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SV Saraoni
Happy 25th !
Alison and Geoff; sunny and calm with blue skies and seas
10/12/2011, Aghios Nikolaos, Crete, Greece

25 years ago, just after Christmas, we put up our first sails on "Corsair" in Izzy Bay on Auckland's Rangitoto island. We kept our anchor firmly down just in case we actually sailed off while we worked out what to do next. A few months later we were crossing the Tasman on a journey that was to take 17 days.

For photos of our first 25 years afloat click HERE

We're back on the boat in lovely sunshine in Crete, fitter and leaner after our days in the high mountains of Nepal. We're busy tapping away on our little netbooks like mad to catch up with online work that seems to have piled up - and make some money. Christmas is a couple of weeks away and then the New Year - in which we head off towards Central America but this will require a couple of thousand miles of Mediterranean sailing first before edging out into the Atlantic sometime in October.

We have a reason to celebrate over this period - we have clocked up a quarter century on the sea or at least for a quarter of a century the sea has been our home - not in it, but on it - in our two little boats. Pehaps celebration is not quite the right word - some people probably think we are insane to spend so long afloat, maybe "milestone" is a better choice!

It was between Christmas and New Year 1986 that we left our Auckland rented flat and made home in "Corsair" - a timber, fractional rigged Lidgard sloop more than 50 years old and designed more for the relatively sheltered waters of the Hauraki Gulf rather than the turbulent Tasman. Not ones in our exuberant youth to balk at adventure, we immediately headed off for that particular patch of sea without a radio or liferaft or any ocean sailing experience, but equipped with a fifty dollar plastic sextant and three hundred dollars in savings. At that time Geoff had a smattering of sailing knowledge while Alison was trying to rack her brains of distant memories of sailing encounters off the coast of Plymouth. We were both hopeless at maintenance and depended on others for advice - we hardly knew one end of a screwdriver from the other. Twelve years later we were still at home on Corsair and certainly knew more about screwdrivers, let alone propping the boat up on any old convenient wreck for cleaning and painting its ageing kauri hull - we pretty well had to, being in the remoteness of PNG.

Five ocean crossings, one almost penniless, cyclones, encounters with bandits, meaningful involvement with likeable people with one foot in the stone age and the other in the computer age, innumerable anchorages of unimaginable remoteness and beauty, marine wildlife aplenty and always the movement and subtle and not so subtle noises of being on the water.

Our Corsair life was linked most of all to our time in Papua New Guinea - as teachers, sailors and observers - our time in this country of unpredictable but never dull experiences spanned ten of the first twelve watery years.

Our second home "Saraoni"- was built of fibreglass - a South Coast 36 design - purchased in 1998 in Queensland's Whitsundays, and has led us further and faster. Renamed after our favourite and familiar weekend anchoring and resting spot on the edge of PNG's Milne Bay it never had the emotional resonance that a ship made from huge ancient trees could provide but proved to be a more useful and functional mobile marine machine. Four times up and down the East Australian Coast, across the Tasman to New Zealand for five years and then back to Australia and on to Asia and Europe. Eight more ocean crossings and an uncountable number of different anchorages have been experienced and mostly enjoyed. The highlight of our time with Saraoni has been an opportunity over several years to explore the vast remoteness and nature of Australia's Arnhem Land coast with its golden beaches untrammelled by human contact, crisscrossed by quoll, goanna, thicknee and the odd crocodile.

Significantly, Saraoni has provided us with cheap or free accommodation along with holidays afloat, electricity from the wind and the sun backed up by an able diesel engine, drinking water from the sky and the sea via our onboard desalinator, hungry fish that assist with the recycling of some of our waste, a limitation on materialist splurges as size determines everything we can keep.

Saraoni seems small now as the size of boats transiting long distances have grown and grown in order to satisfy the idea that big is somewhat better. Oh well. We all seem to end up in the same places even if some of us take longer than others. Other people have worked harder and longer or have been luckier than us and we've worked harder and longer at being content with less.

