Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Winding down

We motor-sailed down from Palionisos to Kos on Tuesday 13 September to pick Sam up. He got in that evening so we left on Wednesday morning to get back to Palionisos before the forecast stronger winds set in.

Sam was climbing in a couple of days, so he took a picture of the rockface.

With the wind forecast to go on increasing we decided to leave next day for Emborios, on the northwest corner of Kalymnos. Since the wind was a solid Force 5 on the nose, we motored up the East coast of Kalymnos, but once we turned the corner we unrolled the genoa and had a good sail down to Emborios. Sam insisted on getting every once of speed.

We got to Emborios a bit before 11 in the morning and picked up a buoy. 

Since the wind was gusting round the headland we put two lines on the buoy to be more secure.

We went ashore for lunch at Costas's taverna, since it was his buoy.

Next morning we went for a walk, to try to reach the old church (or warehouse? Emborios was once a trading centre) on the hill to the East of the town, but we could not get through the walls and hedges that blocked our way.

When we got back we moved to a vacated buoy closer in to the shore, because it looked less exposed so we (or at least Sam in the forepeak) would have a more comfortable night.

After lunch at Artistico, to whose buoy we had moved, we spent the afternoon swimming and exploring in the dinghy. That night was still bumpy, but there was a splendid full moon.
On Saturday 17th September we went in the dinghy to the next bay to the East. We had lunch at Costas's and Sam then got a taxi to join his friends for a week's climbing. We motored up to Lakki to say goodbye to our friends and to get ready to lift out. Soon after we arrived we saw plumes of smoke and then flames shooting into the sky from Lepida, where the hotspot is, on the other side of the bay.

Water planes soon appeared to try to put out the fire.

Two planes made one pass over the fire and went away, but that seemed to be enough and the local fire brigade was then able to deal with it. Nobody was injured and no houses burned. The fire started by the new water treatment plant and at first made a thick black cloud, which looked as though it was oil burning. The locals claim that the fire was created by refugees from the hotspot having a barbecue that got out of control. The refugees claimed that it was started by local provocateurs.

Bob and Lydia arrived to stay in Pandeli on the Saturday. They came over to have dinner with us at Ostria on Sunday. As it was quite windy and we had a lot to do to get ready for launching we put off taking them for a sail until we took them with us to Arkhangelos on Wednesday 21st, where we were to stop overnight before lifting out on Thursday morning. We had a wonderful last lunch at Stigma.

Tassos took Bob and Lydia to Partheni, where they got a taxi back to Pandeli, while we went back for a last dinner at Stigma.

We were up early on Thursday morning to get on the buoy by 8 am ready to lift out. There were already four boats waiting on buoys when we arrived, but we were called first, much to the indignation of a French yacht, who had already cast off their buoy when they saw the crane approaching.

We had a car while we were in the yard, so that we could do our shopping and go to Lakki to say goodbye to all our friends. We had dinner at Ostria with Keith and Louise on Friday. On Saturday we had lunch with Bob and Lydia at Zorba's in Pandeli and dinner with Al and Kitty at the Alinda Hotel.

We were flying to Athens early on the morning of Monday 26th September, so on the Sunday we went to Lakki and said goodbye to everyone in Pikpa and said very emotional goodbyes to everyone in the villa, who were themselves soon to leave. Manal and Majd and their family were going to Chios to stay with friends they had met when they arrived there from Turkey, and Zeinab and her family were soon to go to Athens.

Manal, Lin, Dana and Luna



Manal and Dana
We then went round to the house, for more goodbyes.
Nagm, Lin, Mayson, Simon, Mohammed, Aya, Mones and Tamr

Aya, Mayson, Anas, Mones

Simon, Nagm and Lin

We went for lunch at Dimitri's To Steki in Alinda, where Lin did her final bit of sun-worshipping before going back to the yard to get ready to leave for Athens next morning.

