Rock in’ roll in’ ridin’ to Hydra

  • Monday 29th – to Hydra
    Our last night in our little cave house. I have a double door onto the patio and I can open the top part (like a horse door but smaller) and leave it open all night. So I can listen to the sea, the wind in the wires of the windmill but very little else. It’s truly a magic place to stay. 
    Breakfast on the terrace is lovely especially as the waiter now knows us and brings our coffee in large mugs with extra hot milk on the side. It’s sad to be leaving but Hydra awaits. 
    Hydra is a small car-free island recommended by my Sydney friend Kerrie. She and her husband sail over here and she told me it was a charming little island and isn’t far back to Athens. Everyone we’ve told about going to Hydra has told us it lovely so we can’t wait to get there.
    It was all fine timing to leave Oia, taxi to the airport, and then from Athens on to to Piraeus port. But with the luck of the Irish we did it. Connections! Our taxi driver in Oia recommended his friend in Athens. So remembering my good experience in a similar situation in Sicily serval years ago, trusted we would be looked after and not ripped off. 
    And it was magic. We landed early, and everything went like clockwork so thanks to our taxi driver Archimedes (or something like that) we are sitting on the 2pm fast ferry to Hydra and will be met by a donkey to transport our bags to the hotel we are staying in. Fingers crossed its as good as it sounds. 
    15 mins later ………
    Fingers crossed we get there. After stopping at Poros, a really green island, we rather regretted  not getting off – for 5 mins later there were scenes reminiscent of  Titanic without the band. But there is a crazy show on TV where the contestants are dancing in front of a weather map in short swirly dresses. The hydrocat swooping  and rolling and its like being  on a roller coaster (still is! Writing this is taking my mind off the dipping and rolling) a lady opposite me is vomiting into a bag and people are gasping ooh! arrh! at regular intervals. Ride em cowboy! A man who seems to know about the boat said the driver is going too fast for the current between islands. Where are the pirates when you need them! Aaarrrggghh!
    At first I was joking about us being able to swim the rest of the way but now it’s looking likely – and I haven’t got my fins on! Makes the plane ride, in the wind, more like a walk in the park. Steve is probably thinking I’m exaggerating but I’m ………….. Well maybe a little. It’s starting to settle and I can’t wait for my fourth form of transport today  – a donkey ride.  

Sunday : a day in Fira


Woke to howling winds which they tell us are about a month too soon! Back on with the good old Bonds zip hoodie and off to the bus to Fira, the capital of Santorini. Comfortable bus ride down passing lots of walkers and apartments on the outskirts of Oia and we felt vey SMUG about our superior position. 
Arrived in Fira and within a few paces had eyed a massage place for poor Chris who is struggling with back pain, a result of a weeks swimming and a slight tumble down a rogue stair in Oia. We booked him in and went exploring. 

Imagine lots of tourists in a mish-mash of clothes due to the windy, cool weather (the most outrageous was the lady in sea aqua tights, beige linen knee length dress, purple wooly cardigan and a multi coloured scarf. I felt the height of fashion by comparison!) Then there were: snapping cameras, ooh and arrhs at the views, buskers playing very mellow tunes outside the large Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and multiple jewellery stores. 
Inside the Cathedral the little Greek lady who was cleaning was muttering – probably about the disrespectful tourists, sweeping and realigning the candles people had lit and put into the sand tray. 
Meandered the streets towards the cable car and decided not to ride it. It looked way too swaying for us. Instead we climbed stairs and visited  the Catholic Cathedral. It was painted yellow in contrast to the white of most of the buildings. 

Ventured into the Red Donkey for lunch and shared a few plates. Chris left us for his massage and Jill and I decided on a wander through the shopping streets. Not too much to attract us but I did buy some Spanish espadrilles! After being in France and not buying them, I then find some I like in Greece!

A few streets later we found a linen shop and after much ducking in and out of dressing rooms, sharing clothes and giving Very Honest opinions of how fetching we looked, Jill bought a blue/white linen top and I bought a very blue asymmetrical top and a burnt orange linen dress! Well done us. 
We made our way to the bus station and along with all the badly dressed tourists rushed onto the return bus to Oia. What an experience. Apart from a driver who thought he was in a James Bond speed scene, the real entertainment came with the conductor! What a cranky Greek he was. Smart mouthed, sarcastic, mean spirited and a tourist hater! His comments to various passengers included: “what language do you want to me to say it in” (to a poor Japanese man); “I’m not a bancomat” to the Spaniard who tried to give him a 100 euro note; “if you are getting off here – hurry” as people were trying to push through the crowds. Jill and I had a good seat and had a Greek language lesson from three local siblings who were carrying a huge white box, which we offered to hold on our laps. Our guess proved correct. It was the eldest one’s 14th birthday and they had been to buy a cake. She proudly opened the box to reveal a big white heart shaped cake decorated in gaudy red roses. Not to be too mean, I did think perhaps they had a hearty diet and would enjoy the big cake. They we all three of them rather well covered. The eldest girl had quite good English and then started to teach us a few Greek words. Not sure we were good students. 
We all got off at the same spot and as their house was right at the bus stop I thought we might be invited in to meet mum and share the cake. No such luck. So we crossed the road and entered Oia from the start of the village opposite to where we were staying. 
It’s a little more upmarket  – cave house and lots of “beautiful people” were lying on deck chairs around individual plunge pools. We could see them from the top walkway as all the little cave house appear to tumble down the cliff face. It was wonderful to see. 

