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This is obviously the third part of the second part and the first part. But in this post there is a big [[➕]]! Because as I was browsing through Instagram to choose some last pictures from Ikaria to show you, I looked again at a picture I had added in PART 1 and I realised that it wasn’t just one random holiday snaphot. More pictures followed and all of them belonged to a story – a story written in a blog!
But first things first. Take a look at my last 50 selected grams from Ikaria and then scroll down to read my English translation of Virginia’s «Sobre una mujer sola en una playa». As you will see in the end, I have reasons to cherish very strong personal feelings about it. But far besides that, what matters more is that I find her adventure and more importantly the way she describes her adventure the best to this moment, most edgy and wonderfully dramatic example of the attitude I’ve spoken about in Part 2:
«Enjoy and respect. This is the new DIY generation who are not looking for ready-made things but for the true experience, for whatever that takes.»
……………………..⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Note: I have displayed the pictures randomly and democratically all same size. None of them (including the ones inside the Virginia’s story) have been downloaded but embedded into this post directly from the source. All rights reserved by the respective owners © 2012-2017
«Sobre una mujer sola en una playa»
(About a woman alone on a beach)
«Later that evening, we were sitting there and I could hear a church bell from the Orthodox church around the corner. My ear followed the sound there and back, there and back, my eye trailing the distance to the church in the dark. I asked my aunt if she was awake. She stirred in her chair and said yes, she was. I said, how did you make it so long. She asked what I meant. I said, there are so many years. How can you be alone so long. She said she didn’t know.»
[Jesse Ball, How to Make a Fire and Why]
«Last year with Adrián we decided to take a trip. He asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him that for some time I had in my thoughts the island of Ikaría. He wondered why. I do not know, I told him. He asked me again: what is there? Nothing, I said. It is an island where there is nothing. He told me, that’s an answer.»
«He asked me again: what is there? Nothing, I said. It is an island where there is nothing. He told me, that’s an answer.»
«There was a turning point in the trip and it was the day of the monopati. By then I already had severely infected soles of the feet. I think about the precise moment, a few days before, in which the blisters that almost completely covered the metatarsals broke and I still get goosebumps. I remember it with my head but I also remember it more with my body, it was a burning like I had never felt before, I felt it break, tear. And if walking most of the day with a heavy backpack on my back, sleeping little and feeding mainly on the figs and grapes that we found on the way, it was already difficult, every step I took with the blisters open and beginning to become infected was a torture.»
«There was a turning point in the trip and it was the day of the monopati.»
«We spent the night in a forest on the outskirts of Raches and the next morning we started walking very early. In the course of the day we had to descend an altitude of nine hundred meters extended along twenty kilometers by mountain road and reach the coastal town of Karkinagri, at the south-western end of the island. We had no choice. Between Raches and Karkinagri there was absolutely nothing, no food, no water, no shelter, no firm terrain to camp, only a narrow monopati that descended sinuously and abruptly down the mountain.»
«The first challenge was to find the mentioned monopati. The map of Ikaría that we had pointed out as villages what we, upon arriving, discovered that they were only scattered houses, many of them abandoned (one night we camped inside one, it was the night that I really thought I was going to die, that until then everything had arrived, but that is another story).»
«After walking for a few hours we arrived at what we hoped would be a town, where we expected to replenish our water and ask for directions for the rest of the way, but all we found was a half-demolished farm in which a very old man milked a goat. He approached us with the wooden bucket full of warm, steaming, perfumed milk. The milk had a pregnant smell, cloying, a bit repulsive. I was dying to try it, I felt that my body was asking for it while the man told us that in his youth he had been a sailor and had been in Buenos Aires. French fries, he said in Spanish. His dogs barked at us with fury. We asked him about the monopati and he indicated where to go.»
