Tuesday 12th to Thursday 14th July 2022
The Problem with Planning Ahead
I’ve decided to condense these three days into a single post as it makes more sense to tell the story in one go. My original plan was to leave Astypalea on Wednesday 13th July and head east to Kos where I’m due to meet my girlfriend at the weekend when she flies out from the UK. As you’ll see that didn’t quite work out as intended, but (spoiler alert), things turned out fine in the end.
Tuesday 12th – My Last Full Day on Astypalea (or so I thought…)
Having handed back my moped last night and explored all the spots on the island that I wanted to see, today was going to be a fairly quiet one. I had breakfast in my room again, then spent a few hours doing some work bits and starting to create my YouTube video on Astypalea.
To get out of my room for a while, I took my laptop down to a cafe called Dapia just behind the harbour, where I continued working and enjoyed an Espresso Freddo. At lunch time, I ordered a club sandwich and a beer, both of which were excellent.
Realising I hadn’t filmed much down at the harbour, I got my camera out and did some vlogging while walking around the harbour area, which then expanded to cover the other parts of the village. I had considered taking a bus to the beach, but time had slipped away and the opportunity had passed. Instead, I had an early shower and walked up to Chora with my camera, recording some more footage and taking photos as I explored.
For dinner, I ended up back at Barbarossa where I’d eaten on Sunday. This time I had cheese saganaki to start, followed by chicken rigatoni with cream and mushrooms. The food was okay, but not as good as the previous meal and I slightly regretted not trying somewhere new.
Wednesday 13th – Astypalea to Kos (or not…)
My ferry to Kos was due to depart at 13:35. I’d negotiated with the manager at Viva Mare to keep my room until Midday, so I had a good few hours to get packed and chill out. I spent most of them working on the YouTube video, then had a shower and finished packing, before handing my key back at reception and heading down to the port.
Before leaving the room, I’d emailed the manager at Hotel Sonia on Kos to confirm my reservation for Sunday – I’d gotten to know him quite well during my extended stay last year and we’d been in contact a month or so earlier to make plans for my time on Kos. I wasn’t actually staying at Sonia for the entire visit as, despite a good discount on their full rate, it was still quite expensive so I’d found a cheaper hotel nearby (Hotel Astron) where I planned to stay before my girlfriend arrived and for the few nights after she leaves.
With an hour or so to spare before the ferry arrived, I settled down at a table at Dapia cafe and used my laptop for a bit, while also ordering the same lunch as I’d had yesterday. This is where my day started to fall apart…
About half-way through lunch, my phone started ringing. It was a WhatsApp call from Hotel Sonia and I instinctively anticipated bad news. Afedoulis (the manager), was very apologetic but explained that he hadn’t registered my booking as he’d been expecting me to confirm it some time ago. Having not heard back from me, he assumed I didn’t want the room and was now fully booked! In fairness to him, I’d told him in the original email that I was thinking of staying some extra nights at his hotel either side of my girlfriend’s trip (before I decided it was cheaper to stay at Astron) and would let him know, but in my mind we had already secured the week my girlfriend was visiting so I saw no need to reconfirm it. Unfortunately, I think it was a language-barrier issue and just a misunderstanding.
This left me in a bit of a pickle as I now needed to quickly find accommodation so that my girlfriend and I wouldn’t end up sleeping on the beach for a week! Whilst on the phone to him, I said I understood and would try to find something else. He apologised again and said he would see if there was anything he could do to help and would be in touch. My first thought was to see if I could extend my existing booking at Hotel Astron, but upon calling them they didn’t have any rooms available for some of the week that I needed so that was a dead end.
To cut a long story short, Afedoulis came through for me and managed to offer us accommodation for the entire week. At first, this was going to involve switching rooms 3 times to work around his existing bookings, but due to a combination of cancellations, we ended up being able to stay in the same room for all but the last night (which I would be spending alone having dropped my girlfriend back at the airport that day).
Catastrophe avoided, I thought that the rest of the day would be smooth sailing (pun intended…you’ll see), but things soon took a turn for the worse again…
Just after 1 pm, I got my phone out to check the progress of my ferry on MarineTraffic so I could judge when it was time to leave the cafe and walk over to the port. I could see it had left Kos harbour and was about 2/3rds the way down Kos heading in our direction – so far, so good. Based on its current progress, though, I figured it wouldn’t get here until at least 2 pm so I stayed at the cafe and carried on working on my laptop. When I checked MarineTraffic again a little while later, I was concerned to find that the ferry seemed to be closer to Kos Town than it had been before and was facing the wrong direction – it was moving away from Astypalea, not towards it!
At first, I hoped it was just a glitch with the website, but I quickly packed up my things and decided to head over to the port in the hope of finding out what was happening from the port staff. I’d only got about half way across the harbour when a car pulled up beside me and asked if I was booked onto the 13:30 Kos ferry. I said yes, and he told me that it had been cancelled due to high winds and I would need to visit the ticket office to make alternative arrangements. Nightmare moment!!
