Free to roam…..Lefkes to Prodromos & Antiparos Island

As stated in my previous post, we weren’t expected to work everyday while with Jim and Irini. In fact, Jim made it clear that we needed to take breaks, and that our stay was not all about work. 

We managed to make 2 day trips out and about to see what the area had to offer. 

—Lefkes to Prodromos—

One Friday morning we started looking at bus schedules for the following day, because buses were the best alternative for us to get around. 

Our new friend Tara, a fellow Wwoofer, was leaving on Sunday, and we wanted to be sure to spend a day hanging out with her before she left. 

Tara has biked 8000km in 6 months across Asia and is now headed to Africa! Follow her incredible journey on her blog: Follow Margo Polo 

She has 70 kgs (154 lbs) strapped to that bike!! This is the day she left us to go explore Africa!
 As we read the schedule, we realized that there were very few buses on Saturday and much more on Friday. Irini suggested that it was a nice day, and we should just go that day, instead of waiting till the next. Sounded good to us!

We headed off to a town located in the centre of Paros called Lefkes. Jim had told us that it was a neat mountainside town so we decided to check it out. Before leaving, they also told us about an old trail called the Byzantine Trail, built 10 centuries ago during the Byzantine Era. The section from Lefkes to Prodromos is the most preserved section of a large network that used to connect many of the villages on Paros. And the good news was that we could catch the bus from Prodromos, and it was all downhill!  Perfect!  

Starting in the mountains at Lefkes.
  
 
Ending in Prodromos, closer to the Sea.
  
 We poked around Lefkes for a bit, then decided to find the trail and start heading down to our
potential lunch spot. We looked around for the trail head, referencing our large scale map that we had, hoping for a clue.  
This was such a steep grade, the photo doesn’t do it justice. And YES! this is an actual road cars drive on!
  
Teeny tiny stairs!
  
Little passageways with Bouganvillia.
    
  
Kind of Flintstone-ish.
 
We finally came across 3 construction workers working in the town square. I asked if they spoke English. The answer did not surprise me “a little bit.”  One of them said shyly. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter who we ask this question to, the answer is always some sort of shy rendition of “a little bit” to “yessssss??”, to my favourite taxi driver response “sommmmmetimmmes.”  We always giggle and then ask them our question verrrryyyy slowly, and most of the time they know a great deal more than they think they do, and we are always impressed. 

We showed our map to him and while pointing to the trail I said “We are looking for the Byzantine Trail?”

He knew what we were asking, but he just couldn’t seem to form his words right. For at least a minute he struggled for the words to tell us how to get there. We heard “left” many times, and there was lots of pointing. But that was about the extent of it. Finally he motioned for us to follow him. We literally walked 15 feet, and he pointed to a sign IN ENGLISH pointing to the Byzantine trail, that we had actually already walked past once. HA!!  We thanked him profusely, and went on our way. 

The trail started out amongst the tiny corridors of Lefkes, wound its way between buildings impossibly perched on the hillside, and then finally emerged below the town,showing us the valley below. It was a bumpy old track, and we discussed how difficult it would have been back in the horse (donkey) and cart days, to get around.  

The bumpy trail.
  
Emerging from the narrow valley to witness the view below.
  
The final approach to Prodromos.
 We wandered along the trail, checking out the plants, and stopping for photo ops whenever we would round another corner and a new, and seemingly improved, vista would present itself . We marvelled at the terraced hillsides around us, and envisioned what life may have been like here 1000 years ago. 

We all started to feel pangs of hunger about 3/4 of they way down. Jim had told us that there was a restaurant next to the central square in Prodromos. We were all quite concerned that it may not be open as it’s not exactly the tourist season. 

As we approached  the beginning of the village, there appeared on the side of a building, a neat little map of the town centre, and it had English on it! Clearly someone had thought this through!  We wove our way through the narrow winding streets, and came out exactly where we needed to.  

We loved this persons style!
  
More georgeous little streets.
  
A fun little stone mosaic on the side of a house.
 
YES!  The restaurant was open!  

Lunch was lovely. The waitress, and I’m sure, Owner, knew just enough English to provide us with the options available. We had no idea what the prices were, but it was a modest little spot, and we couldn’t imagine it was too expensive. Besides we were HUNGRY!  (Turns out the price was just fine.)

We ordered some local Paros wine to share, ate 2 plates of Cheese Saganaki (fried cheese, and my new favourite thing!), and other traditional Greek dishes. 

Fun Fact: Wine is so abundant in Greece, restaurants often have their OWN wine that they make, and when they say house wine, they REALLY MEAN house wine!  (Plus it’s usually cheap!)

Chris had an incredible Greek Salad that was topped with heaping scoops of the yummiest feta cheese we have ever seen. It was like they had used an ice cream scoop to scoop it, and it’s consistency was halfway between that of ice cream and whipped butter. It was the creamiest, yummiest, cheese we ever did see!  And we all had to get in there and try it! 

Feta to die for!
 We wandered around Prodroms for another couple hours until our bus came, and we were whisked back to the safety of Living in the Garden, Jim and Irini’s oasis. 