So - forward we sail into our 26th year in our little plastic home with its enormous swimming pool, hopefully always on top of that sometimes capricious sea some more years yet - providing we, our boat and the world's climate don't all deteriorate at the same time or pace.

1986 to 2011 A Quarter Century on the Sea
12/03/2014 | mARY and Dave
Farewell to Kathmandu and the Himalayas
Alison and Geoff - cool but sunny
29/11/2011, Kathmandu

Picture shows view of the Langtang Himalayas from the air as we left Kathmandu airport. A tremendous panorama from Everest to Dhaulagiri was on display floating above the clouds

We have now completed our final trek in Nepal with some 30 days of ascending and descending the magnificent ranges that make up the Himalayas. These last few days took us into the Himalayan foothills up towards Tibet. We walked virtually straight out of Kathmandu city and climbed high into the Helambu area to the villages of Chisopani, Thodong and Kutumsang. The weather was once again marked by clear blue skies right through the day, especially above the valley smog. A huge panorama of snowy peaks lay in a long line before us. Distant views of Everest and Makalu in the East, closer views of the Langtangs and - to the west - our old friends Manaslu, the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri, could be clearly seen from these mountain villages and from every ridge top in between.

There is some wilderness in this area, protected at least on paper by the Langtang and Shivapuri National Parks, and we saw deer and quite a few birds. We didn't spot one of the rare and shy red pandas in it's bamboo habitat but we did deviate for a couple of days from the main trekking route and didn't see a trekker or a trekking pole for a while, which was a nice change. By this time, even at 2500m, the temperatures were plummeting at night and soon the trekking season would be over with the passes covered in snow and the lodges closed, so it was time to return to the comparative warmth of the lowlands.

However, the return from this tranquility was rudely interrupted by the most turbulent bus ride of our lives. It started well enough from the foothill valley village of Thimbu and even the bumping and lurching along the tractor track was bearable but within an hour or so of the big smoke the bus was so full we could hardly breathe. The conductor was shielding passengers from actually toppling out of the doorway as we ascended and descended the ridges of the Himalayas to enter the Kathmandu valley. Just before Bhaktapur a number of passengers happily got off and the ones sitting on the roof were hustled inside to replace them and the door hurriedly shut. We came to the conclusion that buses overfilled and carrying passengers on the roof was not on in the nation's capital and judging by the numbers of riot police that came into view as we entered the city, no one would dare to break the law.

The last day or two we have been browsing around the streets and temples of Patan and Kathmandu. The city is more than bustling, it's downright crowded, with hardly a space to walk on its grubby streets, let alone cross the road, but we couldn't leave without visiting the world heritage sites. It is quite sad to see that the nation's capital has really fallen behind in the world as a vibrant capital as it is so neglected and lacks comfortable infrastructure. If any one hankers for a return to a minimal state and nineteenth century style laissez-faire capitalism, perhaps a trip through the peopled areas of Nepal might give you a taste of what could be in store!

To be fair, Nepalis have suffered arrogant, greedy do-nothing governments for a very long time, as well as the Maoist insurgency. With the fighting over, the royalty almost annhilating themselves while the remainder were put into rapid retirement, the former insurgents are desperately trying to establish peace in the country amidst incessant squabbling over tactics. Let's hope thay actually set some time aside to give a long, hard look at the pressing needs of the country and its people.

2011 Nepal
Rumble in the Jungle
Geoff - cool but sunny
21/11/2011, Kathmandu

Picture above shows mum and calf one horned rhinos cooling off at Chitwan in a mud pool.

For more pictures of Nepal's wildlife see the photo gallery on the right

Back in Kathmandu after a long, jolting and overcrowded overnight bus ride across Nepal from the far Western lowlands. After our jaunts in and around the Annapurna range we jolted yet again down for a visit to Nepal's two key lowland wilderness and wildlife areas in the Terai not so far from the Ganges floodplain in Northern India. These were Chitwan - not far South of Pokhara - and Bardia, in the far west and far harder to reach. Although we weren't too sure what to expect (certainly not snowy peaks, anyway !) these trips turned out to be one of the highlights so far of our Nepal visit. At Chitwan we walked far into the park with a guide, floated down the Rapti River on a dugout canoe and spent a couple of hours roaming around on the back of an elephant. It was quite surprising how the deer, monkeys and rhino almost allowed us to get so close that we could almost touch them they were almost oblivious to the elephant's presence. We saw three Indian rhinos - a mum and calf in a pool and an old fellow quite close to the guest house we were staying in crocodiles of two types and a lot of deer and monkeys.

