now it's a dream that I'm living to the fullest I'm keeping in mind that there are other things of importance in life, other dreams to fulfil. For now my goal is getting to Australia so ill keep those blinkers on for the moment.
We began the night at a bar in Naoussa called 'Sofranos', a small but lively bar on the harbour front. With a DJ belting out some good tunes we were off to a lively start. Heather was so vivacious, full of life and enthusiasm, and I found it completely infectious. I couldn't keep my eyes off her as we all danced a few moves to some songs. With only Heather, Boyce and Chris we were a much smaller group than the night previous. The Lebanese guys had made their way back to Athens and to be honest it was probably just as well. Heather had told me a story about how one of them had been sitting with her outside the mini-market earlier in the day. It was the same guy who had been telling all the jokes over dinner the night before. As they were sitting and talking he asked her if she would have sex with him. I couldn't believe it when she told me. There was no chatting up or saying that she was a nice girl just the question would she have sex with him. If that wasn't bad enough he followed it up by explaining that he wouldn't kiss her because he wasn't in love with her. Apparently is not right to kiss a woman you don't love but its fine to sleep with them. When she declined his less than romantic offer he actually got angry with her and called her a few choice words. If he was out I think I would have had a few choice words for him. I had been off the cigarettes for a few days but when Chris asked me to join him for one I said what the hell, I'm not 30 yet. As we sat on some steps we got chatting. Chris was cool, he had quite a sarcastic and dead pan sense of humour and I like that. While we filled our lungs with the smoke of death I was full of excitement because I felt I was getting a vibe from Heather that she liked me. I'm never quite sure if I should trust my vibes, I've often been guilty of misreading signals in the past or even worse finding signals where there were none at all. He confirmed that he thought so too but was surprised that I was interested in her because he thought I was gay. When I told him I wasn't he then wondered if I might be bi-sexual. He was openly disappointed when I told him that unfortunately I didn't fancy men full stop. It's not the first time somebody has thought I was gay and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time either so I'm not the type of person to get offended. If anything I find it complementary, it's nice to know you're attractive to someone. At that moment Heather joined us and somehow we got talking about plastic surgery with Heather saying that she thought she might like to have some one day. I was shocked by this for she is strikingly beautiful and the last person that should ever consider getting plastic surgery on any part of her body. Everybody has something about their appearance they would love to change but I think people that go down the cosmetic surgery route have under lying issues about themselves that are more important to address. Emotional and confidence issues for example. Heather certainly had no problems with the confidence side of things. I suppose who is it for me to say what people should and shouldn't do with their own bodies after all what's wrong with doing things that will make you happy. I just wonder if people who have cosmetic surgery purely because they want to without necessarily needing it might not find the happiness they are looking for. As we all talked further Chris asked her age. With her reply I was completely gob smacked, 17....if my chin wasn't attached to my face I would have been picking it up off the ground at that point. I didn't know what to do or what to say. I don't think I've ever been more surprised by anything in my life. She is so mature to be 17. Rejoining Boyce in the bar I was asking myself how the subject of her age didn't come up before now. I guess I just presumed that she was about 22, she certainly had a confidence that you wouldn't expect from a teenager. I wasn't alone in that assumption for Chris and Boyce had been of a similar opinion to me. Then there were all the things we talked about at the beach, her writing, university. As I took a large mouthful of alcohol I felt like somebody had just knocked over my house of cards when I was just about to put the last two on the top. The wind had been knocked out of my sails. I was like a tyre with a puncture, slowly deflating. Tiring of Sofranos we made our way to a bar that had become a regular for Boyce and me over the last two nights. There was this quaint little square that was surrounded on three sides with a host of small bars playing different styles of music. On the fourth side was the harbour itself with the fishing boats and brightly coloured fishing nets tied up and rocking gently on the breeze. In the middle of the square was a host of tables and chairs so when you bored of a particular bar you could take your drinks and sit outside in the open air. There was always a fantastic atmosphere and with so many different bars to chose from and so many different style of music there was something for everyone. As we had been walking to the bar I was still trying to come to terms with the bombshell of Heathers news. Strangely it didn't change how I was feeling about her but it did have me thing that these feelings weren't right. While she grabbed a seat I went to the bar for drinks with the rest of the guys. While