Because we are essentially creatures of habit, one of the reasons that this island-hopping holiday appealed to me was the chance to move on quickly and not get too settled in one place.
Because we are comfortable with that which is familiar it seems to me to be a feature of holidays that extend even beyond a few days that this inevitably happens and habit quickly creeps in. I call them groundhog-day holidays. It’s not long before every day we are going to the same shops, eating in the same restaurants and picking the same spot on the same beach and getting annoyed if someone has got there ahead of us.
So here we were, only the third day in Naxos and already we had started to settle into a pattern. We sat at the same table and had the same breakfast and we fed the same cats. And after breakfast we went on the same walk as the day before.
We planned to go a little further today and Charlotte stayed behind on the same rocks to do some sketching. That seemed to me an odd thing to do, I took a picture of them. That was much easier! We walked along the same path and passed the same church and the same people sunbathing in the altogether in the same place on the same beach. One thing that was different today was the weather, it was not as stormy as it was the previous night in Naxos because the wind direction had changed. It was no longer coming from Africa to the south but instead from central Europe to the north. It was much fresher and the blue sky was full of cotton wool clouds sailing by in the stiff breeze.
Life is great when all you have to worry about is how well your suntan is coming along, when next to apply sunscreen lotion and how long must you wait for the next Mythos and that’s what we did this morning.
On the way back we broke from habit and went to a different bar that was being managed by a six-year-old boy! I kid you not! Clearly his parents were oblivious to presidential decree No. 62/1998, which sets the minimum age for admission to employment, including children in family businesses, at fifteen years. He was however exceedingly efficient and seemed to be in complete control of everything even though he had to stand on a box to be able to see adequately over the top of the bar. I’m not sure that back home he would be allowed to run a Weatherspoons pub but this was Greece and here things were different.
The owner of the hotel drove us the short ride into town and we arrived at the harbour in good time to catch the boat but OMG! it was blowing a massive gale and there was no sign at all of the ferry.
Someone told me that there was estimated two hour delay so rather than sit around in the cattle shed, which was the departure lounge, we went back into the town to sit and wait. And wait we did, nearly three hours before the ferry finally came into view, struggling through the heavy sea and listing precariously at about 45° as though it was negotiating Cape Horn.
I am not the most patient person in the world and I don’t like waiting around so I was seriously contemplating the sensible option of staying another night in Naxos. I was outvoted however and when the ferry finally made it into the harbour we threw ourselves on the mercy of the sea and trusting in the sailing skills of the skipper climbed on board and made for the top deck. This was our second ferry of the holiday and it was much smaller than the Blue Star that had brought us to Naxos. This one had definitely seen better days and the engine had probably been around the clock a few nautical times as well.
The wind was really strong up on top deck and the heaving sea made me more than a little nervous but the boat cast off and we were away and there was no turning back. Walking around on deck was hard work, the sun was shining but it was blowing so hard it was difficult to move to the back of the boat without being thrown from side to side as it butted and gored its way through the heaving surf. The grasping fingers of the wind clawed at my shirt as we watched Naxos slip away into a vapourised horizon and I was anxious about the journey. The journey was scheduled for about three hours but at that early stage in the voyage that looked hopelessly optimistic.
Then a strange thing happened. As we left the port and turned south down the leeward side of the island the wind dropped and the sea calmed and we settled down to enjoy the journey. Behind us we could see the rough seas but ahead was curiously calmer.
We were going to be late arriving in Ios but sitting on top of the ferry in the warm sunshine and the brisk wind was exhilarating and it really didn’t matter because it felt good to be on board a boat in the Aegean Sea and heading for a new exciting island. As we sailed towards our destination the sun went down and we saw another good end to the day, the sun dipping into the sea and leaving a sprawling russet glow behind that spilt into the sea. As it disappeared from view I hoped that it would be back tomorrow and made a mental note to wake up early so that I could check.
With the sun gone it began to get cool and we had to hurriedly add an extra layer of clothing from our packs so we arrived in Ios just in time. It was a good way to arrive. The harbour lights were twinkling and we could make out the tavernas and restaurants that lined the streets around the town framed against brooding cliffs that rose sharply out of the sea. The hotel owner, John, met us when we got off the ferry and took us to the hotel that was only a short ride away.
John and his wife (she thought Charlotte was my wife, which was flattering for me, distressing for Charlotte and amusing for Sally) were nice people and showed us to our room and gave us directions for our two dining alternatives, up for the old town and the night life or down again to the harbour for a quieter more relaxing evening. We took the second option and walked until we found a promising taverna overlooking the sea and the boats but thankfully undercover because the wind was still quite sharp. After dinner we were tired so we climbed back up the hill and went back to the hotel to sleep.