Tasmanian Canoeing Expedition to
the Greek Islands.
Scribes: Intro - Cecily Butorac;
Transportation - Dave Mayhead?;
Log - Austin Roper.
Kathy Butorac}Retired after the second
John Wisby. }day with tenosynovitis.
A party of ten canoeists from Hobart paddled for six weeks amongst the islands of the Cyclades and Dodecanese groups in April and May 1983. The idea sprang from the fact that several people were going to spend holidays in Europe and would be together for a short ski-ing holiday in Italy. The group looked for an area accessible to canoes, with ease of departure from a main shipping port to avoid trans-shipping, and as far off the popular tourist routes as possible. Since the party generally was only moderately experienced, open sea crossings needed to be fairly short. Thus a trip starting at Piraeus and visiting some of the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands was decided upon. The area is well serviced by ferries which meant that members would not be stranded in the event of extreme weather conditions or sickness.
The trip was meant to be a relaxed and enjoyable holiday tour, and the final route and length of stay at each place was to be left as flexible as possible. This flexibility had proved important on a similar tour two years previously in Japan in which two members of the group had been involved.
Information was sought from many sources on matters such as weather, customs regulations, marine police regulations etc. We searched out and read many articles in boating and travel publications in relation to weather and climate. Newsagents, libraries, and the Division of recreation all supplied material. Another source of first-hand information was a yachting family who had spent several months in the Cyclades.
Books such as “Greek Island Hopping” and Lawrence Durrell’s “Greek Islands”, were mines of information. We also received a warning of possible difficulty with the Greek Customs Dept. from the Advanced Sea Kayak Club newsletter from England, in which an English canoeist reported his frustrating experience.
The Greek Consul in Hobart was very helpful and wrote to Greek Authorities on our behalf for information about Custom regulations. He was able to advise us on other matters relating to foreign tourists in Greece, and assured us that being Australian was a very great asset in Greece. We certainly found this to be correct.
A request to the Greek Information centre, Sydney, produced multiple copies of tourist brochures and travel information booklets.
Contact was also made with a Hobart lady now resident in Athens, and we arranged to meet with her on arrival in Athens. She was very helpful with information on possible hazardous areas of the Aegean Sea, as well as matters of Greek etiquette and culture, especially food.
Navigation appeared to be reasonably simple, as the proximity of the islands generally meant we expected to be within sight of land at all times. Admiralty charts were photocopied six times to provide each kayak with a set. These copies, with another tourist map, were waterproofed with a professionally applied plastic coating, ready for use under shockcord on the decks. On arrival in Greece other maps such as road maps were brought for additional information, and were used for conferences on land.
Physical training varied among members. Most maintained their regular weekend canoeing activities, a few paddled an hour or more daily, others added cycling and running. The doubles were paddled in the 14km Kingston-Casino Race, and a group paddled around Maria Island. On this trip we encountered strong following winds and choppy seas, and experienced two broken rudder cables and a problem with seat adjustment. A trip to Bruny Island in strong winds provided further practice with sails. One of the doubles was used on an expedition to Hunter Island with an interstate group in January, and it was a good demonstration of the stability and speed of the double under sail with a strong following wind.
The group decided to use six doubles for the trip, as this would minimise freight. It also meant we would all be using craft of a similar speed and capability. These kayaks were constructed in fibreglass, using a hull mould designed by Adrian Dean and a deck mould designed by Peter Bauer. They are 22ft long, have two cockpits, and three waterproof compartments. Bulkheads immediately in front of and behind each cockpit form these compartments. Access is through hatches on deck. The 30cm hatches have a recessed coaming over which is fitted a vinyl cover closed with shockcord. Also side bulkheads in both cockpits to provide added strength, gave the bonus of additional storage for small items with access through small screw-in hatches. Electric pumps were fitted in the rear cockpits. A short pipe along the keel line connected the front to the back cockpit through the bottom of the centre compartment. The pumps were run by small 12v waterproof batteries, and were operated by a waterproof switch on the deck near the back cockpit.
Decklines were fitted bow to stern on both sides, with strong loop attachments about every metre. Four sections of hosepipe were threaded on the deckline to provide comfortable handgrips each side at bow and stern. The deckline is left with one end about a metre long at the bow to provide an easy means of tying two kayaks together in the event of a seasick paddler needing support whilst being towed.
Two sails complete with 3/4” aluminium mast were carried in deck tubes on each kayak. These sails can be quickly pulled out of the tube, the foot of the mast is slipped into a tubular mast step built into the deck, and the short sheet is then clipped into a jam-cleat on either side of the cockpit. There were about four different designs of sails.
Shockcord was used in front of each cockpit to secure the waterproof charts and compass. Each kayak was fitted with a foot-pedal operated rudder, which could be flipped back onto the rear deck by a hand-pulled cord just behind the rear cockpit. Such a rudder is invaluable on a touring kayak when paddling with a beam wind, as it eliminates waste of energy spent on correction strokes.
Large screw-topped plastic jars were slung with shockcord under the deck just in front of each paddler, providing additional storage for small items needed during each days paddling, such as spray-jacket, lunch, sun-glasses, suncream etc.
Paddles, with one exception, were standard long shafted sprint paddles, made into breakdown form for ease of transport by a central attachment. One paddle was equipped with long narrow sea-touring blades, giving the user a longer slower stroke.
A tow-rope was carried on deck on each kayak. These are 7m long, fitted with brass spring-clips each end, and a shock-absorbing section.
Equipment for camping and daily living was carried in waterproof bags in the three compartments of each kayak. A two-man tent was carried in each kayak, with one exception, where two singles were used. Personal gear varied, but generally included sleeping-bag and liner, mat or lilo, eating utensils, cooking utensils shared between two or four, (camp stoves were variously fuelled by metho, white spirit, or gas) and minimum clothes. Many paddlers used waterproof cameras, Nikonos or Minolta or Fuji, and some other good cameras were used on shore. There were two comprehensive repair kits, and, as well as the usual minor first-aid kits everyone carries, there were four comprehensive first-aid kits.
