Or, "One kitty, two kitty, three kitty, mule!"
Sunday 5 June 2011
Alexei joked with us early on in the trip that we were getting our money’s worth on this trip if not purely because we were getting to learn so much about engine failure. The third day certainly did not fail to contribute to this education, and as we left port in Poros, we heard Gerst call from below deck – “I think the engine is smoking…”. Fortunately we weren’t too far out yet, so we turned right around and once moored back in Poros, we called the “engineer” (which is how Alexei referred to the mechanic – at first he was quite surprised to find out that most of us were engineers!). Again, there could be worse places to be stuck. We spent the morning wandering town, and filling up on gelato and cheap gyros. Yum!
Several hours later with a hopeful fix to the engine starter, we set out for a secluded swimming location on one of the hundreds of tiny islands (though I feel like they were hardly large enough to qualify as islands in their own right). And the water there was stunning. The brightest aquamarine waters sparkled in the sunlight, the perfect temperature for swimming, and nicely protected from the open sea by a small crescent of land. We anchored the boat and spent several hours jumping off the deck, exploring the surrounding area with flippers and goggles, and avoiding terrifying beds of sea urchins. A good amount of time was also spent in the quest to teach Nick how to dive properly. Even Alexei had a good laugh at his attempts.
Also, by this point, I should mention that all seven of us were more or less wretchedly filthy. With no real shower on board the boat, none of had washed in several days. That, plus a layer of grimy sea salt had all of us in fairly poor states. Thus, swim time doubled as bath time. Armed with shampoo bottles and bars of soap, we sudsed up right in the waters of the Aegean Sea.
We sprawled across the deck of the boat in the afternoon sun to dry out, and then we were headed onwards to Hydra! Hydra was the most traditional of our Greek island destinations. Set into the steep hills of the island, Hydra permits no cars or motor vehicles on the island. Instead, mules and donkeys are the main mode of transportation, though you could really walk anywhere you needed to get. As hard as it is to choose, I think Hydra was probably the favorite island of the group. It was the Greece you see in postcards. Cobblestoned streets and whitewashed buildings with bright blue shutters and decoration. Paint peeling from old wooden doors, now covered in flowering vines in vibrant purple and red. Cats sprawled on warm stone streets, balancing on railings, twining between your feet as you walked by. Hydra was heaven.
The entire town centered around the small marina. Without cars, everything focused on the boat traffic. Small vessels pulled in with freshly caught fish, produce from other islands, and passengers aplenty. We were moored right along the main plaza. So strange to have your home right in the middle of the town marina! We could literally walk straight out of our rooms and into a tavern.
The seven of us departed to explore the entire town, from the coastal cannons (relics of wars past) to the church high in the hills. Sunset over the still waters between Hydra and the surround islands was like something out of a movie. We watched from the church courtyard, and even took the opportunity to ring the bell in the big tower above the town. Scrambling down staircases and rough footpaths, we made our way back to the city (with our kitty-count at forty-something … did I mention how many CATS there were!) to get ready for dinner.