at the bar the lads gave me the unsolicited advice that I should leave well enough alone and let her down gently. I can honestly say the selfish side of me didn't want to do that, I really liked the girl but at the same I didn't want to hurt her. Walking back with her drink I remembered a conversation we had over the dinner the first time we met. As I'm a year older than Boyce he would give me the odd jibe about being really old but with my fake student card saying I'm 25 I was able to joke that he was the oldest. I couldn't remember for certain but I felt there was a possibility Heather thought I was 25 and not 29. Sitting down beside her I came clean about my age to correct any uncertainty that might exist. To my amazement she didn't seem at all surprised and said to me that it didn't matter to her what age I was. Although there was a part of me that was delighted to hear this I was also thinking how it's a little easier to say things like that when you're the 17yr old in the situation. I found myself drawn to her the more we talked but battled to suppress the want to act upon these growing feelings. While we sat chatting we were unintentionally ignoring the other two guys back in the bar. Eventually they got bored and came to say that we should go somewhere else but by the time we made our way outside they were talking about going back to the campsite. I didn't want the night to end; I was enjoying Heathers company too much for that so I tried to persuade them to stay out. Chris pulled me aside and advised me that it would be wrong and unfair to make any advances towards Heather. Although I agreed with him I was completely torn, with every passing minute I could feel that I was becoming more and more attracted to her. I don't know if it was because Chris was gay and more in touch with feelings when compared to other guys or if he was just able to read people, but he knew what I was feeling. He was just about to say that he would stay out for another drink but before the words left his lips Heather said she would see them both tomorrow and as she did she slipped her hand into mine. When she did so it was like an electric current passed from her into me. It surged through my body stimulating all my senses. There was a fire inside of me and my whole body shook with the thrill of it. I've never experienced anything like it before. When the boys bid us good night Chris gave me one last glance before they turned to walk away. I returned a reassuring smile to say that he should not worry. I wasn't going to do anything I shouldn't. I just wanted to spend time in her presence. I wanted to be in her world for just a short time at least. I needed to be around her.
When they had left she was still holding my hand as she dragged me into another bar to get a drink. It was packed with people and there was barely standing room. While she went to use the bathroom I ordered some drinks. I was breathing heavy and my heartbeat was racing. As I waited for the drinks to come I took a few deep breaths to try and calm myself down but my whole body was tingling. Watching her walk towards me on her return I couldn't help but think how lucky I was. This thought was ingrained in my mind as she took my hand again and led me to a table outside. As we passed through the packed bar the faces of all the men would be watching her pass and in turn watching me. I'm sure there words were 'how did he manage to attract a girl like her, lucky guy'. Grabbing a table and a bench with a double seat we sat together laughing and talking. In the most natural way imaginable I put my arm around her and she cuddled up to my chest with her legs across my lap. As I looked into her eyes the whole world disappeared around me, all I could see was her face. I was lost, drowning in her beauty. Everything about it felt so natural, so right. I felt I could talk to her about anything, my heart wanted to open completely to her. She dived into my soul and saw my very being. We talked about our perspectives about life and love. We talked about our hopes and our dreams. As she spoke I had this overwhelming desire to kiss her so I took her hand and in mine and placed a kiss on the back of her hand, the feel of her soft skin was tingling my lips. I was falling and I couldn't stop myself, I didn't really want to stop myself. There was nothing I could grab onto if I wanted to stop as I was already holding everything that mattered in my arms. I couldn't help looking at her shoes. They sparkled from some kind of stones that were stitched into the strap. They reminded me of diamonds and I thought of the Paul Simon song 'diamonds on the soles of her shoes'. Just like the words in the song I wanted to put Heather in my pocket so I could carry her around with me forever. I didn't want the night to end. I didn't want to go back to reality I wanted to stay in our world, a world we had built for just the two of us. We were so lost in the moment that neither of us noticed the sun was coming up and that revellers had all left to go home. We were so lost in each other that we hadn't even noticed the old men watching us as they sat outside drinking their morning cups of coffee. We even failed to notice the groups of fishermen gathering beside us in preparation for their day at sea. And just like those fishermen would do, a net had been cast into the ocean between our two separate lives and we were both caught in its grip. However it was not man who cast the net, it was fate. Fate had brought us into each other's lives; it had brought us to this moment and place in time.