—Antiparos Island—

The idea of our journey to Antiparos Island, the neighbouring island to Paros, was sparked when we learned that the ferry runs every half hour, and that there was quite a quaint and unique village over there to see.  

 We also had another reason.  After much deliberation, we had finally decided to stay at Jim and Irini’s for Christmas Day, instead of joining the throngs of people who would be travelling around prior to the holiday. As they had Christmas plans already, we decided to cook our own Christmas dinner in our adorable cottage kitchen. 

That meant we needed some supplies, so we decided to make Antiparos our grocery shopping mission as well. 

We caught the ferry across to the island at about 9:30am. The tickets were sold once you stepped on the boat, and the man we bought them from attempted to communicate the return schedule to us while we stared at him dumbfounded, clearly not understanding his broken English. He finally just ended up showing us the copy hanging on the wall behind him. Apparently in the low season they only run every hour instead of half hour. 

Now, we live in a ferry dependant community on the West Coast of Canada. One would think we should be sick of ferries. But, for some reason, I LOVE being on ferries. I don’t know if it’s the being on the water thing?, or the not being in a car thing?, or what exactly makes me love them, but I get giddy with excitement pretty much every time I go on one. We went up top to sit outside, and I immediately ran around and snapped pictures with reckless abandon. (But for some silly reason did not get a pic of the ferry itself.) The ride only lasted 10 minutes or so, then we were free to roam. 

   
    

A happy traveller!
  Right away, we were greeted with a very cute and quaint waterfront promenade, that despite the off season, still had a few restaurants open and a couple grocery stores. 

 

Antiparos waterfront.
 
In behind the waterfront was a lovely little village that was mostly pedestrian only. We saw a couple mopeds zip by, but we were told that it’s likely not allowed in the summer months, when there are hoards of people walking around. Many artist boutiques and high end shops lined the main thoroughfares, but unfortunately they were closed for the off season. 

We stopped in a small coffee shop to get a bite to eat. Even though it was only about 10:30 in the morning, we noticed Ouzo on the menu, and thought it was high time that we tried some real Greek Ouzo. Besides, it was almost Christmas, and surely 5:00 somewhere??

 

Ouzo!! It was really yummy!!
 We strolled through town and came out the other side at a rocky headland and a little beach. Here, I finally dipped my feet in the Mediterranean Sea, or more precisely, the Aegean Sea. 

   

Brrrr it was a bit chilly!!
 
Heading back through the village to find a place for lunch, but taking a different route than we had coming out (because exploring every nook and crannie is so much fun!), we came across a centre square with a church and an old castle.  

 As we rounded a corner, and came face to face with the church, 2 monks came walking out, creating a stunning picture. I quickly fumbled for my camera, but it was too late, they had ducked into another doorway. A few minutes later, we came around another corner, and again, they popped out of one doorway, and dashed into another, before I could capture them.  

Stairs up, inside the castle walls.
  
The church and the original sight of the monks.
 
We climbed up on top of the ancient structure in the middle of the courtyard, and took in the views from above. From up there I could hear people talking below. I knew it was those monks, but couldn’t get a good look at where they were. I was obsessed!  At this point I had made it my personal mission to capture those darn monks on camera, if it was the last thing I did! 
From above.
  
We came back down from up above and rounded a corner near the bottom of the stairs.  By now I had my camera in hand and ready to go, and lo and behold, there they went again, popping out of a doorway, and rounding a corner. I was quick enough to get a shot (only of one), but without the dramatic church background, it didn’t really do it justice.  However, I was somewhat satisfied, so we went on our way.  

Got ya!
 As fate would have it, a little while later, we looked back and there they were walking behind us, totally innocent, and completely unaware of my perverse need to get a good picture of them. I stepped aside and pretended to look at my iPhone for a while. They passed us and I FINALLY got my picture. But alas, STILL not as good as what I had seen earlier. I guess some pictures are just meant for our minds. 

  

This cute old guy had his tractor cart full of produce. Maybe he was delivering it?
  
 
A greek parking garage.
 
 
Colourful fishing boats.
 

We wound our way back to the waterfront, had some lunch, and bought our Christmas dinner supplies. Our day on Antiparos was nice and very peaceful, but, I have been told that the island is turning into a sort of small version of Mykonos or Santorini. Apparently Sean Connery and Tom Hanks have houses there, and, if this is the case, it likely won’t be a cute quaint little place for long.  Best to check it out while it still retains its charm. 

Next I will be blogging about our time in Santorini. Despite its beauty, we have very mixed emotions about this place. Our travelling bubble of happiness and complete ecstasy burst a little bit. So to give you a hint of what’s to come, I will be naming the post Santorini or Bust(ed)!

Gone Wwoofin’!

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.   

  
‘Okay, cool’ we thought, ‘guess we are heading to Greece!’And so, the time had come, and our wwoofing was about to commence. 

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! 

This is the sight that greats you at the top of the escalator. This is clearly aimed at Tourism.
    
NOT the direction we were heading!
 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.  

A live life jacket demonstration!
Our little corner that we occupied for the ride.

 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. 

 

No escalators to get off. Walk ons do it the same way as home.
 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.  

The quaint streets of Alyki.
  
Alyki beach, waiting for our ride.
  
 
  
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!

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