7/13/12

Sailing in Santorini


So much of the world has been scoured in search of lost, mysterious places but nothing has brought as much drama to man's imagination as the mythical lost city of Atlantis. Among the many possible sites - no, not that one in the Bahamas - plenty of fingers point to the volcanic island of Santorini.


Whether this is true or not, I decided on joining a boat tour around the islands.  If the Greek philosopher Plato was indeed prodded to write about Atlantis on accounts of a catastrophic volcanic eruption in Thera (or Santorini), then the least I could do is visit the islands which pretty much are the remains of a volcano.

There are daily boat tours departing from both Fira and Oia with varying costs depending on length and inclusions. Since I was staying at the Oia Mare Villas, I decided to book with their agency since the price for a 6-hour tour was the same as elsewhere - at €30 it's really pricey but this is Europe  anyway.

Port of Ammoudi just below Oia

The tour was to start at 10:00 AM from the port in Ammoudi which was literally below where I was staying. After enjoying a hearty free breakfast at the hotel, I told the very friendly manager about my flight back to Athens that evening. "No worries", she said "we'll have your bag sent up to where you checked in yesterday". She obviously meant the travel agency that handles their reservations - conveniently just next to the bus terminal.

With the check-out formalities out of the way, I headed down the steep switchback leading to the port. There was already a queue of passengers in front of the schooner. On an open deck I sat along with the others, merrily taking in the breeze and the view as the boat sailed away promptly from the port. It's a perfect day for sailing.


The surreal beauty of the caldera topped with white-washed cubic houses is simply spectacular from sea level - something completely different from what one sees from its vertiginous cliffs. Even the walls of the caldera look higher than its actual 300-meter height.

We sailed along parallel the walls and stopped at the port in Fira to pick up more passengers. As we continued sailing, our female tour guide began her spiel "Underneath the blue Aegean sea was once part of a volcano, now submerged". We were heading towards Nea Kameni.  We're walking up this little monster.

Hiking up Nea Kameni
The volcanic crater

Nea Kameni  is an uninhabited island which is at the center of the caldera and the very heart of volcanic activity. Its last eruption was in 1950. Walking up this rough terrain on a sunny day is not fun unless one came prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and proper shoes. Plenty of other visitors however came in flip flops!

After about half an hour walking, we reached the main volcanic crater. Vents emitting sulfur gases can be seen, the fumes of which are odorous enough to make one not linger longer. We were given an hour to explore on our own so I walked further, past a monitoring device kept by scientists watching for signs of impending doom.

Hot & cold
Soaking up more on sun

Once everyone was back at the boat, we continued sailing to nearby Palea Kameni. The main draw here is the 'hot springs' which is accessed only by swimming directly from the boat and into a secluded cove where temperatures have warmed the water considerably. It's a weird sensation to swim initially on cold waters before getting into a shallow shore with warm water temperature - only to swim back to the boat where the water is cold again.

It was almost 2 PM and everyone on the boat was starving. The next stop thankfully was the island of Therassia which has served hungry mouths over the years. It's the second  biggest island in this little archipelago. There's a donkey trail zigzagging up the cliff leading to a small village but I wasn't sure if 2 hours in the island was enough to go up there so I merely stayed on the shore and headed out to one of the beach-side tavernas.

Grilled seafood
Baklava

This being so close to the sea, what else would I be eating but seafood? I spotted an old man grilling octopus, squid and fish which gave off enough aroma to convince my nose this has to be my lunch. An old lady showed me to my table and in no time, I was feasting on a plateful of grilled seafood. To round up this excellent meal, I ordered baklava - sweet and decadent.

About two hours and a half later, we made it back to Ammoudi port just below Oia. Instead of hiking up, I took it easy this time and rode on the free transport to the bus terminal. After getting my bags back, I waited for the bus bound for Fira. Soon enough I heard a familiar language - some Pinoys were waiting for the bus as well!

Hello deja vu
Santorini Airport

It turns out, they were crew members of a cruise ship. They were in Oia for a quick relaxation away from the pressures of a demanding work. Though our meeting was brief and unexpected, I felt at ease with them, something which I suppose is quite natural among Pinoys.

While they made their way back to their ship, I went into the airport to await my evening flight to Athens. Meeting these hardworking Pinoys brought me back to my days as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Ahhh...those years. An old part of me came surfacing again. Just like a long lost city.

15 comments:

  1. Beautiful. Bigla akong napakanta ng "what a wonderful world".

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    1. When you're in such a beautiful island, mapapakanta ka talaga :)

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  2. wow the hotspring must be great..

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    1. If only it doesn't require swimming through cold water first . . .

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  3. postcards all. it's so beautiful out there.

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    1. Santorini is waiting for you Maria!

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  4. Your first 2 photos on this post almost left me speechless!
    Ang ganda, dennis! Thank you for taking us to Greece in this post.
    And that Greek flag photo on that boat looks so inviting!

    Reading this entry gave me a hint that you met few Pinoys and my instinct was right, they're working in a cruise ship. My youngest brother was lucky enough to be like them when he was 21, his first job landed him to 30+ shores in Europe and neighboring countries.

    I agree with maria; your photos are so postcard perfect! you might want to submit them to travel magazines like what i did. i'm inviting you to swing back on my site for my recent post. thanks! :)

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    1. Thanks Doc!
      Is your brother still working with a cruise ship? Swerte nya ano, he was able to see a whole lot of countries while at work. I also had a friend who used to work for Disney Cruise Line - part of his perk was free passes to Disney parks which he freely gave me.

      I might just follow your suggestion :)

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  5. Just by seeing the photos above you had me traveling to greece.. remembering the travelling pants movie and that richard kc movie. just so so gorgeous! My dream destination <3 You have such wonderful photos. everythings postcard worthy!


    xx, WANDER SHUGAH

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    1. I'm glad you're having a vicarious experience here through the photos - hopefully you get the chance to go there as well!

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  6. Matagal tagal pa ako bago makakapunta dito.Ang ganda pala talaga. Hanggang Thunderbird resort lang muna ako.

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    1. Haven't been to Thunderbird pero I heard about Bellarocca resort sa Marinduque being called the Santorini in the Philippines! Mahal yata.

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  7. I've been to Santorini twice already but I've never been to the crater. Anu ba ang degree of difficulty pag-akyat? Kaya ba naming mga oldies?

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    1. It's not very demanding for as long as one is wearing comfortable footwear - not flip flops like other visitors wear. Guides will give you at least an hour walking around on your own.

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  8. Wow! Ganda.. grabe kailan kaya ako makakapunta dito.. hehehe..
    Kailangan kong mag-ipon ng bonggang bongga kung dito ang desti ko... hahaha...

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