Soaking in the sunshine off the coast of the Greek Islands, a few of us wanted to do some exploring. After all, we were lucky to be spending the next couple of days hopping around beach to beach. As our island adventure began on Ios, we walked into the town nearest to the ferry terminal and noticed something intriguing...a small sign that stated “for rent” in English. As the four of us looked closer we realized that we could spend our time zipping around the island in style; four wheel style that is.
Because we were all on a budget, the idea of renting four wheel quads was a major luxury! Better yet, the rental was for a 24 hour period, for under 20 Euros!!! (gas not included). With excitement, we went inside the petite shop that hosted your average greasy Greek middle aged salesman…body hair and moustache included. Of course with the Greek island mentality that everyone could drive, the local stated that we could all rent our own quad with just one person’s identification, no paperwork required! This made perfect sense to a bunch of young twenty-one year old's who didn’t think twice about the safety concerns that could easily have come with it. With experience of driving quads back at home on my aunt’s farm, I felt comfortable to drive, however, for my boyfriend, his brother and our girlfriend it was there first time. With a quick introduction on ‘how to drive’ we went on our way to seek out new island adventures.
We made a quick stop at the local gas station, just up the street, to ensure that we wouldn’t get stranded somewhere. Waiting for our quads to be serviced, I took a quick look at the map that was posted to the board outside of the building. It included all of the island beaches and best view points. But a mark on the map sparked my curiosity and it was then we decided that we were going to seek out finding Homer.
On the island of Ios, Homers Tomb is located on the north side of the island and was also known to be difficult to get too. Now, if you are reading this thinking “who is Homer?” I would like to clarify that I am not talking about the famous cartoon character, Homer Simpson, but the real Homer. The one that provided the world with amazing literature including the Odyssey and Troy.
As we zipped along the coast line, we stopped for breaks on several different beaches. While the boys enjoyed the calm, clear water, my girlfriend and I enjoyed soaking in the sun rays with hope of getting that perfect golden tan. When we had enough of the beach, we all decided to splurge on eating lunch in a restaurant located next to the beach. It was a mistake. What was supposed to be a quick lunch stop over, lasted almost an hour and a half!!! The worst part was we were waiting on a salad!!! But in fairness we forgot about ‘Greek Time’…and if you have never heard of this term, I will let you admire it when you visit Greece. As I witnessed my girlfriend, who at the time was not feeling very well become impatient and hangry, the waiter at last brought her the salad. Unfortunately, the salad was not very good...(sigh).
(One of my best travel memories with these people, I am so happy to have captured this moment!)
Riding up the coast line, we witnessed spectacular views. The land was dry with shades of sandy browns hitting the bright blue ocean that went into the distance. Mid-afternoon sun filled our bodies with continuous warmth and the wind that was created from us driving kept us somewhat cool. As we set forth onto the back roads of the island with Homer as our final destination for the day, we realized that we were almost on the opposite side of the island. In fact we were on the south side of the island but in our minds we thought we could still make it.
As we passed through town to quickly drop off some of our stuff, we picked up another travel friend who wanted to join in. As she hopped on the back of my quad, we jetted off quickly towards the north of the island. Crossing the shrubs on the back roads, our American friend began to complain that something had bitten her. She told us to continue driving. Driving faster and faster with determination in our hearts, we had no idea where we were going. And as the sun began to set, our friends foot began to look more swollen; we all looked at each other with defeat. Finding Homer would stay a mystery as we sat on our quads debating to risk driving in the night. Ultimately, we turned around.
As we parked our quads outside of our motel/hostel, we all were tired. The heat had finally gotten to us. However,
I felt that we had truly embarked on one of Homer’s journeys. Although, in the end we did not get to our final destination, I do believe that the spirit of Homer was with us. We crossed several paths, searching for adventure and found riches, which in turn, were the amazing beaches and coastlines. And as quickly as the sun set, we ended our day in celebration, toasting to Homer, with a shot of pure ouzo. OPA!!!
“Life is largely a matter of expectation. ”
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)