Greek Island Hopping doesn’t sound dangerous but sitting atop a donkey, my life depended on an ass. While indulging ourselves in the relaxation of heat and sandy beaches on the island of Santorini; a group of us decided to check out the famous red sunset. As we reached the bottom of the cliff in Oi, Santorini we were consumed by the amazing white steps that lead up from the docks to the town. Our excitement overcame the heat and our hunger. Only the stairs stood in our way, the biggest barrier in our backpacking lives. As we contemplated taking the stairs we were encouraged by passing tourists and locals to take donkeys. Donkeys eh?! I have never ridden a horse, let alone a donkey! I was excited!
The first to hop on the mule in the group was my boyfriend. With assistance, he mounted the donkey; not what I imagined my prince charming would ride in on… My girlfriend and I were next. We mounted our donkeys and away we went up the stairs, leaving my boyfriend and his brother behind. We assumed they would catch up to us and laughed about our new found adventure. Away we went…Click, Clop, Click, Clop…up the stairs. My friend was just steps ahead of me and we couldn’t stop laughing. Then suddenly, her donkey started to pooh! The white stairs were being polluted, brown smeared across the steps as my donkey and many others trampled through the shit. The laughter turned into more laughter.
(The only photo of my girlfriend and I starting our adventure up the steps)
At the half way point, we realized that these donkeys (approx. 20-30 at a time) were, in fact, racing each other! The donkeys were willing to run over anyone on foot. As the click clop sound went faster and faster I soon realized that I began racing a British man on an 'ass'. Needless to say my donkey was kicking ass! As the race continued, my girlfriend and I began to stop laughing. The laughter turned into concerned noises. Our moans were hidden thoughts of: “we are on the edge of a cliff”!!! We were filled with thoughts of death while on these beasts, that seemed to have no care in the world. These donkeys have been running up and down all day. A simple slip, a nudge, and our lives were over.
When we reached the end of the donkey adventure, we noticed that we still had to walk up the white steps of Santorini for another 100 steps. The locals at the bottom of cliff conveniently left out this detail as we paid our euros to them; we were not impressed. It was the longest steps of my life. The blazing heat seared our necks; the hunger ate at our stomachs. But at last, we made it. I don’t know how the donkeys do the 680 steps multiple times a day but I can only hope that there owners treat them at the end of day.
As time passed, my girlfriend and I sat down waiting for my boyfriend and his brother to come up the stairs. We began to question why they were taking so long. After about 10 minutes we spotted the brother but where was my boyfriend? I knew he had gotten onto a donkey before me. We proceeded to stare down the steps and as more and more tourists came up the stairs looking dazed and confused, my boyfriend was nowhere in sight. Finally! I see a man running up the stairs, dodging donkeys, drenched in sweat. It was my boyfriend!!! As he reached the top, his clothes were drenched and he had fire in his eyes. When we asked him what took him so long, his response was "My donkey fell on me!!! The laughter began all over again, only to realize that he was not laughing. He began to tell us his journey. He was the first to mount a donkey, but his was never released as ours were. His mule was the last to go. His donkey had a rope around its mouth; he assumed that it was because it had a hard time following the rules. The local guided the donkey up the stairs and 5 steps in…. the donkey fell over..... Throwing my boyfriend onto the steps. He curled up into the fetal position as the startled donkey jumped to its feet and stomped around my boyfriend’s head. After the local calmed the beast down, he pointed for my boyfriend to mount the donkey again. There was no way my boyfriend could be convinced. Fall at the 5th step, possible survival, fall at the 500th step, you could imagine the few seconds to think before your body falls 500 meters onto the rocks below. After arguing for his euros back, he began the mountainous task of climbing 680 steps. He walked through the brown coloured steps, pressed up against the cliff as the donkeys stormed down the steps full speed and cursed the terrible heat. As my boyfriend reached the top of the stairs and we were able to sit down, it was then, as a group, we knew we all had survived, however, the highlight of this adventure was the sight of my boyfriend dodging donkeys at the white steps (or not so white) in Santorini, Greece.
(Recovering at the top of the steps. Thomas is really enjoying himself as you can see in this photo)