We enjoyed a wedding  conducted on a little rocky outcrop, saw some local little girls playing with their Barbie dolls, dogs sleeping in door ways, the rich and maybe famous sitting in cafes drinking wine, and others enjoying a Greek style passeggiata. Lovely scene
We reach our end of the village and Jill – after a little urging from me, bought the beautiful navy silk top and I stopped in and picked up the pink silk. We are ready for a glamorous night out now. 
The crowds were gathering for the sunset and we smugly walked back to our “villa with a view” settled in with snacks and beer! (out of wine!) and snapped another few !!!!  Photos. What a sunset. Bright orangey pink sun, silvery lined clouds, rays plunging into the sea and changing every second. It’s an amazing sight. 
We had the loud neighbours (guess where they came from!) move in this afternoon which destroyed our peace but gave us a laugh. 
Another lovely dinner at Papagalos with our fun gay waiter and then to bed. 

Saturday: Farewell First Class Steve


Woke later than we planned! Steve didn’t get up and roam the quiet streets but Chris did. Finally hit the streets and visited the bookshop! The rocky outcrop with the spectacular view and of course the patisserie where Steve had spied some delicious pastries. We sat in the terrace sheltering from the dripping rain and enjoyed warm milk pie and apple tart. Yum. 

Before long it was time for Steve to depart. He had on his very sad face. We had heard his Airfrance flight had been changed due to a strike and he was now on Emirates. A text later from him in Athens confirmed he had won the upgrade lottery. He was First Class – all the way to Melbourne. Yay for Steve. Now he’ll find it hard to fly business. 

After Steve left we had our little siesta and then Jill and I had some girl time! We decided to try a little shopping. Well picture us in possibly the nicest boutique in Oia and becoming friends with the lovely girls then spending quite some time trying different outfits on. It’s was great fun. On my own I may not have tried things and I think Jill would have been the same but together! We went into the same dressing room and swapped things around. We have different figure types and some suited one and some suited the other!
Finally I decided on a lovely coral coloured silk top. Jill didn’t find anything so the lovely girl told us to visit their other shop around the corner. It’s called the silk shop and had may different things. Well into the shared dressing room again and more fun. Jill loved a naval silk top with  soft sleeves and a fitted band around the bottom. Lovely. She decided to “think” about it but I’m sure it’s the one for her.
We scurried back to Chris with a bottle of red and nibbles and watched the sunset. Not as good as yesterday so that’ll make Steve feel better. 

Found a lovely restaurant not far from our villa and we settled in and I had my first moussaka. Yum. The waiter was a hoot. Slightly gay – like that guy from the fashion show. Very funny but so attentive and brought us the nicest house wine I had tasted. 
We hid from the table of 4 Aussies next to us. They were loud and we didn’t want to get involved in their singing of Aussie Aussie Aussie! 

But they guessed and spent a few minutes describing all they had “done” in their six weeks holiday. We found out at least 20 things about them but gave away nothing much at all. Very “lock and key” 

Home to mint tea and a good sleep 

Friday – Steve’s last day on holidays

Friday – Saturday

We all made our way to the port – with a little detour by me to the bakery! It’s two hours to Naxos and we wouldn’t want to starve! the boat trip was different this time as we knew more travellers and had more fun and laughs as we went. Some of the group were dressed in climbing gear – they are the ones who had opted to climb Mt Zeus. It included Sarah Wilson, guides Ricky and Emma, the NZ sporty couple David and Kim and “glass half full girl” Maryanne. Steve and I and the Wilsons had another ferry to catch to Santorini. 

