Monday, July 3, 2017

The One Hour Hike

We plan a hike from Firostefani to Oia (pronounced ee-o). According to Tony's calculations, it will take an hour, maybe two. He's pretty mellow given the un-definitive time-travel estimate and has reassured me that we can stop at any point and turn around. Or better yet, once we reach our destination, we can take the bus or a taxi back to Firostefani. I am optimistic; if it only takes an hour, then we'll want to return by foot.

This is the mountain ridge we will be hiking.
The speck of a village of Oia is our destination. The hearty hiker overlooks the journey.

Three hours later, we arrive on the outskirts of the luxury village Oia with marble tiled pathway and designer stores. It is charming and its prices are twice what we are paying in the next village over, just a three-hour + hike away. Did I mention we are worn out? And smelly. And hungry. Almost out of water. Our further goal is to hike the trail down to a beach. I'm dreaming of a beach set-up, cabanas and a taverna. But first we have to eat. We find an off-the-path taverna complete with a lazy dog at the foot of our table. The itty bitty cafe is just a triangle with four outdoor tables, and it reminds me of the flatiron in New York.

We order too much food given our famished and worn out state, the tempting descriptions of traditional Greek food, and the reasonable prices. 

 Falafel with yogurt dip... I have never seen falafel fried up with an outer coating of sesame seeds. The crunchy outside texture was the pinnacle of every bite. I will forever after make my falafel with a sesame seed coating.
 Ahhhh...words defy the tastes in this traditional fava dip. Made of split peas, accompanied by a sweet pickled onion relish, and island tomatoes bursting with flavor and seasoned perfectly. Santorinians claim the lack of water and the evolution of surviving plants make their island grown vegetables incredibly sweet. This made sense when I remembered a watermelon growing acquaintance who at the almost-end of his watermelon patch's growth cycle,  cut off its water supply which brought incredible sweetness to his melons.
 Tony's traditional meatballs he's tried at almost every restaurant. "They aren't as good as Nykolos' meatballs." How many people know where the best meatballs are in Greece?
This deserves a five h sigh...ahhhhh...the Santorini version of the Greek salad. The distinguishing difference is the type of cheese and the barley rusks. These rusks were softened by the olive oil that brought out the sweetness. Incredibly delicious but not as good as the Santorini salad at Akteions. How many people know where the best salad is made on Santorini?

The meal is so scrumptious, and when we can't eat it all, our waitress packages the remains. I'm already planning dinner on the balcony. 

Our next goal is to find the beach. When I see the steep, long road, without an end, I'm a little nervous. Is it worth it? I'll have to climb back up this steep winding road, and I don't know if I'm capable. Yes wins, because there is nothing like a dip in the sea at the end of a three hour hike. Plus, I'll be laying on a lounge under a cabana.

When we reach the rocky trail, the conditions I've told myself are waiting upon arrival, seem unlikely. We change into our suits behind a drainage pipe and our towel will be the rocks...but when we dive into the rolling water, the walk, the dust, the sore muscles---ahh, this is what we live for--beauty at the end of a challenge, water so clear we can see the bottom. We are so refreshed that after a ten minute sun soak, we dive back in.

The climb up the hill is less than the challenge I'd created, but the real animosity is yet to come: waiting for the bus. The line is long. The every-half-hour bus pulls away just as we arrive. Our other choice is the three hour trek in the sweltering afternoon sun. No way--I will wait for the next bus. 

Just before the next bus arrives a group of fellow travelers station themselves at the front of the line poised to be the first ones on. How unfair. A few people speak up, but the interlopers ignore everyone and who wants to trigger the unpredictable reactions of mean people? So we wait, huddle closer, feel threatened.

As we move closer to the bus door, the bus is running out of space.  We are only a few people away. If it wasn't for those rude line-cutters...The bus Overlord stops the boarders and does a count. We shuffle closer, we walk up the stairs.

"NO! No," she screams at me. "No drinks, no food. Off the bus. Off." She motions for the rest of the line-cutter party to scoot ahead of me. I turn to the people who won't make it on. "Could you please throw this away for me?"

They look at me as if they can't hear or they don't speak English, or they're hoping I'm kicked off the bus, so they can take our places and get out of the hot sun. 

I've had enough. I speak to the bus Overlord.

"These are the people who cut in line. You can't let them go before us." I pass my food to Tony who passes it on to who knows where. Not even delicious food will keep me off this bus for the pleasant balcony I long to sit on.

The Overlord understands enough English to  catch on. She waves us on, then yells at me to "Sit! Sit!" She's unsettling and rude, but I like her assertiveness. When needed, when justified, I'm more like her than expected.

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