In 5 years of island-hopping in Greece, this was the first time I’d had to deal with a ferry cancellation at the last minute and I knew there were no others available that day. The guy in the car pointed me towards the ticket office just behind the beach, so I made my way there to try and figure out how – and when – I was going to get to Kos. There were several other people already there who were in the same position as me, so by the time I got to the front of the queue I had already heard what my options would be. The next ferry to Kos was an early boat Friday morning at 5 am that would arrive on Kos at 8:45. Relieved that I could still make it to Kos before my girlfriend arrives on Sunday, I bought a ticket and actually made a saving as the new boat only cost €13 while my previous ticket on the fast ferry had been €30.
The next task was finding accommodation for two extra nights on Astypalea and seeing if I could cancel those nights I’d already booked on Kos so I wouldn’t end up paying double. Figuring it made sense to see if I could get back into Viva Mare, I walked there and was able to catch the manager. When I explained the situation, he confirmed they had availability and I ended up back in the same room I’d checked out of just a couple of hours before. I sent an email to Hotel Astron on Kos, informing them of my delay and asking if they could amend my booking down to two nights.
With my plans back on track and hoping nothing else would go wrong, I relaxed in my room for the rest of the afternoon, not really sure what to do with this unexpected extra time on Astypalea. When it was time for dinner, I made an effort to try somewhere new and ended up at a very nice fish restaurant called Akti, located around the northern side of the harbour bay. The views across to Chora were stunning and the food was excellent:
I don’t often eat fish as I’m quite fussy about what I like, but I’m so glad I took a chance on the Sea Bream fillet as it tasted amazing and made a welcome change from my normal cuisine.
Thursday 14th – My Actual Last Full Day on Astypalea
I had no breakfast things left in my apartment, so I strolled down to the harbour and ate at a cafe called Dapia: €7 for a Nescafe freddo, orange juice, yoghurt with honey and some bread, butter and jam.
I’d taken a photo of the bus timetable for the stop just behind the beach in Pera Gialos (the actual name for the port/beach area that I keep referring to as Chora) and decided I would revisit Steno beach for a few hours, having concluded it was the best sunbathing spot on the island. The next bus left at 11, so after finishing breakfast I popped back to my room to get ready. I decided to have a break from YouTube content and left all my camera gear behind, taking only a towel, suntan lotion, my Kindle, goggles, water and headphones.
The bus ride took about 15 minutes and was surprisingly busy, with a few people getting off at Mikro Steno but the majority heading for Steno, like me. I walked down onto the sand and found a wide empty space in almost exactly the same spot as yesterday. Most people opted for the sunbeds near the cantina or tried to find some shade under the trees behind the beach, but it wasn’t crazy hot and I was happy in the sun for a few hours. I had only planned on staying for 2 or 3 hours, but as we got off the bus the ticket girl said that the only pickup times were 4:30 and 6:30 in the afternoon so I guess I was going to be here most of the day, what a shame!
I spent the first hour or so reading my Kindle, enjoying the quiet atmosphere and gentle lapping of the water on the shoreline. When I started to get a bit hot, I went in for a quick dip and then walked down to the cantina to buy a cold beer to take back to my towel. A little while later, I decided to go for a proper swim and challenged myself to go all the way across the bay. I started by swimming east towards the beach bar end, then turned back and swam all the way across to Mikro Steno beach without stopping. I had a quick rest in the water, then swam back to where my towel was in the centre of the bay. I worked out using Google Maps that it was about 800 metres in total, so not all that far, but I did feel a bit queasy afterwards – I’m blaming the beer!
Lunch options were very limited and I hadn’t brought any food with me, so I walked back to the cantina and had to wait for a table as it was pretty busy – it’s basically the only place to get food as I’m not sure the beach bar the other side does anything but drinks. When I finally got a table, the menu wasn’t great and everything was quite expensive, but I was hungry so I ordered a Greek salad with some tzatziki and bread. I resisted another beer and saved a couple of Euro by getting a Coke instead. The food was pretty decent – it’s hard to go wrong with a Greek salad in Greece – but instead of Feta cheese, they used some local version which I didn’t particularly enjoy as it was much stronger than Feta.
Much as I enjoy sunbathing, as I get older I find it more difficult to spend the entire day just lazing on the beach. By mid-afternoon I was getting a bit restless, so after one final dip in the sea, I packed up my towel and had a walk along the beach, first towards the cantina then all the way across to the beach bar. I was tempted to sit on one of the sunbeds but suspected they would charge me for it, so I just strolled around trying to pass the time. On impulse, I decided to get a drink from the bar, intending at first to choose a soft drink but I managed to talk myself into a can of Mammos instead. This was definitely a mistake as it was only a small can (330ml) and cost €5!! Ouch.
I sipped slowly at the beer, determined to savour every drop at that price. I also wanted to make it last as the time ticked away towards 4:15 so I could head back to the bus stop. It was a good spot to people watch and enjoy the nice views of Steno bay, though.
The bus arrived on-time and I was soon back at my room showering off the sand and salt water, then giving my beach shorts a good rinse before hanging them out to dry.