We disembark and immediately see Terry, “pretty much the biggest guy there” (his words) in the small crowd of people waiting. I want to film our entry into the island – the culmination of 18 months of dreaming – but can’t find my phone. Martin is surprised at the breadth and height of the island – he had envisioned hiking across it with our packs when we moved to the other side of the island (I had shot this down as being too strenuous for my imagined holiday, but the idea lingered like a cold and was brought up every time we discussed island hiking.)
Terry is tall of stature and round of girth and he “looks so Greek but sounds so Australian” (as Martin puts it). His car is a small, manual, little beater that he drives with the windows down. He explains customs — no festival if there’s been a death in the village in the past 40 days — and points out old growth forests as we make the short drive to the house he and his brother-in-law had built. He isn’t terribly positive about the part of the island where we will be staying for the bulk of our visit — hard to hike, need a car, “different,” but Martin says he’s heard great things and he begrudgingly agrees that anywhere on Ikaria will be nice.
The house, like much of Ikaria, is on an incline, and it is not so much a house as a compound of suites, created as a rental property. The structure is white with a flat roof and an expansive veranda with a view of the ocean to the left and mountains dotted with small homes to the right.
We unload and he offers to take us to the grocery store, a Carrefour express; simple with a few cash registers — the biggest grocery store on the entire island. Everything else is local and tends to be a bit more expensive. Groceries were generally similar in price to the US; the only eggs left were from local farms and were .40 eu each! We bought lots of veggies and fruit, local yogurt and honey, one beer, two 3 eu bottles of black (red) wine — Can we take it down to the beach? Oh yeah, no drama, no drama. His standard response to most questions, including leaving our doors open, renting a car, popping up to his place for a visit. There is no drama on this island.
We’ve Airbnbed a studio, and it’s a spacious room with a mini-fridge, toaster-burner, and a tiny T.V. mounted on the wall, semi-angled towards the bed. Terry tells us they subtitle, so we might catch some English shows later. (We never manage to get it to work, but this is no great loss. The AC – mankinds pinnacle of invention – works, and we are content. )
The Ikarian personal yogurts we bought are, at one euro a pop, pricey little treats, but they are divine. We split one, mixing in some local honey, and the tastes are fresh and light and sweet, and Martin has drizzled in enough honey to negate any of the health benefits of the yogurt.
Everywhere on Ikaria is a view. The ocean and coastline, the ports, the garden restaurants and hills covered in old growth forests. When we eventually get a car (days 2-8), we drive across the island, over peaks and along narrow dirt mountainside roads, and the coastline views from the top are breathtaking. Some of the mountain roads are paved, and on three of these we eventually drove by old roadbuilding equipment…apparently a one-time use type of situation.
We walk through the village and down to the port which has a few restaurants with tables set up along the water. We are clearly foreigners with my Irish skin and our limited Greek (not that we would have gotten away with much – the island has about 8,500 residents at last count). It is approaching dusk when we head back towards our place, which, during summer, means around 9:00. We are starving.