Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Journey to the Dock and Back.

It was finally there - unfolding in front of my eyes, the most famous port in Greece, the place that takes the color white with blue accents to a whole new glory - Santorini! And before my mind processed the events of my vacation into memories, there was one thing about Santorini that made an instant impression on me - the journey to the dock to board a cruise ship that took us on an excursion to the volcano, hot springs and the visual of the famous Santorini sunset. Why was this a memorable trip you might ask, or go about guessing that it could have been a treat to the eyes to have made an instant impression.  The truth was that, it was anything but a treat - the journey part of it, strangely mimicking life itself.

Unaware of what was in store, or barely registering the fact that we had no power in the guest house to cook that Indian meal we were planning to cook - we set out on a good half kilometer walk to take the cable car to the dock. "You'll have to start now to catch the cable car" the land lord warned us - "Or there will be the cruise ship traffic that would delay you" - It was a good couple of hours before the time we were supposed to report at the dock to board our boat and none of us were in the slightest of hurry. All we had was a meager breakfast and we set out - without having lunch - leaving the soaked rice and cut veggies on a stove that was a mere surface without the electricity that warms it.

The walk was breathtaking, exactly what you'd expect form a famous tourist spot. The sheer architecture of the place as to how endless steps that tumbled down into facilities of all kinds - guest houses, restaurants, churches and shopping - all interwoven into a perfectly fit jigsaw puzzle is nothing but a modern marvel. The city clings to the cliff for life, unfolding a surreal scene that every pair of eyes should feast upon. The unapologetic sun frolics in glee while sweat glides down your face and the back, brightening the white of the island to ten fold, to a point of blinding you if you have no shades protecting your peepers.

It didn't take us long to figure out that if there was electricity missing in our guest house, it would be missing in the cable car facility as well. There wasn't an understanding of what we were into. The steps were paved with huge rocks that were protruding out and were very steep. Some chunks of rocks were smoothed to perfection, acting as perfect slides to make feet slip off of them and on one such rocks did I stumble upon and landed on my butt - with a perfect thud. Talk about ammunition, and we had it in the right dose all along those 600 (I heard) steep steps - herds of donkeys going back and forth, some by themselves, some with passengers on their saddles - passengers that displayed varied emotions from wonder to fear - from glee to boredom. They swayed gently as the donkeys carried their weight up and down and for once I made sense out of the way the steps were paved - to accommodate the hooves of the donkeys and to prevent them from sliding off like yours truly did :-)) Now that isn't it. Mr. Sun was there of course, mockingly showering his light - or glare in this case, causing our tongues to get parched and our eyes to get burned. I was armed with a pair of over-sized sunglasses that covered a sizable part of my over sized forehead, but the moment I landed on my butt and got up pretending as if nothing happened while bits of  gasps and howls caught my ear, Aarti burst out into a cry. She was obviously scared for me - but her reason to cry was that her eyes that weren't covered with shades (like mine) were burning. Her tender face turned a faded beet red and I could very well imagine what her eyes were going through - without letting out any kind of "I am injured" clues, I casually took off my glasses and placed them on her bridge, covering her tiny face like a shield.
The dock was visible down below but looked like zillions of miles away - for each landing we encountered on the zigzag steps, I let out a sigh of relief thinking the destination wasn't far away. In the mean while, the sun acted as a perfect conductor to the stench of donkey poo. The mind was not receptive of the breathtaking views, it only wandered from one petty care to another and the kiddo in tow acted perfectly at ease, often pausing and pleasing the passers by with her high and mighty 'animal activist' speech. "Look at the donkeys" she would go - "Look how sad they look" - "Look how the people are laughing riding on them - look how the donkey is carrying all that load" "Look how hot it is" - these exclamations preceded by a "Look how" got us some attention - people smiling, nodding in agreement and amusement. I for once stopped thinking about how far the dock was and got to walking down. I was convinced of two things - that my daughter is an activist in making and the stench would make me throw up and in that preoccupation of a mixture of emotions, I completely forgot that if the power isn't back by the time our excursion ends, we would have to take the same path uphill.

We did, finally, reach the dock amid a  heaving group of elderly tourists that were boarding a cruise ship that was taking them around the inhabited islands on Greece. And the crankiness that eluded the kiddo while she was engrossed in the painful and sad expressions of the donkeys suddenly came back in a flood. I'll fast forward to what happened on our way back, and hopefully record the experience of the excursion sometime later.

