Friday night, Global Volunteers had a very late dinner (9:30 PM) at the Hotel Handakas where we stayed, to celebrate with our hosts, the mayor of Gazi and his assistants. It was quite a fancy dinner for this hotel, and we were thanked as well, and all given certificates from the mayor and a promotional video about Gazi. It was a fitting way to end the program. (This program was designed to be two weeks long, with the option of one week, but everyone had signed on for two weeks, so there a nice feeling of closure.
The next morning we had breakfast and went our separate ways - some back home, and others to explore for a few days or longer on their own.
We took the fast ferry to Santorini at 9:45, and with a calm sea, the ride was very smooth. Our cab driver had said that we would see a lot of the people on the ferry around Santorini since it is quite a small island. And we did! Three other volunteers were on the ferry to Santorini with us, and we met some people from Mississippi on the boat. The crew provided some impromptu entertainment with musical instruments and singing at the back of the enclosed seating area. The entry into Santorini by boat is quite dramatic. The island used to be a typical circular island until about 1500 BC when the volcano under the island erupted violently (worse than the more recent Krakatoa that erupted in the early 1800's AD). This caused a tsumani hundreds of feet high around the area, including Crete. One side of Santorini collapsed altogether, and the sea rushed into a caldera several hundred feet deep. Now the island is much smaller, a semi-circle, with dramatic cliffs dropping to the sea. There have been minor eruptions since then, creating some small islands in the caldera, some still slightly active.
Once we docked, we found a man with a sign with "Anne Barker" on it, and he called on his cell phone to the car rental company in Fira at the top of the cliffs. They took about 20 minutes to drive down, and drove us back up to the town to do the paperwork. Fira is the bustling touristy town where cruise ship passengers come in almost every day. The driving there is a bit hairy, but we were soon out of town heading along the main road along a narrow ridge, with the ocean on both sides, towards the village of Ia. We are staying at a place called Chelidonia Villas, an excellent choice. The village of Ia was completely destroyed in 1956 (AD) by an earthquake, and everything has been rebuilt to look traditional, but with modern facilities and is very beautiful. The units are spread out on the hillside, and there are at least a hundred winding steps down the cliffside to our unit, and that is still near the top. We have a villa with a living room, bedroom, and a kitchenette. It feels isolated, though it is right in the village and actually crowded up next to and beyond other houses, and quite private. There is a big patio with umbrella, table and chairs, and an unbelievable view! It is pure white on the outside, and seems to be dug into the hillside, giving the feeling of a cave in some ways,
After settling in (for four nights), we trekked back up the cliff to find some lunch, which we enjoyed at a cliffside outdoor restaurant. The main street along the clifftop is narrow and pedestrian only, full of charming shops and restaurants - and there was an interesting wedding going on the square by the church - ten Chinese couples all having a big wedding ceremony and dancing and singing!. Later, after some well-needed rest, we once again walked up to another and similar restaurant, where we encountered two of our volunteers, and after dinner ran into the group from Mississippi. The taxi driver was right!
After a good night's sleep in our cave-bedroom, we both woke up quite congested - yuck. Those darn colds are not over, and we are still coughing (about 11 out of 14 of the volunteers got this bug). However, it is very, very dry here too - clothes dry very quickly on the line outside. So we hope that these days of rest and relaxation will help get us back to full health. In the meantime, we are certainly staying in shape with all this walking and climbing! Breakfast was right here at our own table, with food bought yesterday here in Ia - a nice change of pace from the scheduled meals up until now. The weather is very warm and sunny, with a cooling breeze.