Further away, in Bardia, far fewer visitors gave us a much more personal experience and we spent several days walking all day across the grasslands and forests, and rafted for a day down the Karnali River. Wildlife was similar although our last afternoon culminated in an exciting sequence.

We tracked a large male tiger and a female with two cubs along the river bank, their fresh tracks interspersed with rhino and wild elephant prints. Just as we spotted a female rhino and her calf across the river we heard that a tiger had been seen just ten minutes up river. Together with a few others including two or three guides armed only with stout bamboo sticks (!) we crouched behind some bushes listening to spotted deer whistling alarm calls from a thicket. As the calls stopped and we had given up hope of seeing the tiger emerge onto the river bank again we heard a tremendous crashing just behind us in the forest. The guides shouted "rhino - run" and everybody rushed around in all directions. Three elephants with their mahouts then appeared - they must have spooked the rhino. Our guide led us off in what he said was a safe direction back to the park headquarters - passing fresh leopard prints, wild elephant dung and a large crocodile sunning itself on the river bank.

What a great place - it seemed separated in both time and distance from the human dominated places we had come to experience everywhere else in Nepal.

Our guide for the five days at Bardia, Gotham - a local Tharu man with 17 years experience was a great window onto not only the world of nature but his home - the human world that lay alongside the wilderness. On the last morning he took us on a slow amble around the rice paddies and mud and thatch village huts calling on his family and friends and talked about his life and the jungle. It was sobering to hear that he had to work 7 days a week in the dry season - with no employer's insurance - every day risking life and limb taking tourists for a glimpse of big - and small - animals.

Everywhere we have been in Nepal the guides and ordinary Nepalis generally have been happy to share their knowledge, culture and opinions about life in their country.

2011 Nepal
28/11/2011 | Jean
Wow what a fantastic experience makes our in car sightseeing of La Gomera Island in the Canaries today seem very tame indeed. You will like it here lots of hiking, not much wildlife tho. All the best Tuatara.
18/12/2011 | polly
I visited Chitwan - some years ago and I am glad to hear it is still much the same - Lovely to hear from the two of you again - happy xmas
Walking slow, walking high, in the shadow of giant peaks
Geoff and Alison; sunny and clear
11/11/2011, Pokhara, Nepal

Pic shows Macchapuchare's nigh on 8000m towering above the Modi Khola gorge in Nepal's Annapurna Himal Range.

For many more pictures of life in the Himalayas seen through a lens, see the "Photo gallery " on the right.

10 of the world's highest mountains lie along the border of Nepal and its neighbours - Tibet and India. These are giants. Put a Mont Blanc or a Mount Cook on top of itself and you get the likes of Annapurna 1, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Everest, Makalu and Kachenjunga. It was to walk in the shadow of some of these giant peaks which drew us - and many others - to Nepal.

Thanks here to Alistair and Vivienne from the NZ yacht Largo Star whose shared tales and vivid photos of high passes, daal bhat and friendly people in a dusty Egyptian marsa last year inspired us to make this trip. They are at home doing much more mundane things right now, probably wishing they were in Nepal!

Our second long trek into the Himalayas took us to the so called Annapurna Sanctuary. This is a bowl shaped area at the head of the Modi Khola River overlooked by the Annapurna Himal - the same peaks as we had traversed on the circuit trek - but on the wetter, southern side. The sanctuary area is better protected than the rest of the Annapurna Conservation Area - the tourist development has been capped, the locals see the area as sacred and don't permit mules or meat to be taken past a certain point and the forested valley sides are more pristine. Culturally, as with so much of the Northern area of Nepal we traversed the lower rice growing Hindu village lands into the region of higher buckwheat and potato growing Tibetan Buddhist villages.