It was after watching the sun sink into the horizon that we headed back to Kira - and in the meantime, we did realize that we would have to figure out our way back to the island and the guesthouse. There were only three options for us to get there - two of which (the cable car and the donkey ride) are currently ruled out. I kept checking to see if I spotted any lights on the island and in the twilight, I did see some flickering lamps and rejoiced - only to be completely disappointed to be greeted with an almost deserted and a dull looking dock. The steps were not lit owing to the outage and the sun was almost gone with the twilight in tow. The only sensible option that we were left with was the donkey ride cause all of us had apprehensions about walking on a deserted and dark path all the way uphill. Herds of donkeys were being guided uphill and the guy renting them tried to persuade us to take a ride on them. "I will walk and only walk" Aarti announced. " I am not getting on the donkey" - It took me a few deep breaths and a few days of my life expectancy to convince her to get on a donkey as that was the only option we had in a seemingly dark alley. She agreed hesitantly on a condition that she'd ride it along with Sena Mamma (her God mom) and not me.

Now I have two troubles, one is with starting and the other with stopping! That being said, I was strategically placed as the first one to do the honors of taking my own donkey to lumber upward to God knows where. I shut my mind off and got onto one. The guy showed the euros into his pocket, instructed me to place my feet into the footrests that were on the either side of the donkey, hold on to the handle on the saddle and not scream as it would scare the animal away. Little did he know that I was on the verge of being permanently mute for the rest of my life. Before I knew, I could sense being taken away from my party, ever so gently, roughly or plain crudely, I know not - cause I was brain dead by then. I didn't feel a thing except the though about leaving my baby back and what would unfold in my absence, if the rest of them would follow suit or the animal lover would just convince them to walk and if that really happened as to how long they would take to meet me at the top.

The ride was punctuated with long pauses - the donkey would take a break to breath every few steps - the first time around, I didn't know if he would walk or just go on a strike and let me perish there. But he did walk eventually. I knew he was hungry cause at one point, he hung his head off the cliff and almost threw me off it. I held to the handle and chanted the name of God - and then out of sheer 'fear for life' started to converse with my ride. There weren't many passers by - a donkey or two that carried other tourists that were for some reason shouting in utter happiness. I didn't know if something was wrong with me or with them. May be I was too wound up to enjoy the thrill of a never before ride in an exotic destination? Know what? I am quite capable of doing that! - I addressed the ass with all kinds of endearments and for that moment I did mean it with all my heart - my life was entrusted onto him and he was in a way my co passenger on that fearful ride. The dreamer in me started thinking in his perspective - if my borderline obese frame was too much for him to haul or if he was tired from all those trips he'd have taken that day. It seemed like an endless voyage - something that felt like sleep walking - and finally, he came to a halt right under the ass of another ass - and a stern voice came shouting at me saying "Get off"

"Who me?" was my meek answer and experience told me that he didn't hear what I said. (I am often told that I talk in a very low frequency BTW) The voice came back with a louder and harsher tone this time and I mustered all my strength to shout out " I cannot - I need help" Just then another donkey came and halted a few steps in front of mine and I could see a tall silhouette in the dark - my Greek God! "Help me get off" I almost yelled - forgetting the magic words of manners and the form moved towards me - before I knew, he lifted me off the donkey like I would lift a two year old (after all I was not borderline obese, or he was really the Greek God that materialized to help me) and placed me gently on the step. All along I was holding on to his tee - I straightened myself and before I could come to senses and mutter a thank you - my Greek God disappeared in the dark.

Isn't it strange how a little fragment of our life could mimic it in whole? I lived a life time in that journey from the dock to back - from forgetting to enjoy my scenery while fretting about the journey ahead, to all the smiles, the fall, the tears, the exhaustion and finally the treat of watching the sunset and then back to being alone and entrusting my life to an ass - which was no less than a steed by the way and the apprehensions, the reeling thoughts, the worry about what I left behind and finally, the invisible hand that lifted me off of my cares and placed me on the ground.

Life - Is Beautiful regardless of what it takes you through...


For those of you who have stayed with me till now and are curious what happened to the rest of my gang - The electricity supply was resumed shortly after I got to the top and I could see the illumination on the path - I traced back a few steps to hear a gleeful voice - that of my animal activist daughter who decided and probably imposed it on the rest of them - to walk back in that dark.  They did come walking and I was the one that had to abuse an ill fed beast....Shame shame!

:-))





5 comments:

  1. Many thanks for posting this, It?s simply what I was researching for on bing. I?d rather a lot relatively hear opinions from a person, barely than an organization internet web page, that?s why I like blogs so significantly. Many thanks!
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  2. Ha ha ha ! The first story about Greece that I read was about Gerald Durrell and his pet Donkey ! This was some adventure that you had !

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  3. Santorini and donkeys and docks
    Wow laxmi I could imagine it all ;)
    U must have had hell lot of fun . Reminds me of my guest horse ride all by myself at nainital
    Had severe body aches and bum ache the next day but was worth it

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  4. It was first not guest !!

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  5. :D That was well narrated. A probably frightening ride for the first timers, but would be a daily routine for the beast. Quite some adventure! :)

    -Vaisakh

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