Cretan Disaster (5 of 6)

Oct. 29

The Beginning

I nearly lost it today. I mean, totally, totally lost it. So, so so wrecked, but I crashed for enough, though not deep/ proper sleep, but crashed no less. My vision is actually starting to blur.

Santorini to Piraeus was way longer than I needed it to be; again I was dreaming that I got a flight out of my living hell. By the time I do get to Athens, I won’t have the time nor energy to do anything – but I must see the Acropolis. "Must see the Acropolis" becomes my new chant.

I think I’ve found something of a second wind, something to do with the exhilaration of arriving in Athens, finally, in daylight, with the still-radiant afternoon sun coupled with a sea breeze. Delightful. Much more so than my first arrival in the port. Sure it was 6pm by the time we docked, and I was supposed to board the overnight ferry at seven, but I can do this. "I’ve come this far," I keep telling myself. Yes, I have one hour to find the metro, get to the Acropolis, appreciate it – albeit hurriedly – and get back to the port. Hmmm, ok.

So, like a trooper, if you don’t mind me saying, I skedaddle off the boat as quickly as the sheep-flow would allow. Uncharacteristically I ask for directions to the metro, zoom in cluelessly, again ask for the appropriate train, unnecessarily honest enough to buy a ticket, board the train. Cheers mate, Yamos! I’m getting somewhere, at last. We’re off.

I know I look like a bag of shite, the backpack, front pack, gritty hair, god knows what I smell like at this stage, the public ogling from the immaculately groomed Greek men does nay help, but I’m shameless at this stage, knowing I can either be vain or I can see the friggin’ Acropolis! God love the wonderfully marked metro illustration, with the little pictures next to the appropriate tourist stops, and transcribed in English: Acropolis. Yay! Shouldn’t be a problem. I have a choice of three stops with three different monuments, though take the first, my priority, and hey, I have no time for multiplicity! I disembark.

Now where is the… oh my god, I say, as I look upward. Wow. Um, that’d be it! How do I get up there though? As our favourite tourists would say, "Yeah, the Acropolis is a really nice site and all, but why’d they build it on a hill?"

Have to scale it. Quickly. I cross the mad, mad road of peak-hour Athenian traffic, with both packs swingin’, I begin the rapid ascent. I see people silhouetted against the monolithic stones and it looks fabulous – I must be a part of that. How’d they get there?

I soldier on. So long as I’m goin’ upward, I know I’m heading in the right direction. I find the winding road that looks like it eventually reaches the top. Man, it’s a lot farther than it originally appeared! I keep walking, fast. This is the best exercise I’ve had in ages. How will my (readily dislocatable) knee fair? It’s been reasonably shite, as soon as I donned the backpack, but seems to be holding well. For some reason, downhill is worse. I find the entrance. My god, it’s massive! So many things to see. – the gates actually closed, at six, but my lack of time and the fact that it’s, well, closed forgives my not going in.

I look on admiringly – as quickly as possible! I see the people on the rocks again. I must join them. Wow! Nice view from up here! This – this is perfect. This has made everything worthwhile.

It’s sunset. Beautiful pink and orange hues make a delightful backdrop against the ancient stones. I am so glad I made this tiny effort to be here. Couples are quite literally embracing the moment. I apologetically stomp on after, gee, at least 10 minutes of sheer bliss. Relief. Dare I say, relaxation. I still have my backpack on and try not to break ankles and knees and random appendages as I hop over the slippery surfaces, while I’m certain people are thinking, "Can you not just drop that and sit down for two seconds?"

My reply would be – no. Don’t even take a photo, no time, and to top off this already magical trip, I don’t think the camera I borrowed is working! Nothing to show for any of this. Alas, this is one picture that will be permanently engrained in my noggin, without the need for material support.

But I should head back. I view a few different angles; the never-ending sprinkling of white houses makes Athens look so much nicer than the polluted urbanity I’d always imagined. I eventually make the downward trek, and yes, its is worse for the knee, but that’s an irrelevant detail right now. I make it to the metro just before seven, and put the ticket I purchased on the way through the machine to save finding the right change and making it look valid. I have no time for inspectors today, will plead ignorance if required (nothing like playing dumb tourist: "I’m Australian, erm… I didn’t realise, erm" usually works). Boats to catch – and one very crucial one in particular. Wow, I just realised I got to be a landlubber for at least an hour!

I wait. I’m sweating like, at the very least, a horse! C’mon train. I’ve done my bit. I pace. I still feel just a tad self-conscious about the eyes glaring at my obvious outsiderness, my sunburnt nose, my obvious sleeplessness and showerlessness. I wonder if, no, not if, but rather, just how much I reek.

I’ve got a boat to catch, and, if it would be so obliging to turn up at some stage, a train! No, I’ve absolutely no room, much less patience, left for error. C’mon train. Pace some more. I use the Ladies to throw more water over my head. C’mon train. I wait. I pace. I sway restlessly. Fuck. I buy a drink, somehow presenting the exact change. C’mon train. The time between seven and eight is reducing more than I’m comfortable with. C’mon train. Please, don’t make this "now entirely worth it" experience, rather unnecessarily rushed. C’mon train. I’ve neither energy nor inclination to even think about another method of getting back; I’ve decided on the ferry for the last time and I’m stickin’ with it. C’mon train. I’ve come this far, I could’ve piked yesterday, c’mon train. Be good to me.

Yay! Lights at ends of tunnels, and the little orange engine that thinks it can, does.

This train is packed. My packs piss everyone off. Perhaps I’m paranoid. I know I’m tired.

Last stop: port. Yay! Here’s something: I actually thought ahead and noted the name and location of my ferry before I left. Alright! This way. I imagine my running with a backpack is reasonably amusing to watch. Run. Run. Run. Dang, everything looks different at night. This has to be where they were. Can’t read the Greek words in the dark. Where’s my Symbols font when I need it?

A cab pulls up. Can’t understand a word he’s saying. "See that boat there, does that say, Aptero?" He mutters something. No, I don’t need a lift, I didn’t stop you, you stopped me, I thought you were going to help, I can’t read the names. I think that one says something that looks similar to Aptero, but not exactly. I double back to where I was initially, and run around the side to it. These docks are massive! Huffing and puffing, I extend my ticket-wielding arm, "Excuse me, is this Aptero? Going to Heraklion?" God knows they’ll tell me if I can or cannot use this ticket! My sweat and three-day grit has reached a truly embarrassing level!

Affirmative. Wow. And this guy actually lends a smile! I must look desperate, worthy of some sympathy.

I board – in the company of the nation’s armed forces. I must eat. Something.

This, has been "all gooood." A mini-escapade, perhaps a little unnecessary, but I feel like I’ve achieved much more than I would have just sittin’ on me arse on me tod in Crete.

Read all six parts of Cretan Disaster
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

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