The food of a foreign country is one of its attractions, and so the party chose to rely on local food. On many occasions when camped near a village some or all of the paddlers ate at Taverna, both to enjoy the local specialities and to mix with the villages. In some instances we left the canoes on shore and transferred to the highland village by local transport to stay in a pension (guest house) or small hotel for one or two nights, eating at what ever establishments were available.
Greek restaurants away from the tourist areas cater for the local population and it is possible to eat very cheaply. When camped at more remote sites, the party generally was able to use drift wood for cooking fires, and we always carried water, bread, and ingredients for camp meals.
Most members took with them an assortment of small gifts to present to kind people we met on the expedition. The Tourist Bureau supplied some small Tasmania stick-pins which were always popular, and other items included souvenir tea-spoons, booklets on Tasmania, and small craft items.
The value of the trip was primarily the fact that it was FUN! We appreciated also the opportunity of seeing another culture and experiencing their daily lifestyle. Our unusual method of travel enabled us to make close contact with both the ordinary Greek population and other interesting travellers.
We all felt we widened our canoeing experience considerably and in doing so came to terms with our own capabilities and limitations. In six weeks paddling you get a lot of experience in the use of the rudder, sailing in various conditions, the self discipline necessary to cope with long open crossings or strenuous paddling in head-winds, and exercising fore-thought each morning to ensure easy access to all needed items. Even the experience of getting canoes through a foreign Customs dept proved interesting. We found the required approach was infinite patience, absolute persistence, utmost politeness, and a willingness to furnish any required “fees”!
TRANSPORTATION & CUSTOMS
Organising our six kayaks to Greece and back wasn’t without its problems. To begin with we decided to dispatch our kayaks to Greece as early as possible so they had the possibility of leaving Melbourne on two different dates. As it turned out our kayaks sat on the wharf for some weeks in Melbourne and accidentally missed the first boat to Greece. However, we were informed by the shipping agent Tas Cargo that they had managed to load the kayaks on the second ship and would arrive in Greece just in time for us to commence our trip on April 1st.
After flying to Zurich and spending three weeks snow skiing and travelling through Italy across to Greece we arrived in Athens. A quick check with our Greek shipping agent revealed that the 40ft container holding our kayaks had arrived a few days earlier. By hook-or-by-crook our timing was perfect. Clearing the boats out of customs presented no great difficulties, but it cost us. Because we didn’t speak the language nor understand the mountain of forms that had to be filled out to clear our kayaks from Customs we decided to ask someone at Customs to help us. We found this friendly Greek who most obligingly did all the paperwork for us, speeding up the process considerably. Six of our passports were endorsed with ownership of kayaks exempt from customs duty for two months and within a few hours we had our kayaks. Our friendly Greek then announced that his fee for this service was 6,000 drachma and another 2,500 drachma to transport our kayaks by truck to our launch point at the hotel. Not willing to argue, we gladly paid him his money and got on with our preparations for the trip.
Organising the kayaks back to Australia presented far more problems. Firstly, our trip ended on the island of Kalymnos and we decided to ship ourselves and the kayaks by ferry back to Piraeus. Our first mistake was not to take into account the unreliability of the Greek Island ferries. We originally booked ourselves on a Wednesday night to arrive in Piraeus the following morning, unfortunately the ship broke down and the next ferry that we could effectively get our boats back on was not until Friday night, far too late to make Customs which closed during the weekend. Half of us had made bookings to leave the following Monday for other countries which required our passports to be re-endorsed that the kayaks were being re-exported otherwise we were liable to pay the customs duty. Because of this, we decided to send two of our party back early on a ferry leaving Thursday night on which we had previously unsuccessfully tried to book our kayaks. Our theory was that the two sent back early could get the ball rolling at Customs so that we could all leave Greece on schedule. Unfortunately this was not so easy to organise; upon arriving back early without the kayaks on Friday morning, our shipping agent at first told us that Customs was about to close and that it would be impossible for us to leave the country on Monday without the kayaks and passports being here on the spot.
After a good deal of talking, and us offering to pay more money, our shipping agent found ways and means of doing what we wanted. The old saying that money makes the world go round was quite applicable in our situation. The rest of the operation went off without a hitch with a good deal of work from all of us. We ended up paying nearly A$300 extra to circumvent the red tape of Greek Customs, being much easier to just pay than alter our plans and cancel bookings.
From all these experiences with Greek Customs we learned that you must be prepared for the worst, give yourselves plenty of time when dealing with them, be patient and be prepared to pay plenty of drachmas.
LOG OF THE EXPEDITION.
cloudy & windy.
The meeting place for the participants of the canoe trip had been prearranged to be the Hotel Leriotis in Piraeus. During the day we managed to extricate the canoes from customs and had them brought round onto the foreshore in front of the hotel. Pete & Suzie Bauer also arrived that day.
Piraeus to Voulá,
sunny & calm.
During the morning the decision was made to head off on the first of many legs of the trip. Upon arriving to pack our boats, numerous locals were seen to be present, pondering upon the possibilities of what might be wrapped up in these big long parcels - 23ft long cigars perhaps? A couple of hours was spent re-packing the canoes with food and clothing and also assembling paddles and rudders. After lunch 4 canoes headed off whilst the other two remained behind due to illness (the crews, not the canoes).
Bright sunshine with a short investigative diversion into a yacht harbour served to make this first short leg an enjoyable one.
Fitful gusts of wind enabled most of us to try the efficacy of Mediterranean wind for sailing. After a quiet couple of hours paddling we reached Voulá, just past Athens airport, and set up camp in an organised camping ground behind a sandy and somewhat seaweedy beach.
