I'd been out to the Greek island of Milos for two weeks last year and enjoyed spectacular multicoloured cliff scenery from warm deep clear seas, whilst there a mention to Rod Feldtmann (http://www.seakayakgreece.com/) that an island-hopping trip might be a good idea struck home. A multi-island tour to Santorini had been top of Rods wish list for some time; this year (2003) was time to achieve that goal. Rod, an Australian, married to Petronella and father of two daughters has organised sea kayaking tours from his home in Milos for several years and for this adventure recruited Jeff and Heidi from Montana USA to accompany him. I was keen to sample warm days and sleeping on sun warmed beaches and needed very little persuasion to make up the team.
Wednesday. 1st Oct.
The peace and quiet of the local village was disturbed as Jeff and I dashed around for provisions, Rod picked up Heidi from the airport and we assembled at our departure port of Pallonia. Heidi had been subject to delays on her air travel and had the task of loading up a kayak and setting off within a mere couple of hours of arriving on Milos. Last minute purchases of bread, goodies and supplies of water were crammed into the remaining corners of the kayaks and we were on our way. Heading northeast we soon reached Kymolos, skirted the south end of Poliegos and gazed at the cliffs, spires and pinnacles of this uninhabited island. As we followed the islands east coast to our destination an increasing wind slowed progress and it was with some relief when we landed on the beach in near dark conditions.
The wind persisted throughout the night, building up a disturbed sea and our departure was delayed until midday when a "go for it" decision was made. The 23km crossing to Folegandros is open to the winds and estimates that we were subject to a Force 6 meant re-adjustments to our compass bearing. Some three hours of paddling and several sweep strokes later we were able to pick out features on the cliffs and relax a little as we put the wind to our backs and headed south. Huge smiles were exchanged as we landed on a secluded beach complete with nudists enjoying the sun. Pushing eyeballs back into their sockets we paddled ourselves away from the warmth and calm of this lovely beach and made our way to Angalli, here we left the kayaks and walked inland to the nearby town with its winding streets, alleyways and birds singing in the tree lined square. Dragging ourselves away from this delightful area we returned to the kayaks, ate at a nearby taverna then settled down for a well-earned rest.
Quieter seas greeted us in the morning and we pottered along the huge limestone cliffs of Folegandros and headed across to Sikinos. Lunch was taken on the summit rocks of the small island of Khardhiotiss where we were able to see both our previous route and look out towards our destination of Santorini. The beach at Sikinos had ample driftwood and soon enough material was gathered for a modest blaze. Jeff's attempts to conserve water by boiling the spaghetti in ready salted seawater did little to enhance his culinary reputation as we made inroads into our store of bottled water. His excuse? "Pacific seawater must have a lower saline content, I'll add a little more bottled water next time".
A short trip along the coast to the welcoming harbour at Sikinos to stock up on supplies, to Malta Point in a vain search for archaeological remains and a 6km crossing to Ios. Expansion work with cranes and diggers at the harbour took the shine off this sheltered retreat so we made our way to the bay of Milopotomus. What golden sands and how busy this must be in the high season! Rod searched for, and found welcome showers and refreshed we sought out a place to eat. The menu and the food at Club-Far Out is highly recommended. Jeff and Heidi were struck with saturday night fever and went off to town in search of line-dancing or a little Montana two step.
Oh Dear! The late night and a glass or two of Ouzo had their effect on the revellers and their fragile state was reflected in a later than usual departure. The l4km to the south of Ios to the vast beach at Manganari was undertaken steadily and on landing driftwood collected for a BBQ -western style. We settled down, each one no doubt thinking of the day to come. As we gazed towards our destination we could see the lights of cruise liners and passing freighters, a reminder that this can be a busy area.
Rod was awake early, roused us from our slumbers and we were soon packed and prepared for the 20km crossing. As we paddled through almost oil flat seas the mist closed in restricting visibility and reminding us of our vulnerable state. The whistles, flares and strobes to access on our decks did little to comfort us when the booming of a ships foghorn reverberated across the water and we closed together for moral support. Some two hours into the trip a light wind picked up and slowly the mist lifted sufficiently to reveal the volcanic mass which is Santorini. Sunshine brushed away the final strands of mist as we paddled into the flooded caldera which makes this island so special. A celebratory lunch in a nearby taverna, a tour round the inner cliffs and arches, a visit to the sulphur laden hot springs, a campsite on the small port on the volcanic plug and the spectacle of the village lights on the rim brought to end a memorable day. This had been a trip totalling some 150kms, taking in five major islands, numerous pinnacles, small islets and some stunning sunsets.
The holiday season being at an end meant that ferry schedules were greatly reduced, Rod, eager to return home, managed to secure a place for himself and kayak to Milos whilst Jeff and Heidi decided to work on their suntans and take in the sights and sounds of the island. They returned to Milos by a combination of ferries and kayak crossings over the following week. I'd enjoyed the journey from Milos to Santorini and decided to complete the circle by returning via the islands to the north. As Rod says "there's no better way to see the Cyclades than by sea-kayak"
Santorini-Milos. Tuesday 6th.
