Roads to Rhodes

I’ll get straight to the point about my intentions for this trip to the Greek Islands. The plan. Get there and do nothing for a whole week. After the last six months, all I wanted to do it sit down and be quiet.

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This wasn’t my first visit to Rhodes. The last time I was on the island, I was with my then boyfriend, Cookie. We spent six wonderful weeks on the island. When we weren’t on pirate ships winning sangria fuelled competitions; how many sexual positions can you get yourself into in 60 seconds? Go! Clothed, of course! We were lazing in the sun and swimming. By night we were ripping up the dance floors of Falaraki, all night, every night. Quite how we managed to fit it into our hedonistic schedule I can’t remember, but we did also manage to see the majority of the island in that time.  ‘Many moons’ have passed since then and although I do remember most of the trip, I was chuffed when I came across an old folded up map of Rhodes tucked away in a drawer.  I’d completely forgotten about it. I’d kept it all this time. I’m a bit of a hoarder of such things, happily. Once I looked at the map, it completely jogged my memory because I’d drawn on it every single place we visited bombing around the island in our beach buggy back then. I did toy with posting an old photograph with this story, of Cookie wearing my electric blue bikini, but I’ll leave that vision for one’s imagination.  Happy memories. That trip was fun and then some. Usually when I travel I can’t wait to get out, explore and see what ever there is on offer. This time I could have a guilt free laze about, safe in the knowledge that I’d seen most of it before.

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I’m an ambassador for budget travel. Sure, I love the occasional luxury stays, but I much more of a fan of actually travelling as opposed to worrying about what the four walls of my hotel room look like. Jet 2 delivered another great flight. It was fantastic touching down to a balmy 28 degrees at 9pm. The cab ride from the airport took about thirty minutes. I didn’t really have much of a clue where I was going other than the name of the village. When I arrived at the hotel it was already dark. I had read briefly that the hotel was on top of a hill. This, I discovered, was reasonably accurate as the cab did a few wheel spins trying to get to the top, but I was safely deposited. A cheerful guy working both the bar and the reception greeted me.

Welcome to Afandou Sky hotel. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but this is what I would call a really good budget hotel. What you got? A big clean room with a comfy bed and ensuite; a balcony with an awesome view; a really warm welcome with lovely owners/staff; an amazing swimming pool and a courier who’ll bring you literally anything you want from the village so you don’t have to walk up the hill! There was no fridge in the room, I managed without but you could hire one.

It was almost 11pm by the time I got checked in and wandered back downstairs to introduce myself properly. A gin and tonic first followed by the realisation that they didn’t do food. Not a nut or an olive in sight. I wasn’t aware at this time that you could order food in. I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime so I had another gin and tonic instead. I met some lovely people, Steph and Jackie who became an enlightening hub of conversation for the whole week while I was around the hotel. Both girls were from the Midlands and both worked in the care industry. Some of the stories they told me! I probably had my jaw on the floor most of the time. Carer’s are amongst some of the most under valued champions in this world. They are totally over worked, seriously under paid and I have nothing but the upmost respect for them.

That first night at the hotel, not long after I had gone upstairs, there was an almighty commotion down in the bar. I didn’t find out what had happened until the following day. Apparently somebody had eaten the hotel owner’s last slice of pizza. There was some serious threatening going on, the pizza thief being told that it was disrespectful to just take the pizza without asking. I found the whole story hilarious. An outburst delivered so passionately, it must be nice when the biggest problem you’ve got is somebody eating your last slice of pizza.

The first full day of my trip I promised myself that I would get up at sunrise every day, make it a daily ritual, and that’s exactly what I did. From the darkness of the previous night and not really knowing where I was, I walked out on to my balcony just as the sun was rising. The warm peachy light cast across the village and the mountains in the distance, the view was beautiful.

