For a while now (at least 5 or 6 years) I have had a dream in the back of my mind. The dream was to be a Wwoofer.
“A Wwoofer?” You ask. Yes, a Wwoofer!
The acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and you can find the main website here. Many countries have their own sites, but the main site provides information and access to all of them.
Basically, being a Wwoofer, means that we are working as volunteers, in exchange for accommodation, food and an opportunity to learn new things. As Chris and I are very interested in growing our own food, and becoming more self sustainable, we felt that Wwoofing would be a good opportunity to see how things are grown around the world, and again, to meet the locals.
Once we knew what part of the world we were heading to this winter, we started to research opportunities. We “applied” to a few different spots, but Jim was the only one that had indicated that he needed people, and had room for us. Some replied that they already had enough Wwoofers, and others didn’t need anyone for this particular season. But, Jim did, and he lives on Paros Island, in Greece.
We awoke early to take the metro from Athens to the main ferry terminal of Piraeus, to catch the 7:30am ferry. Because we live in a ferry dependant community on the west coast of Canada, catching ferries is pretty normal for us. We knew the ferry was about 5 hours long, but we were not prepared for the price.
We had been warned by other travellers that the ferries were expensive, but we guffawed at that thinking ‘ya right, they can’t be more expensive than BC Ferries!’
Well, I’m here to tell you that indeed they are. Our walk on price (for both of us, one way) was 69 Euros, $107 Canadian!
Now, I acknowledge that they travel much farther than ours, but WOW! I couldn’t believe that with the economic hardships going on in the country, that people could afford to travel on them at this price. I have since learned, from my Wwoofing host, that the government is raising prices of EVERYTHING (including ridiculous property taxes), to try and pay off the debts they have incurred to other countries during this crisis. In Jim’s words, “The situation is a complete mess, and they are nowhere near resolving it.” (On the other hand, as stated before, we have seen no signs of any sort of economic hardships.)
I must say though, the ferry was lavish! We rode up ESCALATORS, inside the boat, as foot passengers, carrying us to the main floor. Everywhere you looked there were nice comfy chairs to sit at, complete with tables. There was a tiny section of row seating, but most seats were little clusters in various little lounges. There was even a business class upstairs! Very posh!The trip was uneventful, but rougher than our boats go out in. It was a sunny day but the winds were whipping the sea up, and we bumped and jostled along for about 4.5 hours.
I can tell you one thing, I don’t think the Greeks do well on the ocean. Many were laid out on benches and the floor, and I heard the lovely sounds of someone “losing their breakfast” in the ladies washroom. Eeek! Thankfully we both have sea worthy stomachs, and arrived to Paros feeling fine.
In previous email communications, Jim had told us how to get to the village closest to them, Alyki. We caught the bus after bumbling around at the automatic ticket kiosk, and again looking like stupid tourists, as a huge line up of locals formed behind us, waiting with gritted teeth I’m sure. I told the driver about 5 times that we needed to get off at Alyki. He nodded that he understood, no problem.
We meandered along in our bus, winding in and out of tiny streets, seeming too small for the bus to even fit on them. Outside of the towns, the landscape was dotted with square, buildings everywhere, and they were all white with blue doors and window frames. I found out from Jim that painting your house these colours is the law! Can you imagine? As a house painter in Greece, I would be incredibly bored! He, on the other hand, has somehow skirted the law, and is remote enough in the hillsides that he is pretty much doing what he wants. He said they bugged him for a while, but have pretty much given up now.
As we rode along my mind started to conjur up nasty thoughts. I started thinking about how far in the middle of nowhere we had come, to meet strangers, and basically live with them for two weeks.
Before leaving home, a friend had made a joke about us coming all the way to Greece and ending up in a cult. At the time, we all laughed at the silly idea of it, but in that moment, as I watched the coast line zip by, my mind was jumping around to ‘What if?’
It is laughable really, but alas, this is the reality of this sort of travel. You REALLY have no idea of what you are getting yourself into for the most part. You just have to have the utmost faith in humanity, and the courage to try new things and meet new people.
After a few stops and buzzing through some small villages, the bus driver announced “Alyki Beach.”
Hooray, we had made it! We hopped off the bus, eager to meet our hosts that were coming to pick us up. However, there was no one there.
We unloaded our packs from under the bus, and grabbed a seat on the stone wall next to the beach. We waited with anxious intrepidation for someone to drive up and grab us. Several cars went by and we stared and analyzed each one, and they stared warily back at us, likely wondering who these two idiots were, that were visiting out of tourist season.
Finally, after what seemed like a long time (but was likely only 10 minutes,) a little tracker popped around the corner, driven by a cute Greek lady. She pulled over and jumped out, and with an adorable smile announced “I am Irini.”
And in that instant, I knew, that everything was going to be just fine.
Stay tuned for stories about our Wwoofing experience!