Voulá to Ayia,
sunny, moderate SE wind.
The remaining members of the party met us at Voulá but not before having experienced a broken rudder cable on one of the canoes and a flat bilge pump battery in the other. After a breather for the new arrivals we headed off further down the coast into a freshening south-easterly breeze. The breeze settled down to a steady 20 - 25 knots giving rather lumpy seas but since we had shifted our course to a north-easterly direction, the wind was now coming abeam on the starboard side and enabled us to set sail which was of considerable benefit. We landed on a good sandy beach when we arrived at Ayia, and changed into dry clothes to sniff out a seaside Taverna where a good feed was had by all. One member of the party had imbibed in domestica and became rather merry as a result. Camping was organised under the cover of darkness to avoid detection from the nearby road, since we were aware that camping is officially not allowed in Greece.
4th April ,
Ayia to Sounion,
slightly moderate SE wind, overcast.
Moved off after a quick breakfast, on what was to be the last hop along the coast of mainland Greece before striking out for the islands. The most noticeable thing about this leg was the cold, miserable headwind that dogged us and no sun at all to give any relief. The coastline did compensate somewhat by becoming more rugged and featured some rocky headlands, one of which was graced with Poseidon’s Temple near Sounion. This temple was not unlike the Parthenon in appearance but appeared to be in a more advanced state of dilapidation.
Rounding a few more headlands we arrived in a bay where we were fortunate enough to find a campsite with hot showers! But you had to be quick because one fellow would beat you to it and use it all up. Two members of the party were suffering with painful wrists and subsequently retired from the paddling part of trip the next day.
Sounion to Kea,
sunny, light variable winds.
We all made an extra effort to get going early this morning as it was the first of the open water hops. I guess we all felt a little apprehension as we had been warned that some of these stretches of water can be notoriously rough. After a few miles of paddling, the two who had some difficulty with their wrist joints the day before, found that the pain was getting intolerable and found it prudent to retire from paddling and catch up with us on the islands by ferry (leaving their kayak behind). The rest of us all then continued on our way to Kea in perfectly calm weather. What was a relatively uneventful paddle was made more interesting by punctuating it with several raisin and chocolate stops sauced with some light conversation and finally washed down with a few mouthfuls of bottled mineral water.
We arrived in a bay fringed on one side with what we found to be Cyclades architecture - white flat-topped buildings with either green, blue or brown shutters and doors. These buildings were separated by narrow laneways and also had a liberal sprinkling of domed churches amongst them. As a backdrop to all this were large terraced hills largely denuded of vegetation and being the habitat of a few hobbled sheep and goats.
The locals came down to have a quizzical look at us on our arrival, and then disappeared a little later without notice. We asked the port policeman whether we could camp across the bay and to this he responded “no problem, no problem.”
This day was one basically of exploration. We paddled back across the bay to the port (Ormos) and caught a taxi up to the main town (Hora) high up on the hill. Throughout the islands the main town was usually placed in an out of the way place to make it difficult to attack from the sea - a legacy from the days of pirates. This main town was again a mass of white-washed buildings riddled with narrow laneways with much donkey traffic thereupon. We booked into a guest house and stayed the night.
Kea to Kithnos,
sunny with little breeze.
We caught the taxi back down to the port in the morning, packed our canoes and set off down the western side of the island towards the southern end where we came across a lighthouse and its keeper to whom we gave a farewell wave. A little later the breeze brightened up enough to set sail and assist us on our way to Kithnos, about 16km away. Then it died away so once again we put our minds into neutral and our arms into drive and reached the north-western side of Kithnos after about 3 hours.
A sandy isthmus connecting a nearby islet to the main island of Kithnos provided a good landing spot and we found the area so delightful that we decided to set up camp nearby. A little later a sheep-milking lady arrived and struck up chatter with Peter and Suzie Bauer, she then went up the hill to milk her sheep and returned a while later and gave Peter, Suzie and Alan Stanton a ride on her donkey. Some other members paddled over to the port not far away and managed to cash some travellers cheques with the one man walking bank. That evening a good time was had by all about a roaring fire on the beach, Fuel was plentiful in the form of driftwood.
sunny, light and variable wind.
The day was spent looking about parts of the island and necessitated a paddle across the bay to the port where we caught a taxi up to the high town. This Hora contrasted with the one on Kea in that it was on basically flat ground even though somewhat elevated.
We visited a bakery which sold some excellent and varied produce, then 3 or 4 of us walked out to the back of the town through cobbled laneways and witnessed some 3 or 4 large wind generators scything the air with 20ft long blades. Our curiosity once satisfied we headed back into the town and made our way by taxi to the other side of the island where we believed there to be hot springs. The best thing we found was a gutter which drained down to the sea but it was very hot and quite relaxing. After the novelty of this wore off we made our way back past to the port and paddled from there to the campsite.
Kithnos to Serifos,
sunny and light NW wind
An early start to helped us on our way we paddled down the west coast of Kithnos with very little wind to speak of until we reached the southern end. At the very bottom end of Kithnos a steady northerly set in, enabling sails to be set and easier paddling to be had. However after an hour and a half this breeze died, providing us with another smooth crossing to Serifos. Near the northern coast of Serifos a brisk north-easterly sprang up which made the job of getting to a lunch spot somewhat to windward along the coast, more difficult. But once we had attained our objective we flaked out on the sand, ate, and generally lazed in the sun in a beautifully sheltered bay.
Once under way again which was an hour or so later, we took advantage of the still moderate northerly wind and sailed down the east coast of Serifos until we reached the port at the southern end. It was here that we met Kathy and John who had previously retired from paddling and once more re-united we sought out a hotel for the night. At the hotel we had a merry meal with some imbibement due to Dave Mayhead’s birthday.
sunny & warm.
