We awoke early the next morning, determined to make the most of our second day touring around Santorini. Having booked the rental car would allow us to freely see everything that we needed to.
We got our car around 8:30, with no problems, but when we were about to drive off, the attendant explained the gas situation to us.
“Yes, the gas is on empty, but you only need 10 litres to drive around the whole island. So put that in and you will be fine.”
At least that is what I thought he said, Chris thought he said 10 Euros, which, we both decided would likely make more sense. The gas was 1.69 Euros/Litre, roughly $2.50 Canadian. YIKES!! Either way, it was not the typical rental agreement where you just fill it up when you are finished.
We filled up first with 10 Euros and the blinking empty indicator bar moved up one notch. Good enough, as long as it stayed there, we felt comfortable that we wouldn’t run out. Chris had decided the night before that I was to be the one to drive. He doesn’t do the whole ‘erratic’ driving thing well, and we had seen enough of the crazy driving going on while we walked around, to make him realize that I would be more likely to maintain a cool head, and get us off the island without some sort of road rage incident.
Our first destination was the famous Akrotiri archeology site. An ancient Minoan civilization site that was believed to have been buried in volcanic ash in the 17th century, perfectly preserving the structures and artifacts that the citizens used at the time. The really cool thing is that not one human remain had been found, which means they had a very organized evacuation planned, before the volcano fully erupted.
I had read about this in our Lonely Planet guide. The words used to describe it were “Gob Smacking”, and I was very excited to see this spectacle. It was REALLY the only sight that I had pre-planned seeing while on Santorini.
We wound our way through rolling fields and along the edge of the Caldera, taking in the scenery. Signs directed us easily to the site, but when we arrived it looked very quiet, and I realized that it wasn’t open yet.
There was a gate with a sign so Chris went and looked at it. He came back to the car and announced, “It’s closed on the 25,26,27th.”
“Oh no!” I announced, immediately followed with, “Oh, wait! It’s the 28th!”
He looked at me perplexed and returned to the gate. “Oh, it’s closed on Mondays.” He said on his return.
Aaaaaargh! How annoying!! I was so sad to not be able to see this ancient sight. I creeped the car out of the parking lot thinking “Now what?” I felt like a rug had been pulled out from under me. I drove slowly, staring out the windshield with a mix of utter astonishment, and total disbelief of our terrible luck. To top it off, the gas indicator had resumed its blinking ’empty’ status already, which made is both very uneasy.
This initiated the first of many discussions about whether or not we thought we had put in enough fuel or not. We tried to calculate how much we had put in compared to litres back home, and how many days that would have lasted etc. It was decided that at some point, we should put 5 more Euros in, which would bring the total LITRES added to nine, a happy medium considering neither of us were 100% sure what the rental guy had said.
Hmmmmmm okay, moving on.
We followed the road back out and went to another town called Pyrgos. I had read that it was a village worth seeing, and we wanted to find a coffee shop or something that was open.
Pyrgos is perched on the top of a hill that is capped with an old Castle at the top. We started to ascend up some stairs from the road, and were greeted with incredibly cute and quaint little walkways winding their way up the hillside.
People lounged outside their homes, along the passageways, and it was impossible for us Canadians, who have the luxury of huge yards and much privacy around us, to not feel like we were somehow trespassing. We would say hello in a shy quiet English, embarrassed to still not know the Greek version after our two week Wwoofing stint.
They didn’t really seem to care that we were there stomping around in their village, but they certainly weren’t into making us feel welcome either. Like I said, it did feel like some sort of strange trespassing.
After going back down and having some coffee (and Ouzo for Chris) we decided to go to the very Southern tip of the island, where there was a lighthouse, to look at the view of the Caldera from that vantage point. As we were still a bit bummed with missing Akrotiri, we just sat in the car and ate a snack, taking in the view, and didn’t even hike out to the lighthouse. Which I now regret a little.
I think it’s safe to say at that point that we both felt a little deflated. It was 11:00 in the morning, and without being able to see Akrotiri, there wasn’t a ton left for us to do with our day.