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Sunset from my balcony

I decided to go out for a sunrise walk before the heat of the day kicked in and headed off in the general direction of the beach. You could see the ocean from the hotel, but it was a good walk away. By 10am I had walked over 10km, all logged on my walking app. The search was on for food and coffee, I was starving hungry. I didn’t come across much more than a banana and a bottle of water, but that did the trick, you can go a long way on banana power.

One of the first things that strike’s you about Afandou is that the oceanfront is still relatively undeveloped, quite refreshing to find in this day and age. There’s an enormous stretch of coastline opposite the village that is nothing more than scrub. In real estate terms, the land must be worth a fortune. I wondered who was sat on the pot of gold. I did ask some locals about this. They told me that most of the land had been sold off for about €70 million and was awaiting development. Stories varied, but building work is supposed to be starting next year (2019).

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Afandou Beach

I ended up walking for most of the morning. It was hot walking but you’ll never hear me complain about that. The terrain was flat and didn’t require much effort to put one foot in front of the other. Once I get my hoofs on, I can just keep on going, like the Forrest Gump of the walking world. Just don’t ask me to run! An afternoon of lazing about in the sunshine and swimming followed. I was definitely in my happy place. Much of the same followed over the next couple of days. Early mornings spent hiking and afternoons swimming, sleeping, reading and dreaming big. More contented, I could not have been.

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I caught a bus from Afandou to Rhodes town that evening. The old town was quite chaotic after the peace and quiet of the village and the hotel in the sky. Old Town Rhodes is a wonderful place to explore. I spent a few hours wandering the old streets, the markets awash with people and the atmosphere buzzing. I had some dinner in a lovely restaurant in a courtyard in the old town. Sitting watching the world go by. I laughed when I looked at the drinks menu and it said they sold Caipiriha’s. The drink of Brazil! This instantaneously brought back so many happy memories from my time in South America, I just had to order one and it didn’t disappoint! Beyond the walls of the old town is the marina. Some of the boats moored up instantly made my mind blow and think up a million ideas of ways in which I could own a similar one myself. I have always had a passion and childlike fascination for boats, particularly sailing yachts. I have been meaning to do my skipper’s license for years, but I haven’t got around to it again this year! Captain my own boat, I will. There’s time yet!

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After a lazy 12km hike about in the morning, on day four I decided to have the afternoon at a stretch of beach I’d been eyeing up for days. There never seemed to be anybody there. As I walked along the mostly deserted oceanfront, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was, absolutely idyllic. I picked a spot by the water, perfect to get horizontal and dream away the afternoon. The fine pebbles of the beach were spot on for sculpting your body in to and the salty crystal clear water was just two feet away. I dived straight in and flipped myself over to loll on my back in the water, suspended by salt. What ever your own definition of heaven is, at this moment I was in euphoria. Dripping wet from my swim, I sat on my sarong looking one way and then the other, happily acknowledging that I had the whole place all to myself, hours passed…

And then…

I heard a crunching noise. This gave me a bit of a start. The only other sound I’d heard for hours was the gentle rhythmic lapping of the waves. I looked up to see where the noise was coming from. A man wearing blue shorts was approaching me. I could tell his age was about thirty because he was now standing only three meters away from me, I got a good look at him. My first thought was ‘for fuck’s sake’. Swiftly followed by ‘ There’s at least four kilometers on either side of me, all empty beach, why the fuck do you need to come and plonk yourself down next to me?’

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The situation momentarily irritated me but I tried to ignore him. Then the crunching of feet in pebbles started up again and continued until his feet ended up right next to mine. First of all the man spoke to me in Greek. When I just glared back at him, it was because I didn’t understand him. Maybe the language barrier will make him do one? The man then started talking to me in English, there was no escape. I like to think I’ve got time for anyone and I just did what I would always do, talk back, but I was mindful not to encourage him too much for the fear that he’d move his towel right next to mine and I’d be stuck with him for the rest of the day. I gave a few casual replies and then reclined back onto the pebbles hoping that he might get the message.