This day was spent washing, being lazy, and exploring. Most of us walked up the steep conical hill to where the Hora sat impressively on top. From here could be seen much of the surrounding countryside. Again many terraced hillsides and fields in the valleys growing olive trees and cereal crops. That night we had tea at another restaurant across the bay somewhat away from the centre of the port.
Serifos to Sifnos,
This morning we paddled out of the harbour on our next leg which was towards Sifnos. On our way we passed Kathy & John who were on a headland at the entrance of the harbour and waved them goodbye. Again it was another calm crossing which was relatively uneventful. You could paddle for hours in these conditions and think about something completely different from what we were doing; a form of mental protection. It was amazing the amount of mental activity that was experienced.
We approached Sifnos on the northern end and made our way down the western side. With some tall cliffs to add interest off our port beam we finally entered the harbour, all five canoes abreast in formation. We hauled out on a sandy beach at the top of the bay and were met by a flock of ducks and a young potter fellow who had been to Adelaide. The rest of the day was spent in setting up camp a little further along the beach away from the suburbs and exploring the high town and some walking which took in another attractive coastal town perched on a rocky seaside mound or hillock. We also saw a cow and a donkey used by a little wizened old man to plough a paddock The cow was a milker and the donkey was used for transport as well.
sunny, wind light and variable.
Some hired mopeds or motor-scooters and spent the day exploring the whole island. Later that day it was discovered that either a duck or a cat had turned on the bilge pump switch on one of the canoes the night before. As a result the battery had to be charged which was achieved with some difficulty, even though the terminals had been connected wrongly from the charger (the terminals not being labelled) the battery still worked but rapidly lost power some days later. This led us to think that next time we would install a cat and duck proof switch!
Sifnos to Kimolos,
windy, SE 20 - 25 knots.
Not so early this morning. We left the harbour with errant gusts of wind descending around us and ruffling the water. Once outside the bay we experienced bumpy confused seas but made steady progress down the western side of the island, this side happening to be the leeward side and relatively sheltered behind the high hills. About two thirds of the way down the western side of Sifnos we decided to strike out for Kimolos about 16km away. We did this to shorten the distance to paddle and also move away from the reflected swell near the coastline. As we moved away from the coast, the swells became more regular but also larger. The wind also became more evident and was from a south-easterly direction as was the swell and was right on the nose. These conditions were not hard going until about halfway across when the wind rose to about 20 - 25 knots and about 30 knots in the gusts. The worrying part of it was whether it would increase still further. For four hours we groaned and ground our way slowly towards Kimolos directly to windward.
Finally we paddled into a rugged looking bay on the north-western side of Kimolos and hauled out on a pebbly beach near a shipwreck. Behind the beach was a stone wall, a willow tree, a large patch of grassy ground and a well. A perfect combination for a perfect campsite. After setting up camp and having lunch, we were met by an old man and his small grandson. He took us to his house on his farm and he and his daughter treated us all to a retsina and biscuits. After a few of us had imbibed and recovered from the dog bites on the backs of our hands, (friendly farm dog) we walked in a large circle covering such delightful scenery as pig sties, steep hillside, and chalk cliffs. Finally we arrived back at the campsite from the direction of the cliffs along the shore, prepared tea, had the usual campfire chat and retired to our tents. 14th April, Kimolos to Poliegos, light W to SW wind.
It was very windy during the night which gave our tents a hard time. We had breakfast and set off for the eastern side of the island via the northern coastline. On the way we stopped by the wreck whilst Rodney Clear climbed to the top of the mast where he thought he could get a better view. With a fairly quiet paddle behind us we reached the port on the eastern side of Kimolos which was basically low lying compared with the western side. We stocked up with provisions from the only store at the port and decided to walk to the Hora (about a mile away) to buy some bread and ended up stopping for lunch in a restaurant.
With a walk back to the port to settle our lunches down we then set off for Poliegos, about 6km distant, exploring caves and other numerous nooks and crannies when we got there. We toured around the western side of Poliegos to the eastern side and found an excellent cove to camp in. It was flanked on either side by steep craggy buttresses of rock and at the top end had a good beach with a small creek behind it. Above all this, on one side of the cove, was a lighthouse from which came the lighthouse keeper and his dog. Both gave us a very warm welcome. Several of us later accompanied the keeper back to the lighthouse where he showed us all about the light tower and its workings. Then we returned to the camp down at the beach and prepared tea around a good fire and retired to our tents thereafter.
Poliegos to Folegandros,
moderate NNE, approx 20 knots.
We rose that morning to find an excellent display of geological colourings which was highlighted by the low early morning sun. Yellows, oranges and reds seeming to predominate. After making our way out of the cove at about 10.30am we set sail in what started off as a light NNE wind which gave ever increasing assistance as it strengthened. For us it was virtually a port beam reach with a bit of assistance and balance from our paddles. In the distance we could make out Folegandros through the haze in a south-easterly direction. The strengthening wind caused the seas to rise up quite steeply, many topped with vigorous white-caps which made the going a bit like a game of cat and mouse whilst trying to dodge the big ones. As we drew abreast of Folegandros, to windward of the northern coastline, we became affected by reflected swell which gave us a roller coaster type sensation. Despite the wet going everyone enjoyed it immensely even though it was bitterly cold.
We eventually arrived at the far eastern end of Folegandros where we found the port. It was on this leg of the trip that we discovered that where they marked a port, there was a 1,000ft cliff with a town on top of it! After landing and stowing our canoes, we caught a bus to the main town some 5 miles away where we found a pension, booked in and indulged in the luxury of a hot shower.
fresh NNE, cool.
Due to the high winds and rough seas we all decided to stay put on the island and do a bit of exploring. Most of us spent the day walking through the countryside inspecting such things as monasteries and dilapidated windmills.
