Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Stavros: a love connection

The next morning at camp proved to be exactly what you would expect. We ambled out of our room, in search of the camp cafeteria, which also happened to be the pool area, wifi zone, bar, and Oreo's favorite napping spot. Perpetually napping. 

We opted for the cheap breakfast at the Camp cafeteria because the sign told us so. Also, it meant we didn't have to climb the 3 hills of hell until we were ready to hop the bus later on. The Cafeteria was busy, and we were jetlagged. Which meant little patience.

We approached Helga (the cafeteria lady, obviously) who bore a striking resemblance to the Trenchbull from Matilda, and placed our order. 

"Two American breakfasts, please." (Whatever that means)
"You go. I call you." -Helga

This was our dismissal. 

I, however was not convinced. How would she remember what we ordered when there were thousands others waiting for their American breakfasts? I wasn't a rocket scientist myself, but Helga was definitely not keeping tabs on the order of orders here.

"You go! I CALL you." Helga pushed. 

"But you don't know my name!" I persisted under my breath.

KJ and I plopped down reluctantly to await being called. We took advantage of the tiny paper ticket that promised us a coffee from the bar. YES, COFFEE.

We showed our tickets and the 12 year old bartender with a beard sloshed some questionable looking caffeine our way. 

"Can we have two more sugar packets?" I inquired. Though the coffee looked like it needed about 8.

"I have only ONE." he retorted and flung the packet on the bar. Touchy, touchy.

KJ and I waited endlessly for our American breakfasts. If we approached Helga one more time I was sure she wouldn't feed us at all. Finally, standing awkwardly and staring proved to work. 

"What is this crap?" I asked KJ. The American breakfast was probably exactly what Helga thought of us. 

It was time to venture up the 3 hills of hell to catch the rave bus to Oia, where, we would hike 7 miles back to Fira. Because that's what normal people do the first day of their trip, jetlagged, and in 95 degree heat.

Lucky for us, we arrived just as a bus was departing to Oia. Unlucky for us, it was filled to the brim, so KJ and I had to stand the entire windy, cliff ridden journey.

We fell out of the bus as if it had birthed us, thankful for a breath of fresh, humid air. We were already dripping with sweat and hadn’t even started our hike.

But boy, was Oia beautiful.

The trek began with wandering through the streets of Oia and taking in the views. The contrast of white washed houses against the sea was breathtaking. I was awestruck and couldn’t stop taking pictures, obviously.

KJ on the trail

Knowing that we were only a very short way into the hike, and I was already drenched in sweat was slightly alarming. It was midday, possibly the worst time to be doing this hike, but damnit, we were going to do it.

We kept on keeping on and encountered several things.

-   A helicopter taking off mere feet from us.
-   Immense thirst
-   Me having to pee
- Sahara Desert like conditions
- Steep hills that rivaled the 3 hills of hell
-   Me tripping over loose rocks about every 20 minutes or so.
-   Two women hiking in sundresses and Kentucky Derby hats. (what?!)

The donkey encounter produced what has to be my favorite photograph from the hike:

This is where I met Stavros. Our eyes locked. Time stood still.

The love of my life? If it’s meant to be a donkey, then yes.

He was perched off to the side, and looked how I felt. Hot and tired.

“Hey buddy, how’s it going?” I offered him by way of conversation.

He showed me his teeth.

Good talk.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate that besides the fact that the advertisement for “donkey rides” looked as if it was written using an oversized sharpie… upon closer inspection, there are actually bike helmets inside for said donkey rides. Those should help while plunging down a rocky cliff. At least safety was a priority.

I explained to Stavros that despite my desperate desire to ride a donkey, I wouldn't put him through carrying my ass in this heat. If that's not true love, then I don't know what is. 

I didn’t want to leave Stavros and our solid connection, but alas we had more hiking to do. About 4 more miles worth. I waved a sad goodbye.

High above, at the top of one of the 982374987234 hills was a church. It provided the only shade in a vast area of scorching sun, and we needed some relief. Upon approaching the church I had two thoughts.
The first, “wow she’s a real beaut!”
The second, “why does it smell like bologna?”

The culprit sat in the sliver of shade provided by the side of the church. My nose had not lead me astray. There was in fact a couple eating bologna sandwiches, because what else would you pack for a hike in Greece?

We enjoyed the shade for a few and gathered strength to keep on the trail. But now I had a craving for bologna.

Our water was boiling hot and completely unsatisfying to drink at this point. We needed to find some cold drinks, and soon. But first a fork in the trail.

Signs weren’t very well marked, and the lady we asked where the trail continues gave us these directions:

“Second mouth. Red.”

Got it.

We started down a skinny, steep path that guaranteed at least one of us falling into the sea as it skirted dangerously around the cliff. This couldn’t be it, could it? KJ looked as uncertain as I felt.

“Let’s go back up and see if there’s another “mouth” further up.”

We passed a small group of hikers heading down the skinny trail, and told them we weren’t sure if it was the right way. They decided to take their chances and we wished them luck. As we kept looking for another trail, we searched for sweaty people wearing backpacks coming from the opposite direction. It was a good clue that they were hiking as well. Jackpot. Two hikers going the opposite way on the trail pointed us in the correct direction and informed us of a café with water on the other side of the next (big) hill. Awesome, because I needed water, and I was close to peeing my pants.

They were right! After a few more wrong turns we found the café and heaven in some ice cold bottled water. I asked the fully bearded café lady about a bathroom and she pointed around the outside of the building.

There were no less than five signs instructing bathroom goers to NOT put toilet paper in the toilet. Did I follow directions? Oops. I blame the heat.

“We gotta get.” I told KJ in a hurry as if I committed some sort of heinous crime. It was only a small amount of TP, but I didn’t want to experience the wrath of the bearded lady.

We scurried along, refreshed from our water break and ready to take on the rest of the hike. Passing through Imerovigli proved difficult on account we had to restrain ourselves from jumping in people’s private pools. They looked super inviting, and We. Were. So. Hot. Just then we ran into the hikers that took the wrong trail. They were alive! We rejoiced and congratulated them.

It was a race against heat stroke. We arrived in Fira not a moment too soon and wearily high fived each other. Camp beckoned us in the form of a cold shower.

We had done it. Drinks of the tall alcoholic kind were in order...

Just me in a tree.. nothin to see here.

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