We arrived at Lena's in Palaio Faliro at midday on Monday and were flying home on Tuesday evening, but we had not seen the last of our Syrian friends. We had sent messages to our friends in Athens, but had received no replies. When we woke on Tuesday morning there was an audio message from Ahmad to say that he was in Athens and they would like to meet us. Ahmad had said that they were near Omonia, but we did not know precisely where they were. We had arranged to see Nikos at midday on Tuesday so we set off early by taxi. Lin was all for touring the streets between Omonia and Victoria in the hope of seeing them when we managed to get through to Ahmad and arranged to meet them outside Hondos on the corner of Omonia Square. When we arrived at Hondos they were nowhere to be seen, so Lin set off round the square to look for them while Simon called Ahmad. 'We are here', said Ahmad and Simon turned round to see the whole family. We went to a nearby cafe for drinks and hugs
Samir, Lin, Ahmad,  Haven and Sanaria

Samir, Lena, Sanaria, Lin and Haven

Then they took us back to their apartment. Their dad in Germany was trying to arrange papers and was managing to send them enough money to live, but they were desperately hoping to get to Germany soon.

We said our tearful goodbyes and went on to Nikos, who was much better than when we had last seen him. Just as we were leaving to go to the airport, Lena dropped in so we could see her before we went home.

Another year over, more new friends and tearful partings, more to look forward to next year!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Hot August in Lakki

We stayed on the quay in Lakki for August, helping with the refugees in Pikpa. Most of the month was stiflingly hot. We did some shifts in Pikpa, mostly preparing and distributing meals, visited our friends in the villa and the house and swam with the kids. The refugees are getting increasingly frustrated, some going to Athens to try their luck there, though only some of those who paid 4-5,000 euros each to smugglers have got away, while others just wait for their papers in terrible conditions in Athens. There all sorts of stories and rumours, which we will not recount here because we do not want to slander anybody. First Reception has begun to appoint more staff, who are supposed to be taking responsibility for the Hot Spot and Pikpa, but so far everything is still down to the volunteers, Save the Children, Echo-100 and WAHA. One great success has been the hygiene packs that Keith and Louise have organized. Instead of having to come and ask for a bit of shampoo or a dollop of baby milk, every family now gets a pack to cover all of their needs for two weeks, depending on the size of the family and ages of children. 

Keith’s garden has also been a great success,  

the first crop of courgettes, parsley and cucumbers providing salad for the Pikpa residents. 

On Sunday 28 August we took Takis and Marietta, who run the delicatessen, up to Arkhangelos with their three boys. It was the boys’ first experience of a yacht. The sea was quite bumpy and Stamatis, the 11 year old, felt sick and was very moody, training to be a teenager. 

We went for lunch at the Taverna Stigma, where Evropi had been Marietta’s teacher in school and Tassos her classmate. They decided not to brave the bumpy journey back, so got a lift over to Partheni and then by road to Lakki. The boys immediately went to sleep and Takis and Marietta came to join us in the marina for coffee and cakes. 

On 31 August we had a Syrian meal at the Villa. They were desperately bored with the food provided in Pikpa so were really excited to be able to prepare something that they could enjoy. We took Manal and Mage shopping for all the ingredients. Manal proved to be a champion shopper – she knew where to get everything for a few cents left. Manal prepared a fabulous meal and we went up to eat it in the evening with Louise and Keith. 

The next day, Thursday, the Italian Navy Sail Training ship Palinuro came on to the Lakki ferry quay for a one-week goodwill visit – they had been going to Turkey but the plans were changed as a result of the political situation in Turkey. 

On Friday morning Annie arrived on the catamaran, following a very rough ride in strong wind and heavy seas from Kos. After she had recovered we went aboard the sail training ship on Saturday morning. 

On Saturday evening, September 3rd, we had been invited to the christening of Marietta’s brother Spiros’s baby son Georgos. The christening was in a small church in the yard of Spiros’s house, which had been built by his father in memory of his grandparents. The godparents were three of the baby's cousins.

The house is above Lakki, at Kamaraki, with wonderful views over the bay. 

After the christening we went to Marietta and Spiros’s grandfather’s house, which is in the country up in the hills. They told us that they now only use this country house for parties. Tables were laid for a sit down meal for about 120 people, mostly close relatives, and there was live music and dancing. 