Am I a magnet for beach totty combers? I’ll never forget when I was sunbathing up at Yorkey’s Knob some years ago (Knob? Yes it really is called that) in Far North Queensland, Australia. There I was minding my own, on an empty stretch of sand. A random guy appeared from nowhere.

Oh for fuck’s sake.

He told me he was from Israel. He couldn’t get over how conservative I was about a complete stranger fondling my ankles and toes. Get off me leg! He insisted on sucking my toes and when I was reluctant to let him do this he looked upset. He began by plonking himself down next to me uninvited, and then went straight in for the toes. The next thing I know, I’m having a foot ‘thing’. This was quite a few years ago, but I still remember his name, Isacc. Some things you just never forget.

Anyway, back to Rhodes. The next time I sat up to look out across the ocean, this guy was stood right next to me with nothing on. This is probably not a good time to start eating the banana that I was about to demolish.

There he was, cock blowing in the wind, stark bollock naked. To be fair to him, if I were him, I’d probably have been quite proud of the old chap as well. He stood there for quite some time, hands on hips, staring into the distance. All the while I could see him out of the corner of my eye, I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of me looking directly at him. Eventually he threw himself into the ocean for a swim. When he came out of the water he trudged up the beach right past the end of my feet.

Go on, off you go!

 He only walked about 5 meters before turning around and coming back to talk to me again, this time asking me what my name was.

You’ve practically waved your dick in my face, and ‘now’ you’re asking me what my name is?

 I wasn’t sure where the conversation was supposed to go, but by this point he’d proper intruded my peace and serenity, so I politely requested him to do one. Again, to his credit, what ever I did say definitely worked, because he was out of there quicker than a rat up a drainpipe. He pulled his shorts on, grabbed his towel and his keys and he was gone. I saw him take off in a 4X4 pick up truck. I spent the next half an hour wondering if ‘that’ had actually just happened. Peace and tranquility won over not long after.

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I dropped in at my favourite local beach bar for a sunset margarita on the way back to the hotel. When I say favourite, it was actually the only beach bar for miles. Never the less, they did the best cocktails and played the best tunes in town. Have tequila with me! I wasn’t going to argue with the boss.

I set off on my usual hike the following morning and only got as far as the village to have my morning espresso fredo before deciding that I was going to hire a moped for the last couple of days. I was aiming for the 100km mark for the week’s walking, but I reckoned I’d almost done that already.

I listened to the moaning and groaning coming from within the walls of the town church. Today was Sunday. As I sat and sipped my coffee, I tried to imagine what was going on inside. Asking myself questions and then answering myself, which is normal.

Maybe I should go inside one of these churches one day, see what it’s like?

Look at that muppet parking in the middle of the road like that… Shiny bright objects…

Minutes later, after quickly flashing my driving license and parting with €40, I was in the possession of a rather nice new moped. No matter how many times I’ve been on a moped, which is plenty, I still always need to have my memory jogged before getting on one. The ‘how to’ suddenly comes flooding back! I turned the throttle, nothing happened. Then I gave it a right good twist and I shot off up the road like somebody who shouldn’t be let loose on a moped.

Behold, a network of one-way streets. I did a run around the block to get my bearings. On my way back around the town circuit, I thought it’d be a pretty good time to get some fuel. I pulled into the local garage, hopped off and then tried to lift the bike up onto its stand. Since when were moped’s this heavy? The attendant came and winched it up like it was nothing, which was all quite embarrassing. There must be a knack to it! I whimpered off down the road to find a lay-by to practice in. What good is a bike of you can’t get off it? It would make quite a good story that. The bike you can never get off. Ever.The trick, I discovered, was to leap on the stand and pull the bike upwards and backwards all at the same time. This sounds all good in theory, but it’s definitely more of a challenge when you only weigh 47kg’s and the bike weighs three times that.

