Saturday, 4 August 2012

Kefalonia - Part Five

Friday 20th

Today has been a lazy one - we laid in, recovering from the long, but very worthwhile, day before, and preparing for much the same tomorrow. Katie has read an entire bones book, and I have finished two of my own! We wandered into town to claim breakfast and some souvenirs about 1200. On our way back we stopped at the ice cream parlour for a treat - Mango Sorbet and banana for me, cookies and cream with pestachio for Katie. The mango and banana were, quite simply, the best fruit-flavoured ice cream I've ever tasted. Yum!

After a siesta and some further reading we decided to skip swimming today (we more than made up for it the day before and after!), and at about 2100 took a trip back into town to the supermarket to get ingredients for a home-made dinner. Back at the apartment we feasted on a smorgasbord of feta, cheddar slices, cheese triangles, smoked turkey, cooked bacon, sliced cucumber, grated carrot, baby tomatoes, two soft-crust baguettes, a pack of crackers, some liver pate and olives (for Katie). She also had a few mythos beers whilst I had some peach iced tea; originally we had bought some pastry-based goodies for dessert, but by the time we finished were so full we left them for tomorrow!

Saturday 21st

Up with the alarm at 0700, I roused her highness and began collecting the necessary belongings together for the day ahead. By 0731 we were in the car and away, Katie demolishing a danish pastry in a fit of breakfast fever! We pulled into Argostoli port authority car park at 0825, having made good time across the mountains. Finding the glass bottom boat, Captain Makis welcomed us - a mountainous Greek with a giant grey beard, straggly hair and a jovial attitude - a good man, all told. Being the first to arrive we selected pride of place on the sun deck at the back of the ship. Soon a few coaches pulled up alongside and in no time at all we were full and chugging out of port and into the sea proper. After a brief introduction to the itinerary from the Captain, whose Greek-accented English made our verse sound coarse and barbaric, music began revelling from the ship's speakers, and the engines ran to full.

From Argostoli bay we headed north to the local fisheries where, through a combination of light and temperature level control, they ensure a certain species of fish that breeds only once a year, breeds once a month! It was intriguing to see the thrashing waters within some of the fisheries as they clamoured to reach the feed that was being thrown into them, but overall the diversion was disappointing, as no dolphins were forthcoming. Our first proper stop was a beautiful cove surrounded by white-lined cliffs, accessed by coasting along above a few choice reefs. Here we disembarked in awesome style- jumping off the back and sides of our vessel. We chilled off collectively, some people snorkeling, but the majority just floating about like some Mediterranean remake of the final Titanic scene

Before long Captain Makis called us on board, raising the adjustable back decking to vertical once everyone was clear of the water. Hailed by a wide variety of 60's to 90's music, including Elvis Presley, Kylie, Bay City Rollers, Beatles, Whigfield and the Village People to name but a few, we passed over our second point of interest (but not a stop, as we didn't); a wrecked ship. According to history this trading vessel ran aground on a reef in the sixteenth century, spilling its load of amphora-filled urns to the seabed. Back the amphora was the choice material to build houses, and so the broken pieces of pottery were stuck together in clumps, as they can still be seen today. Continuing on from the wreck, we crossed over the mouth of the Argostoli Gulf towards Vardiani Island, or Rabbit Island as its commonly known; the place of my triumph! Rabbit Island was another cool-off stop, with a twist.

Captain Makis appeared on the sundeck after we had all entered the water, bearing two bottles of wine. These, he told us, were for whoever could claim them from the sea first. He cast the first right in front of me, directly in between the middle of a triangle made up of myself and two other men. The three of us dove after it, my snorkeling mask serving me well enough to see the first man's hand narrowly miss the vintage bottle. Luckily I had flippers on in preparation for snorkeling which propelled me quicker and easier than normal forward and down, hand clasping the bottle tight. Unluckily, the flippers granted speed, placed my bare back where the bottle had been but a moment before, and the second man's hand raked my skin. I surfaced, triumphant, to Makis' congratulations, and surprised Katie by catching her eye across the water and raising our prize for her to see. Ah, victory!

Not long after, we raised anchor and skirted the island to make for Xi beach, a famously shallow and colourful beach that attracts visitors from all over Greece. Due to certain minerals in the area, the entirety of the beach sand is red - from iron flakes that rust in the sea water! Within then minutes we had a make-shift camp of beach umbrellas and a marquee set up (to accommodate the food preparation tables). A net was thrown up over the anchor line that kept the ship in place in the shallows, and soon a large game of haphazard volleyball was underway in the surf. Little by little the players came and went, until just two of us were left. Abandoning the game altogether as hopeless now, I joined Katie lounging in the shallows. Captain Makis eventually called out for food preparation volunteers, and we both mucked in, chopping cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and onions for a Greek salad the size of a bath.