There is not much in this life that lasts forever and although I would have stayed with Heather in my arms for the rest of my lifetime it was time for us to go back to the campsite. Heather was due in work at 8am and we would already be cutting it fine. We felt we would make it if we walked but when we reached the edge of town it was already close to 8. Passing a petrol station we thought it best to call a taxi. With neither of us having brought our phones Heather confidently and much to my amusement persuaded the petrol pump attendant to lend us his phone. As we sat on a wall and waited for the taxi to arrive we continued to talk and to laugh. I put my arm around her and she snuggled up to me once more. As I watched her I placed my hand on the back of her neck and with my two fingers began to massage it gently. I could see her eyes close from the sensation I was creating, it was wonderful. After a time it became apparent that the taxi wasn't going to arrive so I volunteered to run back into town and pick one up from the taxi rank. I didn't want to be the cause of her being late or getting into trouble so I ran as fast as I've ever run in my life back into town. There were a few taxis at the rank with the drivers sitting on a bench drinking coffee in the morning sun. I asked if they were free and one guy indicated which taxi for me to jump into. When I did he remained sitting outside eating a croissant while talking to the other guys. Rolling down the window I shouted for him to get moving and with a disapproving look he got in the car and began to drive. As he drove I told him that we would be picking somebody up on the way. I'm not sure if he even understood English very well but I was telling him we were picking up the most amazing girl I had ever met and the most beautiful girl I ever laid eyes on. He said nothing in response. As the car turned the corner I was full of anticipation. There she was still sitting on the wall where I had left her. I asked he to pull over and she smiled warmly when she saw me. It felt exciting to be on the receiving end of her smile. As she jumped in beside me the car continued on its way back to the campsite. For the remainder of the journey I couldn't keep my eyes off her. Back at the campsite she told me she would see me later. I watched her walk to her room before I made my own way back to the tents. I was going to have to tell Boyce I wanted to stay another night. While waking I thanked Heather in my mind. I thanked her for giving me the most perfect night of my life.
I couldn't sleep that morning, I was still charged from the night before. So many thoughts were running through my mind. How could it be wrong for me to feel the way I did about Heather after sharing such an experience? It was a perfect night where two people connected on every level. We shared every intimate detail of our hopes and dreams. Everything felt so natural. The night had been uncomplicated by any physical pressures, for everything about the night was pure. It was the coming together of hearts and souls. We were now bound together by the experience. Nothing or nobody could ever take that away from us. When Boyce arose we took a drive to a local garage to see about getting the car fixed. As we drove he asked me about when I wanted to leave. I could tell he was looking to move on but I wanted so much to stay another night. When you travel with another person you're not always going to see eye to eye on things, it's only natural. At that moment Boyce stepped up to the plate and said whatever I wanted to do was fine with him. I was grateful to him for that because it meant I could spend more time with Heather. I promised we would leave for Ios the following day. We were at the garage for over an hour while two morons dressed in mechanic overalls fiddled about with screwdrivers on the lock of the door. In the scorching heat the process was wearing thin on both Boyce's and my patience. When eventually they were through with their examination the prognosis was not good. It would cost us Eur700 for the parts and labour and a week for the parts to get here. I knew to fix the problem would be expensive but this was much more than I anticipated. The standard insurance that came with the car meant we were liable for at least Eur400. Driving around the island further we came across a fiat dealership so paid it a visit. The mechanic was able to fiddle with the lock so that at least we could lock the door but it would still require completely new locks on all the doors to fix the problem fully. Happy that we could lock the door we decided to forget about everything else for the time being. Getting back to the campsite I had booked a Reiki session with Heather. She had an advertisement on the campsite wall and some flyers in the mini-market promoting her services as a way of earning some extra money over the summer. I was keen to show her some support in this endeavour and also I felt that if people saw me getting a session then they might follow suit or in the very least if I talked about how good it is to other people word may spread. It's such a natural method to spiritually heal your body. During a treatment it feels like you have this wonderful glowing radiance flowing through your body. When the session was finished I felt revitalized. She is an excellent practitioner of the art. I was touched by the special rate she was giving me but I was determined to pay the full cost. Skills like that should be rewarded.
