Monday, August 24
They say in Santorini there are more churches than houses, donkeys than people and more wine than water.
One of the nicest things in Santorini is to be woken by the sound of church bells. It happens late enough you should be up anyway, but not so early you want to throw something. I have no great plan for today but it will include painting and some donkey hugging.
The trek to the donkey's lair is brutal. A trek anywhere on Santorini is brutal. I can't believe I keep getting sucked in by these paths. This place is hotter than anything I have experienced. I feel sorry for the people without pools who rely on the beaches for comfort. To get to the beach I have to walk down the mountain. After a refreshing swim, I trek back UP the mountain and end up in my original heat stroke state. Only a fool would repeat the process, but this is my second time, so my goal for today is simply to survive.
I rarely stop for lunch because I am hungry. It is more likely I am lost or about to faint. Today it is the latter so I guzzle a bottle of water and put my sunburnt head down on the table. My arms dangle at my sides like grilled sausages as I wait for life to regenerate. The table cloth feels so good on my forehead I turn my face one way then the other so my cheeks can enjoy the same. From under my umbrella I can see my hotel far in the sideways distance. I fear I will not make it back and wonder if there might be a hotel in the immediate vicinity instead. I wonder what it would cost to rent this table for the night.
The waiter does not seem concerned about my corpse flopped over the table. He has seen it before, so I slug myself up and transfer my face to menu. When you are so hot your brain becomes gruel, you want to press your face against anything that looks cold. This phenomenon is new to me, but I test the plastic of the menu and fold my face into it.
I order salad and tzatziki on toast with honey and walnuts. It's so delicious I have reason to live again. Having confidently regained both my composure and my dignity, I know I can make the rest of the trip to the donkeys.
I don't know what drives me to finish lines, and much as I appreciate success, I'm pretty sure I will die trying to get somewhere dumb. The donkeys are not dumb and I am glad to see them. They are lined up along the shore and up the path like taxis. Some wear cute hats or fancy blankets and bells. Others just show up for work naked and bored. There is a bit of a best pony contest going on. I feel sorry for the little and cute. They have to work the hardest.
There is donkey shit baking and steaming all over the path. Like babies, it is amazing how bad these cute little things can smell. I can't resist getting up close and personal with them all. I introduce myself, tell them about Canada, but mostly I just join the choir of oooohs and awwwwwwws. Donkeys really are adorable. I think it's their super lush eyelashes. I make a note to get eyelash extensions.
Once I had my fill of donkey love, I start the hike back up. The walk just sucks and halfway home I stop for lunch again. I'm not hungry, but I am willing to pay 20 euro for shade and a chair. I order another salad, coffee and baklava. The caffeine and sugar rush is almost enough to propel me home, but with less than a mile to go, I feel faint and hopeless again. I suck it up, find a stick and start walking like Moses across the desert. I am too freaking old for this bullshit and it makes me laugh at myself. God laughs too and on a perfectly still day, sends a sudden and cool little wind which dries my hair and pushes me home.
Tuesday August 25
Every 3 nights I get no sleep. It's such a waste of time.
Went for breakfast, swam for a few hours then walked to Fira and finally conformed. I bought a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water. I keep looking for a light blue scarf to take home but it eludes me. I am going on a wine/beach tour today on an air conditioned bus. I take pride in how wise I am becoming. I ask where the bus leaves from "You come at the church with the Blue dome." Excellent.
There are 3 beaches on the island. White, Black and Red. I have been to the red and am currently lounging at the Black one working on my patchwork tanburn.
It's a beautiful place, but busier than I would like. A waitress comes over and tells me it is 20euro to use the loungers. I am too cheap so I lounge in the sea instead.
The wine fields here are so different than Canada. There are no poles or rows of grapes tied to wires. Here the grapes are grown in basket mounds on the ground like sprawling cucumber plants. Piles of grapes the colours of ore and copper are left in the field under the hot sun to dry. Pastel coloured bikes lean against trees and posts. The workers hunch like Millet's Gleaners as their half naked little ones chase each other around the mounds.
The bus ride is exciting. These giant grey hounds hug the narrow roads along cliffs and up the sides of mountains as though on some flawless Disney park track. The ride up Elias Mountain was worse than being in an airplane. We piled out at the top and with shaky knees I took all manner of photos for idiots pretending to go over the cliff. I realized today no one ever offers to take a picture of me, so I am resigning as the island photographer.
The wine tour was great. The last wine we tasted was delicious and familiar. It was the same one the man at the market sold me. I feel all smug now and tell my fellow travellers how you can drink a whole bottle and not have a hangover! I shut up and put a forget spell on all of them.
The only thing I don't like about tours is having to meet people. I just want to listen and look out the window and follow the sunflower from place to place in silence. Sitting on the bus I had a dread headed Auzzie to contend with. He was a young Springer Spaniel sort, bouncing and moving like a crack head the whole time. This boy adores himself and told me his illustrious life story of hiking and working on cruise ships and as a hostel tour guide. He shared his passion for the land, the vegan lifestyle and good will toward men. This sort of person bores me as it usually translates to; I don't shower because I am homeless, I can't afford real foodand I mooch off others to survive because I am too lazy to get a real job. On the way back I choose a seat with someone else and when he gets on the bus, he yells from his new seat at the front, "Nancy! I thought we clicked man!" Thought wrong pally.
The driver explains the blue of churches and houses is to honour the sea, the white because it is cheap. Families build their own private shrines where once a year they have to invite everyone in the village for a feast. Most people who live on the island leave when the tourists do and return just before them. The donkeys stay behind and work the fields. In summer they lug fat tourists up and down the mountain. They work two jobs dread head. TWO. There are serious plumbing issues in Santorini and I understand the more wine than water. He goes on about Thira and I make a note to book a trip there.
Back on my balcony I am watching yet another spectacular sunset. They say these are the most spectacular sunsets in the world. They are not. You can find the same sun setting in equal majesty anywhere if you make the time to just get outside and see them.