Unfortunately for us - and many others - the post monsoon dry season refused to develop as it normally does at this time of the year and we found the skies shrouded in thick fog and cloud for the first seven days walking in to the peaks from the entrance point - the village of Naya Pul. Brief clearances in the sanctuary itself were being reported by passing returning trekkers for an hour or two in the early morning revealing the peaks so we persevered.

The lodges here were simpler, more crowded and more uncomfortable than in the Marsyangdi Valley - a result of the limit on development. Some unfortunate people had to sleep on dining room tables or clamber into freezing cold tents for the 14 hour long nights because of lack of space. Because of the strange, foggy weather everywhere in Nepal the planes in and out of Lukla well to the East of the Annapurnas meant nobody could get out of (or into) the Everest Base Camp trek and at one point over 3000 trekkers were stranded waiting for clearing weather at Lukla.

We puffed our way out of the forested Modi Khola gorge and into grassland above 3700m while snow fell from white skies to arrive at the sanctuary after 5 days walking in and up but early the next morning we also saw the huge mountains revealed in all their splendour. Torrential rain on our way down the valley was followed by a magic weather clearance and our four day retreat out to the starting point was in perfect blue skies and beautiful scenery - the background dominated by Macchapuchare (Fishtail), Annapurna South and Himal Chuli.

2011 Nepal
Yaks and yetis in the Annapurnas
Alison and Geoff - warm and sunny, but hazy
29/10/2011, Pokhara, Nepal

Picture shows fresh snow on Annapurna 2 on the Annapurna Circuit.

For more pictures of Himalayan life and scenery as we saw it see the photo gallery on the right

We finally emerged from the mountains of the Annapurna Himal that form the background to the Annapurna Circuit trek. We managed to wind and clamber our way up the steep rocky trails and sometimes we were almost down to a crawl but we finally made it up to 4000 m up the valley of the Marsyangdi River, with the fear of altitude sickness and frostbite calling us to retreat to altitudes where us humans really belong. One man collapsed and died at 5000m and the whirring of rescue helicopters daily reminded us that 16 days away from civilisation in an unknown mountain world was probably enough. It made crossing the Atlantic seem really comfortable.

(Update - 8th December - re reading this blog today after getting an email from our friends on "Just Jane" half way between the Canaries and Barbados in mid- Atlantic. O.K. walking in Nepal is MUCH more comfortable than an Atlantic crossing!!!)

Basically, we walked for eight days up the river valley to the Tibetan Buddhist village of Manang, above the pine forests, and in yak territory, staying at simple trekking lodges along the way (there was no need to camp for the first time in our walking history). The trek starts quite low down in green foothills where rice terrraces alternate with thick jungle and rises to brown, dry lands where Tibetan prayer flags, prayer wheels, chortens and gompas stand out starkly in the harsh uplands. The weather was outstandingly clear most of the time with beautiful blue skies and the white capped peaks emerged and disappeared well above us at each turn in the river valley. Manaslu at 8100 m and Annapurna 2 at just under 8000m were the two highest peaks often constantly in view.

Then - snow fell heavily and unexpectedly for a day at Manang, blocking the Thorung La pass over to the Mustang region and stopping the flow of booted feet with temperatures plummeting to minus five, so we made a slow retreat down hill. Our companions along the route amounted to 200 trekkers a day, numerous mule trains carrying supplies to the trekkers lodges, human mules carrying trekkers personal belongings - including their tooth brushes. One young, strapping Dutch lad was seen carrying just his teddy bear (!) while his wizened, old porter carried everything else.

These human mules carried eggs, sofas, live chickens, watches and sun glasses as well as plate glass, water containers, camping equipment (we carried all our own stuff and had no guide - it really wasn't necessary on such a well worn trail). Quite a different world from the Lycian Way, Stewart Island circuit and other long treks we have done around the world. We really saw the mules and the humans as slaves. The yaks were spoilt in comparison, as they are so valuable.