«Later we heard voices and followed them and in the middle of the forest we found a neat land with an orchard and a house made of a container. Under a tree a group of men and women talked and worked. We asked them about the monopati and as Greeks as they were, they invited to come in, unconditional hospitality is practiced even in the depths of the forest, especially there (if a Greek refuses philoxenia to a stranger in the middle of the forest and there is no one to witness it, do the Erynias overwhelm him?). They served us a strong and delicious coffee (we had not had coffee for days, we had not done many things for days, like bathing) and they invited us with figs from their garden dried in the sun.»
«The owner of the house, about forty or forty-five years old, had grown tired of life in Athens and had exchanged it for that rectangle of land on which he lived most of the year, growing his own food and reading the classics, receiving friends during the summer. He was a serious man, serene, a man who spoke slowly, beautifully. The beautiful Greeks are truly beautiful, slender and proud, with marked features and deep wrinkles of expression. Beside him, Adrian, with his blond curls and his upturned nose and his reckless speech, looked like a teenager.»
«We continue advancing and at the highest point of the mountain, in the middle of a thorny forest, an enchanted forest, the most beautiful I saw, we found a tiny church and sitting at the door a shaggy man, the caretaker. Hour after hour and day after day he would sit there, alone, in silence. We asked him about the monopati. He showed us the way. He himself is walking up and down on it every several weeks to get provisions from the town. We were reassured by this concrete reference that the monopati existed and it was not far away.»
«Finally we found it and the descent was slow and difficult. My feet were in deplorable condition, I felt the stockings alternately wet and stiff, as blood and pus sprouted and dried. We walked slower and slower, and Adrian became impatient. He advanced alone and he waited for me later, feeling solicitous and confused. We got lost several times. The monopati at times became so narrow that it was easy to mistake it with openings that appeared naturally among the vegetation. Several times we took the wrong direction. We opened and closed gates. We climbed trees and stones. We crossed a dry river in a valley.»
«It had been a difficult day for two people who knew little of each other, who began to glimpse with a mixture of rejection and compassion into the miseries of the other and to remember their own miseries, those that one tends to forget when there is no witness around, when conveniences and routines camouflage them a bit.»
«Around four in the afternoon we arrived at the town. We hated it immediately. Ikaría does not receive too many tourists, but the few that were there were there. We ate something quickly and decided to continue on our way and spend the night in [Manganitis], a nearby town. We resumed the march in silence. It had been a difficult day for two people who knew little of each other, who began to glimpse with a mixture of rejection and compassion into the miseries of the other and to remember their own miseries, those that one tends to forget when there is no witness around, when conveniences and routines camouflage them a bit.»
«We arrived at [Manganitis] at sunset, and the place was a dream. A tiny village, quiet, no more than fifteen houses. A warm tavern in the shade of a vine. A bay of white stones, turquoise waters. A small church and a cemetery near the edge of the sea (where we would spend the night, sleeping in one of the mausoleums between candles and coffins, but that’s another story). A group of men and women swam naked. Adrian also undressed and got into the water. I sat on the still warm stones of the shore and soaked my feet. The salt water washed my blood and the pain worsened first and then it started to ease up a bit. The group of bathers left and the beach was deserted.»
«It was almost dark when a woman in her fifties appeared. Adrian had swum away, and we seemed to be alone on that silent beach at the end of the world. She took off her clothes and got into the water. She swam for a long time and then came back to the shore and wrapped herself in a towel and stayed there, looking at the water until it was completely dark. Then she got dressed, took her things and left.»
«All this preamble is to say that last night I thought about that woman. Many times, I think about that woman, and last night was one of those times. I was in bed and was cold (because the days are warm and sunny, but still cool at night) and I began to rub my arms and legs with my hands to warm me up. And I do not know why that gesture made me suddenly feel very aware that I am alone. That I brought myself to this bed in the house of strangers in a city in another hemisphere and I am responsible for giving me heat, I am both the injured foot and the salty sea that heals, the woman alone and the woman alone who looks at the woman alone.»