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The eucalyptus… the photo doesn’t do them any justice…

I had a look around the area to the North and came across the most beautiful avenue of eucalyptus trees, it reminded me of The Dark Hedges in Ireland. I stopped to admire the trees for a little longer and had a wrestle with the bike to get it to stand up. I probably patted myself on the back and did a little dance when I did get it to free stand. Ah, look at those trees.

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I went for a heavenly swim, the water so salty you could just flip onto your back and lay there suspended, floating on the top of the water. Thoughts drift through your mind with the motion of the waves. This is definitely something I’m going to be doing a lot more of. Afterwards I headed off on the bike to Ladiko Bay, such a beautiful little spot a few minutes up the road from Afandou. Across the bay is Anthony Quinn Cove. A stunning bay, made famous by the film, The Guns of Navarone. Also made famous by a certain pirate ship adventure. I cast my mind back all those years, to when Cookie and me had set sail on the sangria fuelled voyage around the island.

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Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn was supposed to be the highlight of the day, but I remember the place not for the scenery. I remember this trip not because this was the time we won the Kama sutra competition either, but because this was the day ‘the girl lost her finger’. ‘Keeps your hands off the side of the boat’, we were told before we sailed. You can more or less guarantee that there will always be at least one person who doesn’t listen. I doubt the Captain made a habit of sailing the boat so dangerously close to the rocks, but maybe he’d also had too much sangria. This day, the boat actually hit the rocks. One of the girls on board had her hand on the side of the boat as the boat hit the rocks. I’ll never forget the scream. Her hand got smashed in between the boat and the rocks and it took the top of her index finger clean off with it. What a scene. They did find the end of her finger and managed to pack it in some ice before hurriedly navigating the boat back to where we’d originally set sail. We all sobered up pretty quick. End of trip.

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Ladiko Bay

I caught up with Steph and Jackie back at the hotel and we decided to go for a drink in the village. We ended up at the Skyline bar, which has one of the best views over Afandou village. The service was a bit sloppy, but they did Caipirinha’s! Flaccid service forgiven! We had a lovely night chatting, the night flew past in a flash, one for the road at the hotel bar and then it was 2am.

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The Skyline Bar

After probably one of the most sensible weeks away I’ve ever had, this was the first night out I’d had on this trip. I still managed to drag my arse out of bed early the following morning. I can only credit this to the Caipirinha’s I’d had the pervious night. Caipirinha’s are made with cachaça, sugar and lime, the cachaça as I mentioned is Brazil’s favourite indigenous liquour and is made from sugar cane. For whatever reason, it’s a drink that just never makes me feel like shit the next day, and by crikey has it got some clout!

By around 8am I was on my bike and heading out of town. After a bit of messy navigation, which landed me right back to where I’d set off from, I eventually got my bearings and headed off up into the mountains. I’d forgotten how stunning the interior of Rhodes Island is. The smell of the pine and eucalyptus trees was wonderfully intoxicating as I zoomed along on my moped, wind in my hair, grinning from ear to ear. I dropped into Alexandria Panorama, surprisingly green, scenic and gorgeous with amazing views over the valley right down to the coast. A perfect spot for some breakfast.

Alexandria Panorama

I ordered an omelette and a coffee and sat back to take in the view. No sooner had the food arrived, I was swarmed by countless angry inebriated wasps. Not really keen for another anaphylactic episode, I threw my knife and fork down, leapt up and scarpered. Clearly, my distress had been spotted by the bar owner, who quickly came across with a saucer of burning herbs. I have never seen anything work so well. As soon as he put the saucer down on my table, the wasps instantly disappeared. I did ask what the concoction was, and then felt really ignorant because I couldn’t understand what the guy said back to me. I still aren’t really sure what it was in the saucer, but if anyone can shed some light on this, please leave a message at the bottom, I’d love to know for future reference.

