Friday 25 May 2012

The Great Big Mattress Quest and the Island of Doom

‘You have to get there early,’ insisted Kim.  ‘If you want to get the best mattresses.’
Max, Denise and I frowned in unison.
The MS Christina isn't a big boat,’ Kim clarified. ‘And they lay mattresses out on deck.  Let’s just say that you need to get there before other…um…more forceful nationalities.’
Ah.  Okay.

And so…yeah.  We still ended up being the last on board.  And yup, the proprietorial towels were down and territorial glares were given as we edged along the deck and found the last free spot, at the very very front tip of the boat.  The word that springs to mind is snug.  Let’s just say it was a good job we were friends and didn’t have serious personal space issues.

But, y’know…it was just perfect.  As we set off, I wriggled up even further until I was a de facto figurehead, all wind-tousled and sea-swept, hair flying every sea-witch way as we powered down the Meganisi channel.
I’ve never done this chuntering around islands on boats thingy before. The nearest I ever came was off the East Coast of the States when my brother had a half-share in a boat. But that was actually pretty stressful as it involved a lot of narrowly avoiding rocks while downing excessive amounts of hard liquor (come to think of it that was probably why we kept nearly crashing into rocks – nobody could see straight). 
But this was…lovely, just lovely.  Sea air and pans au chocolat mellowed everyone down pretty quickly and the frontiers started easing.    

We dropped anchor just off the island of Formeluka.  ‘Anyone fancy a swim?’  I adjusted my five layers of clothing and shook my head. A gaggle of already inebriated Swedes in miniscule bikinis jumped in followed by a cohort of earnest Germans and a brace of determined Dutch.   

Next up was the ‘forgotten’ island of Kastos where the population has shrunk to virtually nothing. We moored at the harbour and walked up through what was effectively a ghost town, the buildings mainly boarded up, the erstwhile school playground returning to scrub.  A quick drink and then we were off again to anchor off a tiny deserted beach.   The sun kissed my shoulders and so I plunged into the water, a patchwork of turquoise and emerald; slipped on a snorkel and floated, face down, letting the waves pull me wherever they so wished.  Beautiful.

Onwards to Kalamos, a sunken mountain, ancient pine forests clasping its skin. The pristine beach of Asprogiali where toes touched down onto soft white sand.

Finally Skorpios, the island of the doomed, the damned, the dead.  The Onassis island.  We shivered slightly and, while others plunged merrily into the waters by the beach supposedly the favourite of Maria Callas, we stayed on board.  Superstitious maybe.  The crew threw bread and fish raced in, gobbling it up in a feeding frenzy as we heard the story of how Jackie Onassis contested her husband’s will because three million wasn’t enough.   And one of the Dutch women told us her sister was dying of cancer; that this was probably their last trip together.   And I couldn’t help the obvious correlation - that all the money in the world can’t buy you happiness and love and life.  

And then again, I thought, as we left our little spot at the end of the perfect day.  

You don't always get to choose the mattress you want.  But somehow it will always turn out okay. In the end. Hopefully. :-)



PippaD said...

Wow. I am so jealous at this moment! You have made it sound as magical as it probably is and I want to visit too.

Rob-bear said...

Such a delightful visit. Thanks you for sharing it.

Abandoned island. Sad. A world teeming with people and space being given up.

Frances said...

Jane, I am so curious to learn more about this trip, and what your impressions of how the folks you've met are facing, or not facing, up to the debt crisis in Greece, and its impact on that funny Euro thing.

I'd imagine that some of this would depend on the age of the Greeks that you might be able to meet and talk with.

Meanwhile, the photos look beautiful and the sea is always a force that commands attention.


Exmoorjane said...

@Pippa - do IS magical. Lefkada is a very special place and the boat was wonderful too...

@Bear - Yes. The abandoned islands were poignant enough but the Onassis island is unbelievably sad - a mausoleum effectively as nobody ever goes there apart from the staff.

@Frances - I'm planning a blog post on that as it's really vital people still visit Greece... And yes, the sea is a powerful force - not my natural element but one I love. My photos? Hmm, not so much. :)

Rainbow Prams said...

Indeed wow is the word! So well described and pictures bring it to life! I so want to go xx