My favourite thing to do is to go where I have never been. Diane Arbus
A taxi, a plane and another taxi finally got us to the port of Skiathos at midday. It was from here the catamaran would take us on the last leg of our journey to Alonissos. We had expected to see sunshine after leaving a very wet and grey UK but the clouds had followed us. Leaving our suitcases in a small cafe, with a very friendly and smiley waiter, we headed off to explore whilst we waited to embark at 4.30pm.
I became aware of cats almost immediately. They live a wild life and their scarred faces and battered ears were a constant reminder of their fights for survival. They either moved close using their best eye contact and with the hope that a morsel of food would be provided, or they ran away seemingly scared of strangers. All three of us began a little photo project to capture these rather bedraggled creatures in our lenses, for as we were to discover, they are a feature on the island of Alonissos, especially in the old town where they are regularly fed by a kind inhabitant.
The streets in Skiathos are narrow and mopeds and motorbikes appear from blind corners without much warning. The smell of diesel pervades in some of the back streets but the beauty and unspoilt nature of the town lingers in the memory.
Alonissos belongs to the complex of Sporades Islands. It has a total area of approximately 64.5kms2 and its coastline is approximately 67km in length.
We were all tired by the time we disembarked from the catamaran in Alonissos, an hour and a half after setting off. It seemed so peaceful and so unspoilt by high rise flats and there was no one trying to sell cheap gifts. It wasn’t long though, before we realised we had entered the same world as the Durrells. The tiny car hire company was right next to the quayside. More motorbikes and a few older cars zipped along the narrow main road as we sat and waited for a lady to check our booking. She couldn’t find it. After a lot of paper shuffling and a phone call she finally confirmed we had booked a car. Sorting out the insurance proved a little more complicated and much seemed to be lost in translation. Keen to get to our hotel, and to avoid a possible £600 excess if we so much as scratched the car, we agreed to pay the full premium, an extra 60 Euros. It then became clear the car had to be fetched from somewhere. About half an hour later the car arrived but without its number plates. Ann immediately said we couldn’t take it, and I asked who would be liable if the police stopped us. Waving her arms the lady laughed and said, “No problem in Alonissos. We fit number plates at 10 o’clock tomorrow you bring car here.” We clearly weren’t going to get the number plates, so we set about getting the luggage and camera gear into the tiny Fiat Panda which turned out to be easier said than done! Jane got into the driver’s seat and we set off. “Shit…it’s left hand drive here Jane,” I shouted, as we served across the road.
Jane had stayed at the Atrium hotel before and we were greeted with hugs and kisses and shown to our lovely rooms with stunning views. During the week I managed to get some sunset shots across the bay from my balcony and on the last morning there was a stunning red sunrise.
As we arrived for breakfast the next day, we were astonished to see that the lady in charge of the kitchen, had set out enough food to feed at least ten people. She had also set each table in the smaller dining room overlooking the sea. As we were the only guests in the hotel it seemed very odd. We were also soon to discover that food in Greece never arrives in the order one might expect it to. The eggs arrived before the bacon and both arrived before we could finish the fruit and wonderful Greek yoghurt. This strange phenomenon continued everywhere we ate during our stay and on one occasion we ate cake before our main course. I think I might continue that tradition!
We arrived at the car hire place at ten promptly. By this time Ann was keen to start our photography adventure. Accompanied by Jane they went in to sort out the number plates. I could see from the expressions on their faces they meant business and were not going to be kept waiting! However, it was at least twenty minutes later when Ann came back to the car looking extremely cross. They had been told the man would fix the number plates in two hours. Ann was not having it and had demanded he came immediately as we needed to be on our way to take photographs. Another fifteen minutes passed and I have to confess that by this time I began to see the funny side of it all. There is no hurrying the Greeks it would appear. They work to a pace not enjoyed in the UK since the beginning of the 20th century! Finally a rather hot and bothered gentleman arrived on his moped with our number plates. He fitted the back plate in minutes but there seemed to be a problem with the front plate and after a further ten minutes he got back on his bike saying he needed another spanner. A further ten minutes passed by which time I was failing to restrain myself from giggling. Eventually, after a further fifteen minutes he returned brandishing his tool and grinning. We finally set off for our first day of exploration at eleven thirty. I drove whilst both Ann and Jane reminded me to keep ‘shit… right’.