It became evident in our wanderings that staying behind was a prudent move as the wind was very buffeting and the waves out to sea were consistently white-capped, some of the tops blowing off in a spray.
fresh NNE, cool.
We all rose early that morning to get a good start on our next leg of the trip. We caught the 7 o’clock bus at 7.40am to the port, repacked our canoes and headed off in an easterly direction towards Sikinos. The wind was still quite strong and the seas large and after a couple of kilometres of heavy going into a NNE wind and sea, we decided to return back to Folegandros and wait till conditions abated.
Most of the day was spent lying in the sun on the pebbly beach at the port, then later on we paddled around a small headland not far from the port and set up camp behind the beach there. The campsite was a top little spot spoilt only by piles of rubbish nearby. An old lady in the port who had seen us paddling off to sea earlier nearly had a coronary conclusion as she saw us disappear behind the waves. We afterwards gave her a silver “Tasmania” spoon for her concern.
Folegandros to Sikinos to Ios,
light northerly, sunny & warm.
Leaving the campsite we paddled along the lee of a few small islets which were strung out between Folegandros and Sikinos. The conditions were very sunny and quite calm and the water seemed to be very clear as a result. We kept paddling along the chain of islets until we reached the island of Sikinos whose southern shore we paddled along until we reached the island’s port. Here we were met by a few locals at the wharf and it seemed we were most welcome. Presumably few tourists call at Sikinos, particularly in kayaks.
Had lunch at a restaurant where we were entertained by a ‘booby bell’, a facsimile of a woman’s breast which rang a continuous bell if you squeezed it! Nursing split sides, we returned to the beach to laze in the sun and let our lunch settle. One of the local canine quadrupeds seemed particularly keen on joining in the games on the beach. When eventually the dog became tired of us we paddled off again, this time towards Ios which was in the same easterly direction. With a little assistance from the wind and the use of sails, we drew into a deep sheltered bay alongside of which was a cathedral or some other form of ecclesiastical structure and the port of Ios. We disembarked here and searched a somewhat touristy town for a restaurant that might be open. Without a great deal of luck we settled on one restaurant and boosted his daily sales many-fold.
Tea eaten, we decided against staying in the town and settled on camping at a suitable place further down the western side of Ios. We got going and within an hour or so we came to a likely looking beach where we were confronted by a German woman who had emerged from a nearby villa. She, accompanied by her yappy mutt, explained in broken English that we could not camp there because it was a private beach. Muttering under our breath we moved on about another mile and set ourselves up on a larger but more exposed beach and spent the night there.
Ios to Santorini,
light to moderate SW, occasionally cloudy.
It was a bright sunny morning and by and by we made off for Santorini some 5 hours paddling away. The crossing was basically uneventful with only a light to moderate south-westerly wind which sprang up 2/3 of the way across to make things interesting. We wearily paddled into the caldera of Santorini which is the product of a volcanic cataclysm similar to Krakatoa, however some 3,000 years ago.
Once just inside the caldera we stopped for lunch under a small cliff top town called Oia. Later on we headed for the main cliff top town of Thira some 2 miles or so away across the caldera and crossed one spot with a sounding of 1,200 ft.
On our arrival at the wharf we were quickly met by the port policeman who explained that there were insufficient deep water moorings for our kayaks because they were all taken up by 10,000 ton cruise ships! We, however, explained with some difficulty that we could actually lift our boats out of the water thus alleviating the problem to which he alluded.
We safely stowed our canoes on a nearby wharf and made our way to where the foot track commences up the 1,000ft cliff. Here we met some fellows who transport people up and down the track on mules. After a bit of haggling we settled on 150 drachmas (about $2) each. Boy! don’t those mules give you a sore bum, especially after sitting for 6 hours in a canoe seat. Once on the top of the cliff and comfortably on our feet we admired the view to the west across the vast expanse of the caldera and then sought a pension which we found nearby.
20th - 25th April,
mostly fine, sunny & warm.
These five days were spent on Santorini exploring all it had to offer. Although this time was not directly related to canoeing, we did however have many interesting experiences on the island. On the 20th the highlight of the day was having the evening meal at a fair dinkum Greek Taverna with live bouzouki music, plate smashing and erotic dancing. Some reluctant members of the party were cajoled to join in the more conventional Greek dancing with many of the other patrons of the Taverna. On another day we hired mopeds (small pedal assisted motor-bikes) and explored the length of the island taking in vineyards, old Roman ruins, black sand beaches strewn with topless ladies (spunky ones too!) and of course plenty of churches and a few half deserted towns. It is said that ‘Santorini has more churches than houses and more donkeys than people.’
We all managed to paddle out on one day or another and inspect the new volcanic cone building in the middle of the caldera. The cone is an island about a mile square and has a small crater near the highest point of it. From this crater, sulphurous gases issue forth in copious quantities pervading the atmosphere with a somewhat pungent odour.
Another visit on the island was to the ancient Minoan town of Akrotiri. This was built some 3,500 years ago and inundated with pumice ash when the caldera was formed about 500 years later. Most of the town is still covered with ash but what has been excavated is in excellent condition due to the preserving properties of the ash.
Other items of interest on the island included carpet weaving by girls in a monastery in the main town, a winery along with the experience of wine tasting thrown in for good measure, and of course the numerous touristy streets through the town where bargains could be had even if only after a bit of haggling, which was fun in itself.
After five days of being land-lubbers it was time to head for the sea again. To continue our trip we decided it would be best to take a ferry, canoes and all, across to Rhodes near the Turkish coast. Rhodes was chosen as it was not only an interesting place in itself but was also at the bottom of the chain of islands called the Dodecanese. These are basically 12 islands with a lot of little ones thrown in that are sprinkled in a north-south direction parallel to the Turkish coast.
