I couldn’t very well pass through Greece without visiting one of the islands. It’s not Crete, nor Corfu or Mykonos. It’s called Ikaria, one of the north Aegean islands. I found it in a Greek island guide under the ‘offbeat’ section. The deal was sealed when the barman of the rooftop bar at the Athens hostel recommended it me.
I nearly didn’t make it at all. I didn’t realise that you had to book ferries in Greece three days in advance, and hence missed my chance to book the crossing I wanted. A travel agent in Kalambaka assured me it would be OK to buy my ticket at the port, but when I showed up at the ticket office in Athens, I was informed that there were no tickets left.
Feeling simultaneously dejected and annoyed with myself, I went to the gate to see if there were any cancellations, and somehow ended up with an economy class ticket. Unable to believe my luck, I boarded the boat.
The corridors of the ferry were decked out with sleeping bags and mats of fellow economy travellers – no seat or cabin for us. It hadn’t even occurred to me to sleep, even though we were arriving in the early hours of the morning. The sea was rough, and the boat was late, so I didn’t pull into the final stop until 3:45 am. Fortunately, I had a cab waiting to take me to the guest house, where I went straight to sleep. In the morning I awoke to this view from my window.
Ikaria has not succumbed much to tourism – the town I’m staying in was described as a ‘resort town’ but you wouldn’t think it to wander through. It maintains a distinctive local feel and even the ‘big city’ of Evdilos is the epitome of what I imagine a small Greek island town should be.
The island itself is largely covered by unspoilt forests and you know what that means – mega-hike territory! It’s very quiet around here. The first hiking trail I attempted down was so overgrown I had to turn back. When I eventually did get underway, I didn’t see another soul until I reached a small village. After leaving the village I made my way through the woods, and hiked down a deserted canyon. I was following a trail of red dots, and at times it was nigh on impossible to see where the trail went.
I’m glad I came here instead of one of the more popular islands. The laid-back attitude of the locals takes some getting used to. Breakfast at the guest house is served whenever the owner gets up, shops and restaurants open when the proprietors feel like it, and buses apparently exist but aren’t worth the effort. I was initially annoyed by the lack of organisation but quickly learned to adjust, and now I love it. The scenery here is idyllic, the beaches are wonderful, and I’m not normally a beach person. This is one o those places I feel I will have to return someday.