Divided into two pots, one was given the gift of cheese - feta cheese to be exact; a chuck larger than my head was lumped in and then crumbled into the mix. Makis sloshed out generous helpings of his own white wine from a large tub (the same vintage that I had won earlier that day), and a few minutes later explained the Greek way of diplomacy; the circle. The hungriest people would, by their very nature, speak loudest and be closest, and therefore be served first. Naturally, Katie and I were of the first to be given nourishment. Several chicken kebabs, a slice of bread, some wine and a load of Greek salad later, we lazed on the sand, digesting. By now it was 1430, and as the heat became too much (indeed, it was impossible to walk barefoot on the sand at this point), we hit the surf again. Hawkeye that she is (with the help of the contacts that I badgered her into wearing today!), Katie spotted that dessert was being served, and promptly sacrificed the cool of the sea to dare the hear and bring back a trophy of fresh watermelon for us to feast on. Needless to say, she persevered (three times in fact!).

As the melon dwindled, Makis and his crew brought forth tubs of water, mixed with copious amounts of clay from the beach's tiny cliff. This we smeared across any exposed (and some not) areas on our bodies. Once dry we were instructed to rub vigorously to flake it off, before washing off any remnants in the sea. Containing a natural exfoliate, our skin was, as the good Captain put it, soft as a baby's rump! Alas, the day had to end sometime, and it was with reluctance we packed our camp back into the tiny dinghy the crew used as storage space. Sat back, relaxed on the sun deck, we basked in the euphoria of an excellent day as Captain Makis turned us east toward Argostoli. On the sundeck with us were three couples; one young foreign couple that spoke almost no English and certainly no Greek, and two middle-aged English couples, clearly friends, on holiday together. Finishing off our sundeck crew was an almost-anorexic older lady, German or dutch I would guess from her accept, and gloriously tanned like a piece of old leather!

It was this last, foreign lady that suddenly shouted out in exclamation as we reached half-way along the Argostoli peninsula; "Dolphin!" It took us all a moment to get over the shock of her outburst, and a further one to process exactly what she had said. We all jumped up, turning to follow her gesture, but to no avail. If there had been one, all that was left were some bubbles in the waves. We all stared out to sea forlornly, disappoint. For a moment, at least. Two large black mammals erupted from the surface of a breaker, accompanied a second later by our cheers, whoops, whistles and claps - Makis had told us earlier they liked noise, and we dutifully responded to their presence with a cacophony of sound. Sadly, the two black dolphins we had glimpsed did not return, but in their place came a pair of graceful greys. About three metres in length, these performed for us for a time just under the bow wave of the boat, speeding along just before the prow, occasionally popping up to the surface to our applause and adoration. It was, by anyone's definition, a perfect end to the day.

Returned to port, we profusely thanked Captain Makis and left a happy comment in the tour guest book, before setting off for home in Kioni. Although I took us the long way down a (admittedly very badly signed) one-way street and made several wrong turns, we made good time home. A shower and little rest later, we ambled into town to Spiros for a quick bite. I sampled the Special Pizza, while Katie had a Greek version (basically a Greek sala on a pizza). Food consumed we thanked the staff once more and left a generous tip (they had been very nice and more friendly than they had to be), and paid visits to the supermarket and bakery for supplies for tomorrow's day of rest. Well, it was to be Sunday after all.

Sunday 22nd

A truly lazy day today, as indicated at the end of yesterday's log. Aside from a jaunt into town this evening for some dinner ingredients and a trip down to the sea for a swim in the late afternoon, we've stayed in and read all day. s of feta cheese, oregano and olive oil as standard, and it tasted great! Just like the real thing. We've no solid plan for tomorrow, so for now we're going to kick back and read until sleep takes us!

Monday 23rd

Just a short entry today; we haven't been very active as Katie isn't feeling well. We've been through another few books today, and I've taken a trip into town for some shopping - the ingredients for tea, mainly! I did a very basic pasta with tomatoes and cheese mixed in, and despite the simplicity it was delicious. Tomorrow was meant to be western-island-exploration day, as the last with the car, but I've put my foot down as far as plans go - if Katie's not up to it, we won't go. Simple. It's not a waste in my eyes, as we still get to lounge around in a beautiful apartment and gorgeous weather, even less of a waste if it means she feels better! Here's hoping she gets better soon, eh!

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