The ferry left Santorini on the evening of the 25th of April and the next morning called in at Chami in Crete. The countryside here looked very similar to the rest of the Cyclades islands, rather barren hills, though with higher mountains inland, some rising to over 8,000ft where the Cretans go skiing in winter. We stopped at one or two ports on the way along the north coast of Crete heading in an easterly direction towards Rhodes. Many of the passengers passed the time by sunbaking on the top deck of the ferry. With a stop at Karpathos (an island between Crete and Rhodes) and a stop or two along the north coast of Rhodes we finally called in at our destination, the main town Rhodos on the north-eastern end of the island in sight of the Turkish coast. On our arrival we unloaded our kayaks and left them on the wharf nearby, and headed straight for a hotel where we showered and bedded down.
The ferry trip saved us some back tracking through the Cyclades islands and also a rather too long open water crossing to get to the Dodecanese islands.
27th - 28th April,
The first day in Rhodes was spent inspecting the town, including the old walled sector of the town which reflected a strong Islamic influence in the architecture, a legacy of the Ottoman and Byzantine Turkish occupations.
The next day we caught a bus which took us down to a lovely place called Lindos, on the southern coast of Rhodes. Here we inspected an ancient castle containing some old Greek ruins. We spent the rest of the day lazing on a beach in a nearby landlocked bay overlooked by the castle. Numerous feminine delights to be observed in abundance. Ah ... what a day!
Rhodes to Mirtonas,
Sunny, warm and calm.
This was the first day of our canoeing in the Dodecanese islands. We launched our kayaks from a low wharfside which was still under construction and paddled from here around the docks underneath the counter of a large ferry that was tied up to a wharf end on. From here we poked our noses into a small harbour across whose entrance the Colossus of Rhodes once stood, a giant bronze statue of some mythical character. Then we paddled westward along the north coast of Rhodes where there were literally miles of pebbly beaches covered with neatly placed sun brollies under which were numerous sun worshippers including the inevitable topless ladies who were the subject of much interest from some of the crews in the party. We dubbed the whole phenomena as “supermarket sunbathing”.
As suburbia thinned out with the miles of travelling under our keels, we saw much in the way of plastic rubbish in the water, particularly plastic sheeting or disintegrating plastic bags.
We found another pebbly beach about lunch time and decided to wrap our laughing gear around some food. We were surrounded by sun bathers including the inevitables. At one stage a Greek fellow came up to us and asked what we were about. We explained that we were paddling up through the Dodecanese Islands. To this he replied that we were either mad or very brave. We thought he believed the former.
After lunch we continued paddling westward past miles of pebbly beach with some type of crops growing behind them. At one stage it was so calm and warm that we jumped out of our canoes and went for a swim some way from the shore, horsing about and generally being a bunch of hoons. We kept paddling further westward until we reached a place near ancient Kamiros. We had a short refreshment stop at a nearby seaside restaurant and then continued a couple of miles further on to a spot near Mirtonas, finally disembarked and set up camp for the night near the main road which ran along near the high water mark.
Mirtonas to Kalki,
sunny, mainly calm.
We continued travelling westward along the coast where we could see the bottom a long way down due to the incredibly clear water. This may be due to the lack of long ocean swells in the Aegean. After a few miles we diverged from the coast and headed towards a small island called Makri, from where we headed in a more northerly direction and paddled towards the island of Alimnia, again in calm conditions and finally reached it in time for lunch. Here we lay about upon the rocks, went for some swims, and just soaked up the sun. Again on the water we paddled in a north westerly direction towards Halki, an island some 8 miles distant. About half way across we passed a small reef not much higher than about 3 feet out of the water. Once in the port of Halki we disembarked on a concrete ramp next to a cantankerous fellow who was painting his boat.
We had a welcome hot coffee at a nearby cafe.
Afterwards we looked for a campsite somewhere just out of town but could find nothing suitable so we came back to the port and set up outside a half finished building. By and by we were approached by a policeman who accused us of being there to take artefacts and national monuments. How we would fit national monuments in 23foot kayaks is beyond us! In our wanderings through the town that afternoon we walked into a church courtyard with a pebble mosaic covering its whole area. The date set in the mosaic was 1683. Peter and Suzie Bauer fraternised with the locals and gave the kids canoe rides.
Halki to Tilos warm,
light - mod westerly.
Arose to the sound of church bells and wailing from the church over the bay. Whilst having- breakfast we were being observed by the paranoid policeman through his binoculars. His station was a couple of hundred yards distant.
Once ready we paddled across the bay to the main part of the town to stock up on a few provisions and have a welcome hot cuppa. We soon departed and headed for Tilo some 12 to 15 miles distant. We encountered a light to moderate westerly which after an hour or so became too much for the rudder on Paul McGlone's and Rodney Clear's kayak. The cable which connected the rudder to the foot-bar broke, fortunately near the rudder itself. We all rafted up and Peter Bauer effected a good repair with assistance of his repair kit and a few willing helpful hands.
As we drew closer to Tilos which is due north of Halki, we were able to hoist sail and make good time to the south-eastern corner of Tilos. Whilst paddling along the cliffy shores we saw mountain goats on seemingly vertical or past vertical cliffs winding their way up through crevices. We had a late lunch stop at a beach on the eastern side of the island. Faces fed, we paddled on into a big bay where there was a town. Here we decided to stay the night.
On disembarking we were met by some friendly fellows who said we could camp back along the beach over the stonewall where there was a field of wild oats. We set up camp there and were comfortably settled down when one of the fellows who we had met earlier came along in his car and seemed overjoyed that we had chosen (accidentally) his plot of land on which to camp. This fellow, Apostolo, stayed quite a while chatting with us, enjoying the company no doubt before he headed back to town
We were 61/2 hours in our kayaks that day.
light westerly wind.
