Friday, 22 January 2016
MORE FERRYING IN '15 Part 4
Thursday 17th September 2015
What a pleasure to wake up in a Greek island hotel and prepare for breakfast on a pretty terrace, looking out to sea and other islands in the Cyclades. The sun was shining and hot again today under a cloudless blue sky. The mountains at the back of Gavrio were still dark-looking in the early morning light but the flowers and trees below us were abundant in their growth. This is a lovely place for a twenty-hour visit and I would happily spend more time on this island on another occasion.
We left the hotel just before 10 a.m. and walked down the paths to the port of Gavrio, ready to catch our next ferry of the trip; we are booked on SUPERFERRY II of Golden Star Ferries, leaving Andros and heading for Mykonos again. After time for lunch and an afternoon there, we are to take the NISSOS MYKONOS (again, how appropriate) back to Piraeus, leaving late afternoon.
Down at the port we could see the ship approaching us and, with a long hoot of the whistle and a stylish turn, the SUPERFERRY II came alongside. Many people disembarked and lots of us waited to embark.
The abiding memory of boarding the Superferry II was seeing a gentleman who was hauling crates of paperwork down the ship’s stern ramp as we waited to embark. As it was a slightly windy day, one of the lids became detached and papers went flying everywhere, including into the sea. Chaos, and he looked pretty downcast afterwards!
We will be on board for just two hours and twenty minutes, so rucksacks could be left safely down on the car deck. I put mine down where suggested, and discovered to my delight that it was right beside all the mail sacks. What fun, I'm on a Mailship yet again in my life!
We sailed on time, called at the island of Tinos, and then there was time to chat with the man in the shop who was selling local products. He was very pleased to show me so many Greek products and I was happy to buy a box of Greek Delights (which I know as Turkish Delight...). I hoped to get them home before needing to open the box. I also bought a bottle of water; as part of the regulation of the Greek ferry system, operators are obliged to sell certain basic items of food and drink on board at fixed prices. These regulated prices include small (350ml) bottles of water for €0.35 and 500 ml bottles for €.50. Also on the regulated menu are basic coffee (Nescafe) and cheese and ham toasts. Interestingly the same tariff for water applies at Athens airport.
We arrived at Mykonos and again it was very windy in the bay, but we were soon walking off the ship.
The water taxis were not in sight so we strolled past their little office, across the bridge, and onto the side of the main road. We could see the wonderful Matthew restaurant, but as it looked rather full we decided to go along a path next door and up to a terrace restaurant. It was very sheltered there so we stayed for lunch and I decided to go up some stairs to look at another terrace. Wow, there was a huge swimming pool with loungers, palm trees, a wonderful view out to the sea, and heat without wind. The hotel manager was consulted and he was happy for us to hire towels, swim if we wanted to, and use the facilities at this hidden hotel - how lucky for us. We did just that for the rest of the afternoon; I had a swim in extremely cold water, but it was exhilarating and is probably the first time I have been in an infinity pool. Ships may have called and sailed, but my eyes were closed for a while and I didn't know what I missed, relaxing in the shade of a large palm tree.
Eventually real life had to take over, so we returned the towels, had a meal, shook hands with the staff and thanked the manager, before walking back down to the port. We felt very happy to recommend Makis Place, Mykonos New Port, Tourlos village, based on what we had seen and enjoyed.
We had been told that NISSOS MYKONOS would probably be late in because of the wind, and indeed she was, as the 5.50 p.m. departure became 6.35 p.m. She was built in 2005 at 7,882 gross tons, and the ship was full. We had Distinguished Class seat tickets but even when we climbed up to the lounge we had to ask a couple of people to move out of our numbered seats. They did so reluctantly but since we stood there smiling patiently and showing our tickets, they really had no option. There were no spare seats to be seen. Another couple standing near us showed their tickets but the two women with four noisy small children playing in the space in front of their seats refused to understand or move.
We subsequently noticed that a ship security person was on duty at every doorway on our two-deck lounge seating/bar area. The circular staircase in the middle connecting the two seating areas was busy with people moving to and fro but no-one sat on the stairs.
On many ferries around the islands over the years we have often seen 'the pretzel man', who has a wicker basket on his arm, filled with bread snacks, which many people buy. We were surprised to see him on board now but he did a good trade. I think many people were reluctant to leave their seats and were grateful to see the pretzel man.
I was happy to discover that the man in the seat behind me had his canary with him, in a cage. The little bird chirped happily for much of the journey so obviously they both felt relaxed.
We are sailing from Mykonos to Piraeus, to stay overnight, and are due to arrive at 11.15 p.m. but it seemed a long journey, despite the television screens everywhere. We normally expect to be able to go out on deck and enjoy the night sky and facilities on other decks, but this time we discovered why the security people were so much in evidence. Also on board, but confined to the stern outer decks, were 500 or 600 refugees. We did go out on deck but these poor people were much in evidence and I felt so sorry for them. They had obviously come on board before the call at Mykonos, possibly at the island of Samos, another island near to the Turkish coast. The conditions under which they travelled on board were not good, and I did feel that more seating and certainly more rubbish bins could have been provided, both on deck and in the toilet facilities. There were many babies and small children with the adults, and I felt so grateful that I was not in their position and having to flee my home.
Eventually we arrived in Piraeus to the usual hubbub; walking out of the port gates we found a local taxi to take us to our overnight hotel, at a nearby bay to Piraeus. A driver with Satnav was happy to drive us round to the wonderful-sounding Hotel Queens Leriotis, at Piraiki, and I think we all marvelled at his skill in getting us there in good time. Many of the rooms seem to face the sea with small terraces, which bodes well for watching the morning arrivals in Piraeus Roads and the Great Harbour tomorrow.
Ships seen: Superferry II, Fast Ferries Andros, Blue Star Paros, High Speed 4, Champion Jet 1, Highspeed 4, Theologos P, Ekaterini P, Grimaldi Lines ro-ro (distant off Andros), Superjet, Express Mykonos, Aegean Paradise of Turkish ETSTUR line, Nissos Mykonos, Champion Jet 2
Ships seen in Piraeus:
Speedrunner IV, Blue Star Patmos, Blue Star Delos, Blue Star Paros, Panagia Tinou, Phivos, Ionis, Agios Nektarias Aegina, Achaeos
To be continued...