Baby Giorgos danced with Takis,

Giorgos with his aunt, Marietta, and his grandmother. He went through the whole hour of christening, being undressed, bathed, dressed again and manhandled by dozens of people without ever complaining.
We were ready for bed by 11, though Giorgos was still going strong, and Takis very kindly drove us back to Lakki. The party went on till about 2.30, but we could never have lasted that long.

On Sunday morning, September 4th, we set off to motor up to Arki, but there was a big sea so it was very bumpy, so we stopped at Arkhangelos. We went to Stigma for lunch, but Annie found it difficult to get in and out of the dinghy with her arthritic knees, which swelled up in the afternoon, so we just got a takeaway from the taverna in the evening.

On Monday we motored up to Arki with very little wind and a flat sea. When we arrived there was not a single yacht on the quay, though it filled up as the day went on. We had two very quiet days, swimming and sitting on the beach, 

reading, and eating wonderful food at Nikolas’s taverna.
We motored back to Lakki on Wednesday morning with absolutely no wind and a glass-like sea and had a farewell dinner with Annie. On Thursday morning we took a taxi to Aghia Marina to put Annie on the ferry to Kos, 

then went to the archaeological museum, which had been closed every time we had tried to visit before.

On Thursday evening we had a reunion dinner for the volunteers who had been in Lakki last September. 25 of us had an excellent meal al El Greko. It was great to see so many old friends with whom we had shared such a life-changing experience.

Simon and Christiana came back on Thursday and we had a steak dinner with them on Friday. On Sunday morning we went over to the Villa to give Dina her birthday present before we set off to meet Frank and Lin in Palionisos. They left on Monday to get north before the strong winds came in, but Rosemary and Brian, who had been alongside us in Lakki, arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday we sailed and motored to Kos marina to pick up Sam, who was arriving on Wednesday evening.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

With Becky and the boys - continued

We stayed in Arki on Sunday 31st July. Charlie had a wonderful time playing with Alexandros, the two of them getting on like a house on fire. In the morning they swam from the little beach in the harbour, at lunchtime they played on Charlie's DS and in the evening they played football with Kai and Bobby. After dinner

Charlie rode Alexandros's bike.

On Monday 1st August we had a brisk sail over to Patmos, which Lin and Simon avoid like the plague because it is hot, crowded with tourists (and fundamentalists wanting to see the hole in the rock where god supposedly dictated his revelation to John) and full of expensive shops selling designer clothes and tourist rubbish. On the way in a huge cruise ship was anchored in the bay, with a naval ship anchored just behind it. We agreed to spend a day there because we needed to do some shopping and our visitors like Patmos for its shops and a dirty swimming pool in a semi-derelict hotel. Lin preferred to swim on the town beach, though there was barely room to get through the bodies on the beach to reach the sand.

Becky changed Simon's dressing, which gave everyone their first chance to see her fantastic needlework. The wound looked as though it was healing well, with no sign of infection.
On Tuesday morning, August 2nd, we left Patmos to sail down to Arkhangelos.

Charlie took the helm.

The wind dropped as we got to Arkhangelos, so Andrew blew up the kayak and took Becky and the little boys ashore.

Kai rowed Lin and Simon over in the dinghy, to save Simon's arm,

and we all went for a big lunch in Stigma taverna, where we were greeted like long-lost adventurers - news of Simon's drama had already reached them (and a Greek couple who were having lunch). News travels fast in these little islands! Charlie was really pleased to see his christmas card on the notice board and Bobby enjoyed running around and back to say Boo to daddy.

In the afternoon Charlie was eventually persuaded to swim off the boat with Lin, though he still refuses to take off his arm bands.

We had a light dinner of gran's spaghetti, by Kai's special request, with disgusting grated cheese that we had bought in Lipsi. As we finished dinner Kai spotted Evropi coming out of the taverna to feed the army of cats (they suspect people of dumping unwanted kittens on the island). Kai jumped into the dinghy and rowed Charlie ashore to see the cats.
 With strong winds forecast for the evening we decided to set off on Wednesday morning, August 3rd, for Palionisos, going down the east side of Leros to see the castle and windmills.

Lin had phoned Pothitos to ask him to reserve the buoy nearest the beach so that we would not have too far to swim or row to get to shore. Lin and Simon went up to the taverna to see Pothitos over a beer (and to see if he had some cigarettes for Andrew, which he did in his bottom drawer). We asked if he was going shopping next morning, as we were short of cash as Simon had forgotten to go to the ATM in Patmos. He was going shopping, but leaving at 6 in the morning. However, he told us that we could pay him by credit card, so we opened an account with him (we prefer to pay cash so that our friends do not have to pay the credit card commission). We also asked him to get us some milk when he went shopping.
Charlie had a long swim before we went for lunch at the beach bar,

where Bobby loved feeding the ducks.
In the evening Andrew rowed us all ashore for dinner at Kalidonis. Bobby was thrilled to see a mother duck with its baby on the quay.

We had an excellent dinner, all beautifully cooked. 

On Thursday we chilled at Palionisos. Charlie swam to the beach with Lin and Andrew.

Becky took a canoe from the beach.

and rowed back from the  beach.

We had another excellent dinner at Kalidonis.

We had planned to go to Xerokampos on Friday, but we needed to get to a pharmacy so we went straight to Lakki. Poor Kai had a rotten cold the first week and no sooner than that was better, he got a nasty dose of impetigo. Fortunately Becky had taken two dressings impregnated with Fucidin from the health centre in Lipsi and they lasted a couple of days, but now we needed some cream.
On the way back we passed the rescue boat.
 When we got back to Lakki we went to lunch at Poppy's.

In the afternoon Becky, Andrew, Charlie and Bobby went for a hot walk around town, while Lin went for a swim.

On Saturday morning, 6th July, Lin and Andrew walked round to Merikhia with Bobby, while Simon, Becky and Charlie went round in the dinghy. We went round the War Museum, which this time did not freak Charlie out. Charlie and Bobby climbed over the military vehicles outside the museum,

then  we had a drink in the cafe,

where Bobby had a run around.

In the afternoon Becky, Andrew, Bobby and Charlie took a taxi over to Crithoni to swim in the pool at Crithoni Paradise. In the evening we went for dinner at Costas's grill. 

After dinner Andrew took Kai and Charlie to the playground, where the boys played football. Charlie went on the roundabout for 50 leptas. He asked Andrew if he could go again. Andrew gave him a 50 lepta coin and Charlie motioned to two young girls who had been looking enviously at him and used his coin to give them a ride. Everyone was so proud of Charlie!

On Sunday afternoon, August 7th, we went round to Merikhia, Simon taking Charlie and Lin in the dinghy and Becky, Andrew and Bobby walking.

 Bobby collected pebbles in his bucket

We had a car from Sunday evening. There was a jazz concert in the castle, but we were all too tired to go anywhere, so we just had pizza at La Nostra and had an early night (even Kai!).

On Monday morning we went to the beach at Xerokampos and had lunch there, before going to Crithoni Paradise in the afternoon. 
 Charlie studied the bottom.

Then Charlie at last went in without his arm bands. He fearlessly jumped in at the deep end and swam back to the edge and swam a little bit along the side.

He went right down to the bottom with Andrew

While Kai dived in and swam a length underwater

For their last evening we went for dinner at Ostria. 

And on Tuesday morning we took them to the airport to see them off

before we went to lunch at Blefouti.

In the afternoon we saw Keith and Louise, who filled us in on developments at Pikpa while we had been away. The refugees had been given mixed messages about what they could and couldn't do. First, they were told that those with their pre-registration cards could leave the island and were free to travel anywhere in Greece. Then they were told that all those with pre-registration had to leave. Then they were told that this was a mistake, they could leave if the wanted to. Five families (all mothers with children, some of whom we had been very close to) decided to go to Athens on the spur of the moment, in the hope that this would speed up their processing, in some cases to join husbands in France and Germany. The UNHCR paid for their tickets and they left on Thursday night, just before we came back to Lakki. The last that was heard was that two of the mothers with babies were living on the street in Athens. We were really upset that our friends had left the security and reasonable living conditions of Pikpa for a completely uncertain future.

Meanwhile, another charity has rented a house with three apartments, into which three of the Pikpa families have moved. We visited on Wednesday and the refugees were very happy with their new apartments, with spacious airy rooms, a bathroom for each family and a big veranda.