If the Greek islands are to Europe as Bali is to Australia then Santorini is Kuta; Oia is a tourist destination, crowded with souvenir shops, photo opportunities and sunburnt foreigners ambling all over the place. We stayed in the middle of Santorini, up a hill in Pyrgos. Oia, Fira, Firastefano and the other one up the hill were just quiet glimmering lights in the landscape at night, looking out over the infinity pool in the cool summer’s breeze. Daniel and I preferred Mykonos, and not just because of all the meat there. We filled our 44 hours in Santorini with a bit of walking, a bit of lazing about in the villa and a 7-hour day trip on a catameran that took us to Red Beach, White Beach, the volcanic warm spring and to watch the sun set floating in the caldera next to Oia. We made the mistake of taking a minivan the 14 km return journey to Pyrgos, a trip that took 90 minutes. It’s time to go home and I’m glad for it.
When I searched online for accomodation in Santorini I’d been recommended to stay in Oia, right in the heart of the tourist-centric hub. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I hate crowds. When we stayed in Times Square in New York it was awful, flashing lights, swarms of other tourists and endless distracting noise. I found a beautifully appointed luxury villa instead in Pyrgos – a hill in the centre of the reverse-C-shaped island. It was expensive but worth the isolation and privacy. Walking through Firastefano and Oia you could literally touch people in their hot tubs, or look down on them in their infinity pools. In ours we could skinny dip. So we did.
The transfer car picked us up at 14:15. We arrived a jetty, as the morning catamaran tours returned and sunburnt multinationals staggered off, the Americans in the groups loudly (why must so many travelling Americans always talk at such overly loud volumes!?) shouted, “So GOOD TO MEET YOU!” at the rest of their group. On the other side of us a man operated a machine that was dredging the bay. It looked like so much fun. Why couldn’t they open that as a tourist experience? I’d pay to play on an oversized version of the thing I excavated with in the sandpit when I was five. I had looked forward to growing up and being able to use a bigger machine but my step grandparents insisted I should become a doctor instead, and look after them. At least I did the first part.
We had booked last-minute tickets on a private boat that had been opened to semi-private bookings in the afternoon. It still had about 12 guests on board. Anna and Daniel were the only non-Asians. It was an interesting contrast to the American tourists on the jetty to observe the mainland Chinese tourists, who mainly whispered amongst themselves, didn’t make eye contact and ignored the briefing (they spoke English, but just didn’t bother to reply when the Captain asked if everybody understood English). Consequently the seasick woman was offered a chewing gum by the captain and promptly swallowed it. I felt bad laughing so loudly at her but she had plaintively complete ignored the repeated explanation from the Captain to not swallow the chewing gum when he’d briefed us earlier. I got out some ginger tablets from my bag to offer her but the gum was also ginger so it was a bit pointless.
We are privileged travellers. We snorkelled in the cool water, cool enough to brace you when you jumped in but warm enough to be comfortable (it is a volcanic area). It was clear enough to see 3 metres to the sand at the floor, looking much closer than it was. But, unlike the Galapagos there were only a few small fish, minimal variety in appearance and no other types of creature. By the time we stopped for dinner, all the other boats also barbecuing on barbecue coals, polluting the air with a mixture of chemical smoke and charred meat, I began to felt seasick and wondered what the hell happened to my resolve in Exmouth just last month of NO MORE BOAT TOURS BECAUSE I GET SEASICK EVERY BLOODY TIME? I took another ginger tablet, stopped eating and tried to stop thinking about how I wanted to hurl up my chewed bits of charred pork onto the tiny fish below.
The warm spring has sulfur and other chemicals that stain the white boat exterior or any white in your fabric. I was not going to wear my new expensive bathing suit that I’ve worn all weekend and is mostly white. I already threw out my last bathing suit, still stained red from the Western Australian Pilbara because the stained red wouldn’t come out.
Suddenly our week-long Greek island holiday was over. We departed ways at Athens airport; Dan and I had a quick transfer to Abu Dhabi, Anna had to wait several hours to check-in for her flight to Dubai. Back to work Friday, bright and early.