We are now off to the Annapurna Sanctuary trek for 10 days where avalanches can be a risk factor.

We've managed to keep to $25 a day quite comfortably. There are no 3 star lodges and they are all much the same in standard and price.

2011 Nepal
12/11/2011 | Jean
Hi you two! About a month away from Atlantic crossing so will let you know what its like. Hope you are keeping warm. Cheers Jean and Alan
Alison and Geoff; Clear skies - cool
08/10/2011, Kathmandu

This shows one of Kathmandu's busy old town streets.

Now into our first day of travel after a complicated series of plane connections from Crete to Kathmandu via Athens and Istanbul. Making plans today and getting permits before starting on the Annapurna Circuit in a day or two.

Kathmandu even after the cruise ship mania in Crete seemed a little chaotic to say the least! It's even more of stark contrast to rural Greece, which seems so orderly in comparison. Not sure if we could stand more than a few days dodging just about everything and anything that moves.

2011 Nepal
27/10/2011 | Just Jane
Great to read your log again... have fun with your next adventure.
The aged hippies in the Canaries
18/12/2011 | John and Sherrill Grainger
Congrats on your trecking stories. It is wonderful to hear from you and catch up with your adventures. We only sail in circles at Port Stephens, but it is still fun in a little boat.
18/12/2011 | Heather Johnston
Great shots of the Mountain. Congradulatiions on the 25 year milestone. Great stuff.
Arrival in Crete - sailing over for 2011!
Alison and Geoff, gusty north westerlies
27/09/2011, Aghios Nikolaos, Crete

Pic shows kingfisher at the marina - there's only one and probably too tame and trusting - apparently its partner was eaten by one of the local feral cats!

Now securely berthed in Aghios Nikolaos marina getting ready to fly to Kathmandu with the many last minute jobs on the boat still to do before we leave, including replacing the marina's rather spindly looking stern ropes. The marina is run by the town council and is generally well run, small and compact. The council threw a party in the square by the lake yesterday with music, Italian flag waving and free Cretan food, beer and raki to which the whole town it seemed was invited. The little city was celebrating International Tourism Day, which may be the saviour of the local economy in these troubled times - the town is still teaming with tourists on sun loungers and many cruise ships make Aghios Nikolaos one of their destinations as well! There is not much blue and white in evidence and it doesn't quite have the stunning scenery of Santorini.

We had left Santorini more or less on a whim at about 11 pm at night, and safely navigated our way through the middle of the caldera and out into the Aegean. The wind forecast on Bouy weather showed 9 to 12 knots WNW / NNW winds. As it turned out we actually had a great beam wind that blowed at a magic 10 to 15 knots right across to St John's Point (Ak. Aghios Yiannis) at the entrance to the Mirabella Gulf on Crete. As we approached the coast, the wind freshened to the occasional 17 knots, still on the beam. We thought that it would probably lighten as we sailed into the lee of the cliffs but it didn't. Up to 28 knot gusts swept down from the cliffs as we turned towards the entrance to Spinalonga lagoon. Never mind. The water was a vivid deep blue colour and we could see 20 metres down to the sandy bottom. This was easily the best 80 mile sail we have had either in Turkey or Greece so far.

Spinalonga is a fantastic anchorage as long as the wind does not blow too strongly from the North but it is possible to find an anchorage for pretty much every wind direction- the water is clear and shallow and the lagoon is entirely enclosed and it is easy to access either the shops and services on one side or the uninhabited peninsula and the fortress on Spinalonga island on the other. The entrance to the lagoon is 8 m deep at first then it does drop to around 3m as you progress a mile or so southwards and then off the small sun lounger lined town of Elounda it rises again to a depth of 5m - all in sand and no weed. Winds sprung up to 25 knots now and again while we were there but the holding was good and access to the shore was still easy. There is a regular bus service into Aghios Nikolaos.

Our gentle Grecian gyration has been just that for most of the nearly five months since leaving Finike. We have clocked up about eleven hundred miles but have had only one annoying windy bash - inside the protected Evia channel at that. Having the modem and access almost everywhere to good weather forecasting sites as well as not having too much distance to cover made all the difference.