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Butterfly Valley

After this I headed down into the valley in search of the butterflies. Petaloúdes, or butterfly valley is a gorgeous forest walk through a dry gorge. The best time to visit is May, where you can see thousands of these watermelon coloured Lepidoptera filling the skies. This was how I remembered it. As I was trudging along now, at first I was a bit disappointed to see more dead butterflies than live ones, with dusty wings littering the ground along the way. It’s not until I looked much closer to see that the butterflies were there, but dozing and resting on the rocks and tree trunks.

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The Butterflies!

Resting, they look more like moths and the outer wing is a camouflage brown, without really looking, you’d never see them. May is the time the larvae hatch and the butterflies spread their wings for the first time, I think September was off peak for them!

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I hiked through the valley, all the way up the trail to the monastery at the top, so hot I had sweat dripping off my chin. One big change that I couldn’t help chuntering about was the QR Code activated turnstile’s they had installed everywhere. What an eyesore. What a money-grabbing load of bollocks. There was no getting in there without paying. I hiked back down to where I’d left the bike and set off around the top of the Island. The roads were so much busier than I remembered, buses and lorries almost wiping me out on more than one occasion. A relaxing cruise on the main road, it was an adrenalin fuelled, teeth gritting, foul mouthed, hair-raiser!

I drove down the coast past Falaraki. I almost pulled into the town to reminisce, as this is where Cookie & I had stayed, but the place was that unrecognisable I just kept on going. By the time I approached Afandou, instead of heading back to the hotel, I’d already decided to just keep on going. I kept driving down the coast towards Lindos, dodging potholes as I went.

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The Acropolis of Lindos

When you arrive at Lindos, the first thing you see is the acropolis sitting on top of the 120m rock above the village. A wonderful place Lindos, with it’s ancient cobbles streets, charming houses and fantastic roof top eateries. Not even Google Maps could get me out of there as I laughed out loud, ‘I’m lost… In Lindos’. And I was. For hours! Once you get lost in the endless alleyways, it’s so easy to find yourself bemused and wandering around in circles. Oh no, I’m back at the donkeys again. In order to get a better vantage point, I had lunch at one of the many rooftop restaurants. The food was beautifully presented and delicious. As I sat and munched my way through a barrow load of rocket, figs and pine nuts, I tried to work out where I’d left the moped. I didn’t have a clue to be fair. I settled my bill and went and got lost for another hour.

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As the sun was getting lower in the sky, I ended up hiking up to the main road so I could see the whole village, only then did I have a vague idea where I’d abandoned the bike hours before. I did eventually find the bike but trying to leave the village was like a scene out of Monty Python. A man wearing a t-shirt with ‘traffic control’ written on the back of it waved the traffic to a complete gridlocked standstill. I was brought to a halt on a steep incline and when I did eventually get a bit of throttle on, I almost did a wheelie and nearly came off backwards.

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Siesta must have been in full swing when I drove back up the coast to Afandou as the roads were infinitely more moped friendly, it was more like the good old days! I pulled off the main road a couple of times to have a look around. The coastline was stunning, mostly deserted and littered with half built, seemingly abandoned houses. Oh, what I could do with that place!I sat on the rocks for a while, looking out over the ocean feeling incredibly grateful.

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When I arrived back at the hotel, Steph and Jackie were all packed up and ready to head home. I walked down the hill with them and waved them on their way. The best nights are always the unplanned ones. I spent a lovely last night talking to Kyriakos, who was part of the family who own the hotel where I stayed. The hours whizzed past, a lovely guy who I enjoyed talking to very much. Hopefully we’ll all catch up again soon, somewhere down the line.

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Me, Jackie & Steph
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Our lovely marathon running friend, Kyriakos

As I sat waiting for my cab to the airport the following day, I was thinking about which Greek island I like the most. It is impossible for me to choose between them because I have loved every single island I have visited, all for their own uniqueness. It’s never a question of ‘if I come back’, it’s always ‘when’. And I can’t wait!

Stin yeia mas beautiful Rodos!

Keep dreaming BIG!

Captain Over & Out X

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