Monday, July 11, 2011—Diafani, Karpathos, Greece
Back in Karpathos (actually I got here yesterday morning—it’s just before five in the evening now). This time I’m in the northern part of the island, in a little port town called Diafani. I like this place much better than Pigadia. Here there are just enough travelers to keep things interesting but nothing approaching the tourist hoards I found down south. In fact there’s very much an old world feel here; there are even quite a few of the older women who still wear traditional dress, (which to my American eyes makes them look a bit like a cross between nuns, people in mourning, and medieval peasants). There’s not much too do here except go hiking and hang out at a handful of little pebble beaches, which is fine by me. The only negative is that this time of the year this side of the island is quite windy (the roar was great to go to sleep to last night). However, this wind has gotten me to appreciate the pebble beach: with no sand to fly in your face windy days on these things can be quite enjoyable.
Today I had a great day. I hiked down south about an hour to a beach area called Papa Mina Bay. The hike was great, a beautiful little jaunt thru pine and scrub communities. Papa Mina Bay, though, turned out to be a pretty mediocre, exposed stretch of pebbles (though it did have some shady areas). On the way there, though, I noticed a great little cove with a bit of beach to it that looked very accessible (there are lots of little stretches of beach around here you simply can’t get to by land). So, after hanging around Papa Mina a bit I headed back to the other beach, which was around the halfway point back to town. It turned out that I’d been right, the beach was quite accessible, via a little drainage which dumped me out right on the shore. When I got there there was a couple who’d beat me to the place. No matter, a little rock outcrop effectively cut the place into two sections, so they had there section and I had mine. After about an hour they left and I had the idyllic little place all to myself.
I then proceeded to play Robinson Crusoe for the rest of the afternoon. (I mean, that’s what it seemed like: though I was only a half hour or so from town I felt like I was at the edge of the world, that there wasn’t another human being for miles and miles). So yeah, it was a tough day, with nothing to do but swim in a little perfect green-blue indentation in the coastline and then sprawl naked on the warm stones, as the cooling water lapped up my body varying degrees, depending on how much the wind happened to be gusting at any given moment. Being so close to town I found it hard to believe that only two other people had found the place—it’s clearly visible from the trail. (But then I also only saw four people all together at Papa Mina, two at the beach and two coming there off the trail as I was leaving, so maybe there simply weren’t very many people around to discover it.) I believe it’s places like this, experiences like this that separate travelers from the tourists. To get to a place like my little cove you have to leave the resorts and strike out on your own, go backwoods and hit the trail—stop doing what you’re told, in other words. The sad truth is that most of the people lounging on crowded beaches in places like Rhodes or even Pigadia don’t deserve to have their own little slice of paradise—they simply haven’t earned it. The saddest thing is that most of them wouldn’t understand such a place even if they found it. “Where’s the snack bar?” they’d be saying. “Where my chaise lounge?” “You mean we have to walk all the way back too!”
[Reading over what I just wrote and I’m thinking it sounds like I’m being a bit superior, but, damn it, it’s the truth!—Most of the visitors I meet here have almost no sense of adventure or even much curiosity as to what might out there beyond the tourist walls.]
My day had only one negative: I got sunburned. This surprised me a bit because I’m so dark now that I thought I was past that stage and because I really wasn’t out there all that long. What I think happened was a combination of not having got much sun for several days, which means I’ve lightened up a touch, and the fact that I spend most of my time today lounging half in the water and half out it; the burn is almost entirely on my chest, the front of my shoulders and the tops of my arms, which leads me to believe that they were catching the sun reflecting of the water, which amped up its power. This is a bummer, as I wanted to go back there tomorrow morning. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to spend tomorrow mostly in the water or lying on my stomach—because I am going back!
I had a good time here last night too. I ate at a little restaurant called La Gorgona, which is run by an Italian woman. It’s a really neat place, in that I felt more like I was sitting out on someone’s private deck than in a restaurant. There were kids and dogs and cats running around (even more so than in most restaurants I’ve found here) and a general feeling that you were some weird family party instead of a paying establishment. I also stumbled into the Greek musical equivalent of and Irish session. It was just too guys, one who I think was the Italian woman’s husband on bouzouki, and another man on a bowed instrument that sounded a lot like a violin but which he played while it rested in his lap (they were actually playing at the restaurant next door to the one I was at, but it was so close that I could almost have reached out and touched the musicians--I think both restaurants are owned by the same people). I’ve yet to learn much about Greek traditional music, but I liked what I heard (it sounded to my very untrained ears kind of like Irish jigs and reels meet Middle Eastern music). I wish I could find more of this kind of stuff, but the truth is I really have no clue where to look, except to hang out in more remote areas and hope I get lucky.
Trying to figure out my next move. I realize now that I left Rhodes Town in a panic: I really hated the place and it triggered a huge round of anxiety attacks and a spiraling depression unlike any I’ve experienced here. I’m back to considering visiting one more Dodecanese Island before heading back to Crete—one of the more out-of-the-way and less touristy ones, of course. I’ll be heading down to Pigadia again tomorrow afternoon and I’ll see what the ferry schedule looks like (some ferries stop here and some don’t, so it’s better to be down in Pigadia for that sort of thing). I still may just go down to Crete, though. I’m beginning to think that my book might require a second trip here, that I may be right back in these islands next summer. If I’m feeling that way a week from now that could change things for me this trip quite a bit.
Maybe it’s just luck of the draw in regards to the places I’ve chosen to visit on Karpathos, but this island seems to be strangely goat free: I’ve hardly seen any since I’ve been here. If that is truly the case I wonder why that is. Strange.