As part of a "rest day" I took the ferry from Santorini to Ios. A laden kayak is a clumsy thing on land and I was to learn at first hand of the help and interest of the Ferry and Harbour personnel at the ports of Santorini and Ios. Their assistance was typical of the help received on my return journey. The luxury of the ferry soon faded into distant memory as I packed additional supplies into the kayak and headed to the northern point of Ios. Locating a quiet beach was easy on this indented coast and I was soon in my sleeping bag gazing up at the Stars.
The 11 km crossing from Ios to Iraklia passed slowly by, and I watched a pair of buzzards circling in the updraughts of steep cliffs before heading out to the rounded outline of Skhinousa. For some reason I had been intrigued by the name of this island which appeared to have huge beaches and looked inviting. Closer up the Island was ringed by short but steep cliffs and with plenty of time available I headed across the 8km channel towards Naxos. As I moved from the shelter of the island this coincided with a increase in wind speed and a steady slog ensued. Bouncing through clapotis off a headland I entered a large bay providing shelter and a tiny beach. Pulling the kayak ashore and above the waves reach I found a rocky ledge as a home for the night. As the daylight faded a magnificent lightning display lit the skies with multiple streaks highlighting the black clouds. This display, the high winds and a short cloudburst reminded me of the possibility of being stormbound, fortunately I had ample supplies of food and drink but a restless night passed slowly by.
The storm of the night eased away as sun brought welcome warmth and dried out gear as I waited for the waves to ease off. Winds of F4 kept the sea agitated and I waited until mid-day before heading along the west coast of Naxos. This large island is very popular with tourists and building development is in evidence along the coast. After a couple of hours I found a beautiful beach and enjoyed a long surf in on green water to arrive at an hotel which was still open for business. Luxury! I entered the hotel and was soon tucking in to a Greek salad on the veranda. Fortified and refreshed the return to open water and the west coast of Naxos was punctuated by pounding surf which threatened to pluck me from the kayak. Leaving the relative shelter of the island I set off for Paros, a two hour trip into water exposed to the wind and I was relieved to reach the sheltered harbour of Marmara. A developing fishing fleet has its base here with a road alongside the beach which did not bode well for a quiet night. Wandering around I found a bar with rooms available at 15 Euros - a bargain- a shower and a softish bed. I can also recommend the food at Stavro's restaurant. The island of Paros has a thriving viniculture programme, the “98” unpronounceable red slipping down a real treat. As I walked back to the bar the bay shone silver in the light of the full moon. Feeling suitably pampered I tucked up in bed and drifted into sleep.
Friday 9th October.
The benefits of a good nights sleep showed as I left Marmara harbour, followed the south coast of Paros and headed to Andiparos. The waters around the islands of Pandironisi which divide this crossing are only three metres deep, added to that an almost white sea bottom and the result an huge area of fluorescent water, a wonderful and uplifting sight. Rounding the collection of small islands of Dhespothis and Strongilio I looked across the 20km to Sifnos and decided to make the crossing. Out of the shelter and in open water the wind reminded me of its presence and I was faced with over three hours of determined effort before reaching the leading light and calm waters at the harbour of Faros. The sea state was impressive, at one time I was in deep troughs with limited outlook and the next on high peaks with clear sight to the horizon. Not a period to relax, yet at the same time it was a delight to see dark seas with translucent green peaks topped with white caps. The "no camping" signs on the beach and a herd of noisy goats coupled with the effects of a 62km day soon had me knocking on doors in search of a bed. Once found I wasted little time before eating and "crashing out".
Saturday. 10th October.
Loaded up I gently eased the kayak along, arms a little sore from the previous days effort and made my way to the southern point of Sifnos. As memories of islands blended into each other it was both comforting and satisfying to look around the horizon and pick out the places visited over the past few days and I could see my destination of Milos from the misty blue islands in the distance. On the crossing from Sifnos to Kymolos the kayak was eager to extend the adventure and sought for further islands to explore a quartering wind may have had something to do with it and my entreaties for better behaviour were steadfastly ignored. Not for the first time I felt that a rudder would have been a great asset. Slowly the warm coloured cliffs of Kymolos drew near and I welcomed the sheltered straits between Kymolos and Poliegos (our first camp site). A short break then the final few kilometres to finish at Pollonia and a celebratory ice-cream. A phone call to Rod informing him of my safe arrival and as I waited for transport back to the village I reflected on the circuit I had completed. Some twenty islands visited or passed, warm clear waters and magnificent cliffs, lightweight gear, (I paddled in t-shirts on every day) and splendid beaches with villages perched on the waters edge. I'd covered over 320km and picked up a fine
sun-tan along the way.
As the man said "there's no better way of seeing the Cyclades than by sea kayak"!!!
I used an Italian Rainbow / Laser kayak.
Imray G.33 covers this route and a host of other possibilities.
Rod Feldtmann has an excellent and detailed site at http://www.seakayakgreece.com/
Peter H Roscoe
All text and images copyright NWSK 2004. All rights reserved.