Here's the penultimate instalment:
Tues 14th May
If I could have planned it, this would have been a rest day, for the hedonistic delights of swimming, lazing on a beach, sunbathing etc etc. However, mother nature had other ideas. It had been extremely windy all night – it had blown over my chairs on the balcony – and it was pretty cloudy – but no rain. I decided to do an amalgam of walks, loosely based on 4, 5 and 10 from the Widmann book. My initial plan was to go to Troulos and re-visit places we had stayed in the past, walk up to Asselinos and see how the day went from there. So I got the bus to stop 20, Troulos Bay. The beach there looked as lovely as ever, and the hotel has built a pool since my last visit, which I realised was actually 10 years ago. Clearly it wasn’t beach weather, but there was virtually nobody walking about. I went back up to the crossroads and the Maria-Yiannis (?) where we stayed last time. The pool was full, but absolutely no-one around. Then up the road and the turn-off to Beltsios, where we had a good holiday in 2001. The pool bar there seems to have grown and grown, and again the pool full but no people. I can only conclude that the season is shrinking at both ends, unless everyone was having a serious lie-in…
Having satisfied my curiosity, I walked back up to the centre of Troulos, where a lot of the places on the sea side of the road either had closed completely or had not yet opened. Unfortunately I fear the former. Then carrying on up the main road to take the path Widmann calls the upper path of Troulos. A lovely short walk with some good views towards the (empty) beaches of Kolios and the area. When I got to the Asselinos road, instead of turning back to go towards Troulos, I turned right towards Asselinos. This road was just as I had remembered it; totally quiet, some lovely meadow scenery and wild flowers, horses in the fields etc… As I approached Asselinos, the wind got stronger and stronger, until when I arrived at the beach it was blowing straight off the sea. The waves were very big, definitely not a good day for a swim even if the weather had been good. It was too cold to sit outside and have my lunch, so I went into the (unopened) tavern and barricaded myself against a door watching the waves and sat there for a peaceful half hour. Looking at the stunted trees outside, it was clear that this wind is not an infrequent occurrence.
Despite the wind, the weather was gradually clearing, so I moved on – on the way back I found a horse wandering down the middle of the road with its rope trailing. It had a look of ‘well I always wanted to get away, but now I have I’m not sure what to do…’, but there was no-one around to tell, and I’m always wary of approaching horses since Mrs Steve was given a good kick by one many years ago (in Skiathos, as it happens).
When I got to the monastery/dog sanctuary junction, I decided to head off up into the hills. First of all a quick stop at the dog sanctuary, where for a change the barking as I approached seemed friendly rather than the more usual threatening, then to the Kounistria monastery. Last time I was in this area I walked over the hill past the municipal tip, but decided to give that a miss this time! But I could see the seagulls circling above. Instead I took the plunge to walk around the north coast ‘road’, a really fantastic route. Some lovely views, particularly of both Asselinos beaches from above, and the lovely chapel of Agios Ioannis Kryfos, situated in the middle of nowhere up a (very) steep track some 200m off the road. But for me the high spot was walking up the beautiful Achillas river trail, a lovely field path with some beautiful scenery. I ended up near the Paradise Hotel/Skiathos Club area, and took the same insanely steep path down to Ftelia and Megali Ammos, where yes, you’ve guessed it, I had a well-deserved beer and swim before walking back. When I measured it up, it was 23.5km all told – no wonder my thighs were feeling a bit leaden.
That night I ate at Stamatis. I took some old photos (from 1989) with me, which seemed to go down very well. I was pretty hungry after the exertions of the day, so I had a mixed ‘cold’ starter, a fantastic plate of virtually every small dish imaginable (some of which were hot) followed by some Skiathian meat balls, which were really delicious. Oh, and some retsina. Oh, and a sweet on the house. Oh, and some more wine on the house… I left there full, tired and not particularly sober; I should sleep well tonight…
Weds 15th May
I was hoping for a good clear day today, and thankfully that’s what I got. Wall to wall sunshine and no wind. So I swapped my maps, walking book and micro-towel for ipod, novel and beach towel and got the bus down to Kouk. In my mind there was only one place I wanted to go – small banana. I walked there via the Agia Eleni road, and when I arrived, there were probably less than 15 people, which is how it stayed all day. A lovely day of swimming, sunbathing, reading and listening to music. By 5.30pm I was the only one left; this to me is the best part of the day, and I know in the past Mrs Steve and myself have been on big banana till about 8pm. Still, each to their own. I finally left at about 6.30pm and walked back to Koukounaries beach. I wasn’t alone – there was quite a lot of activity behind the beach, people constructing tavernas etc. I was surprised to see that whereas on banana the sea had been very still, it was quite choppy on Koukounaries.
I doubled back half way along the beach and walked along the path by the lake, where I was rewarded by the sight of 2 rabbits, one of which looked curiously domestic-like white with brown patches, and a group of peacocks. I just managed to get the 7pm bus, with 2 other people, and as we drove through Kouk I noticed that several tavernas weren’t open yet. By the time we got to town there were still less than 20 people on the bus – which is quite different to previous holidays I’ve had!
I had a mixed grill at Yianni’s Place that night, and from my balcony view the creperie across the road was doing a roaring trade. Town generally seemed much busier than previously, and after my meal I spent a happy hour looking round for suitable presents for Mrs Steve, our son and my mum-in-law.
Another lovely day, planning to do the magic forest walk tomorrow…