Southern Cyclades sea kayak expedition
Milos to Santorini

12-19 April 2005

Expedition Members: Steve and Josien Woolmer, Rod Feldtmann.

Click on centre area to enlarge map

An Awesome adventure (Expedition report by Josien)

The tent and sleeping bags have been aired, the salt has been washed out of our paddling kit and the smell of wood-smoke has “sadly” been removed from our clothes after washing. We are home after an 8-day sea kayak expedition in Greece, filled with an enormous sense of achievement, dead chuffed to have successfully completed this adventure: it was AWESOME!!!

We arrived on Milos in the Greek Mediterranean on Tuesday, and were welcomed by Rod who runs sea Kayak Milos and with whom we had paddled around the island nearly 2 years ago.

This time the plan was to undertake an island hopping expedition from Milos to Santorini, a total distance of 150 km, taking in several of the other Cycladic islands on the way. We had been warned the trip was not for the faint hearted or inexperienced paddler, but having been out with us before Rod was confident we possessed the skills and determination required.

On the day we arrived we undertook a short 12km warm up paddle, across Milos bay, to get used to the boats and set them up to suit us. We would all three; Steve, Josien and Rod, be paddling Rainbow Lasers, Italian made sea-kayaks, with ample bulkhead space to enable us to carry all the kit required for a 7 night camping expedition. They are good straight tracking boats, although I was allowed the “privilege” of a rudder being the smaller, not quite so strong, member of the team.

Wednesday the 13th of April saw us setting off, at around midday, from Pollonia beach in the North-East of Milos with fully laden kayaks on the first leg of our trip. We firstly crossed to Kimolos and after a brief exploration of the village from there to Poliegos, the largest uninhabited island in the Mediterranean. Where we made camp on a beautiful beach, beneath the lighthouse, on the Eastern side of the island. Dinner consisted of steak cooked over the charcoal produced by our driftwood fire.

The wind/weather forecast for the coming 6 days was encouraging though not ideal. As we were soon to find out, the success of trip is highly dependant on both wind direction and strength.

The wind had been getting stronger during the day and the next morning (Thursday) we woke up to wind force 7 and huge waves (10-12 feet high at times; we did paddle out and have a little look). This forced us to postpone the intended crossing to Folegandros until Friday. We spent the day exploring the island, and climbing up to the lighthouse for a better view of the sea state.

To our joy Friday’s conditions turned out to be perfect the wind, still strong but veered to the West, provided us with a much reduced sea state and a push from behind. We completed the 24km crossing to Folegandros in 3 hours and 50 minutes. While Steve and Rod hiked from the beach to the nearest village, to replenish our water supplies, I minded the boats (my excuse, and relaxed my aching limbs in the sun). As the wind was in our favour we paddled a further 14km to our next campsite at Livadi beach on the southern end of Folegandros, making up for our lost day. We hitched a ride up to the town for a superb celebratory dinner.

Saturday a smooth sea faced us at sun rise, we breakfasted on chocolate filled croissants, a Greek specialty, packed all our kit back into the kayaks and set off on a superb day’s paddling via several smaller islands to Sikinos. Along ever changing steep cliffs, we found an inlet below one of the countless tiny white Greek churches, with just enough room to haul the boats out. A narrow, steep path allowed us to climb all the way to the summit of the island, where in the village we snacked on Greek salad, Calamari and enjoyed a well-earned cold beer. Camp that night at Malta beach on the Eastern end of the island, beautifully secluded and strangely sheltered from the strengthening East wind, with plenty of drift wood for one of our now famous huge camp fires and lots of large stones for Steve and Rod to build camp furniture with.

On Sunday we have to resort to plan B: the wind is unabated force 6 from the East, and although we try, it is too strong a head wind to allow us to cross the 9km to Ios. While Steve and I explore locally Rod marches all the way to Sikinos village and back to ensure we have sufficient water, and also finds some delicious pork chops for our bbq dinner. Red Sahara dust blown in by the Easterly winds turns the sky an eerie pink.

Monday an early start with a now SW tail wind finds us sitting on the beach by the harbour on Ios by 10 am. We have to face the fact that the wind direction is not going to change sufficiently to allow us to complete the journey by kayak. The North wind we need to enable us to cross the 18km from Ios to Santorini is not going to happen by tomorrow. Not to be thwarted in our aim to get to Santorini we board the 2pm ferry from Ios. We manhandle the fully laden kayaks onto the car deck, and leave them with the piles of luggage and suitcases already there. Huge seas break right over the bow and decks of the ferry, at least we do not have to feel as if we whimped out of this crossing.

For the third time on the trip we have to resort to plan B when we find that having got to Santorini the now gale force winds are preventing us from leaving the dock area and paddling to our next beach camp. We have to resort to squatting round the back of the harbour authorities building overnight, and spend most of Tuesday exploring Santorini by hire car until the wind dies down and we make our escape around 4pm.

Wednesday the 20th is last day of our expedition and we are rewarded with beautiful sunshine, no wind and a calm sea. We make the most of it and explore the Caldera, the sunken volcanic crater that forms the inner sea of the near circular island of Santorini. We paddle to Nea Kamini, the “new” volcanic island in the centre, to visit the hot springs and the volcano. A relaxed paddle to the Northern tip of the island is followed by a very pleasant lunch at Ia. The early part of the evening is spent in the sun cooking dinner on a small beach below an old mining area. To round it all off we paddle back to the port at sunset.

At 10 pm we board the ferry back to Milos where we arrive at 2am on Thursday morning.

Later that day we find a note stuck to our bedroom door: THE SURF IS UP FANCY A PADDLE, ROD.