This day was spent ashore on Tilos exploring the countryside. Most of us in one way or another, walked to the main town about 5 miles away. On the way, beside the road, we encountered a tiny stone church (whitewashed of course) which had external dimensions of approximately 8ft by 6ft. Whilst it may have lacked headroom it did have pews and an altar.
Further to our west was the oldest town on the island which was at one time a leper colony. The rest of our time was spent having a lazy day and catching up on a few chores.
Tilos to Nisiros,
fine, light to moderate NW wind.
We got up in the morning to a brilliant sunny day and headed out of the bay where we had camped and made our way up the east coast of Tilos. Again we noticed tall cliffs with daredevil goats in attendance. As we continued northwards we left the island and set our sights on Nisiros. Once out into clear water we encountered an oil slick some 2 Kilometres wide. We tried to keep our hands out of the water and we noticed that our paddle blades and canoe sterns were becoming discoloured with the black oil. Once we cleared the slick, the waves became more peaky and sharp but it was a relief to be out of that mess.
We made a landing on the eastern side of Nisiros where we found a black sand beach. Great for burning your feet in the hot sun. We had lunch and a bit of a rest and then continued up the east coast of Nisiros which was cultivated right down to the low shoreline with fruit trees, olive trees and a few cereal crops. Behind the shore rose steep hills with an unusually thick growth of trees for a Greek Island.
We drew in along the north-eastern shore of the island to a little port with a man-made harbour. We got out and made our way to a cafe at the other end of the quayside from where we landed. Upon our entry under the pagoda type verandah, we were presented with the visual and olfactory delights of goats guts, freshly extricated from the hapless creatures all heaped up in a plastic basin near one of the tables. An old lady with bloodied hands quickly effected their disappearance upon our arrival, allowing us to enjoy? a hot cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.
Once back on the water we headed westward along the north coast of Nisiros and after much cogitation we settled on a campsite not far from an army establishment. As we began to establish ourselves onshore we noticed the grass to be infested with monstrous green grasshoppers about 2 inches long. After setting up camp we all walked into the main port and town and indulged in a good Taverna feed.
light-moderate NNW wind.
Again we stayed for a day to see what this island had in store for us. We discovered there was a volcano on the island which warranted investigation. We managed to get transport in a bus which went up over a row of very high hills and then down into a steep-sided flat bottomed valley was the crater, the bottom of which was below sea level. Here we wandered about on the flat baked clay crater floor which was about 10 acres in area whilst we checked out all the little and big holes in the ground that hissed out hot humid, sulphurous air. We were told however that this particular volcano had not erupted in historic times so we felt fairly safe.
With a brief refreshment stop at a craterside cafe behind us, we headed back to the main port to have a good look through the town. In one doorway we saw a fellow making crackers for Easter eve. Each cracker had 5 thimble fulls of black powder in it. One of these could certainly rattle a rubbish tin well!
After a quick dash up a hill to some old ruins, we had tea in a restaurant back in the town and eventually returned to the campsite. Cecily had the jitters at the thought of having to walk past the army establishment on the way. Thought we might all get shot!
Nisiros to Kos,
fine, light to moderate NW.
Before making off towards Kos, we paddled back into the port about a mile away. Whilst a few paddlers went ashore, the rest of us stayed afloat and chatted with some fellows on a yacht from Turkey. Once back together we set off for Kos against a light north-westerly wind.
We passed Yiali, a small uninhabited island which was visited by one intrepid nature stopping individual who could not resist the temptation of marking her territory on this island. Incessantly by necessity was the excuse given.
As we continued on in a north north-easterly direction towards Kos a few kayaks hoisted sail as the north-westerly came more around on the port beam. At one spot about 5 or 4 miles south of Kos we paddled over an area with a sounding of over 2,000ft. A bit difficult to roll off the bottom here we thought. By the time we reached the shingle beach shore under some high mountains on the southern side of Kos, we had been on the water for 4 hours. We made good use of the next hour by having lunch and soaking up the sun.
Once on the water again we continued a few miles to the east along the coast and came to a place called Thermes. Here we jumped out and dug holes in the pebbly sand on the beach whereby very warm water would soak into the freshly dug holes. We lazed about in the warm water for a while and dislocated a few eye-sockets whilst looking sideways to the nudists, pretending we weren’t looking. However they didn't appear to care about our presence.
Some time after leaving Thermes we rounded a cape with a small lighthouse and began to head north as did the coastline. Not far on we caused a commotion in an army establishment. There were soldiers running around like frenzied ants and quickly had many pairs of binoculars on us. As we drew off into the distance they seemed to disappear. We guessed that they thought we were a bunch of Turks. We finally drew up onto a beach near the town of Kos and were met by Tourist police who told us that there was a campsite 150 yards further on. We took advantage of this and set up in the well run site, taking advantage of the showers and the restaurant. We also met Kathy and John who happened to already be at that campsite just by coincidence although we knew they would be on the island of Kos.
fine, light to moderate NW.
This was to be another rest day. Most of us went our own ways but there was a group who hired bicycles and pedalled around the town of Kos checking out a museum, (mostly statues and floor mosaics) and a restored Roman house. From here we pedalled westward and up into some higher country where we found Hippocrate's school of medicine known as the Asklipeios. Heading further westward along what seemed a main road we came to a turnoff and went down to the north coast to a spot called Tingaki where we had lunch and watched some expert windsurfers on the job. Later in the day we pedalled back to the bike-hire place near the camp-site and spent the rest of the evening chatting around tables outside the camp-kitchen.
Kos to Pserimos-Kalymnos,
fine, occasionally moderate NW.
