Monday, 25 October 2010

A trip to Greece

I love cheap travel! My friend and I spent two weeks island hopping in the Cyclades for about R12 500. (including flights, accomm and food) Spending money took it to about R18 000

The trip started out pretty crappy. People were rude to us, no one understood us, we couldn't understand any signage and to top it all off it was something like 34 degrees (Celcius) that day. We were staying at a place called Pagration Hostel - cheap cheap. We shared a dorm with about 3 other females.. one of them was a whale who snored and made Free Willy sounds all through the night. I'm not kidding. Guess that's what you get for trying to be pennywise.
Waiting for our room at Pagration Hostel - while enjoying South African biltong :-)

Next morning we had to rush to catch a four-hour ferry to Mykonos - WOOHOO. We just about made it to the ferry by the skin of our teeth. Was a close call and we were stressed and worried that we wouldn't make it...and it didn't help that not many people were eager to help us. So we got off to a pretty rocky start to the trip. The ferry is AWESOME. It's like one really big ship and onboard it's like a hotel. I generally don't like going on boats and wobbly waves  but the ferry's so big and the water's so calm, you don't even feel the motion.
The Blue Star Ferry docking at Mykonos

Inside the Blue Star ferry

In Mykonos we went for Paradise Beach Resort, a budget camping and simple accommodation option on the beach. When I say simple, I mean simple. In our bungalow there were two beds (when we sat up and faced each other, our knees could touch. The toilets and showers were communal so we had to walk back and forth in little towels. If you’re not planning to chill in your room all day, it’s a great option. The resort is quite far from Mykonos Town but they've got a bus that goes between the town and resort all day. Breakfast (included) was toast, a boiled egg, preserves (basically just one flavour of jam) and tea/coffee/juice. You could pay extra and get more stuff ... we didn't (hehehe).

 Check out Mykonos Town:

This is how narrow the roads are in Mykonos Town

Lovely postcards - hahaha

Petros the pelican - the island's mascot

 Paros is amazing. It's less crowded than Mykonos (we didn't go in peak season though) and it's really pretty - plus.. we could rent a quad bike to get around in. The place we stayed at was Santa Maria Surfing Beach hotel (similar setup to the one in Mykonos - but way nicer looking.. especially the bathroooms and toilets. Ironic, though, that it's called surfing beach but we never came across one surfable beach on our trip.

OH MY WORD - how could I forget to mention... in Greece, you can't flush the loo roll down the toilet. It will clog the pipes. So whether you're doing a number one or two, you have to wipe then chuck the paper in a dirt bin next to the toilet. How uncool is that!  Takes a while to get used to it. After clogging quite a few toilets, we finally figured out what the signs above it meant.

Paros in pictures:
Paros... perfect beaches

Exploring on four wheels

We stayed on Naxos Island for one night. Not the most eventful island - seems like all the oldies go there. Pretty place though...and so far our nicest accommodation - Windmill Naxos - a two-bed en suite room - sort of like our own apartment. There's like one or two tourist attractions and the rest of it's beach and eating. It's the biggest island in the Cyclades - maybe we just didn't see lots, that's why it wasn't eventful. We only spent a day there.

Eating yet another gyros thingy. It's a schwarma with chicken/veg or meat filling
The Portara
Next stop - Ios!! This is the party island. Sort of like the Ibiza of Greece. We stayed at Far Out Beach Club - it's a REALLY vibey spot right opposite the beach. The resort itself is really good looking and their accommodation ranges from luxury to basic.. to very basic. Yes.. we went VERY basic :-) During the day everyone's lounging around one of the two pools listening to really cool beats. If you're after a good party - this is the place to be. We did a bit of sightseeing but the resort was so cool with its hammocks that we just wanted to swim and chill all day.
 Word of advice... if you're gonna stay here - pay a bit more and get a nice room.
The highspeed ferry docking at Ios Island

Lazy afternoons at Far Out Beach Club

Far Out Village (next to the beach club) at night.

Where you'll spend most of the day at Far Out

If you look really closely, you'll see the sea right behind the pool
Our rondawel

And then - the grand finale!!! Santorini Island. I love love love it!!! It's got everything from the beaches to shopping, cool food places, historical sites and the best day trips!  We did a day trip to Nea Kameni (a volcano). They take you on a cool wooden boat thing to the volcano where you have to hike all the way to the top. It's HOT HOT HOT. When you get to the top they pretty much show you where the lava coud squirt out of at any time. If you feel the ground, it's very hot as well (and not just from the sun). After exploring that, you go to a natural hot water spring in the sea. Freakin' amazing. You literally jump off the boat into the cold ocean (near to the shore) and swim a few metres and you'll feel the water get warmer. That was definitely my favourite part of Santorini. Simply coz I DON'T jump into oceans - so that was a major achievement for me!! Candice was pretty chuffed with herself as well.

Then they take you to another little island called Therasia, where we had lunch and then headed back to Santorini. We did lotsa shopping in Thira (where you'll get really cool sunset shots of Santorini's houses and churches). Our accommodation in Santorini was double-booked so we ended up staying at the owners' other accommodation. Very decent en suite double room off the main road. The place we were supposed to stay at (Katarina and John Hostel) had a VERY dodgy bathroom for us to use before we had to catch our ferry(coz we had already checked out). We had to take a shower in a dark bathroom/toilet (luckily two other travellers were also there with a torch). To make matters worse - there was a cockroach exploring the bathroom... eeeeeeeeek!!!!!!
The Nea Kameni hike

The warm water spring drop off

Our boat

Lunch at Labros, Therasia Island

This is Santorini

A restaurant doorway - Thira

The view from Thira

Me me me Santorineeeeeee

 Inter-island transfers via ferries came to R1500 with the shortest ferry at R85 and the longest (Santorini to Athens) at R390 for an eight-hour trip. When booking long ferry rides, choose the more comfortable, assigned seats instead. It costs more, but it’s better than arriving at the ferry only to find out the seats are all taken and you have to camp out on the deck overnight - like we did - hahahha. you live, you learn.
Our little bed we had to make for the 8-hour overnight ferry back to Athens

And this is what TIRED looks like!
Back in Athens, our room at  Neos Olympos Hotel wasn't ready...and it was on the 4th floor, or something ridiculous like that. So, after having no sleep and dragging our bags for over an hour trying to find Neos Olympos - we were pretty pissed. We started getting catty with each other - hahaha. So instead of falling asleep on the steps while waiting for our room, we decided to force in the last of our sightseeing before we sleep the rest of the day away.  We went to check out all the must-sees like the Parthenon at the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus etc etc. We were BROKEN. It must have been something like 40 degrees - and we were tired.
The Parthenon

Some other important building I forgot the name of

Temple of Zeus at Olympia
We ended the trip with some shopping at Plaka that night - and the next day before our flight we did some serious financial damage coz we couldn't believe we had lotsa money left (coz we budgeted so hard throughout the trip..hehehe).

Was an awesome trip - loads of fun, lots of sun....and tons of shopping crammed into the day day we had to leave :-)

Pity we weren't able to add Turkey to the trip...oh well, guess I'll have to make a plan to get there another time :-)