Saturday, 11 March 2023

Heading back to Nepal for another trek

It has been 4 years since our last visit to Nepal (2019). We are excited to be heading back for another trek. This one will be in the Everest region (but NOT going to "Everest Base Camp"!). Our 16th trek.

The 2019 trek had problems healthwise... we're hoping for a better trek this time.

We will be regularly posting a daily (end of day) position on our tracking page:

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Athens, then back home


View south from Mount Lycabettus

Leaving Tinos, we caught a ferry to Rafina (Fast Ferries Theologos P).  Arriving Rafina at 530pm, we had booked a Welcome Pickups taxi to take us to our hotel in Athens. A little pricey, but it got us into our room by 630pm and out for dinner (the alternative would have been the KTEL bus, and we wouldn't have made it to our hotel until 7:30-8:30pm).

Athens' busyness was a bit of a shock. After 4 weeks on various quiet islands, we weren't really ready for crowds and noise. For many, however, Athens is a pretty interesting place (and is even for us at times, but then it seems to become just too much).

First day, we opted to walk up Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in central Athens (277m). It was our first visit and the slog was well worth it: great views!

At Mount Lycabettus

The second day, we again opted to do some walking where we've not been before: Philopapou Hill, directly across from the Acropolis. Lots of good paths for walking, including past "Socrate's Prison" (rumoured but not likely).

Mt. Lycabettus (from Philopapou Hill)


Last selfie, with Acropolis behind (from Philopapou)

Mt. Lycabettus and Acropolis (from Philopapou)

We had planned (and paid for) three nights in Athens, but had to change our plans due to a general strike called for November 9th, the day of our 6:55am flight. First indications were that all public transport, including taxis, would be shut down, and we would not be able to get to the airport. So, we booked a night out at the Sofitel at the airport ($$$) and checked out of our hotel in Athens at about 5 pm (no refund) and took the bus out to the airport. It kinda ruined our last-night plans, but it ensured all went smoothly the next morning.  (As it turned out, we might have been able to get a legal taxi/car service at 4 am, but we didn't get this updated information until after we made the changes.) Strikes in Greece are quite common (our leaving day in 2019 also had a bus/metro, but not taxi, strike).

Last night for feeding the cats

Flights back to Vancouver (via Frankfurt) all went well, though we didn't get much sleep (noisy kids). Arrived to a sunny afternoon in Vancouver and an easy drive home to Whistler.


A truly great trip. (Can't wait to return....)

Sunday, 6 November 2022

Tinos... perfect for hikers!


Hiking trails on Tinos (from "Tinos Trails" app)

We decided to spend a week on Tinos. We'd read that even in Summer Tinos wasn't overrun with tourists (are you detecting a theme yet?) and that it had well-organized hiking trails. As it turned out, both are true (at least, for early November).

Being early November, many restaurants and hotels were shutting down for the season. Fortunately, we had a great little studio ("Acanthus Houses") near the port and main town (referred to by tourists as "Tinos town" but known as "Chora" to locals). Chora was larger than we expected, but still relatively small.

Chora (Tinos Town) waterfront

There were many hiking trails to choose from, all reasonably well described by an app devoted to hiking on Tinos called "Tinos Trails". We made good use of this helpful app. Some required transportation to the trailhead -- fortunately the local bus system worked very well for us (the scheduled times were accurate and dependable).

Trail markers, sign posts, and even maps were regularly present on all the main trails

We did 4 hikes over the 6 days we were on Tinos, plus walks around Chora as well as to the lovely beach at Kionia (2km out of town; 21°C sea temp was just warm enough for a swim). Most hikes were 2.5-3 hours (excluding breaks or bus transport), and most took us to multiple villages up in the mountains.

On the way up from Kionia; village of Ktinados in the distance

Approaching Ktinados


Looking down at Chora (from below Ktinados)

All over Tinos, we came across Tinos Dovecotes. These were used for breeding of doves (for food), and became a symbol of prosperity and prestige on Tinos. Apparently, there are over 900 of them on Tinos.

Tinian dovecote

Hiking near Steni and Falatados

Looking up at Exombourgo (site of a ruined castle)

Some beach time at Kionia

Hiking near Pyrgos (the marble capital...)

