I don’t know if I can put into words how happy I was to finally arrive on Tilos. It wasn’t just because of the drawn-out rigmarole of getting here. It was more just an overwhelming sense of belonging. I don’t know how to describe it other than that. I was just about busting out of my skin as the boat pulled in at 10.30pm and I may have had a bit of dust irritating my eye (!) when I saw my English friends, Carol and Geoff, waiting on the dock for me. I just had time to have a quick hug with both of them before Andonis, the hotel owner tossed me and my bag into the van to take me up the hill to the hotel.
Andonis (pronounced An-DON-ee) is a funny guy. Youngish, in his late 30’s or early 40’s maybe, but as grumpy as hell. His responses to my emails requesting a room were short and to the point with just a simple “OK”. I finally managed to crack a smile from him the last time I was here, and it was going to be my mission to do it again this time.
On the way to my studio apartment, he stopped at their supplies room, grabbing some sheets and towels, thrusting them into my arms. Without any real form of apology, he said that the room hadn’t been cleaned. He quickly ripped the sheets off the bed and left me to sort it all out. I think if this had been anywhere else, or if I had been any other guest (other than the other regulars) he never would have gotten away with it. Instead, I just shrugged, and thought ‘Same old Andonis’’.
While waiting for Andonis to grab my linen, two guys were walking down the hill, and stopped to ask me a question. I couldn’t understand what they were asking at first, and I knew that they were not locals (they appeared to be more like West African). After repeating their question, I realised they were saying ‘Athens. Capital of Greece. Is this Athens?’ I was somewhat confused why they were asking this and replied that they were a `very long way from Athens. It was their turn to look confused and they ran off down the hill. I shrugged and carried on with my rather informal check-in.
Soon after getting my room sorted out, my other English friends Maria and Bob returned to the hotel – somehow I had missed them when I arrived at the wharf earlier. Maria soon filled me in on the story of the two confused guys. Over the last few months, Tilos (and other Greek island) has been inundated with so-called refugees – some 1500 having arrived in the last 6 months. Now remember, Tilos is a small island (65 sqm) with only 400-500 permanent residents. To have this number of refugees showing up puts a huge strain on the island. They are mostly kept sequestered out of the main towns in fairly basic conditions – but the islanders and expat regulars are doing their best to look after them. From what I understand, there are large ‘mother ships’ that come through the Greek islands, dispatching smaller boats full of refugees on to the islands. The latest batch claimed that they were from Syria (it’s easy to claim that these days) but they look as though they were from Africa. And all are men with phones and money – perhaps not exactly legitimate refugees in the genuine sense. Anyhow – we later ascertained the two guys that I met probably came off a boat believing they were landed in Athens, were somewhat surprised at how small this Athens was, and when realised they got off the boat too early, they ran to the ferry that I had just disembarked from in the hopes of continuing on to Athens. Good luck to them!
The next day, I couldn’t wait to claim my spot on my deck with coffee in hand to admire the view over Livadia harbour. Soo after, I headed down to do a victory parade along the strand relishing in my return to this island before making my way to the bakery for some freshly made spinach spanakopita (spinach and cheese filled pastry) and other groceries to see me through the next few days.
So what did I do on Tilos?
I was determined to get more walking in this time. On my last visit, I didn’t have suitable shoes for any serious walking, and missed out on some of the tracks due to steepness, etc. This time, I had decent walking shoes.
I pretty much alternated my days – one walking day (often to a beach for a rewarding swim) and one lazy day which involved a stroll along the 2 km waterfront, a swim in Livadia Harbour and reading a few chapters of my book. It was bliss.
Oh yeah – and lots of socialising, eating and catching up with the village goss. In Greece, there is ALWAYS lots of village goss!
Back to Mikro Chorio
First, I walked back up to Mikro Chorio, the old abandoned stone house village that Bob took me to last time. This time, the walk didn’t seem so daunting and I just loved being out in the open space and sunshine, clambering through the ruins – just me and the goats!
I see this place is still for sale. Maybe I should still think about the do-up opportunities again. The more time I spend here, the less crazy it seems!
Walk to Lethra
Another walk I had wanted to do last time was about a 1.5 hour coastal walk to Lethra Beach – but people were warning that part of the track had washed away, and walking on my own and with flimsy shoes, it wasn’t going to be a good idea. This time, I had good shoes and I had heard that the track wasn’t actually too bad.
It was gorgeous! I just loved, loved, loved the beautiful ocean views with the rugged landscape in the background. The plant life was very different this time around, too. Not so much of the herbs this time, but lots of these plants, whatever they are.
As I came over the hill I was greeted by a stunning view of Lethra Beach. I made my way down and found that I virtually had the entire beach to myself. Just one other couple there who left after half an hour. For the next 2 hours, it was all mine!
The water, I guess because of the stony bottom, was crystal clear, albeit just a bit on the cold side. I couldn’t stay in for more than 15 minutes and retreated to the beach to read for a while.
Heading home, I decided to climb up the hill rather than take the long, winding path that I had come down. There was a hint of a path going up the hill, but basically I just had to keep an eye out for the stone cairns to lead the way. On a hillside covered in stones, it was a bit like playing Where’s Wally!
Gera – an old stone village
The next walk I did was to Gera, another old abandoned stone village on the other side of Livadia Harbour. Again, it was a fantastic track to walk along – very high up and with very sharp drops off to the side. I had to be careful when taking photos – walking while snapping is risky business on these walks!
What is so interesting in these old stone villages is how small the houses were, and how low the doors were.
You can see how I would have struggled inside one of these homes, and I’m only average height! I don’t know how they got whole families in there!
I made my way from the village down to the beach where I enjoyed the sun for a bit. Following the coastline, I clambered over some rocks to the next beach where I came across couple. I stopped to have a chat and it turns out they were from NZ as well. And there I thought I was the only token Kiwi on the island!
The monastery walk
Every Sunday, the Tilos bus takes people from Livadia to the Agios Pandelimona monastery from where you can explore the monastery and/or enjoy the walk back. In our case, Maria, Libby and I walked several kilometres along the steep ridge to Agios Antonio’s village.
Again, it was another stunner of a walk, and relatively easy as it was generally all downhill aside from the first section. That’s my kind of walk!
Arriving at Agios Antonios, we rewarded ourselves to a lunch of greek salad, calamari and fries. Very tasty indeed!
I could keep rabbiting on about these gorgeous walks that I did. Needless to say they were all beautiful. I just love the landscape here – the ruggedness of it all, the wildflowers and abundance of critters scurrying away as you walk along.
I feel like this post is probably very similar to the last one that I wrote about my time on Tilos. Sorry about that! But I guess my experiences were very similar. It is often said that you shouldn’t return to the same place when travelling as it might not live up to your expectations. That’s not the case with Tilos. I felt so at home as soon as I arrived, and was once again quite sad to leave. I was gutted that I could only stay for just under two weeks (due to ferry scheduling and the need to return to Turkey). But I certainly made the most of the time that I did have there.
And just like the met me at the boat when I arrived, my English friends were also there to see me off again. And yes, a bit of dust may have gotten into my eye again as the boat pulled away….
So long Tilos – you will be missed!
And did Andonis, the hotel owner crack a smile in the end? Of course! It was when he said he looked forward to my return next April/May! I can only hope so!
My Greek stalker
I don’t believe I mentioned my Greek stalker in previous posts. Let me fill you on. My hair and eye colour attracts a significant amount of attention from the Greek and Turkish populations. Not from the women so much, but certainly from the men, young and old, married and not. I’ve gotten used to it, and dare I say it, was initially sometimes flattered by it as long as they weren’t sleazy. Mostly, I just shrug and smile – it’s all generally pretty harmless.
The last time I was returning to Tilos (after a few days on Nisyros), an older gentleman started talking to me, asking me where I was going, what was I doing, surprised that I was travelling alone, etc. Without really thinking about it, I shared my plans with him. Was going back to Tilos for 2 days, then taking the boat to Rhodes from where I would continue back to Turkey. I was getting off the boat on Tilos, and he was continuing on to Rhodes where he lived. As the boat neared Tilos, he asked if he could take a photo of me. I thought it was a bit weird, but after being asked so many times in Indonesia for my photo, I didn’t see the harm in it.
Skip ahead two days and I’m on the boat from Tilos to Rhodes. Carol and Geoff were also on the boat with me on their way back to England. As the boat got near to Rhodes, I suddenly remembered the guy that I had met on the boat. I had a twinge of discomfort – a feeling – so I quickly told the story to Carol and Geoff. Sure enough, as we disembark from the boat, he was waiting for me, with a stack of printed photos in his hand. Photos of me. He wanted to give them to me, but also wanted to take me out for dinner/drinks. I wasn’t keen.
Thank goodness I briefed Carol and Geoff. They quickly hustled me into a taxi, and I was literally ducking down in the back seat to avoid detection as had saw that he had followed us to the taxi stand. The last thing I wanted was for him to follow the taxi to my hotel!
The taxi dropped me off at my hotel, and Carol and Geoff continued on to theirs. Problem sorted, and that was the end of that. It felt a bit creepy, but I do think it was harmless.
That was in May. Now jump ahead to October. I had once again returned to Rhodes Island where I would stay the night before catching the ferry back to Turkey. I had dinner in the main town and was making my way back to the hotel. I came to a large roundabout and hesitated while I got my bearings.
Next thing, I hear this voice: Are you from New Zealand? Do you remember me? I turned, and there I was staring into the face of the man whom I had hidden from several months earlier. How on earth did that happen?! I know it was a random coincidence rather than anything sinister, but it was still freaky!
He pushed me to meet up with him the following day – but I told him that I had an early boat to Turkey. I was hoping he didn’t know the ferry schedule and the fact that my ferry was actually a late afternoon one! I continued on back to the hotel without incident.
So there you have it – the story of my Greek ‘stalker’.
Lots of photos – probably too many!