Patmos August 9th
Staying in a wonderful hotel, Oklaca Beach Rooms on Oklaca beach on the West side of Skala. It has a perfect view towards the sunset.
How inaccurate first impressions often are. I walked out of Skala town and the road became a bit dustier, the buildings half built. It felt more wind blown; a bit rougher. Surely, these are often the more interesting places?
I was dying for the loo when I arrived and sweating like a mofo. All was quiet. It was in the heat of the day. Everything locked apart from the kitchen. Went and tried a door and disturbed someone. ‘Hello!’
‘Sorry, I’m just going to the loo.’
When I came out the inside was chaos – toys everywhere, a push chair on its side. Oh dear, I’ve chosen badly I thought.
How wrong I was! Enrico and Monica were Neapolitans and ran the hotel for 3 months in the Summer. Oklaca Beach Rooms overlooking Oklaca Beach where the sun went down slow and fat setting the sea slight as it went. A burning line floated on the horizon for several minutes before that too disappeared. I sipped a Negroni and ate bruschetta, my mind slow.
They had brought their own team of chefs from Naples and I’m afraid to say it beats any of the Greek cooking I’ve had here: linguine with anchovy oil and tomato followed by fresh swordfish fillet with roasted vegetables. Superb. And they so friendly and hospitable willing to chat for ages the following day. He works for Education First getting lecturers from overseas for students in Italy. ‘Education is so important’ he was keen to emphasise. Taken note – and inspiration.
August 13th Harry’s Paradise Garden, Emporios, Kalymnos.
I could have stayed at Oklaca but sadly no decent beaches nearby. Hired a car the following day and in time honoured fashion managed to prang it turning a tight corner hitting a black mercedes 10 minutes after I’d hired it. Again, no shouting or rage just a tremor of shock. Obviously the thought stayed with me – the anticipation of how much it would cost. ‘Just accept it’s going to cost 300 euros’ (it turned out to be 410!)
Anyway Lambi Beach was my next port of call. What a place. It reminded me of when James Bond gets shot by Moneypenny at the start of Skyfall:
M ‘Take the bloody shot’
And the next time we see bond he’s literally washed up drinking in a taverna on a beach.
That was like Lambi Beach. It’s a long pebbly beach with headlands at each end and Dolphin Rooms where I was staying just a few rooms and a bar at the front decorated – I love that about the islands – with nets, buoys, pictures of fish, etc. Everything here is dictated by the sea.
There were the rooms then 50 metres along the beach a taverna with tables on the beach, the legs sunk into the pebbles. Besides this little else. What a way to live. To be awake and asleep always hearing or feeling the waves, eating what the sea has provided. Got drunk again that night and partook of the holy trinity, so excited I was by where I was. Funny how I’ve been drinking and smoking heavily out here but not too done in by it. Sleeping lots too. Gorgeous French and Albanian girls, smiling and unaffected, made it.
If I have had one regret there hasn’t been much ‘adventure’. There’s been a lot of chilling (or baking more like) on the beach. That’s good. I’m just about to finish Zorba, I’ve written, I’ve listened to lots of good music. My electric Summer mix is a cracker – tom and Miki were getting high to it in Ibiza 2 nights ago and sending me fucked messages at 4 in the morning.
Yet I need action, stimulation, exploration. This will be the holiday I’ll remember for being so present (is that the right word?) and unflappable. A massive plus and, as the narrator in Zorba says, we often don’t know how happy we are until afterwards.
Grikos was where I stayed two nights ago. The 11th. More beach life and a bit swank – some massive boats in the harbour – one with its own helicopter, colour coded to the yacht and to all the tiny figures who buzzed around this floating palace. The helicopter took off early evening, buzzed around Patmos and then returned 20 minutes later. Just having a look.
I’ve never been in awe of money or those who have it. It just doesn’t bother me and I’ve met or know quite a few people who have s lot of it. Obviously, it makes no difference to how interesting or wise or entertaining those people are.
