Yesterday I took a boat tour to the youngest volcanic landforms in the eastern Mediterranean, Nea Kameni. It is an active volcanic center, with rock features that date back about 400+ years, the most recent eruption happened in 1950. It is a rarity in the world because it is uninhabited, which makes it ideal for studying geological phenomenon. The island group of Santorini, Thira, Thirasia and Aspornisi, are what remains of what is known as the “Blue Volcano”. The last large eruption occurred in approximately 1700 BC destroying much of the then singular island, which was also the largest, most prosperous port in the Aegean Sea. Once the debris settled, the valley filled with water, creating the caldera that tourists flock to today. The mountains and cliffs that the buildings cling to were made from the crater of the volcano. Nea Kameni is the result of a slow formation of submarine effusions from an underwater volcano that eventually formed the two islets.
The boat left from the “Old Port” of Fira at 2pm and only held approximately 20 people. I expected a typical ocean tour type vessel complete with cheesy music and crappy booze. However, after I ran down the 600+ stairs from the city center to the actual port attempting to leap over donkey dung along the way), I was pleasantly surprised to see the vessel was an old sailboat. I grew up on boats, and it had been quite some time since I rode on a “real” one. (The boat in Cinque Terre was a tourist trap water taxi, thus does not count). I quickly climbed aboard and slid into the seat just off to the starboard side of the bow. (If you don’t know boat lingo, Google it and learn something new today and then you can kick the port side of my stern when you figure it out).
As we docked in the harbor, I was awe-struck by the simplicity of the exceptional natural beauty of the lunar like terrain. I knew that I would want some uninterrupted time to enjoy the unique preserve, so I hauled ass off the boat and up the mountain to beat everyone else on the boat to the top. While it wasn’t a competition, I know that tourists seem to have an issue with keeping their big mouths shut, even when asked to, so I wanted to understand what the guide meant when he said, “Just stand at the top of the volcano, and you will understand everything the island has to tell you.” He was absolutely correct. To stand at the top of the crater in silence, while listening to the rumble of life churning in the magma beneath the layers of rock and ocean, there was an ethereal quality in the connection I felt to the Earth that I have long been missing. To feel the soil and rocks under my feet, the smell of the ocean as the breeze blew under my nose, and sense my heart beat synchronize with the thunder of lava that resembles the angst of rage brought an overwhelming sensation of tranquility.
I was grateful to have those few moments, before the rest of the herd stumbled in, to this connection of acceptance that I am all of those things and I am allowed to be still like the earth, to vacillate with the ocean of change and to erupt with anger and fury, because soon the tides will recede, the anger will dissipate and my soul will be steady. But to bury it down deep in the layers of fake smiles and pleasantries creates larger disturbances than just being with what is. So…..there you go….I cried again…..and then I found some rocks of different colors to place amongst the other obscure gravesites on top of the crater and said prayers for Missy and Jack – and my heart is happy to know that their souls sing every day and that they are part of my soul (just as I carry all of you as part of me too).
It may be time to leave Europe soon – I am just getting way too damn sentimental and oober cheezy. In the meantime, I enjoyed every damn minute of that barren little island, and then got back in the boat to cruise of to the hot springs on the “old volcano island” that formed 400 years before the new one. I did not partake in the swimming in sulfur, because I think it is disgusting – but I did partake in a lovely afternoon nap on the bow of the old boat (ah how wonderful to be lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the waves).
I awoke as we arrived back at the Old Port, feeling energized enough to run up the 600+ steps to the top of the mountain. Let me just go on record and state that was a really DUMB idea. The steps are about 3-feet deep and I am guessing by the height of the mountain that I ran up and down the equivalent of an 18-story building today. My legs are now officially on strike, along with the rest of Greece. But, I did celebrate my victory at a little restaurant overlooking the cliffs. I even remembered to take pictures because I know some of you have asked (and I am obliging the request, even though I’m going on record to state I hate pictures of food). I had fried feta swimming in a tomato soup, domaldes and red wine.
After dinner, I joined the damn Albanian waiter named Beni from the restaurant at a local bar, had three beers (ew), and listened to bad 80s and 90s music (God bless the Greeks, too, for loving bad 80s music and Michael Jackson). I finished my day at 1am as I muddled my way back to my hotel and fell fast asleep.