On a donkey track less travelled
STRATHPINE, QUEENSLAND I POINT enthusiastically to the village at the very tip of the island and announce, ‘‘Let’s go over there!’’
The village is just beyond the high rise of the cliff and looks very inviting, with a steeple in the background pointing to the blue sky. It doesn’t look far, it doesn’t appear to be a dangerous walk, and exploring the Greek island of Santorini is just what we are out to do.
As we shuffle and stumble across the ridge, mesmerised by the majestic views of the cauldron and the Aegean Sea on both sides, we meet an old man who speaks no English but seems exceptionally surprised to see two tourists without backpacks or bottled water meandering around the cliffs.
The sun is hot, the track rocky and dusty, and the old man keeps shaking his head at us. He grins widely when we point out where we’re headed. He extends his water flask to us to share and we sit together on a pile of rocks overlooking the sea and quietly contemplate the view. Eventually he stands, nods his head at us and moves on.
Our exuberance turns to exhaustion as dehydration begins to take effect. The short walk turns out to go on and on for about 10km. Finally, and irritably, we reach the village and at the first tavern we plop heavily upon its stools. I order water.
‘‘Where have you come from?’’ the bartender asks. We wearily explain we have hiked along the ridge.
‘‘You need more than water,’’ he comments after he announces in Greek to the locals what we have been up to. He serves us some ouzo. ‘‘That donkey path is not used nowadays as the road is so good,’’ he tells us.
The locals seem to enjoy the idea that two such illprepared tourists should have clambered over stones and ridges to come and see their village.
They love practising their English. They ply us with free drinks and by nightfall they have put us on a bus for the return to the mainland, waving and shouting: ‘‘Stay safe.’’
We may not have had time to explore the village that day but the kind and contented people we met will remain in our memories forever.
From now on, we will always remember to take a water bottle when we go for a walk. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Columnists receive an Aubecq frypan ($99.99) from the Evergreen Classic range of ceramic-based eco-cookware with non-stick coating. More: (02) 9662 3450; morganware.com.au; petersofkensington. com.au.