The mix of emotions was very strange indeed. We jumped from sadness and frustration, to immense gratitude for what we were looking at, to regret for possibly missing something special in Peloponnese.
We sat and stared at the view for a bit and then headed off to Kamari, and the sight of Ancient Thira. This was to be another popular archeological sight, located on the steep slopes of a mountain near Kamari. I had also learned that Kamari had black sand beaches from the lava rock, always worth checking out.
Because it is located at ocean height, and on the opposite side of the Caldera edge, Kamari itself is probably one of the more popular beach destinations. It wasn’t much of a surprise that the town would be pretty quiet at this time of the year, clearly not beach weather.
We drove through town pretty quickly and pulled up to the beach to get out and take a look at the sand, and stretch our legs for a bit.
We were part of only a handful of people wandering around, and the beach front buildings were completely borded up and much to our disappointment, the mini golf was closed, which would have helped us to at least kill some time.
We could see the spectacular sight of where we were to go to see Ancient Thira from the beach, and I eyed up the steep switchback road with much intrepidation, I must say.
We knew that before heading up that road, we DEFINITELY needed to put the 5 Euros of gas in. We proceeded to the nearest gas station and the attendant literally squeezed the pump for 30 seconds, and we were done. To our utter disappointment, the blinking empty light did not go away, but we felt a bit better about the situation anyways.
We headed over to the start of what may be the scariest road I have ever driven on. Of course, the sign at the bottom announced that we were entering Ancient Thira, and that it too was closed on Mondays. Neither of us were surprised by this, but the road was open, so we proceeded up anyways.
At the start, the road had a small 2 foot high median at the edge, which made us both feel a bit better. The switchbacks were literally stacked on top of each other, and there was hardly any room to pass, had another car been in sight. Thankfully we only came across one other vehicle, and it was at the top when we were leaving.
I hugged the cliff side as tight as I dared, and Chris mentioned a couple times that he was concerned about our tire getting caught in the foot deep gutter that ran down that edge. Although that would have sucked as well, we both agreed that the alternative on the outside edge was far worse. Especially when we reached the top 1/4 of the road, and there was no median, and the asphalt was crumbling away on the side, falling into the abyss below. “White knuckling it” doesn’t even begin to describe what my body was doing. Maybe more like “entire body seizing up from utter fear” would be more accurate at this point.
Somehow we made it up to the top, mostly because turning around WAS NOT even an option. The top platform was pretty much just big enough to hold a few (like 4) cars, and I was incredibly thankful, again, that we weren’t fighting traffic and many other cars that I am sure the high season brings with it.
We got out of the car, after checking the parking brake about 4 times. We walked up the hill to the gate of Ancient Thira, just to see if we could see something. Of course, we couldn’t, but my body was happy to relax a bit and my shaking had subsided somewhat.
The views below were breathtaking, and we could see Kamari and the East coast below us, as well as the Caldera edge and the rest of the Island beyond. We took a few minutes to capture some photos, and then decided to head off.
As we discussed leaving, my body automatically resumed its seized up state, as I realized the going down part may be incredibly scary, likely scarier in fact. I put the car in first gear, and we slid down the mountainside like a slug sliding off a plant, barely breathing, let alone talking, the whole way down.
By now, we had officially seen everything we needed to. The only road we hadn’t been on was the alternative route (the one the taxi didn’t take the day before) to Oh Yeah (fuc?ing Oia!) that ran along the east side of the island. We thought we “may as well” take the road, and see if we could find a place to stop for lunch on the way. By now it was about 1:00, and we were both getting hungry.
We passed through Fira, and followed signs pointing to the East, that said Oia. We got about 3 km when we came to what looked to be a happening town that may have an open restaurant. We parked the car and walked around for a bit, not finding anything. We finally ducked into a little convenience store and asked if something was open. The young girl inside said “No, only in Fira there are open restaurants.”