** «Monopati» («μονοπάτι» in Greek) = footpath, a more or less narrow trail usually across nature or rural land.
*** There is a slight confusion with placenames. To all evidence the final scene of the story takes place in «Trapalou» instead of «Manganitis» which is a relatively large village located much further to the east.
Was it I the other woman alone? The woman alone who was looked at by another woman alone in that cut-off place and moment? Yes, perhaps it was I. I turned fifty last year. And as often as always I like to swim in remote, quiet places at dusk. Thank you Virginia. All Virginias of this world, thank you!!!
So long and take care
The future belongs to the young. And the young -a special kind of young- have always prefered Ikaria for their holidays in July and August. Not only we respect that but it’s actually an honor. The following article which is also going to be distributed in print appeared in the website of the local municipal party ASPI in June 2015. In this manual-like style of document ASPI makes a list of the basic facts a young visitor should know about our strange island. I was very happy about this good piece of straightforwardness, friendliness and understanding. As there are a lot of foreign young people who come to the island in high summer and knowning from experience that they also need a warm welcome and a helping hand, I felt I had to translate it in English. I am letting you read my translation. No embellishments! Facts and instructions! Big times!!! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
You can see it from the ferry, Ikaria is one long and high mountain without plains and many beaches, while most of the villages are hidden in its slopes. By nature it’s not suitable for mass tourism. Its mountainous landscape does not offer the comfort and convenient pleasure seeked by the average consumer/tourist. Nonetheless, since the island was known as a tourist destination, the followning paradox occurs: Ikaria’s difference (not only in the landscape but in the way of life and the way of thinking of the inhabitants) attracts many people, mostly young, who want to see «what goes on here» – to catch a glimpse and understand a bit of this difference. But because they also want to be together with other young people who are after the same thing, they all arrive in August. As a result, during those few weeks different Ikaria becomes «alternative Ikaria» – a chaotic (alternatively massive) «anti-Mykonos».»
«We would like holidays in Ikaria to be a break from the massive consumer way of life.»
«It’s a shame, because inspite of our many defects and faults, we believe that our difference can tell (maybe teach too) one or two things to the people of the city. This, however, is very difficult to happen with so many people around, that is, when the city moves to the island.
It’s a shame also because we are used to being few. Although we love to have a lot of visitors, it is difficult for us to get along with the hustle and bustle, evenmore to run matters in the way we should.
This text is not a tourist guide.
It was written by a group of friends, members of the Independent League of Citizens of Ikaria (*) to inform the young people who visit our island in August about our problems and our lacks and help them get round pitfalls. Our motive is love for our island. Our purpose is to be together and have a good time. Because we love the crazy Ikarian August as much as you do.»
B u s e s : Unlike other islands in Ikaria there is no organised transport network with a central station, billboards with timetables etc. There are buses, of course, and they are more frequent in August, most times even servicing the two ports of the island, combining with the arrival and departure of ferries. Their timetables are usually pinned at central shops of towns and villages where unfortunately they soon disappear under several layers of irrelevent posters and ads. So we end up getting information from mouth to ear or by asking the drivers. T a x i s : there are many taxis with helpful drivers and a rather cheap fare given the state of the roads and the distances. However, they are difficult to find in August. H i t c h h i k i n g : When they have spare seats local cars (plates with AT, MOA or MOB) often stop and take hitchhikers. Yet, nothing is for free in life. The «fare» is communication with the driver and the passengers. Don’t keep your mouth shut but talk. Speak about your impressions, ask questions about the island. W a l k i n g : Nobody in Ikaria will think that you are pauper or tramp because you go on foot. Everything is a road and no road in Ikaria is boring.