For our last night in Paros Boyce and me began with a dinner out in Parikia. I had cooked every night in Paros so far and as a result Heather and half the campsite were fed too but it was only Heather I cared about. I felt bad about not cooking for her that night. I liked cooking for her but more because I loved to hear her complement me on it rather than making sure she ate well, is that selfish of me? There was a big group planning to go out that night, even Lisa was going to come with us. I knew Heather wouldn't get a chance to eat much while working till 12am so I promised that I would bring her back some pizza. At the restaurant I ordered a pizza that she would like and before it arrived I filled up on bread meaning I could only eat a few slices of Pizza and therefore had lots to bring back to her. When we returned to the campsite I made up a batch of 'capiroasca' cocktails for everyone to get the party going and then we all boarded the bus, the camping Naoussa party bus. As there was a ferry coming into port or first stop on the magical tour was Parikia. As we watched Yorgos and Monika at work, frantically waving their signs in the air and trying to recruit people I was thinking that it was not a job for me. With all the other hotel and apartment owners doing the same thing competition for punters can be ruthless. The noise level coupled with the chaotic crowd is interesting to sit and watch but not be involved in. When all the passengers had made their way through the gauntlet we were back on the bus and heading for Naoussa. In just the same fashion as the night before, we landed in Sofranos to some excellent music and plenty of drink. Heather and I were never very far from each other's side as we partied hard and danced the night away. Taking a breather for some fresh air we were sitting outside when she began to admire my necklaces. Getting to meet her had made my stay in Paros and my whole holiday in Greece for that matter. It seemed appropriate for me to give her one of my necklaces as a memento of me and our time together. In return she gave me one of her rings. I'm not exactly sure but it's some kind of glass but whatever it is I will treasure it always. By the end of the night there was only Lisa, Heather and another guy who had just arrived at the campsite left. As we sat on the bridge in the middle of Naoussa square eating a gyros and pitta kebab we waited for a taxi. I got chatting to some young Greek guys about their night and when one of then offered me a cigarette without thinking I took it. It was the 5th of July so I still wasn't 30 but the look of disappointment in the face of Heather when I lit the cigarette cut right through me. I said to myself that I never wanted to see that look again and so it became the last cigarette I've ever attempted to smoke. Heather may have touched my life over the last few days but with that look she may even have saved it for I knew I would never smoke another cigarette again. It would not be because I was turning 30 but because of that look. When we got back to the campsite Lisa made her way to bed while Heather and I tried to get our hanger-on to take the hint and go to bed also. He was a bit slow to pick up on our efforts and doing it in a polite way kept falling on deaf ears so eventually I had to just say goodnight to him and stand looking at him until he walked away. When he was gone we pulled out a sun-lounger and lay cuddled together romantically looking up at the stars in the clear night sky.
When I awoke that morning I was alone on the sun-lounger, Heather was nowhere to be seen. As I sat in the early morning sun, thinking, not quite knowing what to do with myself I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I was so disappointed to wake up and not find her beside me. I had dreamt about her that night, I had dreamt about holding her in my arms. When I awoke I expected to be holding her and when she wasn't there I felt so lonely. I was beginning to realise that I was falling for this girl and in a major way. Up to that point I felt I didn't ever want to leave the island. She had been saying that I should stay and celebrate my birthday at the campsite and that she would even make me a cake. In truth that was exactly want I wanted to do but in that moment I became afraid to stay. I was afraid that if I stayed I wouldn't be able to control my feelings for her. A battle was beginning to rage within me as to whether it was right for me, a 29yr old guy, to have these feelings about someone so young. My head was telling me that these feelings I was having were wrong. The guys had been telling me that it was wrong to peruse her. Yet my heart longed to be with her. She was a temptress, a siren, and I was truly under her spell. A feeling of panic swept through my body and with that I decided that it was best to leave, it would be the right thing to do. It would be the best thing for Heather; I would be saving her, saving her from me. With the decision made I summoned all the inner strength I had not to go back on it. Boyce was still asleep and there was no need to wake him this early. I had a shower and slowly set about packing the things into the car. As I was doing so I noticed that Heather was now awake and opening the mini-market. I couldn't help looking over at her at every opportunity, she was so beautiful. I wanted to walk over to her, sweep her up into my arms, and carry her off with me into the distance. The picture I have in my mind would be something reminiscent of that last scene in the movie 'the officer and a gentleman' with Richard Gere. Don't get me wrong I'm not comparing myself to Mr Gere or anything. The only thing we have in common together is grey hair and if I was to actually attempt what I've just described then there are any number of ways id make a balls of it. Dropping her would probably be the most likely, how romantic would that be...! As I watched she was oblivious to my gaze. I noticed campsite guests passing by her and I wondered if they realised that they were in the midst of such an incredible person or were they oblivious to her elegance. With the thought that all these people didn't realise how lucky they were to be around her I felt that I had to tell her, for what if nobody told her how incredible she was. It would be a tragedy. She should be told how wonderful she is. My words in such matters never quite come out as intended and I felt it was imperative that the moment not be ruined by my idiotic bumbling. