Saturday, 21 May 2016

No Wild Geese in Sight

It looked like an easy enough expedition. We had a map of the island and the owners of our studio in Naxos had offered to let us use their rather expensive mountain bikes whenever we wanted to, as indeed they'd done when we stayed there in 2014. Back then the bikes were almost new and, although Petros and Georgia were only too willing to lend them to us, They were a bit anxious to be sure that we knew what we were doing, since any damage caused and we'd be kind of obliged to fork out for it. (Fork, eh? I don't know how I do it, I really don't).

C'mon Sweetie. Do try and keep up.
Petros had told us how he'd decided to buy the bikes so that he and Georgia could go riding in the winter time. Something the pair of them could do together. Such an old romantic he is. He told us that he'd spent around €1,000 on each bike, so they weren't cheap. When we borrowed them back then Georgia had also told us that she still hadn't tried hers out. She evidently wasn't quite as sold on the idea as her hubby was. Between me, you and the gatepost, it's a similar situation in my household, which is why, although we had a bike each back in the UK, out here I've only bought the one, for me of course.

Here we were, back on Naxos in April 2016 and once more the offer of a lend of the bikes was forthcoming. At least there wasn't going to be a repeat of the previous slightly embarrassing moment when we returned the bikes last time. On that occasion we'd gone south and reached as far as Marakas Bay, where we stopped and partook of the usual, behind glass though, owing to the rather brisk wind...

Hands off you naughty girl!

When we'd returned to our room, both a tad saddle-sore it has to be said, we parked the bikes up and went upstairs (walking ever so slightly like John Wayne, whilst he'd have still been on his horse) for a shower and an afternoon doze. A little later, Georgia knocked the door to thank us for returning the bikes safe and sound, but also expressed some surprise that we hadn't stayed out longer on them.

"Oh, yes, well," We replied. "To be honest we'd done enough for two rather rusty cyclists, but also we were a little worried owing to the fact that Petros had spent a couple of thousand Euros on them. It kind of had us worried about leaving them anywhere, or falling off and breaking something ...on the bike that is. Not, well, know."

"A couple of thousand Euros, eh?" Georgia had replied. "Petros hadn't actually got around to telling me how much they cost."


Anyway, here we were again last month with a chance to take another ride and so we decided that we'd just nip inland to the village of Mel'anes, where we'd read that there were not one, but two Kouros statues worthy of note. Couldn't be all that hard to find them, now could it? It looked to be around 10k each way. A cinch surely.

Now, in case you're a little rusty on ancient Greek statues and stuff, a Kouros is the generic name for a statue of a man, usually a young man and usually in the altogether. They really went in for the old nudism thing back then apparently. There is a huge one, which never got finished, lying in the bushes on a hill above our favourite seaside village of Apollonas, at the northern-most tip of the island. We went there in 2014 and here's the proof...

That's me modelling...

The ones near Mel'anes are more complete than this one and we fancied a look, thus the expedition on the bicycles. To see what they look like click this link. There's a nifty piece of video there too, suggesting that the two other statues are close to Mel'anes village. Well, they may well be, but not from the direction from which we approached it, that's all I'm saying.

Leaving Naxos town (Hora) and taking the road into the hinterland, you get lulled into a false sense of security when you're using pedal power. For the first four or five K it's fairly flat and not too bendy. The traffic can be a bit of a problem though, cough cough. Once you take the first turn signposted to Mel'anes, things go distinctly downhill, largely because of the fact that for 90% of the time, you're cycling (or, to be more accurate, pushing) your bike uphill (See top photo above). At least the traffic thins rapidly. 

After a few more km of the road getting ever more twisty and turny, while continuing irrevocably to ascend, occasionally very steeply, you start spotting clusters of houses that you pray must be the village, only to arrive there and find that they aren't. In fact, you can't see the village until you're finally cycling along its periphery, as the road arrives above the village, which spills down a very steep hillside beneath you, and presents you with a square where it's evident that many tourists park their hire cars. At the far end of the square the exit is very small and very good at persuading the first-timer that they can go no further. In fact, as we arrived there, legs screaming "Stop! What have we done to deserve this?" a couple of tourists (I think from Germany) drove (rather smugly in my view) straight past us in their Nissan Micra and screeched to a halt in that very square, peering about for any sign as to where to go next, which wasn't forthcoming by the way.

