LOUIS AURA (ex-ORIENT QUEEN) Part 7
Thursday 19th September 2013 (continued)
We approached the volcanic island of Santorini about 4 p.m. under clear blue skies, and had our first view of the caldera soon after. It is such an amazing sight to approach by sea, with sheer rock faces showing the various solidified strata.
Santorini island (Thira in Greek) was formed long ago by volcanic explosions, which continued infrequently, although the last one was in 1950. In 1956 however there was an earthquake which affected the island yet again. The capital of the island is Fira, which is built right on the top of the island, with white-painted buildings appearing to perch precariously in their location 300 metres (980 feet) up. The inhabited island on the port side as we approached showed the volcanic rock thrown up,
and the water was clear and deep all around us. Ships do not anchor here, but must keep moving at a very gentle engine speed, to counteract the water depth and currents. The caldera is 400 metres deep (about 1300 feet).
There are two ports here – one for the ferries at Athinios, as traffic can ascend and descend the road from here up through seven hairpin bends to the island road at the top. The tenders from visiting cruise ships can come alongside at the other small quayside below the town of Fira, and visitors can then walk up the zig-zag road to the top, take a donkey ride up there, or choose to use the cable car. I once walked up the path, but now consider the price of 4 Euros well spent!
Our ship was soon in position and the first local tenders appeared alongside. Passengers going on excursions had to disembark first and take the tender to the ferry port, giving access to the coaches waiting on the small quayside. My friend set off in the tender, so I could photograph him photographing me; he was doing a visit along the mountain road to the small town of Oia.
I waited for non-excursion passengers to be allowed ashore and we all went in another local tender. The water is not tranquil and one can only guess at the vast depths below.
Our tender took us to the other quayside for cruise ship passengers, and from there we could queue for the cable cars. Each car holds eight people so we were soon at the top and able to view the bay below. It is the most incredible sight, with various cruise ships looking quite small as they maintain their positions in the water. The tenders keep transporting passengers to and from their ships, the occasional ferry arrives or departs, the sea glitters in the sunshine, and the white-painted buildings along the top of the island all gleam and hide their secrets. The buildings here in the capital Fira are all built so closely together that people cannot be seen at a distance, and then they appear from a cobbled lane or small turning to face the sea and enjoy the views. The cafes and restaurants were all full, but many of us simply walked along the lanes to enjoy the air and scenery from the heights.
I hadn’t visited the beaches on the south coast, nor many of the other sights on the island, but what a good reason to plan a return visit one day.
By early evening I was ready to take the cable car down from Fira and get a local tender back home.
The air and light had been wonderful but watching the moon rise over the island of Santorini behind Fira was lovely too, and I enjoyed seeing the lights of other ships in the vicinity as we sailed away before 9 p.m.
Ships seen: Wind Star, Blue Star vessel, Louis Olympia, Master Jet, green ferry, Celebrity Equinox, Garbis tender, local tender 28 and tender 27
To be continued….