Getting ready for going out and watching the bay from my balcony I noticed that the palace had flashing white lights blinking at random along the water line of the boat. It reminded me of the lights you see on glass staircases you get in great, tacky nightclubs around the world. City Limits was the first that came to mind – Cambridge’s crappy club near the station. Palm trees and mirrored stairs. Oh, we had fun in there, though. It just goes to show that you can have 10s or probably 100s of millions but still no taste.
That hotel I stayed in was run by a grumpy old Greek named Stavros. He acted as if I had done him some injury in the past. No hello, never a smile. When I came back after dinner he was chatting to a young German couple and gave me my key without a word or even turning his head to look at me. The first thing he said to me the next day was ‘When are you leaving?’
Did I remind him of an old adversary? Was he going senile? Was he like this to everyone? I think not. Maybe he had an insecurity about blonde, blue eyed boys when he was married to German Anna. They must have both been old enough to remember the war. Or.. he was just a miserable git! Toyed with the idea of writing a review / character assassination but what does it achieve? No happiness for me.
August 14th Emporios
My last night tonight and I have got gradually more remote as I’ve travelled, starting off in buzzing Kos Town and ending up here on the North West coast of Kalymnos. I am surrounded by mountains either inland or out at sea where I can sea Telendos Islet which was once the capital before a volcano destroyed the town and separated the mountain island from the rest of Kalymnos. At night the only lights come from the moon, the stars and the mast lights of the yachts anchored off the beach.
I visited Telendos 2 nights ago. It was about 6.30 pm when I went over, still hot enough to want to be out of the sun. Chugged over on a smelly old bark from Myrties harbour and arrived to a thin line of tavernas. Very quiet here. And walked along the coast North, the mountain a large haunch to my left. At Paradise beach there were 2 teenage girls and a small yacht. Nobody else. Diving in was no different to the many other swims that I’ve had here but when I surfaced I felt winded. I was swimming in a gently undulating sea of black and gold. The black because Telendos blocked the sun and put the water in shadow while the hills of Kalymnos were a bright gold which reflected on the water. Breathless I took big plunges into blue – clear blue – and then back into the black and gold with a vast blazing rock looming over me. Like Zorba I felt I was seeing the earth for the first time. Like early man.
I have had not dissimilar experiences here in Emporios. I feel cut off from the rest of the world. You could lose yourself here. In a remote village at the end of a long road on a small island in the Aegean Sea.
I was bored to begin with. What is there to do here? Then the perspective changes. Time starts to drift. The mind settles. I swim and swim and swim. A Greek turns up yesterday leading a group of French and swims to the island opposite the beach. It must be almost a kilometre away. I choose the peninsula of land to the right of the beach. It’s probably a bit closer but still requires a strong swimmer.
I start not even meaning to go but it just happens. Deep plunges breast stroking arms stretched out to their full extent watching my fingers splay out like I’m getting pleasure from the blanket of water around me. Like a cat stretching. The water gets deeper – 20, 30, 40 feet – and then just the rays of sunlight disappearing into the deep blue and just my breathing. No thought. Just the rock in front of me. No fear. Or not allowing the thought.
Finished Zorba today. It’s really sad but also encouraging in the way it implies making the most of life. What a lucky find. Have now started The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler which I’m already totally gripped by. It’s the evocation of a place at a certain time which is so wonderful. I am there with Latimer.
Breakfast In Harry’s Paradise Garden. Fruit and yoghurt with honey, tomato omelette and toast and local jam. Manna from heaven. It’s because of how the food goes with the place isn’t it? Love the way they make seats for 2 people made out of pallets then painted white or blue. Here they are scattered amongst the whitewashed olive trees and large terracotta pots. Bougainvillea blazes with colour everywhere and various other flowers I don’t know.
Feeling a bit fizzy today. I have been drinking a fair bit every night and finished off 20 Camel Lights. Unheard of for me! It goes to show how calm I’ve been the whole 9 days. It really has felt like a dream – people and places come and go. I’m there and them I’m not. And the memory lingers like a kiss.