The ferry was a scene from Titanic. People were jostling for seats and pushing up stairs. We found a few seats – a little like a movie theatre all facing forward. Got settled then the German invasion with numbered seats! How did that happen? We obviously had only bought economy seats! They were in Premium and there was even a business class. Oh what an oversight. Anyway Steve and I found two free seats in the Asian section and Jill and Chris were in the cafe area. The trip took about 2-3 hours and then we arrived at another movie scene. Crowds everywhere. Standing in the exit  under the boat ( where the cars usually park) along with hundred of other refugees on holidays all with wheely suitcases , we were jostled and shouldered and felt like movie extras in a re-enactment of the landing at Anzac Cove. Appropriately, the boat backed into the port and it looked like we were going to ram the cliff straight in front of us. 
Fortunately I had emailed ahead to be met so we walked off and found our name among the many Greeks enthusiastically waving signs with names on them. 
We got in a mini bus and away. Went up the winding hill away from the port and enjoyed the view of the distant village of Oia which looked like snow on a mountain top. The villages are all white and scattered along the top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. It’s a gorgeous view and we couldn’t wait to get to Oia.  Felt very smug as we passed through other village feeling we had selected the right village for us. 
We were greeted by Paolus a big strong guy who lifted our suitcases with ease and went up the winding path to reception. Turns out we are on the end of the village in the very best position for viewing the famous sunset of the caldera. Our little villa has a front gate , four chairs and an umbrella on the patio outside the front door. Inside is a lounge room/ kitchen and then two bedrooms and bathrooms. One on the front  and one on the back. It’s perfect. 

 Hurriedly bought Prosecco, beer and ouzo, some snacks and settled ourselves on the patio for the viewing.  We were  as excited as kids. Laughing and sipping and snapping and kissing and hugging. It was also Steve’s last night so we wanted to make it special. Well Jill and I overdosed on bubbles and were wobbling after sunset as we made our way through the village to dinner. The streets are narrow, cobbled, steep in places and crowded with people all along the way who were there for the viewing of sunset. Once again we felt very SMUG to have found the perfect quiet spot for our own private viewing. 

Dinner was at Scala and involved much more food and drink encouraged by Steve who was trying to cram three days of fun into one! 

It was lovely, lots of photos and laughter and Steve trying to buy me a lovely piece of jewellery from one of the many shops along the way. All the shops are open till 10 pm which seems a little OTT but with all the romantics in the area it must be good for that impulsive buy. 
I managed to restrain Steve from doing it (?) until the morning when I had decided what I really  wanted! 

S o off to bed under the windmill. When you see photos of Santorini and you see the famous windmill at the top of the island – that’s where we stayed. 


Last night on the swim trek

Our last day (and night) of Swimtrek

A big swim (3km) including some great caves

… to here …
Sarah, Jill and Fran in fetching pink caps
… via here …
…. Pause here …

A smaller swim (2km) to finish off

Sarah’s 30th birthday map
… the last leg

“Presentation Ceremony” and final dinner

Our guides, Ricky and Emma – well done!
Steve graduates
Fran graduates
The Crew



Great night last night on this gorgeous little island Koufonissi.. The little restuarant in a laneway back from the small port was really very good. The lamb! The salads! All delicious.
It was all drama though, with Tracey (another pink group member) really not well and had to see a doctor in town. Ricky, our lovely guide, took her and had to make a decision about what to do. She has some health problems and really needs to see a specialist. Poor lady has been trying to cope (and swimming quite well) but it really has to be dealt with. We the pink group members will miss her. Her friend Maryanne has stayed as travel  insurance wouldn’t cover her leaving.

After dinner some of the group headed home – sensible people – and others went to a nearby bar for one last drink. It belonged to a man we met on the beach this afternoon – nude – who was introduced to us as Arki’s brother! Turns out he is not Arkie’s brother but another very smooth talking Greek man. You know the type – beachy leathery, longish hair in a ponytail, think they are God’s gift to women. Lots of fun!

The next  morning we were slow to start. Tracey had left on the ferry at 6am and there was much discussion on where the swim would be. I decided it was too windy for me, and Jill agreed, so here we are doing our blog while the others are off sailing and swimming. Might regret it, but a day off from those distances is a treat …

We are having the afternoon off as a group. So a nice lunch coming up and an afternoon siesta.

Steve and the swimmers had a very rough, windy passage under sail back across to the Eastern coast of Naxos to find a sheltered swim. It worked well – about 3 km in the warmest and bluest of waters doing a coastal passage which was just great. More high speed, spray and  sailing back to port for the siesta!

Alas, no photos!

Swimming from Island to island


Weather came up during the night which meant a change of plan. 
We packed the bus with bags and headed for the other side of the island. 
Most had to walk and myself, Dave from NZ and James went in the bus with Ricky to help with the luggage. Well I’m sure the men wouldn’t have volunteered if they had seen how far they had to carry everyone’s bags. That wasn’t in the brochure! 



 We loaded Ari’s boat carefully – he is very strict on this boat –  then we motored over to another island, stopped along the coast and swam from there, finishing with a small crossing. We  swam up to the most beautiful sandy  beach had morning tea and walked to our hotel.  Lovely morning swim.


