Life; the grand, the good, and the unbelievable

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Yamas! Cheers in Greek. Frequently heard and spoken by myself and Kelly Marie lately.

Serendipitously,  we managed to stumble upon the shining jewel of the Aegean Islands: Ikaria. I chose it by browsing the Lonely Planet guide, searching for somewhere reasonably close to Turkey (for ease of rejoining Clevelander), a more peaceful island with reasonable accommodation prices and little other criteria. Three words from the short blurb on Ikaria in the guide caught my attention: magical, mythical and wine.

All fitting.

After visiting the island’s two major wineries we have a better understanding of the importance of wine here. This is said to have been the home of Dionysis, god of wine. It was considered rude in the olden days, to not provide wine to any visitor at any time of day and so every household had plenty wine, if little else. Each year there is a prolonged festival in honour of Dionysis.

I am grateful for evolving methods as I do prefer to drink my wine from a glass (or a bottle) rather than a goat skin. Not that I’ve tried drinking wine from a goat skin and I imagine it would be preferable to not drinking any wine at all.. So how is the Ikarian wine? We’ve now tasted quite a range from Karimalis organic vineyard (  (where we enjoyed a fabulous meal and a very entertaining evening) to whatever they serve in plastic bottles at the mountain festival. Big difference actually although I have preferred the whites and found that most of the reds are excessively tanniny (?).

My point is: we’ve been drinking plenty wine and loving it! It is encouraged here and people live longer for it! It’s true that this island is #4 for longevity in the world. A national Geographic article attributes it to the good food, including lovely greens, the wine, the daytime naps, the clean air and the number of steps. Oh, also the merrymaking and number of religious holidays! I’m a believer!

Kelly and I are on a short holiday.

Now I’m eating an ice cream made of goat’s milk and sap from the Mastik tree…it’s strange and delicious! They make it at the bakery downstairs. The tantalizing aromas that waft up to our balcony from the bakery factor in hugely to establishing that we have rented the very best room in town. It faces north so it’s cool and sunless all day. It is the very top of the building, four levels up and is breezy, light and from our balcony we see the small beach, tiny dock and most of the village of Armenistis, on the northern coast. It was important to us to find a comfortable place, not just a place to sleep but somewhere to lounge luxuriously. We have a fridge and 2 small burners and pots and pans are provided so we keep our food costs down while allowing me to retain a vague notion of  how to cook so I don’t get fired when I get back to the boat.

Getting here was epic though.

It was straight forward enough getting to Corfu from Crete where Kelly surprised me by jumping out of the crowd at the airport. We hadn’t communicated in some days and I wasn’t aware of her travel plans. Oh, let me backtrack a bit. Kelly has not been on board Clevelander since June 8th. The owners felt they did not need a third crew for their month cruise.  She has been gallivanting in Skyros, Sporades and that, my friends, is another story best told by Kelly herself.

We found our way down to the marina and on board dad’s boat Moon Duster, which used to be called Katrini. Joanna and Aunty Doreen were on board also as we cruised to Paxos and then made our way up the mainland coast back to Corfu five days later.  Poor Winston and all that estrogen! We had a delightful time despite the utter lack of wind and extreme hot temperatures. Winston knows the area well now and led us to the finest restaurants and swimming anchorages.

Leaving Corfu we spent 4 hours at the airport before our flight, an hour on a standing room only bus across Athens, six hours in the ferry terminal, eight hours on the ferry, two spaced out hours roaming around the port village of Evlidos upon arrival at 4 a.m., followed by two more hours wandering around Armenistis waiting for folks to wake up so we could rent a room! But it was sooooo worth it!

It may have been easier to don wax wings and fly towards the sun …

That’s how Icarus got here…Hence the name Ikaria.

On Tuesday we hop back on the ferry (at 4 a.m.) and head to the island of Samos where we’ll jump on another  ferry to Turkey and then a bus to Bodrum where Clevelander awaits us for two consecutive charters. But I don’t even want to think about that just now.

Our casually paced mornings usually consist of leisurely coffee, yoga, a swim and something light to eat. We did have one very early start when we rented a scooter the previous evening and, before dawn, set out over the mountain to the south side where we heard of a natural hot springs right on the sea shore. It took us about 2 hours of scooting to arrive at the magical hot spring, at an ideal time of day and loll about for a couple of hours before any one else arrived for their soak. When a fellow did arrive he showed us how to find the special mud and we duly anointed ourselves. That mud was like dye and several items of clothing were sacrificed. We scooted all day looking at the town of Agios Kirikos and other attractions, stopping for the occasional beer and leg stretch but by the time we got home our bottoms were so severely traumatized we could hardly walk or sit!