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to write and tell her how special she was, that way she would have the words forever and if nobody ever told her in the future she would always have my words. I wrote that I'd heard the phrase "a moment to last a lifetime" but that I didn't really know what it meant until then because the time we had spent together would be memories that would stay with me forever. I wrote that I felt lucky and privileged to have met her and that in doing so she had changed me for the better. I wrote that I hoped she finds her Irish husband and that when she does that he gives her the sun, the moon, and the stars, because that is exactly what she deserves. I told her that she had a maturity way beyond her 17yrs but that she also a vivaciousness and lust for life that comes with youth. I told her that she should try and hold onto that trait and not allow herself to be turned cynical by this often cruel world. I wished her luck with her writing but that I felt she would be a success at anything she tried in life and that I would look forward to reading some of her stuff one day. I wrote that she made me wish I was 10yrs younger and that I hoped our paths would cross again sometime in the future but until such a time, I would be hers. When I was finished I walked into the shop and placed the folded paper into her hands. Thankfully we were alone. I held her in my arms and looking at her I went to place a kiss on her forehead. At the same time she went to kiss me and we ended up with a fumbling kiss on the lips. The kiss had me shaking and my heart racing for I was not expecting it and even though it was technically a mess it was amazing and I will remember it always. How I would have loved to give her a proper kiss but the moment had passed. Boyce and I checked out of the campsite and took the last few photographs of the good friends we had made. As I held Heather for one last time she passed me a note, one that has remained in my wallet since and one that I will treasure. It said;
                                      It's all about reality and the truth of a moment.
                                      Thank you for the words that are too kind, which I can't match this
                                      quickly.....give me time and I'll write
                                      Every day in my journal I write the best part of my day, the last
                                      three days I'm still searching for the words to capture the fun,
                                      the reality I had with you.
What beautiful words, she is a diamond, a treasure and I will remember the moments we shared for the rest of my life. We all said our goodbyes and as we drove out of the campsite my heart was breaking as I looked back at her. Within a few minutes my phone went and it was Heather texting me to have a safe trip. I spent the remainder of the drive to the ferry fighting the feeling to tell Boyce to stop the car and let me out so that I could return to her.
Saturday 5th of July: Ios and Santorini
From Paros to Ios the ferry is just under 3hrs. Ios is a hilly island with cliffs stretching down to the sea on most sides. It has a reputation for being the party island within the Cyclades group drawing the package holiday makers looking for hedonism of sea, sun and sex. The island inhabitants are not too happy with this tag and are trying to shed the party image in an attempt to attract holiday makers looking for a more relaxed stay. In fairness to Ios, it might be hard to escape the throngs of the party hard and heavy drinking holiday-makers that visit here on mass but it is possible. The majority of the packaged holiday fun is concentrated in corners of the island with the capital Hora and its wall to wall array of bars and nightclubs' being the nightlife centre but the port town of Ormos and its surrounding beaches does provide an alternative to this drinking culture. The difficulty is the beaches around Ormos are not anywhere close to being the high standard you get on other islands so I'd find it hard to see the point in visiting Ios unless the relentless partying is what you're looking for, anything outside of that flavour you're better off elsewhere. The best beach on the island is Milopotas to the east of the Hora. With numerous pool bars it's a lively spot for daytime partying and the place to be on the island for those seeking the adventure of water sports. We rented a small room in Ormos and with having the car it was easy to navigate our way around the island. The night we arrived was my 30th birthday and Boyce treated me to a Mexican feast in a restaurant called 'harmony' at Milopotas beach. It was then off to Hora to party the night away. Despite the endless bars Hora is actually a very picturesque village with its white-washed houses and narrow walkways. If you want to see Hora in its more traditional appearance then you need to come during the day as once the sun goes down the place come alive with revelry. On the stroke of midnight Heather text to say happy birthday. I was delighted with the text as she had been on my mind ever since we left Paros. She was the first person to wish me happy birthday and I've often been told that it's such a person that becomes the most important in your life for that year. It was a relatively low key birthday, I'm not a big person for celebrating them anyway but it was nice to be somewhere other than Ireland.  Besides the beaches and nightlife Ios is also famous as being the birth place of the mother of Homer, the famous Greek writer of 'Odyssey'. Although there is no physical evidence to support this fact it's also believed that homer is buried on the island and in the northern part near the village of Plakotos, you can visit a rocky entrance to a tomb that is believe to be his resting place.
