Saturday, 4 June 2011

Far Removed From The Maddening Crowds

We cleared the narrow opening to the main harbour on Leros and raised our sails in the light north west wind as we headed north to a small group of islands well off the normal tourist routes. The larger islands of Lipsi and Arki actually have small towns, but most of the others are uninhabited islets populated mainly by migrating birds. Lipsi has a beautiful large, well protected bay with a few moorings for visiting yachts. This bay also has one of the better tavernas on any Greek island.

Our destination today was Marathi, a very small island off Arki, itself a very small island, that is now part of a wildlife refuge. Several moorings are placed in the bay at Marathi rather than have yachts use their anchors and potentially damage the fragile sea bed. As you enter the bay lined with a brilliant crescent of sand you see a couple of tavernas, a small hotel, a few houses, and a lovely blue-domed small church on a low ridge. When we came two years ago there were electricity poles but no electricity. By now the electricity had finally been connected, but that was about it for mod cons.

Marathi's Taverna
 Once you get the mooring sorted out and sit back in the cockpit the first sound that hits you is the tinkling of small bells as hundreds of goats make their way purposefully from one side of the island to the other. They all follow the leader and it is almost as if they are coming down to the beach for their afternoon swim, but then they turn up to some abandoned stone buildings on top of a small ridge and settle in for the night on top of the walls or among the ruins.

The Church Of St. Nicolaos On Marathi

One Of The Local Residents
It is worth the effort to climb the small hill to the church of St. Nicolaos in the evening as the sun sets brilliantly into the sea. Even the goats seem impressed as they calmly gaze out to sea westward toward Patmos.

The one taverna open at this time of year is run by Michalis who has been there forever and looks very much like an extra from Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean with the bandana and cut off trousers. The menu features several varieties of goat and chicken or whatever fish was caught that day accompanied by ouzo or wine. Then the trick is to get back in the dinghy and return to the boat aided by the pale light of a waning moon without falling in.

Marathi is a wonderful destination for anyone seeking absolute peace and quiet away from the pretentious glitz and head splitting thump thump of high decibel techno music that infects so many places on the Aegean coast of Turkey or some of the better known Greek islands. Small ferries come to the island daily from Leros or Patmos and there is a very nice, small hotel with its own pier. The only problem is that once you spend even a few days there the re-entry into the ‘real’ world can seem a bit harsh.

Pier Of The Hotel On Marathi
Following a lazy morning – there really are no other types of mornings of Marathi – swimming, wandering around the island, taking photographs and visiting the charming little hotel just getting ready for the season we hoisted anchor and set off for Patmos just a few miles to the west.

Patmos is known primarily for the 11th century Monastery of St. John the Divine and the cave where, according to legend, the Book of Revelations was written. The reality, or lack thereof, of this claim doesn’t seem to matter much to the thousands of tourists that descend from the enormous cruise ships to visit the cave, the monastery and the Monastery Treasury. No one seems to have told them that there are many, many steps involved in this trek. By the time these visitors have panted their way up to the monastery many of them look like they would much rather sit under a tree with a cold beer and rely on a postcard to prove that they had been there. For those that don’t mind the exercise, the Treasury is well worth a visit, as is the small whitewashed town of Chora perched on the hillside just outside the monastery. The effort of getting up the hill and wandering around the monastery can be rewarded with a good meal at Jimmy’s Balcony where you get a spectacular view of Patmos as well as Samos, Fourni, and Iraklia in the distance as you go through some of Jimmy’s delicious small dishes, meze.

Monastery On Patmos With The Town Of Chora
Unlike the other islands we visited Patmos is very busy, and with boats tied up right next to the main street you are serenaded with the whine of motorcycles all night. We were fortunate the next morning to be able to leave without having to extract our anchor from the anchor chains of several other boats. With the usual very strong cross wind sometimes it can be interesting trying to reverse neatly to the quay and simultaneously be careful where you drop the anchor. But we managed a smooth departure and looked forward to returning to less crowded islands. Our destination, after another stop on Leros, was a small, narrow bay – almost a fjord – cut into a cliff on the island of Kalimnos. More on this later.


A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

oh these islands sound magic! I hope we get to see them one day. Was it just you and Mariella on the boat?

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