«R o o m s : they are countless, found even in the most remote villages, some of which in amazing natural settings and with low prices even in August. O u t d o o r s : Three are the basic facts, 1st) Ikaria is ideal and very inspiring for camping, 2nd) camping is forbidden on the island -everywhere!, and 3rd) there is no organised camping site -nowhere! Not only to avoid eventual protests and raids but also because we think it is best, if you stay outdoors we suggest you are thrifty, light and flexible (and more «lawful»), by rejecting big «mobile summer villa» tents. An open awning for shade in the day and for protection from moisture at night is enough. Choose a spot as far as possible from the beach which should be kept free for everybody. If you camp on the mountains and hills, sooner or later you will be spotted and asked to leave by the locals or the fire service. As far as private land is concerned, there may be people who won’t object if you camp in their properties for a few days. As long, of course, as you find them and ask their permission. Whatever you do, wherever you go, even in the remotest wilderness, don’t behave as if you were the owner. It’s wrong.»
«Let’s face it, Ikaria may have an enviable natural environment, but unfortunately we are not famous for our cleanliness. As if the «resident trash» haunting the streets (junk metal, rubble piles, broken cars) wasn’t enough, the 3-4 weeks of the short tourist season create a garbadge bomb! There are not enough bins, not enough trucks, not enough space in the landfills, and finally not enough cleaning workers. Recently we are doing our best to handle the situation. But we also need your help.»
«The famous village festivals («panigiris») of the island are neither «shops» nor «free parties». It’s an institution (the word is not extravagant) serving multiple, religious, social and economic, needs of the small communities of every village. It is true that in the last years panigiris have been massified and commercialized (with serious impact on the environment due to over-consumption of meat and over-production of trash), nonetheless they still keep their basic characteristic as a communal egalitarian feast for everybody regardless of gender, age, origin, dress code or ideological profile. The secret is that all the organizers are volunteers. Therefore, if you have complaints, don’t behave like «dissatisfied costumers». Talk to the people of the village. They want to talk about it too. A panigiri is no one-night clubbing. Its a reunion and a celebration.»
«It is to wonder how roads were built through those mountains and over those cliffs. And yet, the road network of Ikaria is huge and immeasurably complicated. On the other hand, most of these roads are not in a good condition. Even the main roadway (Agios Kirikos – Evdilos – Rahes – Karkinagri) is messed up in many parts with reverse slopes, sudden narrow curves, obstacles, holes, bumps etc. Drive at speeds not exceeding 30-40 km/h, wear seat belts, put on bike helmets. Don’t drive, if you drink a lot in a panigiri. Find a spot, lie down and sleep you are sober.»
«Often when the meltemi wind blows, big waves beat the most known beaches of the northern side of the island (Kiparissi, Kampos, Messakti, Livadi, Nas). We like to watch them and to swim against their strength, but unfortunately there have been many drownings too. Besides the rules of safe swimming, when you play in the waves you must keep in mind that this activity is actually a sport. Even in the form of simple game body-surfing requires good physical condition and self-restraint. You should also keep in mind that the hardest part is at the end, when the countercurrent which runs under the waves makes it difficult for the swimmer to get back to land. You shouldn’t forget yourself in the pleasure of the game. You must have kept forces to fight the countercurrent. Finally, if you are tired of this sport, of course there are several hospitable, calm beaches in the southern side of the island, that’s something to remember too.»
«You may have heard about it, among the islands of the Aegean sea Ikaria is considered a top mountain climbing and hiking destination. Indeed its hiking trail network is boundless. It was created by volunteers with no help from the government in the course of many years. A d v i c e : a) When it’s windy in the summer, it hardly ever rains, however the mountain-tops are often covered with thick fog. b) The canyon of the river Chalares (what most people know as «the river of Nas») has acquired a fair reputation regardless of the fact that there is too little water in the river in August. The canyon itself is quite impressive, however hiking can be hard because the trail has been destroyed in several parts by floods and overgrazing goats. c) A successful hiking day in Ikaria is a day that has started early in the morning. The island has a very high relief and the ground is rocky. As a result, distances come up longer than their actual length shown on the map.»