Hiking down from Pyrgos to Panormos

Long, hot slog up from beach at Rochari to village of Platia above Pyrgos (mostly rock stairs,  reminding us of trekking in Nepal)

Catching the bus in Pyrgos back to Chora

Chora on Tinos is the site of Ieros Naos Evangelistrias, a major pilgrimage site. The nun Pelagia, who became Agia Pelagia (Saint Pelagia), was from Tinos and had her visions of Panagia Evangelistria,  which led to the discovery of an ancient icon of the annunciation.

Chora: Ieros Naos Evangelistrias

Saint Pelagia of Tinos

As secular as we are, we felt it appropriate to make our own pilgrimage to the place of our boat's namesake, Agia Pelagia.*

Sadly, the week went by too quickly, and it was time to start our trek home. First, taking a ferry to Rafina and then taxi to visit Athens for a few days.

* There is another "Saint Pelagia" (of Antioch), but our Pelagia (the boat) is named after Agia Pelagia of Tinos.

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Syros... again!


Walking behind Ano Syros, looking down at Ermoupoli

We first visited Syros in 2019, and had to return. Ermoupoli is one of the most beautiful seaside towns (small city?) we've seen in Greece.

See our 2019 post about Syros: 


We took an overnight Blue Star ferry from Rhodes to Syros, arriving Syros at 3:50am. True to her word, Jessica at Ostria Suites was there waiting for us to check us in. (Greek hospitality: another reason we love Greece!)


We did some walks on Syros, and timed our stay there to coincide with Greece's big national holiday "Όχι (Ohi) Day". We were in Rhodes for the 2019 holiday Όχι Day, so we were wondering what it would be like in Syros. Syros extended their celebrations over two days. The main parade in Ermoupoli's beautiful Miaouli Square was similar to that in Rhodes, except at the end: we were treated to a show of Greek dances by locals in their traditional costumes. So many different costumes from a relatively small island! Quite something. (Dancing was not a feature in celebrations in Rhodes.)


The parade in Miaouli Square: local traditional costumes of Syros

Dancers after parade ended

 A brief video of dancers...



Our walks included up to Ano Syros (oldest settlement on Syros; Roman Catholic as opposed to Greek Orthodox of rest of Syros; on hill behind Ermoupoli), around the hills behind Ano Syros and Ermoupoli, and over on the west coast of Syros at Kini.

Looking up to Ano Syros from Ermoupoli

Narrow walkways of Ano Syros

Looking down on Ermoupoli from Ano Syros

Kini (Syros)

Michelle on the trail to Delphini Beach (from Kini)

Delphini Beach, looking South towards Kini

Waiting for the bus in Kini, Michelle makes another feline friend (one of a thousand on this trip)


We only spent 4 days on Syros. It seemed too short. It's a beautiful place and essentially untouched by mass tourism. Shhhh, don't tell anyone!


Our next stop was new-to-us Tinos, only 30 minutes away by ferry.

Sunday, 23 October 2022

Back to Greece: Bicycling the Dodecanese Islands

View of the Lindos Akropolis from hike in the hills above

After not leaving British Columbia for 3 years due to COVID-19, we've finally returned to Greece, starting again in Rhodes. For the first 11 days, we have been doing a bike trip on 3 islands: Rhodes, Leros (3 nights based in Lakki) and Kos (3 nights based in Mastichari).


FYI: The bike company provided turn-by-turn instructions which we printed out, as well as "gpx" files we could use in mapping apps on our phone (we used OSMand). We found the printed instructions impossible to follow or use while riding. With our phone on a mount (we supplied) on David's handlebars, the gpx files and app saved the day.


After a couple days of riding in familiar places on Rhodes, we took a high-speed catamaran ferry to Leros (our first visit there). Arrival at Agia Marina on Leros was windy but picturesque. Our hotel had a person waiting to pickup our luggage while we rode the 4 km to the town of Lakki (including a steep uphill).

Lakki is an architectural oddity. Built by the Italians when they occupied the Dodecanese islands, the buildings are mostly "Rationalist-Fascist" style, completely different from the rest of Leros (here's a good article on Lakki). It turned out our Hotel also tried to be different... in a minimalist fashion (but it was just fine for us).

Hotel Bianco in funky Lakki (Leros)

Not many tourists stay in Lakki, except for yachties, as Lakki has a good harbour, with marinas, calm anchorage and service facilities (indeed, there are many nice and good anchorages around Leros). We sort-of liked Lakki, but after biking around the island, we could see other places are far more attractive to tourists.

