Just when we thought it safe to go in the water…
has an unexpected encounter with a group of bearded beachgoers in Greece
We hear the goats before we see them; our backs are to the shore, swimming across clear Greek water towards the brown lump of Albania. We’ve been in the sea for just minutes when the bells reach us through the calm morning air – distant at first, but getting closer.
Turning, we spy a pair of horns just above the horizon; then another, and another, until the low cliffs at the end of the beach are a mass of jostling creatures.
It’s at this point that we focus on the pile of clothes, watches, and flip-flops we’ve placed oh-so-carefully on the sand – right in the path of the steadily encroaching flock.
We’d been alerted to the beach by shopkeeper Dennis while buying fruit and yogurt for breakfast.
“It’s the best,” he’d promised, drawing a rough map on the back of a postcard. “Go early.”
So we had, setting off in the perfect post-dawn temperatures of an August morning, before the sun rose too high and the other holiday-makers stirred from their beds. We’d greeted the taverna owner as he splashed his vibrant patio plants with water, and the boat-hire man as he prepared his craft for
another busy day on the main village beach. We’d crossed the rickety bridge onto the peninsula, and followed the rough red track, skirting rocks and herb-scented scrub until, upon rounding a corner, our efforts were rewarded with the sight of a deserted crescent of pale sand.
Now, that beautiful beach is filling up fast – with goats.
We begin to swim back towards the shore, all the time observing their steady progress towards our belongings. As we plough through the water – desperately slowly, it seems – I count. There are upwards of 40 animals on the beach now, from huge granddaddy goats with impressive beards, to tiny kids on wobbly pipe-cleaner legs, in shades of brown and black and something in-between.
They reach our clothes before we do – and file on past, without even a curious sniff. Clearly there are places they need to be, things they need to do. By the time we reach the shallows, only the bleating stragglers remain, and they are more intent on catching up with the flock than investigating what they probably think the tide brought in.
As we stand to paddle the last few feet to the sand, a rush of water comes up behind us and knocks us from our feet. It races on ahead, swamping our belongings. We’re only just able to stagger upright and grab them before they disappear out to sea.
“Ah,” Dennis smiles, as we drip our way into the village shop half an hour later, “Twenty minutes after a cruise ship passes – then comes big waves. But – a beautiful beach, yes?”
Yes, we agree. It is.