Settled into our new hotel was easy . It’s really lovely, in a good position by the water, has a pool, coloured chairs and decorating ideas straight from a Greek magazine! 



A lovely lunch by the pool , followed by a bus ride across the island to a long beach with gorgeous turquoise water. Quite a number of people at the beach had unfortunately forgotten their togs – very European! We had found the nude beach. It was funny as we were putting on all our swimming gear. Wet shirt, wet suits, fins, goggles etc.
The water looked better than it was to  swim! We swam and swam to get around the majestic headlands and found the best caves to swim into. It was more challenging than it looked. But Ricky and Emma were there encouraging us all the way and we made it. Such a great feeling.



Back to the beach for a coffee before the bus arrived to drive us back.


Looking forward to dinner tonight.
We walked into the charming village and found the restaurant Ricky had arranged for us.
Great night, great food and a great nights sleep.









We enjoyed a good breakfast and made our way to the harbour so we could motor over to a nearby island to make our first crossing! Wow is all can say. 


It was fairly rough and choppy as we started out and by the end we earned our lunch. We must have swum at least 4 or more km. not a bad effort for the first day. I fell a lot more confident this year, knowing I can keep going – something I wasnt sure of last year..




Another good lunch this time prepared by Ricky and Emma sitting under the shade at the beach bar.



The afternoon swim was from  the port and around the headland back to the beach. We swam with Ricky which was great. He pointed things out and was diving down to show us sponges and rocks and kept a reasonable pace for us. Back on the beach we lazed before walking slowly back up the hill. Dinner was back at the Deli Bar where we choose from the menu and it was great. I had BBQ calamari. Quite delicious.





Steve enjoyed raki which Chris thinks it is really rocket fuel. Steve seems to like it.





Packed and off to bed. Leaving this hotel tomorrow for Koufonisia






SUNDAY: Swim Trek Begins




Well the swim has started! We walked down to the beach, a rocky walk mostly down hill! Wasn’t looking forward to the uphill with my so knee! 


The bay was lovely, quite deserted,  a little unkept and we stopped and put our gear at the beach bar and creamed up and went into the water for our first swim- a 400 metre swim starting with Ricky along the beach around Emma and back. This gave them a chance to check out our style and speed.



We were all pretty good with the few at the top, and Jill and I and maybe one or two others in the slower group ( not that we cared as we just want to be able to enjoy the swims.



We had the usual swim trek morning tea of tea coffee fruit and packet biscuits  before we started out training session. We all learned the swim signals and then started a few drill to help with the distance sea swimming. It was a good introduction – one we didn’t get last year as the group were all experienced swimmers. Still it was a good revision to be able to think of our stroke.



Then the big starring moment! The video camera was brought out and Emma took control. She had us swim towards her then pass in front of her to the right for twenty metres, then repeated it all underwater!





Can’t wait for the video analysis tonight!





Then it was lunch. We wandered up the stairs to a lovely little restaurant all blue and white with white billowing curtains around a LONG table set by the edge of the garden overlooking the sea. Not bad. Lunch was the usual beautiful Greek salad, pasta and sparkling water. No alcohol at lunch as we have another swim in the afternoon.





Siesta time followed and we all stretched out on one of the sun beds under the shade of the trees scattered along the beach bar.





Then the challenge starts. We swam out and around a small island, across to a headland, along the headland and into another gorgeous bay, around the bay and along the coast till we reached a little blue and white church. So picturesque. Then across the bay to reach Arki’ s boat.





Now I haven’t mentioned Arki. He is Greek, tried to be charming, and owns the yacht that swim trek use for its week long treks. We had heard he was particular – he is ridiculously so!  A we climbed the ladder to get on his boat he hoses you down practically orders you along in how to move and where to sit. A little over the top in my opinion.





We motored back to the beach bar and rested awhile before the long rocky climb up the hill to our hotel. That wasn’t in the brochure!!!!!





Video analysis time meant drink time as Ricky and Emma showed the first group their video! It was slowed and replayed several times as they made constructive comments about our swimming. It was very good and gave us lots of work on over the next few days. We sat with Kim and David and had many laughs.





We prepared for our dinner together at A little courtyard restaurant. It’s a  little restaurant in the small village. We ordered things to start and then an individual meal each. All was going really well- starters great. Then 3 people got their mains and nearly an hour  and several requests and many apologies  later our main courses started to arrive. Seems there was an issue with the BBQ gas! 



Huge meals and most of us didn’t feel like it any more!





The glass half empty girl Maryanne from Sydney made her displeasure loud and clear. Oh boy it could be a long week with her!