Tea break on Panteli beach (before the big hill)

Panteli seemed a very nice place (for us tourists)

Looking down on Panteli (on the way up to the Castle)

Towering over Panteli (and Agia Marina), is a castle. There is a long set of stairs, but we chose to ride our bikes up the road (tough for Michelle on her regular bike; not so bad on David's e-bike). When we got up there, we found great views and a closed castle (closed for a few hours... we weren't about to wait).

Stairs down from the castle (looking down at Agia Marina)

We rode our bikes up to the castle (which was closed, of course)

Looking across from Alinda over to Agia Marina and castle above (Leros)
Alinda (also called Alinta) is another popular tourist area. It seemed nice, but was very quiet when we were there (closing down for the season).

Alinda was also the first place we "lost" each other. The e-bike can result in David being a bit too far ahead and Michelle missing a turn. We found each other again after 15 or so minutes (M thought more like 30 min), and after some "discussion", we worked out how to ensure that wouldn't happen again....
Off to Kos (via Kalymnos)
Next we were off to Kos. A rough ferry boat ride to Pothia, the main port of Kalymnos, then a rolly claustrophobic packed into a tiny ferry (masks on!) to Mastichari on Kos.

Supposedly we could have done a bike tour on Kalymnos, but we deemed the time too tight.  So we rode around for 30 minutes then had lunch. It was Sunday and Pothia was packed (mostly Greeks); up on the hill at a small church there was a big party going on which regularly setoff dynamite (yes, dynamite!). All too loud and crazy to us (after quiet Leros).

Our lovely hotel in Mastichari (Kos)
Fortunately, Mastichari was a lovely seaside resort, without noise (no discos!), and our hotel (and its staff) lovely.

Our first bike ride on Kos took up a long but gentle hill and back down to Kardamena. Kardamena is a very popular tourist beach resort; too popular and tacky for us (we hated it!). After the usual tea break we got out of town, at first riding along the ocean, but then heading uphill. A long sometimes steep uphill. A real workout... for Michelle (hey, even for David). Great views up top, some animals, and a lovely ride back to Mastichari.
Michelle riding up long hill on Kos

Animals along the way

A very large and friendly dog in Pyli
The next day's ride was easier, and almost entirely on small country roads. An oddity was a park in a forest ("Plaka") with dozens of peacocks (and peahens) roaming wild. There was also a cat rescue group with dozens of cats lolling around. The peacocks enjoyed the cat nibble.  (FYI: cats are ubiquitous in Greece. Almost all (maybe all) we've seen are in excellent shape and seem well fed. Locals put out feeding stations and water everywhere. Michelle is in cat heaven.)

Peacocks and cats at Plaka (Kos)

Did a short detour to the Antimachea castle. Bike directions didn’t make much ado about this castle, so we were quite surprised when we saw how large it once was. Not many tourists seem to visit it, but it was worth it. And great views. 

At the Antimachea castle

Antimachea castle was huge!

Riding the small roads of Kos

Soon it was time to head back to Rhodes. We had an easy mostly flat bike ride (36 km) to Kos town, which was busy but seemed quite nice. Then a "milk run" fast catamaran ferry stopping at several islands on the way to Rhodes. Not at all crowded and relatively comfortable.
Back to Rhodes
We spent a lot of time in Rhodes town in 2019; we like it very much and are quite comfortable here. So we added 4 extra days. (We moved hotels to our 2019 favourite: Rhodian Gallery... still great.)

"Discovered" a new favourite restaurant ("At Thomas") in the old town. Actually, a dinner there was included as part of our bike package, and we liked it so much we returned. (Generally, we find places in old town are too touristy and overpriced, At Thomas was neither.)

"At Thomas": a favourite restaurant (in Rhodes Old Town)
Of course, we also went to our 2019 favourite restaurant: "The Tall Guy" (in New Town), which contines to be excellent. 

Went for a long walk along the west coast beaches and back through town streets on the east side. Also went for a couple of swims at Elli Beach (water still warm, about 23°C).

Walk along west side/coast of Rhodes Town
As we did in 2019, we took a bus to just before Lindos (Vlicha), and hiked the hills behind Lindos down to Lindos. We were pretty tired at the end, so hopped on a slow bus (another milk run...) back to Rhodes Town instead of visiting touristy Lindos.


Sadly, we had no apples (hiking from Vlicha to Lindos, Rhodes)

Hiking the hills above Lindos (Akropolis in the distance)

Greece is proving it deserves its place as one of our favourites!

Next stop: Syros