Crete is our 24th Greek island and easily the biggest. The potential for exploring looks good -there are plenty of mountains and tracks to tramp. Aghios Nikolaos is a touristy town with the fish and chip mob burning themselves to pieces on the beaches at the moment but no doubt it will have to transform itself back into a genuine Greek small city by the time we return from Nepal.

2011/2012 Greece
Moored in the middle of a volcanic caldera
Alison, light to moderate North west winds
16/09/2011, Santorini

We left the southern anchorage of Manganari Bay on the island of Ios with the aim of arriving at the moorings below Oia on Santorini at around 10 am with the expectation there might be a free one. The ten mile crossing had a mix of winds so common amongst the Cyclades. On this short trip it gradually increased to 15 and then died again to 5 knots as we motorsailed into the caldera at Santorini.

The island villages were severely damaged in the 1956 earthquake but the towns of Oia and Fira gazed down on top of us as we sailed under them, restored to their original states, mainly white but not quite the same sugar cube, flat roofed style as the other Cyclades. Quite an amazing colour contrast with the barren volcanic cliffs below them and the deep blue waters of the caldera.

We wandered around the moorings for a few minutes, wondering which were available to be used as there were a number of local boats cruising around the caldera who might own the moorings. We grabbed a conveniently placed one drumming up in our minds what reason we could give for taking one if a belligerent boat owner turned up, shaking his fist.

Once tied up we took the dinghy over to the taverna where the zig zag track could be seen winding its way up the hill. We walked about 3/4 of the way up and discovered the falling rocks warning sign at the bottom was actually a full slippage of the cliff and not even a fear freak would attempt to cross it.

In the end we took the dinghy around to the small port and tied it up at the rather bouncy wall and then walked up the road to the top where the scenery over the caldera was quite captivating. There were at least three cruise ship loads of people wandering through the narrow streets of Oia.

2011/2012 Greece
Odd winds at the heart of the Aegean
Geoff - hot and calm
12/09/2011, Schinoussa, Little Cyclades

Pic shows from the top: The Little Cyclades, Paros street, windmill, Kalando Bay on Naxos with huge superyacht (not us!); Naxos town - the Hora and the Apollo temple columns with Saraoni framed behind.

In a little bay on Schinoussa island in the little Cyclades - left Naxos this morning. A very tight squeeze in this tiny place, but quite nice. Even more of a tight squeeze when a huge fuel tanker arrived to berth at the quay later in the day, but I digress.

The gap beween Paros and Naxos is a natural wind acceleration zone, so it was no surprise to get a nice downwind sleigh ride to the south of Naxos, but the wind seemed to vanish down there - we even had a sea breeze in the afternoon. From a vantage point high above Kalando bay in the morning we cold see white tops streaming down each side of Naxos and far to the west and east, but a total calm to the south. Today was the same - calm all the way to Schinoussa and a light sea breeze.

Schinoussa is a sleepy little place - the village is cycladic blue and white with the now familiar flat roofs and narrow streets on top of the hill above the little port. From the highest point on the island a fantastic view in every direction - towards Turkey was Amorgos, Koufonissos, Keros and Donoussa; towards Libya - Santorini, Amalfi and was that Crete? Towards the Greek mainland - Irakleia, Ios, Sikinos and Paros. All surrounded by a sparkling blue sea.

It certainly seemed that we were in the heart of the Aegean.

2011/2012 Greece
Blue and White in the Cyclades
Alison, calm
06/09/2011, Naxos island

Heather swapped a Bundabergle of Queensland zucchinis for a churchload of Parian Greek blue and white.

Now anchored behind the breakwater at Naxos island - very hazy, with no wind -again! Naxos is only a short hop from Paros, but is bigger and more rugged. An abandoned temple is oddly situated at the foot of the breakwater and the typically blue and white town is scattered down the hill below a Venetian castle.

Paros was certainly quite unusual with dominant white and blue colours painted on the buildings with their completely flat roofs adorned with an assortment of chimneys and dovecotes.