About 9 o'clock that morning we were ready to leave and on the water. The whole family who ran the restaurant and the campsite came down to see us off. After the fare-wells we set off up the coast past the main town of Kos and more “supermarket sunbathers". Then rounding another headland we aroused another bunch of soldiers who went through the same routine as the crew the day before. Once around this headland we were able to head in a north-westerly direction diverging away from the north coast of Kos and heading towards the island of Pserimos.
We plugged on steadily for an hour and a half into the wind and small waves; quite refreshing though as the temperature was already quite high. As we drew up under a headland on the south-east corner of Pserimos we again-roused much activity in a fairly well concealed army base. Near the wharf we chatted with a couple of army fellows who put the rest of the camp at ease for us. Again they must have thought we were a Turkish invasion.
Having placated the army, we headed out around the westward side of the island and not far onward came into a delightful westerly facing bay with a good fine sand beach at the end of it. Here we stopped for lunch but not before being besieged by small boys in the water. They took delight in trying to capsize us and then having failed at that used our kayaks as diving platforms
On the beach we spread ourselves out and ate, and soaked up the sun. The weather necessitating no more than a pair of board shorts and a hat or whatever.
Strolling around the township behind made us aware of many goats and sheep having met their maker. The Greek Easter(Poscali) was to follow the next day and a sheep or a goat went down very well when it was roasted for the main meal.
About 2.30pm we decided it was time to head off on what was to be the last paddle of the trip. We made off from Pserimos over glassy swells which were soon ruffled by a rising north-westerly. Our destination, the port of Kalymnos was directly into the wind and soon we were dipping into romping waves that shattered into thousands of pieces as they were broken by the bows of the kayaks and then backlit by the strong sunshine.
Finally we made it into the bay where the port is situated and were quite surprised at the size of the place. We did a lap around the bay before deciding to haul out on the eastern side of the bay on a pebbly beach. The folk in the nearby house kindly indicated that they would keep an eye on the kayaks for us.
The afternoon was spent looking through the town to find a pension. This done we then went along to a foreshore restaurant and enjoyed a good meal, interrupted only by loud crackers being let off in the near vicinity. The larger crackers had more power than a three-penny bomb as we knew them. The waiter had to run the gauntlet of cracker throwers when he crossed the road with a tray load of five coffees perched on one hand. He was quite jumpy. A few minutes later we had a mind blowing experience whereby a very large explosion went off about 100ft away, ruffling our hair and deafening our ears. On inquiring into the nature of the "cracker" we were told it was dynamite, which is let off in profusion on such occasions as Easter by the locals who get the stuff from old torpedoes, mines and bombs that they dig up while sponge diving. A legacy from the last World War.
More bombs and crackers were being let off, some quite close and when someone flicked a cigarette butt, everyone ducked. We were all ill at ease.
Later, after our meal, some of us went and watched the proceedings outside a Greek Orthodox church. The celebrant was on a pedestal outside the church, chanting from an old book. He appeared quite unruffled by crackers going off around him and even under the pedestal he was standing on.
At about midnight we called it a day and retired back to our pensions.
8th - 12th May,
The one thing that struck us all was the hospitality of the locals. On our first morning in Kalymnos we returned to our kayaks to sort some gear out and immediately the people who were keeping an eye on our gear, came out and gave us kid or lamb, beer, chocolates, ice-creams, Easter-eggs and cakes. They did their best to make it a memorable Easter for us. Right throughout our stay on the island they could not have been more helpful and welcoming, not in an overbearing way, but they were always about when we needed assistance with our kayaks and cleaning and washing of our gear.
The ensuing few days were spent exploring the island. This we found was best done by hiring a motor-bike or motor scooter to cover the ground in the time we had available to us. Of particular interest were the numerous small forts around the island and also an old castle high up on the side of a hill.
On the second night on the island we were all treated to an exceptionally good display of dynamite bomb throwing right in the main square of the port. When we asked a fellow how much dynamite they used in each bomb, he said, “1/4 kilo blows holes in road, 1/2 kilo shatters windows!” Hence all the waterfront shop windows were of perspex rather than glass, although we did see a few broken glass windows the next morning.
Our last night on the island was spent having a slap-up feed at an Argentinian’s restaurant on the waterfront. This was done because of our impending departure the next day by ferry to Piraeus. The whole affair was carried out in a jovial and jocular fashion in keeping with the spirit of the trip, that being fun.
The following gems of wisdom have emerged from numerous discussions since the trip and are presented as food for thought and not necessarily in any order of importance.
1. A group of three doubles (or four singles) may be an ideal number for an extended trip. This may be the size which is most socially viable both within the group and from the viewpoint of the villages one visits
2. Where doubles are used it is recommended that the whole group use doubles.
3. The entire group should paddle together for at least three days consecutively, over long distances and in as difficult conditions as possible, well prior to the start of the trip.
4. Doubles pairs should paddle together extensively well prior to the trip, to establish paddling rhythm and packing technique and thoroughly test out all equipment on the kayak.
5. Equipment on each kayak should be standardised so that all have the same capability.
6. Communication within the group is vitally important. When preparing for the trip establish a definite system of decision making, either by consensus of opinion, or by elected leader.
7. Cost of living is greatly cheaper in OFF season. Prices rise dramatically as tourist season approaches, and it is very pleasant to avoid the high season crowds. On the other hand, fresh supplies of food are scarce, and ferries less frequent
8. Every kayak should have a minimum repair kit easily accessible from the cockpit. The group should carry a comprehensive repair kit for every three kayaks.
9. Maps and charts need to be as up to date as possible, good maps are invaluable.
10. Cables for rudders need to be strong. It's suggested that 3/32" stainless steel running rigging wire is suitable.
11. Low maintenance sealed batteries recommended. All electrical connections should be completely sealed.
12. Gear should be stowed in waterproof bags even if in waterproof compartments - little leaks can occur over an extended period of constant paddling.
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