By this time my wife had become pretty irritable at having begun to feel pain in regions of her anatomy that she'd rather not, plus the fact that she was fretting over having fallen off her bike the last time she'd tried to dismount for yet another 1 in 3 hill, so I told her to stay put while I did a reccy.

To be fair, I did rather feel sorry for her about the falling off thing. Her bike, although a ladies' model, still had quite a high crossbar and so she'd attempted a dismount by swinging her leg behind her over the saddle, only to encounter the carry-rack that was mounted behind and below the saddle. You know the kind, it sticks out over the rear wheel and you can strap yer rolled up pac-a-mac to it with one of those bungee thingies, if you've got one. Anyway, her foot struck the rack and, before she could work out what was going on she was horizontal in the middle of the road. Just as well the traffic had reduced to the occasional pickup truck, whose driver would peer out at us (looking alarmingly like someone who ought to be playing a banjo in some southern state of the USA) with a degree of bemusement as he drove past. She did take quite a tumble and I even managed to assist her in getting up without laughing (well, not a lot anyway).

Having left her to nurse her injured pride and left knee, as well as wonder if her nether regions could take much more of that saddle, I cycled to the far end of the square and, low and behold, the road went ever on and on and on... all the time rising to add insult to injury. Where the hell was this Kouros then? Why weren't there any signs?

There were a few residences dotted along this road and I spotted a senior-looking gentleman on his balcony way above me talking into a mobile phone, so I hailed him.

"Is this the way to the kouros, kyrie?" I asked him.

"Yes, yes!" He replied, almost making me believe that this was going to be true. "Further up this lane, you will see the sign."

Sounded encouraging. I duly cycled back to where my beloved was resting against a wall and told her the good tidings.

"The only direction I'm going from here on in is downhill." Was her rather unhelpful reply.

Still, trying to keep things a little upbeat, I said: "OK. You stay here and I'll go back up there and see if I can find it." I turned around and set off again, up and along a long gradually inclining hill, that was now paved with concrete. After a couple of hundred meters I left the edge of the village and the road then rather disconcertingly turned to dust and stones. Big stones. It continued on around the side of a hill several hundred meters above me but, wait, what was that perched at a fetchingly rakish angle beside the, well, dirtpath as it was by then, at the crux of a fork? It was a sign!!

Changing ever further down  through the gears I eventually reached the sign to rejoice on reading it, for it read "KOUROS" and pointed along a path so rough-looking that I almost wondered if even a mountain bike's tyres would cut the mustard. There was nothing for it though, I had to follow it and see where it might lead. 

After another kilometre or so I reach yet another junction in the path. I was now in open countryside and the path was looking like crossing to the other side of a large and steep-sided valley. Sure enough though, there was another sign saying KOUROS and pointing ever further into the unknown. By the time this had happened three or four times and with not one of the signs giving any indication as to how far away this wretched kouros was, I had no choice but to turn back. I was already a couple of km away from my better half, waiting on the lane above the village, and the path was now comprised of dust finer than flour and boulders as big as footballs.

Hence the title of this post.

I tried, I really did, but I couldn't get the better half to agree to take the bikes down an almost vertical "street" some 500 metres into the village below, where we might at least have found a watering hole. There was nothing for it but to head back to town. I don't doubt that had we gone all the way down into the bottom of the village we may well have discovered that one can walk from there to these flamin' statues. The fact was though, my dear missus was all done in and only wanted to be back in civilisation, indeed the cradle of it. To have carried the bikes down there would have been madness anyway. The path/street was stepped!

It had taken us an hour and a half to get to this point. We arrived back at our favourite local café on the edge of town in twenty minutes flat. At least the return journey was literally downhill all the way.

Next time we take a break on Naxos, at least I've got her tentative agreement that we'd best hire a scooter. 

"Two frappés please... Oh, and where are the loos..?"

Just to round it off, entirely unconnected with the above, here are a couple more shots of old Naxos Town Market...


  1. Those hills really aren't made for cycling by the sound of it! Naxos is on my list to visit soon, love the blogs thanks for sharing

    1. You won't regret visiting Naxos or indeed Paros Amanda. Glad you love the blog, 'cos I haven't seen much mention of it on yours. Probably just an oversight I'm sure!! 😉

  2. Such a great post and lovely photos. Thank you so much for sharing, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)