Armed with the pedometer Kim had got her really serious walking legs working now so the day after the demanding climb to Tholária we were at it again early and tackling the walk to another nearby village of Lagkada.
Lagkada was about the same distance (two miles or so) but had the benefit of a footpath cut directly through the terraces which did away with the need to slavishly follow the tarmac and we dragged ourselves up the crumbling and uneven steps towards the bottom of the village.
On the way we passed an islander on a mule and it was obvious that he was going about his day and his work on his chosen form of transport. I got to thinking about how infrequently you see this now, much less even than when I first started to visit the Greek islands over thirty years ago and I realised that soon this will be a thing of the past.
This makes me a little sad! When this generation has gone it is probable that no one will continue to use donkeys for anything other than equine amusement. I felt glad that I had been there in time to see this and felt disappointed for those who will come after me and won’t. Soon, I suspect seeing a Greek man riding a mule will be consigned to the dustbin of nostalgia. They will be gone and Europe will be the poorer for it.
Once inside the whitewashed walls we quickly found a bar where we could rest a while. A nice feature in the bars and cafés in Amorgos is the hospitable habit of providing customers with a glass of cold water. I was unsure of this at first because I was brought up with a paranoia of drinking water abroad, so bad that I used to wash my teeth in bottled water in case I inadvertently swallowed a millilitre or two.
In fact the first time that I went to Greece, to Kos in 1983, I had to have typhoid injections and a certificate to prove it! Well, how things change and now, thanks to desalination, if you can tolerate the odd taste, it appears to be safe to drink the water across the whole of the Greek Islands without suffering ill effects or an upset stomach.
We returned to the rustic narrow streets with decorated paving and adjacent buildings all whitewashed and blue. All whitewashed and blue because since 1974 in a law passed by the military government of the time all houses have had to be painted white and church domes blue. Recently a debate has been re-opened between the Ministry of Culture and other authorities about allowing the use of alternative colours but as yet the law remains in place.
In the middle of the village we came across a curious shop with an interesting window display and when I peaked inside the gloomy interior an old man illuminated by a shaft of dusty sun light invited us in. It was what I would describe as a sort of workshop and he explained to us that he was the village carpenter, the village hardware store, the village liquor supplier and the village barber! He obligingly showed us around and explained the family pictures hanging on the walls and invited me to have a haircut but I respectfully declined when I saw the age and condition of the clippers!
Lagkada is a pretty little village but it doesn’t take too long to see all of it (twice) so satisfied that we hadn’t missed anything we made our way down the path to Aegiali for our final afternoon and evening because the next day we were moving to the other end of the island to Katapola.
The bus fare to Katapola was good value at only €2.80 each and after we paid the driver started the engine and left exactly on time. We sat close to the front of the bus and in the seat directly behind the driver there was an old woman in widow’s weeds who was determined to talk constantly in some sort of quest to distract him and thoroughly test his driving ability as he eased the vehicle out of the village and began the ascent to the top of the mountain that separates the two ends of the island. Before 1991 when this road was built the only effective way to travel from one end of Amorgos to the other was by ferry.
As the bus climbed higher into the interior and the engine began to complain and the gearbox groan the sides of the mountain became surprisingly greener with rugged plants clinging stubbornly to the desperately thin soil and then we reached the top of the mountainous spine of the island and we could see all the way down across the Chora and into the port of Katapola and still the woman in the seat behind the driver kept talking.
I’d have backed that woman in a talk-off against my mum!
The bus stopped briefly at the Chora to pick up more passengers and then the driver set off down the hairpin bends of the mountain road and down to the port. I think he liked this part of the journey most of all because he made especially extravagant manoeuvres with increasingly theatrical turns of the steering wheel and he was confident too, even at one stage of the precipitous descent taking time out to make a telephone call while still listening all the time to the woman behind him jabbering away.
After only a few minutes we arrived at the final bus stop in the port of Katapola, got off and met the driver from the apartments, the Hotel Amorgion and were driven quite some distance away from the town until we reached our destination.
To be honest, this was rather further out than we really wanted to be along an unmade road without any lighting and it was immediately clear that we were going to need some form of transport and with a very infrequent bus service and taxi fares beyond my skin-flint budget it was agreed that we would hire a car for our two-day stay in Katapola.
We negotiated a price of €50 and thirty minutes later it was delivered, a brand new Chevrolet Spark already with several areas of damage on the paintwork. The hiring procedure was a refreshingly casual affair, there was no insurance hard sell, the man didn’t even want my credit card details and he said that it didn’t even matter if I didn’t return it with any fuel. Anemos Car Rentals must surely be the most laid back in all of Europe!