Here's my last bit:
Thursday 16th May
So, my last full day in beautiful Skiathos. SL1 recommended the magic forest walk (no. 11) on the forums before I went, and this was my plan for today. The weather was a bit cloudy, but it didn’t look like it would develop into anything worse. Rather than getting the bus and walking up from stop 9 to the start of the walk, I made my way up directly from town – bus stop 4, then up the hill past Skiathos Garden Cottages to meet the walk on the Kastro road via a path. On the way up I once more had some beautiful views back over town, and I reflected on something that had struck me many times on the holiday – how so many people have built houses, and in some cases hotels, in very steep locations where you would be completely isolated without a car. Still, each to their own I suppose…
Whilst walking through a meadow I missed a turn-off, but soon re-traced my steps and found the road easily enough. I had already walked along this road all the way back from Kastro, so the first part was reasonably familiar. I only started breaking new ground after the turn-off to Kechria monastery. On the way down I saw lots of livestock, including a few ponies which looked like they were all related to each other, before reaching the monastery. Nothing like as grand as some of the others I had seen, and much smaller, but very distinctive with its pink and blue dome, and some interesting murals inside. Then on to the old mill and olive press, and down the river bed. What a beautiful place! And it got even better further down, after the stone bridge, into the part Mr. Widmann calls the magic forest. His description is completely accurate – fantastically shaped trees, many with hollow trunks, tall ferns, and a lovely path criss-crossing the stream probably a dozen times or more. I soon arrived at Kechria beach – to be honest I was a bit disappointed by it and didn’t linger. There was some activity at the tavern but I don’t think it was open. I could see the next beach along, and went over the headland to it – Ligharies beach. This was much better, though still nothing like as good as the ones on the south and west of the island. I had my picnic here; by now the sun had appeared, and I would have had a swim if it hadn’t been for the rubbish in the sea – lots of plastic cups and other detritus really put me off.
On leaving Ligharies I noticed that the large snack bar/taverna behind the beach was open, and there were a couple of people in it. The next half-hour or so of the walk was one of the highlights for me. The scenery was lovely – the olive groves and overgrown meadows full of spring flowers – but the icing on the cake was that there were lots of butterflies everywhere. I probably saw hundreds in just a few minutes, and not all the same species either. I attempted to take some photos, but with very limited success, although I did manage to find one dawdling on a flower for long enough to get into my viewfinder.
After that, the rest of the walk was bound to be a bit of a disappointment, but in fact the scenery over the hills and back to town was also very good. Once more, instead of heading back to Katsaros I turned left and went down the insanely-steep concrete path (for the third time) into Ftelia, and straight back to the studio without a swimming stop. A ‘short’ walk, 15km all told.
After a quick shower and doing the majority of my packing, I walked into town; first of all to finish buying my presents and a few bits and pieces, then up in the streets above the old harbour, after which I walked down to the quay to see if SL1 was there. He was, and greeted me like an old friend. We had a very quick chat but unfortunately my timing was very poor, as it was just at that moment that the Calypso was returning from an excursion, full of passengers! So I left him to it, and climbed up to the church tower, where I sat for about 20 minutes watching everyone go about their daily business.
At this point there had not been any information about pick up times, luggage arrangements etc. When it finally arrived, at about 7pm, it just said ‘pick-up 12 at the pottery shop’. No mention of luggage, which pottery shop – as there isn’t one anywhere near Alkmene! So I phoned the rep., who had to agree that the information wasn’t very good. She phoned me back a bit later, saying that the luggage had to be out by 9 a.m. and the ‘pottery shop’ was what I would call a builders merchants. I know it was only Olympic’s first week of the season, but the attention to detail was definitely lacking. Along with all of the others staying there, I am a seasoned traveller and if push came to shove I could easily have made my own way to the airport, walking if necessary, but if I’d been a first-time visitor to Greece I would have been a bit stressed.
So, my final evening meal – where to go. It was a toss-up between Stamatis and Yianni’s, and (rather boringly you may think) Yianni’s won – and I had exactly the same meal as the night before. And I sat at the same table. But, on the other side, so I had a different view! My excuse, if you think I need one, is that we don’t currently have any other holidays booked; so for the moment at least, I’m not sure when my next grill-fest will be! Hopefully August, but nothing definite yet.
After my meal I went down to the quay to say goodbye to SL1, but he wasn’t there. I walked up to the church-tower again and back through the streets and home to finish packing and bed.
Friday 17th May
As is often the case, I didn’t sleep very well on my last night, so I was up pretty early, and definitely in time to put my case out. Alkmene opens out directly on to the street, and I wasn’t totally 100% happy about just leaving my case there – but when in Rome…I do sometimes wonder if there is anywhere else in the world where luggage can be treated this way, both from a theft and airline security point of view, but I have to say it is very civilised.
So I had 3 hours to kill, and I had another quite long walk all around town – right round the western edge to the promontory which is a bit like a mini-Bourtzi, then along to the old harbour, and back along the maze of streets. Mrs. Steve told me that the plane had left Manchester just a few minutes late, which was good to know.
The coach was bang on time, and I had a final glimpse of the harbour (and SL1!) when we picked up the people from Skopelos. When we got to the airport I saw my case virtually straight away (phew!) and the check-in was great – and another window seat. I sat outside with a last picnic and beer, before making my way through security. The plane left a bit late, but arrived back over an hour early as we flew non-stop without re-fuelling. In fact it was too early for Mrs. S to pick me up, so I got the bus home – one of the advantages of only living 6 miles from the airport.
So, reflecting back – what a great holiday!
Can I cope with going away on my own – yes. There is a certain amount of guilty pleasure in being able to choose exactly what you want to do and when – but I did miss my family and it was good to see them again; now, if only they could have come out and joined me…
Is there enough walking on Skiathos for a week, or even two? Most definitely yes. Although there were times I walked the same ground twice, it wasn’t a problem at all – and there are plenty of walks I haven’t yet done.
Could I have done it without TA – probably yes, but it wouldn’t have been anything like so easy, and all the information you gave me helped me to hit the ground running and make the best of things. So, thanks to each and every one who gave me such valuable information before I went – you made the experience that much better. Also a special thanks to Orton Widmann, whose book is a fantastic testament to his passion for walking the island. Not only the book, but also the signage, putting ropes in strategic locations to make it easier, and I suspect in at least one case (near Koukounaries) creating a brand new path to connect two others! He probably won’t read this, but thanks anyway.
Any disappointments – I was sorry to see that even in mid-May, everywhere seemed very quiet, particularly out of town. This must be a worry for everyone who relies on the ever-shortening tourist season.
Oh, and City losing the Cup Final of course!
So, get yourselves off there - you know you want to…
Here are about 50 of the 200+ photos I took – not necessarily the best technically, but my favourites nevertheless: