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Published: September 3rd 2006
Entrance to the ancient temple of Apollo, facing the revered island of Delos where Apollo was born.
"A little boat fishing between Paros and Naxos is of incomprably more interest to me than a new revolution, a new fashion or a new aesthetic in Europe, a new piece of machinery in America or new form of mysticism in Asia. Peace! Peace!" ~George Theotakas
This quote sums up my experience in Naxos, the largest island in the Cycladic islands of Greece. Although there is Mt. Za, the highest point in the islands where Zeus was supposed to have lived, mountain villages, remote caves, and hiking galore on the south side of the island, I rarely left my beach. Staying at a camping site off one of the beaches, I rarely had occasion to put shoes, or even sandals on my feet. Every morning I put on the swim trunks, put on an initial layer of lotion, and sauntered to the huge stretch of beach that makes up Ag. Anna, Propikios, etc. I had no idea what was going on in New York real estate. I had no care as to fashion. The 'real' world was somewhere far away, toiling away quietly, while my reality was equally remote to their existence. I wiled away the hot days reading
"Life and Fate" (the Russian "War and Peace"), swimming, napping, and drinking frappes until the sun set behind Paros not far away. The days went extremely fast in this fashion and I couldn't reconcile when there was time enough in the day for 8 hours of work. At night when it was cool enough, I would go for moonlight runs on the beach. It's quite an adventure to run in near blackness along a beach without kicking a large rock or tripping over a sand castle. The trick as I found out was to run just on the edge of the water line, where the waves stopped advancing on the beach and began their retreat. It was here that the moonlight was enough to glimmer on the thin sheet of seawater tumbling the small grains of sand. As long as the light shone smoothely and evenly you knew the beach was being swept clear for you by the accomodating sea. If there was ever an interruption of blackness in the glassy retreat you would slightly alter your step so that you went over it in stride. The crashing waves made a motivating soundtrack and eventually a refreshing reward. Just this
easy run was enough to make your day feel productive. After the run, between 1am and 3am I would take a fresh water rinse, read a bit more of "Life and Fate" and slip into the tent for a few hours rest. On two occasions I just slept on the sloping dunes of the beach, counting a dozen shooting stars before falling off.
Just off the beach I lounged on by day and ran on by night, about 1 nautical mile out, was a pile of large boulders protruding from the sea. They were a bright grey topped in seagull white. One day I rowed out in a greek "canoe." This "canoe" was nothing like a canoe. It is possible the worst sea-going, single-man vessel I've ever had the privelege to captain. It looked like a slightly scaled down body of a laser sailboat. It was atleast three feet wide (stability for stupid tourists I suppose), the deck was only about 5 inches above the water and flat. The exception was the rectangluar hole I sat in. This vessel was designed for a flat lake, not the ocean. The smallest wave would tumble over the bow and 4 waves
later my 'hold' was full of water with no where to drain. A few times I tried scooping it out, but 4 waves later it would be full again so I resigned myself to this reality. So now the deck is about 3 inches above the water in the trough of a wave, and about 2 inches under at the crest. Then of course there is the double sided kayaks style paddle which is only about one foot longer than the width of the boat itself. This meant that paddling was not a task for just your arms. You would have to lean your whole body to the side in order to get your blade in the water, stroke, straighten up, lean to the other side, repeat. I felt like one of those desktop birds that rock up and down in pepertuity. The experience, I imagine, is like rowing a bathtub full of water...tediously slow. In hindsight I should have just asked for a windsurf board and paddle. But eventually I made it to my destination, pulled the tub onto the rocks and secured tied it off for fear, not of floating off, but sinking. For the next two hours
I was a little boy, a little nake boy. With not a soul in sight (even the seagulls flew away), I went 'Lord of the Flies' with my new found isolation. Or perhaps more appropriately, I went "Dionysus" in all my tan-lined glory. I mimicked the lizards and scurried over, under, and around the hot boulders, taking in views from the top, finding respite in the shadows below, and sliding to the waters edge to explore the shapes the sea has been carving into the rock for eons. I collected the chalk like bone of a scuttle fish left by the gulls and scratched some incoherent heiroglyphics on a rock wall. Surely someone was going to show up, see a pile of clothes by the boat, and then see me running around like a lunatic. I told myself that in this occasion I needn't be embarrased, on the main beach people sunbathed nude all the time. But still I wondered whether or not my cheeks would redden if someone appeared from behind a boulder. Eventually my unlizard-like skin demanded I get out of the sun and I paddled my bathtub back to civilization, only 15 minutes away. I highly recommend
A view from the old town build safely away from pirates atop a hill.
the experience to anyone.
A note to travellers: On a whole I wouldn't say Naxos was particularly special, at least on these beaches. The restaurants were more expensive than they should have been, the service was horrible, the food mediocre at best, and there was no nightlife. But when you have people like me who never wanted to leave the beach, then you have a reather captive audience don't you? So I would tell any other travelers going to Naxos to explore the island as there is much more out there. Also, if going in August as I did, be careful with your hotel reservation. I called ahead 2 days early and was assured by my pension that it was "no problem." A price was set and I was happy. I gave them my name and offered my credit card but the reply was "no problem, just come." I should've known better because, of course, when I did arrive the single was full and they could only offer me a double, which meant twice as much money. And this is how I ended up camping in a rented tent and sleeping on a 3 euro bright green, not quite long enough, air mattress meant for the kiddie pool. In fact, I would even say skip Naxos, just go to Paros. Much nicer!
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