Time to wander
The air smells earthy unlike anywhere I've ever been. A hint of black truffle leads the nose, with elements of pastures, golden grass, rabbit poop, and maybe sweet note of wild flowers. Scotland comes to mind. Not because it smells the same but because the scent of a place like Scotland permeate your memory like nowhere else. This, I feel, will be the same.
The flight from Thessaloniki to Limnos was a breeze. Strange to imagine how a quick hour can transport you into a whole other world here. Imagine if one were to draw a one hour radius in LA... Ugh. I took out a little car for the 4 days here (140€). It's hard to get around the island via public transportation, according to the internet. There just aren't enough visitors here. You would mostly find school children taking them. This place still hasn't basque in the glory of tourism like other southerly siblings like the Cyclades. There is a military base here, a few quite momentous archeological sites, some kiteboarding, and just a bunch of people living their normal lives.
Why did I end up here? Frankly I don't know. I looked at Google Maps one night and just went for it. The Mediterranean was calling. Where does one go when one has no destination in mind upon arrival? Well, if I learned anything from the Dubai incident I should first and foremost find a place to sleep immediately. I didn't sleep at all last night. Not even sure why.
I decided to drive towards the direction of the main port town Myrina, and see where I can nap. Along the way was this area called Platy, which based on (very little) research, had some pensions. So I went, and stopped at a corner house with a small sign "Biky Apartments".
He popped up curiously from the front balcony, labeled reception. Murmurs came out probably in the realm of can I help you or what the hell are you doing in my house. I asked if he had room. He sighed, cigarette in hand, and gestured I come up. The reception was actually his living room. Pictures of his family, throw blankets, half eaten whatever was all over the place. The TV was on as one would expect. The whole country is glued to what the government will do in the next four days now that they flipped the finger on IMF. It is a historic time here in Greece. I wonder what an old man with a beautiful little pension will do after the economy tank. I imagine he, unlike many others, would be ok. Tourism can work well during economic down turn, especially when you have the Mediterranean charm at your door. But he, and this whole island, is a small fish in the grand scheme of things. Whatever the government chooses this old man, and everyone in Greece, will have to exercise enormous resilience through the transition. A part of me hope they don't enslave themselves to the greed of capitalism.
Emerged with an old ass Nokia cell phone in his hand he gave the thing to me. I spoke to who I presume to be his son. We exchanged logistics. 25€ per night for a giant 2-bed flat plus terrace. About the same price I paid in Santorini 10 years ago. Old man took the phone back. I had that same phone. It was my very first cell phone actually. I smiled. He smiled. Definitely not about the same thing. He walked me down through this magnificent garden towards the back building. It's like living in Eden, if one exists. Along the way he pointed to the peach grove. He wanted me to take one. I did. Delicious. What a departure from food at home. So yum I think it's better than the stuff I used to grow on my own yard. Not satisfied that I only took one fruit he joined and grabbed a bunch more for me. Take it whenever I think he said. I wish I could understand him. He'd be the perfect Greek grandpa I never had. Efcharistó I said. The only word I knew besides Gyros and Meze. Heh.
That evening I took off to see Myrina, the main port town. I had seen some really beautiful night photos of this town so I took an early start to go spot scouting. It didn't take that long. There appeared to be a giant castle on top of the hill in the middle of town. Perfect. The thing about doing your homework by looking at other people's photos is that now you kinda have an idea of where the good stuff is outside of whatever is advertised. Myrina is not what you would call the standard picturesque white washed stone houses atop rugged cliffs like in the Cyclades. It's just a regular port town. There are some handsome buildings and the town is bustling, but nothing more unusual than other less visited places in the Greek Mediterranean. Two main commercial roads demarcate the town's center point. All the restaurants near the water are the usual tourist traps. One thing I do like is the presence of parks and playgrounds right along the ocean further north of the town's shore line.
I sat at the top of the castle for a while to wait for the right light for my photo. All sorts of couples came thru. Some families too. I was the only solo traveler. I thought about the moment when Paul msg'ed me from India on NYE years ago "hey TK. What song should I play on the beach in Goa when I am sick of psychedelic trance?" ... Lol. I said "cloak of blue sky". I sent him the same msg today. "Hey PK. What song should I play while watching sunset over the Mediterranean?" He said "snaggletooth - vance joy". He asked if I was happy or pensive. I didn't have an answer. Then he said:
"TK. enjoy the good life decisions you took to get you to the exact spot you are in right now. Feel proud."
Suddenly tears came surging, as if a dam far deep inside broke. It caught me by surprise. Being curled up in a busted 3rd century Byzantine castle wall watching insanely magnificent sunset isn't suppose to be a sad moment. But what Paul said shook me: I had never thought that maybe I should be proud of myself. We go through the routine of our lives day in and day out usually never questioning why we want the next thing -- more money, more possession, a family, a companionship, a baby, mortgage, that handbag, the iWatch, etc. Sometimes I feel weird not wanting any of this. That I'd rather trade all of it to be sitting on top of a busted pile of bricks in the middle of nowhere. People think I'm weird. What I should be doing is stop worrying. Whatevs. I'm proud of it.
The next day I took off and drove all over the island. No real destination. Just got up and wandered. It was pure joy. I learned that you can't rely on Google Maps alone when you are on the island. Like Iceland, Maps doesn't do a good job at labeling the paved vs unpaved roads. And it matters a lot. For those thinking of wandering the island by rental car:
- Best idea ever. Rent from the old man at the counter called Holiday. The Hyundai i10 had a kick to it, despite the tiny exterior. You definitely want to go for the smallest car possible. The village roads are tiny. There are gas stations near the airport on both sides, but beware, they don't open 24 hours.
- Don't take the shortest path. Take the paved one. It makes a giant difference. You can pick one up from the airport. I didn't do it. It was after stumbling across 8-9 villages before I would find the map at a road side trailer cafe.
- Google Maps is accurate, just not labeled. GPS is good all across the island. Don't use the direction feature. Just navigate with your eyeballs.
- If you are passing by a bunch of villages, give extra time to get really friggin lost. Because you totally will. I got myself wedged in a really bad way in a curved road the width of my dinky car that suddenly ended. I had to back the car up in a very very narrow path. Also got the car stuck in a sand pit. That was *not* fun getting out.
- Despite Greece's national law prohibiting random camping, you can do it here. No one will stop you. As a matter of fact no one is around for miles and miles. You will need to bring your own gear tho. Don't forget the bug spray. I tried sleeping in the car one night and was thoroughly defeated by bugs.
Eventually I found Surf Club Keros. The wind is in favor for surfing. Who knew. And their campsite is available. And there's hammocks overlooking Keros beach. The east side of the island is much quieter, more rural, and feels far off the beaten path. I ended up spending a few days here, roaming around, surfing, chatting with the locals nearby. The wave isn't great. No ground swell to be had this far up Aegean Sea. Wind swell is ok, but choppy, short, and temperamental. Best to stick with kiteboarding.
This part of the trip is exactly what I needed. A hammock. Some wild roosters. Bunnies. So many wild bunnies. Solitude. Being able to internalize important things I ignore when I'm back home. I no longer feel pensive. I am smiling from the inside. Some people find their "center" in family, religion, another person.. My center is within me. It travels with me. It shines the brightest on the road. And I'm ok with that.
I'm ready to take on Berlin for a very very different kind of travel.