The planned voyage to Iraklia from Amorgos was pretty uneventful once the strange wandering around the sea, instead of making a direct beeline for the tiny island, had been solved. Yours truly was suffering from advanced stupidity and realised that the autopilot does not work well when not switched on.
The seas were far from heavy but let’s say they were spirited, yet until the last furlong, or perhaps furling would be more apposite, there was little to discourage a pleasant doze in the sun. However, as we approached Iraklia from the south, another yacht was homing in on the harbour from the north with its spinnaker billowing its determination to make a rapid arrival.
Iraklia is not a large harbour, so I expect the captain, of what was probably a charter vessel, did not want to disappoint his paying guests by letting a little interloper creep in first. We followed him in, but he wandered about the harbour like a water-boatman insect on acid, before selecting a suitable place to drop anchor. We had to sail around in circles at the harbour mouth before homing in on a spot in just 2m of water and a reasonable row ashore.
First port of call was a taverna overlooking the harbour where we found the proprietor kneading the dough for the bread he anticipated would answer his daily needs, because there’s no popping round Lidl’s for a few more! The Greeks cater for shortfall by resorting to an over-baked bread rather like bread rolls in crisp-bread form...I find it surprising they’ve not caught on in the UK, but maybe the paucity of unannounced guests make them less warranted, even though they will last indefinitely in the back of the cupboard. As a crisp-bread they are superb but they also make a pretty good substitute for bread and the trick is to apply just the right amount of water and/or olive oil to soften them to a bread-like form but not so much that they fall apart like a saturated Weetabix.
Manolis the Tavernas, his bread now rising and the aroma making our leaving less attractive, pointed us in the direction of the house of the grandmother of a Crete kafeneion owner friend. We had promised we would say ‘hello’ to the old girl but found her bemused by a gaggle of Brits saying hello to her in unfamiliar Greek that her granddaughter remarked was probably the first time in her life that she had ever been spoken to by a foreigner, other than a doctor from another part of Greece.
The next morning it was a two hour dash across the strait to the island of Schinoussa, which is another ferry port with harbour-side tavernas. It’s a pretty little spot but offers little of interest other than the temptation to see life at the top of the hill at the Chora.
We were some way up the winding road when we came upon a lorry delivering building materials to a part-built house. I asked the driver, an optimist as it turned out, how far it was to the Chora and received the encouraging estimate of 700 metres. As we plodded on, the lorry driver, left in no doubt where we were headed, crawled past us as we trudged up the hill in the scorching sunshine. There appeared to be a path with steps cutting directly through the twisting road, heading for the village, so we took this route. Soon I was ascending in the way of a wooden-legged man as my right knee protested the steps, but eventually behind the fitter, I panted my way into the Chora and headed for the closest refreshment in a first floor taverna and more cursed stairs.
A stroll through the village revealed some seventy houses, tavernas and shops but few people...like most such islands there has been a draining away of the future life-blood to the mainland cities in search of work. Pondering why we had laboured to the top, we headed back for the harbour, the boat and a siesta, but this time followed the stepped path all the way. This was obviously a recently laid path and although well built, it served little real purpose other than to spend some of that magical bottomless pit of wealth, EU money. I have little knowledge of civil engineering, but at a guess I expect the path cost upwards of €200, 000 (including all administration) or about €400/metre. What a pathway to success...a bit like the road the EU built on Iraklia, three kilometeres for three cars but spending distant people’s taxes is easy when you have a bureaucratic nature...God bless them.
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