On our first day we took a 3 km walk to the famous village of Nas where a small hippy colony live at the mouth of the canyon which opens to a beautiful small nudy beach. This is the second largest canyon in the country! There are plans to build the second only hybrid power plant here combining wind and hydro. The existing one we heard is in Pasadena. On our way home we were lured into a restaurant by the delicious aromas seeping out to the dirt road; it was Ana’s. There we found a bubbly lady cooking away, serving and delegating various chores to her customers! I offered to do dishes but I am not a regular so she said I was off the hook. We did have a very tasty piece of moussaka we hadn’t planned on eating but didn’t in the least regret trying.

Speaking of food; we had another scooter adventure one afternoon and set off up the mountain, by a different road, to the town of Christos, the big dam at the top of the mountain,  down a dirt track past an old monastery built in the rock (as many homes also were to camouflage them from pirates) past a beautiful pine rimmed lake to the Karimalis winery where we had a dinner appointment.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Eleni, mother of four, devotee of traditional Ikarian cuisine and healthy living/goat wrestler. Off we went to watch her milk her goat but the kid was out of his pen so she lured him with some grain, grabbed him by the horns and wrestled him back into his pen. We were impressed already. Then we picked fresh greens from the garden for our salad and observed as she lovingly built cheese pies from scratch, with her own filo dough, rolling it out with a rolling pin the width of 3 pencils. I need to get rid of my big clunky rolling pin on the boat…

Then we were joined by her husband Georgio, who has, undisputably,  the very best eyebrows on the planet. I would even go so far as to say that they were intimidating initially. It was challenging to focus on his words with such imposing features in such proximity. Would they attack?

Boy was he ever chatty.  Eleni didn’t get a word in again once he showed up. His family has been on that farm for 500 years! He was bursting with fascinating stories and information and entertained us until the wee hours thusly, doused with fine, organic wine naturally.

Walking and scooting around the island one’s nostrils are bathed in the aromas of wild herbs. So much so that we decided to take a guided hike with a botanist. She took us on a magical hike into the upper section of the aforementioned canyon, pointing out and explaining the uses for the plants we came across on the way. To mention the ones that come to mind: rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, fennel, st Johns Wort, figs, walnuts, oak, pennyroyal, wild carrots, yarrow and many more which I wasn’t familiar with. At one point she broke out a little camp stove from her backpack and made us a variety of teas with the herbs she’d collected. We soaked in fresh water pools and were massaged by a waterfall too! The tour ended at another winery on the rim of the canyon. Our hostess told us that the very first wine EVER was invented here, on this island! Here we were shown the traditional clay pots and other methods (unapproved for sale to the public). But they use the traditional methods for their personal stash!

We also saw many many beehives and met a few bee keepers too.

We could feel our legs the next day! Sadly, boat life doesn’t do much to maintain one’s hiking abilities.

Oh, did I forget to mention that we tasted some wines at the winery??

One night we hitch hiked up to a mountain village for a music festival of traditional greek music: one guitar, one violin, one drum, one bouzouki and a fantastic female vocalist. All the people of the village got up at some point or another to dance in a big circle and when they ran out of space they formed a spiral.  The folks were eating goat and drinking wine but we just drank wine.

We were picked up by a Dutch family who remembered us from the ferry. We didn’t remember them though and the reason being that we spotted some hippies with a guitar and a jam session ensued. It’s hard to remember all your fans when you’re a rock star. Kelly and I have been playing a lot and now we have quite a repertoire with me guitaring and her harmonicaing. We were at the point where we figured a restauranteur may buy us a drink (nope) for playing on his terrace and attracting customers (yes) but instead he charged us double. We don’t frequent THAT establishment any more although I did beat the old fella there at backgammon once. (OK, out of several rounds).  Kelly takes her chessboard everywhere she goes. Chess and she’s anyone’s. Last night we discovered a bar around the corner we wished we’d found earlier. It doesn’t even open until midnight! But the owner LOVES chess and his bar is decorated all nautical because he used to be a cargo ship captain. He plays good music and it’s not touristy. Unfortunately the hours don’t coincide well with this old girl’s body clock very well.  Many establishments in the mountain villages keep these hours though. How do they get things done?

Since my last update we bashed our way across the Mediterranean South of Mallorca and North of Sicily (where we made a few stops, notably one on the Eolean Island of Vulcano; beautiful), through the Messina channel to Kefalonia. There the owner and family joined us and Kelly left us. We proceeded with the family cruise through the Corinth Canal, stopping at a different island daily so of this month I have little to report. It was a bit of a whirlwind but they seemed content with it.

Here is the link to see pics :

As always I wish you all health and happiness. I welcome news from all of you.

Peace and Cheers!


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