Santorini, or Thira, is an 11/2hr ferry ride from Ios and is the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands. The island of Santorini is essentially what remains of a volcanic explosion and over the years the shape of the island has been influenced greatly by continuing volcanic eruptions. The island was once a single land mass but it is now a small, circular archipelago of islands. One of the earliest eruptions destroyed the earliest settlements on what was a single island and led to the creation of the current caldera. The caldera is a spectacular sight and one of the best reasons to arrive at the island by ferry. Approaching the island the view of the high cliffs rising out of the water is spectacular, not to mention the sight of Fira, the islands capital clinging precariously to the edges and looking down on the lagoon. The lagoon is nearly 400m deep making it a safe harbour for all kinds if shipping but most notable are the big luxury cruise liners that dock daily brings with them huge volumes of day trippers to the island. Athinios is the main ferry port and consists of only a few small restaurants and ferry ticket offices. Driving up the winding roads towards the island proper the view over the lagoon gets more breathtaking the higher you go. Perissia on the south eastern side of the island has the biggest concentration of rooms to rent. It's a small seaside town with beachfront bars and restaurants but its biggest draw is the long black sand beach and it was where we based ourselves for the few days. Fira is the islands commercial district with an endless array of jewellery shops, souvenirs shops and restaurants. During the daylight hours it can get a bit over crowded with the influx of passengers from the cruise ships that make their way up from the lagoon on the back of tired looking donkeys. Most of the bars and restaurants in the area provide panoramic views of the caldera and for this reason it's extremely expensive, you are certainly paying for the view and not the quality of food or service. At the northern end of the island is the village of Oia and although offering the tourist much the same as Fira it's much quieter and for this reason a much more delightful place. On the southern coast is Santorini's most developed resort town, Kamari. Along with a good number of bars and restaurants Kamari has one of the longest beaches on the island and with the rugged limestone cliffs of Cape Mesa Vouno towering on one side it's a beautiful setting. One afternoon Boyce and I took a drive to the top of Cape Mesa Vouno to take in the amazing views over the island. At one point I was standing in readiness to take a photograph when a huge gust of wind swept me clean off my feet and down into a bush on a ledge lower down. If it was not for the bush I could have found myself plummeting all the way to the bottom and certain death but as it was feet reminiscent of a pin cushion was the only damage I sustained. The laughter from Boyce above me was enough to eradicate the fright I had endured. I was picking needles out of my feet for the rest of the night. I guess it was karma for me finding his getting creamed by a 70yr old woman in Milos so amusing. On the south western edge of the island is Cape Akrotiri and a lighthouse from where there are amazing unobstructed views out to sea. You get a real appreciation of the beauty of the island from here. While we were climbing over the rocks the strap on one of my flip flops snapped. I was gutted as they have been all over the world with me in the last four years and because I originally bought them in Australia I sentimentally hoped they might be able to make the trip back. When Boyce called back to ask what was causing my delay I told him about the flip flop. As I had told him the story of my flip flops trying to go home to Australia already he found the breaking of the left one very amusing. He thought it was even funnier when the very next step I took the strap on the right flip flop broke too. For me the breaking of the second flip flop had meaning. They were a pair, they were together and once the left one had snapped the right didn't want to go on any longer. In a show of his love for the left flip flop he took his own life. I made a promise to them both to give them some sort of ceremonial event to mark their passing. With Santorini being the last island on our island hopping adventure we went out with a bang spending most of our time drinking around the bars of Perissia and Fira.
