On a don­key track less trav­elled

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - I RENA CINCYS CHARDON

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.

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