NAXOS & AMORGOS A Greek hol­i­day on foot

DRIFT Travel magazine - - Inside This Issue - BY: ALLISON LETHERBARROW

Per­haps the ferry should have put me off. The creaks and groans of the ship were only slightly out­done by the em­phatic wail­ing of the Greek woman sit­ting op­po­site me, her hus­band’s hand caught in a death grip in hers. We all watched through the port­holes as time and again, our brave lit­tle ship tilted so se­verely that the win­dows of the lounge were sub­merged be­neath the roil­ing sea. How­ever, this was just an­other or­di­nary day for the Ex­press Skopilites; swift-hulled leg­end of the Cy­clades.

I had just spent four won­der­ful days on the is­land of Naxos, just south of its bet­ter-known cousin, Mykonos. Be­ing an en­thu­si­as­tic walker and crav­ing some late au­tumn sun­shine, I had booked a self-guided walk­ing tour through On Foot Hol­i­days to the is­lands of Naxos and Amorgos. Although I had walked with On Foot Hol­i­days be­fore, I had never vis­ited the Cy­clades and their cen­tre-based hik­ing route of­fered an in­ter­est­ing itin­er­ary. Four days of roam­ing the Nax­ian hills com­bined with a daily dose of swim­ming in azure wa­ters, meant I was thor­oughly re­laxed when I boarded the ferry to take me from Naxos to Amorgos…. lit­tle was I to know what awaited. Over­all, I found the tur­bu­lent ferry-cross­ing highly en­joy­able, even if it was only for the plea­sure of watch­ing the im­pas­sioned an­tics of my fel­low Greek pas­sen­gers. Much to the Greek woman’s sur­prise I am sure, we fi­nally ar­rived at the small is­land of Amorgos.

Amorgos is much qui­eter than Naxos and the lack of the tourist taint has left the town and its in­hab­i­tants charm­ingly pre­served. Af­ter lin­ger­ing on the sea-view bal­cony of my ho­tel room, I went in search of din­ner. I had

spot­ted a few restau­rants, their fa­cades dec­o­rated with can­dles and tea lights. I made lit­tle progress how­ever as I quickly found my­self in the mid­dle of a lo­cal cel­e­bra­tion. A large crowd of people sur­rounded the vig­or­ous move­ments of young men and women, all in tra­di­tional dress, danc­ing in syn­chro­niza­tion as in­stru­ments were played with as­ton­ish­ing en­ergy. Food and drink was passed around to the crowd and small chil­dren weaved their way in and out of the dancers, snatch­ing honey-cakes from the food be­decked ta­bles. I ex­tri­cated my­self from the throng be­fore I too, was whisked away onto the dance floor and I went in search of din­ner.

The next few days saw me be­come thor­oughly ac­quainted with Amorgos in the most per­sonal way pos­si­ble – on foot. My route notes from On Foot Hol­i­days led me faith­fully along tiny for­got­ten path­ways and up over high ridge tops and never failed to de­liver me safely again back to my ho­tel. I passed re­luc­tant don­keys be­ing led up an­cient kalder­imi (mule tracks) by cheer­ful old men, their white teeth gleam­ing in their sun­browned faces. I sat on ver­dant hill­sides and ate a pic­nic lunch while tiny lizards scam­pered over my legs and boots. I vis­ited the un­pro­nounce­able Ho­zovi­o­tissa Monastery and sipped at tea while monks prof­fered dishes of Turk­ish De­light.

The walk­ing di­rec­tions were fault­less in their ac­cu­racy and at­ten­tion to de­tail, al­low­ing me to roam (a sin­gle, fe­male walker)

com­pletely at leisure across the un­de­vel­oped is­land. All the walks started from the town where I was stay­ing, so I could pick and choose which walk I wanted to do when. It’s hard to set­tle upon a fa­vorite walk. Dur­ing my stay on Naxos and Amorgos I walked about six or seven trails, each in their own way de­light­ful and in­ter­est­ing, but above all, beau­ti­ful. The abil­ity to com­pletely im­merse your­self in your nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, undis­turbed by the go­ings on of the world - whether it’s the numb­ing drone of tech­nol­ogy or the ex­haust­ing buzz of hu­man com­mo­tion - is a luxury pe­cu­liar to walk­ing hol­i­days, and one that On Foot Hol­i­days has made their spe­cialty.

I’m not sure which of On Foot’s many walks I will ex­plore next, but I know that wher­ever it may be, it will cer­tainly be an ex­pe­ri­ence to re­mem­ber.

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