The only morning that MB and I were joined in waking early, we had a mission: a boat tour around the island and caldera. At 9:20am (well, the bus was 10 minutes late, running on Greek time, of course!) we were picked up by a tour bus and brought to the port of Amoudi, located 297 steps below Oia. Although it was a quick five minute drive, it was quite eventful: the road to the port is so narrow that busses don’t have space to turn around, so the driver turned around in the last available driveway halfway down the hill and reversed the last half mile to the port. I was not the only one on the bus looking with apprehension at the sheer cliff drop five yards from our bus, careening down the road backward.
Our boat was a traditional fishing boat, repurposed for a day tour. We started by skirting the island, taking in the sheer expanse of the cliffs and the tiny houses clinging to the tops and faces of them. We then headed into the caldera, where I learned it is so deep that only major cruise ships can anchor, smaller boats’ anchors can’t reach the bottom!
Our first stop was the volcano. Stupidly, I had brought neither the shoes nor the attire for the mile-long hike up to the mouth of the still-active volcano. Thus, I did the entire trek in a bikini. It was well worth it, although I ended up with a mother of all sunburns!!!
The trek up is quite crowded, but so, so, so worth it. The view from the top is definitely one of my most memorable moments of the whole trip; from the top you can see the hot springs, Thirassia, the smaller island that used to be part of Santorini before the volcano exploded, and the clear blue water. If you kneel down and put your hand to the ground, you can feel the heat from the lava beneath the layers of earth, and you can smell the sulphur.
The second stop is a swim to a hot springs in a small island inlet. You literally just jump off the boat into the cool water, which is a nice relief after hiking a steaming volcano. You then swim about 100 feet to a hot springs that is red with iron from the volcanic activity beneath the ocean. You can frolick in the water for a few minutes until you have to return to the boat.
The final stop is Thirassia, the small island across from Santorini. As I mentioned, before the volcano exploded thousands of years ago, it used to be part of Santorini. However, when the volcano exploded, water rushed into the caldera, separating this small sliver of land from the rest of Santorini. We stayed at the port, rather than climbing the 300 steps to Thirassia, for lunch and a swim.
Then we hopped on the boat and returned to Amoudi. The whole tour was 35 euros and it was totally worth it for a six-hour tour. I would have paid that much just to get to the volcano to hike it! (Do be aware, though, to bring the right footwear for the hike, and know they charge an extra 2.50 euros to enter the island on which the volcano lies, which is a bit silly, they could just add that fee to the ticket!)
Once we returned to Amoudi, the girls wanted to get the bus back up to Oia, but I was determined to walk up the 297 steps from Amoudi to Oia. There were donkeys waiting to carry up those who didn’t want to walk it, but I soldiered on. It was hot and steep, but I made it up in about 10 minutes. As you might expect, the view from above and below as you climb gets more and more amazing.
Sweating more than I have in ages, I wandered through the town a bit, but was struck by how full of tourists it was. Being really warm and sweaty, I wasn’t particularly in the mood to linger, so I took a few photos and headed back to Finikia for MB’s final night.
We all sat on the balcony of A.’s villa and watched the sunset over a bottle of wine, talking of cabbages and kings. Then I helped MB prepare a huge feast for us all (replete, of course, with her two favorites from Santorini, wine and feta). The six of us sat under the stars chatting until the wee hours, laughing until our stomachs hurt and our faces were sore.