«Small-scale agriculture is a way of life in Ikaria. We search, find and buy wine, moonshine, cheese, fruit, vegetables, dried herbs and everything that comes from the island. It’s good quality and it’s good for our economy.»
«We would like holidays in Ikaria to be for you a break from the massive consumer way of life. We know, it’s odd to ask for such a thing in August which is the most wholesale and haphazard month of the year as far as holidays are concerned. But it’s exactly at that month that we think it’s worth asking. Look at the works of out ancestors on the mountains, the houses in the rocks, the terraces over cliffs. It’s in our nature to ask for the impossible. We don’t know what results we attain, we do know however that a beautiful story is being written, little by little, slowly, piece by piece, every year. It’s the fairy-tale of Ikaria. Catch the spirit and be part of our story.»
Have a good time!
Last weekend a group of 40 mountaineers from Athens came in Ikaria and walked on the mountain range from one side of the island to the other. I intended to meet them or rather find them somewhere along their way to «spy» on them.
That is, to follow them from a distance just to enjoy the sight. «People in Landscape» : a theme that I have an obsession with.
I also wanted to make them wonder of who I’d be, if they saw me. A shepherdess, a hunteress? A hiker who follows a better path than theirs? Add up some mystery… he he
But the weekend was very foggy. Mist covered the mountains, so I assumed that they wouldn’t do it and got back in bed.
I had done the same mistake : I underestimated the Greeks.
Not only had they walked the whole length of the mountain ATHERAS (including some very dangerous passages) in the fog but they also took a dip in a lake with air temperatures 16-20 degrees). On the next day they walked in the canyon of Chalares, they swam in the river pools and then in the beach of Nas.
«People in Landscape». I know this is very important. I can’t explain why right now. Until I do better, see in the map what they did…
so that was you plan; «spy» on people like «the madwoman of the mountains of Ikaria, eh? Red hair would be seen from very far away even in the mist.
Anyway, they were travelling very fast. Too fast for me and far too fast for you. They wouldn’t stop and talk, talk, talk and have smokes and take pictures.
It’s difficult for the Greeks to wake up in the morning, pack and get on the move, but once they do —
Friday May 5, 2006 – 11:16pm (EEST)
-> once upon a time short-legged restless Greeks (armours, shields e.t.c.) walked all the way to India and back.
-> in fact the color of the fog in the Aegean is *salmon*. You can’t see a thing but it’s not scary. Because of this colour you feel ok; good vibrations… In it you sense that the sun reigns somewhere over the clouds.
It was very different during the blizzard on Ikaria in winter, though. Oh yes, it was, man.
Sunday May 7, 2006 – 10:46am (PDT)
never seen fog the color of salmon
Sunday May 7, 2006 – 06:10pm (PDT)
ha – I assumed that you were going to react with a comment _:
By «salmon» I translated the french «saumon» which is light greyish purple colour with a touch of yellow in it _: but the flesh of a fresh salmon fish is brighter and more to the orange, isn’t it?
Monday May 8, 2006 – 01:34am (PDT)
Yep, varies between pale orange and crimson, although we also have races of chinook salmon that are white-fleshed, we call them «white kings,» very rich and highly prized by those who know about them.
These Greeks, they are through-hikers, yes? Bully for them. And you, you are a woman of the misty mountains to a certain extent…
Monday May 8, 2006 – 08:19am (PDT)
I’m writing very fast and short right from THE island (…no horizon … just the blue). We arrived this morning. Eleni and I are going to smash it ! She is leaving, you know… So we’ve taken an oath to avoid the beaches. So it will be anything else but the beaches. My bf will very useful to break branches, hold us and drag us over boulders, make sure to show everybody that we are «accompanied». There will be no photos from these adventures. We are too big stars, super bums !
(so ‘un-ikarian’ -lol- we go to bed early…)
Monday May 8, 2006 – 11:10pm (EEST)