Oky doky!! We headed back to Fira for lunch. While there, we ate in a beautiful spot with a lovely courtyard. We discussed the possibility of just dropping off the car and wandering around Fira some more, and not bothering with the other road. As we ate I just got more and more frustrated with the whole scenario, and finally said that we have the car, we may as well use it to see whatever else there is to see.
We set off again on the road to Oia. We wound and twisted our way through lovely green fields, and caught glimpses of the Aegan Sea to our right.
At some point, we were following a car, probably a little too close. It wobbled slightly to the left and by the time my brain had a chance to react, a pigeon walked from the ditch, DIRECTLY INTO my front right tire. We felt the bump, bump and I looked in my rear view mirror to see a burst of white feathers erupt from the back of the car.
“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh” I wailed, immediately putting on the brakes, frantically trying to figure out if we should stop, or keep, going or what.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!”
“What do I do? What do I do?” I said over and over.
There was a car behind me that was also following quite close to me, close enough in fact that he likely got a puff of white feathers all over his windshield. He had stopped and pulled to the side of the road, and was now getting out of his car to go check on the situation. As it was a pretty narrow road, I felt that it wasn’t smart to stop, we were already 100m or more away, and hopefully the other guy would make sure it was out of its misery, if nothing else. Although, based on the whole scenario, I don’t think there was any suffering going on.
“Why, why, whhhhyyyyy did he do that?” I asked the universe (of course referring to the pigeon, and already deciding that it was clearly MALE.)
We decided that it MUST have been suicidal! What else would possess it to do that?
“Wwwwwaaaahhhhhhhhh” I continued to wail. Still completely shocked and horrified by the whole situation. I couldn’t help but think if we would have just dropped off the darn car, the poor pigeon would still be alive (although if it WAS suicidal, I’m sure it would have found another innocent bystander to successfully horrify!)
We continued to drive the coast line to Oia, then headed straight back to Fira, completely defeated and OFFICIALLY DONE with Santorini! We just wanted to go back to our room, and curl up in little balls, fly out the next morning, and be done with it!
We dropped off the car in Fira. Of course the guy wanted to turn the key to look at something…….the blinking gas light perhaps?? Still not sure on that one. Either way, they asked if we were sure we were finished, as it WAS only 3:00 after all.
“Oh yes, we are finished!” We both announced with much gusto. They tore up our damage deposit slip and we were off.
As we walked away I mentioned something to Chris about the fact that I supposed there were no pigeon feathers stuck to the undercarriage, or I’m sure they would have inquired about it.
We decided that the sun was shining, and we may as well take in the stunning views of the Caldera once again. We headed out there, and were thrilled to find that more places were now open, than had been on the weekend. We managed to sit on a balcony with a spectacular view, and we had a drink and let the warm sun shine down on us for a while. Not much was said between us as we both just stared at the view and contemplated what had transpired over the last couple days.
I think the sun helped to cheer us up, as we had regained a little bounce in our step as we left. Or maybe, it was just the booze. Either way, our mood had improved and we were already starting to recover, mentally, from our crazy Santorini adventures.
We walked back towards our hotel and found a great dinner spot that we hadn’t gone to yet. This place turned out to be the cheapest, and best spot that we had been to since arriving on Santorini. By now we had over spent our budget by a lot, and we were very happy to save a bit of money for our last night (but of course also wishing we had found it sooner.)
Just around the corner from our hotel was a little convenience store. As we walked by, I decided that we needed to get something to help us forget the crazy day that we just had. We ducked in quickly, and came out with a tiny, cheap bottle of Ouzo. The plan was, in my words; “We are going to go back to our hotel, and we are going to drink this and celebrate that WE CAME to Santorini! And we are going to be thankful for this trip! And we are going to put this whole crazy show behind us damn it!!”
As we rounded the bend, we were presented with the mostly full moon, left over from Christmas. There was a small pullout off the road, a concrete wall to lean on, and a spectacular view before us. As the moon glittered off the ocean, we stopped, drank our tiny bottle of Ouzo on the road side, and marvelled at the spectacular place we were in, and how lucky we were to be alive!
But wait! We haven’t left Santorini yet! Stay tuned……..we are not quite finished.