By the time it came to our day to leave I think we were both a bit relieved. During the three weeks we had some great times but it was not all plain sailing. We explored every inch of the 6 islands we visited. We saw some amazing sites and met some incredible people but at the same time we also saw the worst side to travelling in Greece. It had been exhausting dealing with the unfriendly and unwelcoming nature in many of the Greeks we encountered. While we sat in the car waiting for the ferry to take us back to the mainland I received a text message from Heather. The ferry would be stopping in Paros on the way to the mainland and she was asking me to get off. I sat deep in thought while trying to digest her request. I felt that if I got off the ferry in Paros and left Boyce go on the rest of the way alone I would be being extremely unfair to him. We started this trip together and I was determined for us to finish it together. I also felt that as much as I yearned to see Heather again I would be being unfair to her by returning back to Paros. By doing so I would only succeed in turning her world upside down before leaving her to continue on my travels to Australia. Since I left her we were in contact every day by text, by email and sometimes by phone. I was under no illusions that I had feelings for her and that my feelings for her had grown immeasurably with every passing day and with every piece of contact. It was a tough decision but one I felt I needed to make so as the ferry approached and we drove on I had decided the my destination was going to be Athens. The ferry to Athens was going to take 9hrs so both Boyce and I settled ourselves into some relative comfort in an attempt to make the journey as bearable as possible. I sent Heather a huge text message, 4 pages in total, explaining my decision. I felt terrible, sick in inside but I lay back and tried to force myself to sleep. After 4hrs the ferry would be pulling into Paros and I was hoping to be asleep by that time. I didn't want to feel the internal battle raging inside of me. Unfortunately for me I wasn't able to sleep so I just lay there listening to my iPod and trying not to pay any heed to the endless stream of thoughts swirling around my head. It was the slowest 4hrs of my life but eventually we pulled into Paros. With the knowledge that I was so close to Heather at that very moment and with the thought that it might be the closest ill ever be to her again I was overcome with emotion. It was like I had pins and needles all over my body. I sat on my hands because I didn't know what else to do with them. I was lost. When the ferry left Paros for Athens I got another message from Heather saying that she hoped I got off the boat. I immediately sent her a message to say I was sorry but that I couldn't do it and reiterated my reasons again. By the time I sent the text I had an uncontrollable stream of tears running down my face realizing that in spite of the text I had sent earlier she was still hoping that I would get off. My emotional breakdown was complete when the 'snowpatrol' song 'chasing cars' came through my headphones;
                                                           If I lay here,
                                                           if I just lay here,
                                                           would you lie with me
                                                           and just forget the world.
It reminded me so much of the wonderful night we spent together and how I had held her in my arms until the sun came up. I felt so empty inside. I curled up into the foetal position and wished for the ferry to end.
By our arrival into Athens I had distanced myself from my feelings somewhat, although Heather was constantly on my mind I was more composed in how I handled my thoughts. I had booked into the 'hostel zeus' on Sofokleous for two nights so that was the first stop for me and Boyce. It was still quite early in the morning so I wasn't able to check in until later in the afternoon and with Boyce not flying out until the evening we had too much time to hang around and no desire to do anything with it. During a stroll around Plaka Boyce bought a Turkish rug for his house back home. With the salesmen man pulling out an endless amount of his samples for us to look at the whole process killed a quite a good bit of time. When the time came for me to check into the hostel we made our way back and I got myself sorted. We got talking to two girls from Australia that had also come to the end of their holiday in Greece. Their experiences of Greece and Greek hospitality had been similar to our own but as they were two single girls travelling together they also had some unique travelling stories to tell. The most memorable and shocking I will divulge to you; while in a supermarket in Athens one of the girls bumped accidently into a Greek guy. She apologised for her clumsiness and continued to walk around the shop only to bump into the same guy for a second time. She apologised again and as she continued strolling around the shop she was telling herself to wake up and open her eyes. When she bumped into the same guy for a third time she was starting to think that something wasn't quite right. She couldn't be that clumsy. She got the shock of her life when the same guy bumped into her a fourth time with an erection in his pants. I think that story sums up the nature of Greek men. Boyce and I may have encountered our difficulties over the last three weeks but thankfully nothing of that nature. The girl's story certainly put our own complaints into perspective somewhat. Shortly after I walked Boyce to the car and sent him on his way. I was unsure what to do with myself as I watched him drive down the road.
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