Hiring a car was the best way to see the island even though, as with most of the 18 islands we have visited, the government bus company KTEL puts on a regular service to most key places on each of the island. There is a great mix of transportation racing around on the narrow winding roads.

The tourists dash around on motor bikes and quad bikes and there is actually nowhere to park a car in Parakoia by evening as everyone takes to the town at night. The anchorage for a change is only 5m in sand but there are tie up facilities with power and water as well.

2011/2012 Greece
Into the Cyclades - the windy isles?
Geoff - hot, light wind from the North
01/09/2011, Between Syros and Paros - the Central Cyclades, Greece

Pic shows the old town above Erimopoulos, Syros island in the Cyclades.

Motoring between Finikas harbour on Syros island to Parakoia on Paros - the strong meltemi while behind Evia island eased to nothing, quickly, and we have spent the last few days in almost windless conditions moving out to Kea island, then Syros. It seems as if it's hard to get the right balance - when the meltemi is blowing at this time of the year its too windy, and if it's not - there's no wind!

Another meltemi is due to start in a day or two so we'll be staying on Paros until next week, when we will head off towards Santorini, then Crete.

The Cyclades seem dry and barren - they have a reputation for being in the windiest part of Greece, half way between the Greek mainland and Asia Minor. Amazingly, communities prosper and thrive on these rocky lumps. We spent a few hours wandering around Erimoupolos - Syros' (and the Cyclades') largest town - 14,000 people live here - and the place was buzzing with activity. Friend Heather from Bundaberg is soon off back to Athens on a short European tour before resuming grandmother duties in Belgium for the last few weeks.

A few days later - still on Paros. The wind is up, bringing cooler conditions and sweeping away the mozzies. Have explored Paros by car - amazing architecture here in the Cyclades with the profusion of white washed houses with Greek blue everywhere, flat roofs, dovecots and windmills. What is more amazing is that somehow all the modern buildings also have white walls, blue windows, flat roofs, dovecots and all - even the local post office, the Carrefour and the Cosmote (govt telephone shop).

The visual appearance is something of an illusion, however, as the social relationships represented by these buildings are totally different. The new white washed mansions are apart, separated from each other by barbed wire, Prozochi skylos (Beware of the dog) signs whereas the original village buildings were knitted together by family connections and the need for cooperation. The new mansions have family churches within their compounds - blue and white - it's true - but not places where the community gets together, gossips and bets on God. A mark of progress seen everywhere in the Western world, perhaps.

Paros is a dry, brown rocky lump like the other Cyclades. It has marble to dig up and sell - apparently the marble from here was used for Napoleon's tomb and the Venus de Milo statue. Old terraces indicate crops were grown here - like Turkey, the new crop of tourists from the mainland and real estate seem to have supplanted the wheat, olives and goats.

2011/2012 Greece
South Evia
Alison - strong meltemi
26/08/2011, Aliverion

The passage down through South Evia wasn't quite as peaceful as the North. The unmanaged port in Halkida breathed hardly a whisper of wind, but once we had left we felt the full force of the Meltemi as we went under the suspension bridge to Eritria. The 12 or so miles was at least in our favour but heading on towards Aliverion in an easterly we hit upwards of 40 knots on the nose. We retreated after a couple of miles out on the 1st attempt but the next day a similar pattern emerged but we plugged on to the sheltered harbour of Aliverion with the idea of hanging out there for a few days. The weather forecast was issuing gale warnings anyway. Even though the seas aren't particularily big, the force of the wind is the same as the open waters of the Aegean.

We are now nicely anchored in the port. It's a little noisy from the night activities but there is a good bus service, so we can explore the surroundings in relative comfort.

There was a great Saturday market on the road to town - almost like a Turkish market - cheap and varied. We took a bus over the island to the town of Kymi, perched above the East coast port of the same name that serves the island of Skyros. The Aegean was definitely in angry mode as the waves crashed over the breakwaters. On the present forecast, the wind is due to die off in two days with enough respite we hope to get well into the Cyclades.

2011/2012 Greece

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