Wednesday, 26 July 2017

People People

If all the Dutch are like this, I'm going there!
Sunday 16th July

On the Bay-to-Bay trip I had with me this lovely family [above] from the Netherlands, Eric, Linda and their two extremely likeable sons. Eric's English was amazingly good and the whole family were a joy to have as guests. In fact, they enjoyed the trip so much that they wanted to do it again. so I put them in touch with the other company I work for who run a similar trip on Tuesdays and they did that one too. I've yet to hear how they got on, but I hope they had as good a day out as they had with me. If all my guests were like this family I'd be doing the dream job. It's not far short anyway.

It was while I propped up the bar (with nothing more in my hand than a frappé I hasten to add) at the Konstantinos Hotel during our stopover for lunch at Stegna, that I ran into none other than Nikos Papas, who runs the brilliant Jungle Tour here on Rhodes.

That's Nikos on the right, by the way. Don't I look though like I ought to be on stage with Seasick Steve?

Nikos is one of those guys we need many more of on the Greek islands. He's a true original and he reminds me of wonderful 'round-the-island-BBQ' trips we'd done in decades past while holidaying in Greece long before we moved out here to Rhodes.

I almost didn't recognise him in near-normal clothes. When he hosts his Jungle Tours he usually dresses in distinctive kind-of traditional garb with a bit of a twist... 

I don't think I've ever met anyone quite like Niko. If you've been coming to Greece for years you'll know what I mean by the above comment about boat trips from a bygone era. Those were the days when you'd set sail in the morning on a 'Shirley Valentine' boat and during the afternoon the Captain would pass around the Ouzo or Metaxa, play some scratchy old recording of the Sirtaki and get his guests dancing on the deck of the boat as they became mildly inebriated. He'd always be larger than life and would engage in banter with the guests and make sure that they had an unforgettable day on the flat-calm azure Mediterranean sea aboard a boat that reeked of traditional history from bow to stern.

I don't know quite when all that disappeared, but by and large it has, sadly. I'm not knocking the people I work with here on Rhodes, and almost without exception the guests still tell me at the end of the day that they've had a splendiferous day out, but those quirky Greeks with oodles of character, who'd charm their guests, beguile them, don't seem to be in quite such an abundance any more. Most of the boat crews I've worked with in recent years simply get on with the job of sailing the boat and often seem to have little or no inter-action wth the guests on board. I miss the days when you'd never know quite what to expect, but you were never disappointed.

The bowsprit of the beautiful Triton, one of the Bay to bay vessels we use on Sundays.
Nikos Papas, now there's a man who still retains that old-fashioned eccentricity that simply sets his excursions alight for his guests. The nearest I've had to him here on Rhodes was Mihalis, Captain and owner of the Captain Mihalis that runs trips out of Mandraki harbour in Rhodes Town. When I worked on his boat in 2013 he used to go catching octopus while his guests swam and this was often the result: Watch video. Antonis too, who runs the gorgeous boat Magellanos, from Kolymbia also sometimes has fun with his guests, and always engages with them, all credit to him for that.

When you're on the plane flying home from a Greek holiday though, doesn't it add that something extra if you've come across someone with huge personality, someone who is truly passionate about giving his guests a special experience for that one day while they're in his care? Look no further on Rhodes than Nikos Papas and his Jungle Tour.

While we sat at the Konstantinos, he told be all about how the Jungle Tour developed. Where on earth did he get the idea from? He said that it goes right back to his childhood, when his mother helped him acquire a love of the natural environment. He used to go into the hills with his mum when he was young, while his dad (who was a priest and the first person in Arhangelos to own a car) was going about his church business, and his mum would rustle up a salad from the wild plants she'd find and pick. She imbued him with a love of the outdoors and nature in general.

Then in the 1980's the family owned a modest hotel. It was during this time that he got the idea to take his guests up into the hinterland for daytrips and from that evolved the idea of making an excursion out of it. I was surprised to learn quite how many years he's been doing the Jungle Tour, because I've only heard of it in the past couple of seasons; yet he's been doing it since long before I moved to Rhodes in 2005.

Nikos prides himself on the way he looks after his guests. He truly believes that everyone who comes with him is his relative, irrespective of nationality or language. He takes them to the starting point in a battered old pickup, or perhaps on top of it, and throughout the day surprises them with chilled drinks and food that he's secreted in various hiding places around the route. The amount of preparation he, his wife and small team put into each tour is no doubt very time consuming. When they day is drawing to a close and they arrive at their final location, he shows them the 'Rolls Royce', which is a beaten up old car that he does start up now and then. He usually gets his guests dancing and gets up to all kinds of other antics.

His personality makes the whole trip a very special experience. Long may he continue taking holidaymakers into the 'jungle' here on Rhodes.

The above couple, also on the boat on Sunday July 16th, are Frank and Wendy Pickering from an area close to my heart, Trevone in Cornwall, UK. It's near Padstow (or Padstein as it's so often called by locals these days - you'll only get that if you're reading this in the UK!), not more than a stone's throw from Little Petherick, where two of our closest friends from many years live, George and Allison. They own (G and A that is) one of the loveliest places you could go and stay for a relaxing holiday in Britain, The Quay House. Go check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Anyway, getting into conversation with Frank and Wendy revealed that he too is a budding author and has recently published his first novel, Ice. It's on Amazon, and you've just read past the link! I promised him that I'd flag it up for my readers. It's not to do with Greece, but judging from how articulate they both were I'd expect it to be very well written. Frank was an English teacher and not, as I joked, secretly living a double life as Eddie Jordan, the eccentric Formula One pundit who used to run his own team (the one that morphed eventually into Force India).

I was in danger of hogging their day as we compared notes about getting a book prepared for publication and finding a target audience. Lots of other stuff too. Hope if you're reading this Frank and Wendy that I didn't crowd you too much!! It's only enthusiasm, that's my excuse.

Our other boat is visible here, the Madelena. She's not as pretty as the Triton, but I describe her as a 'valiant little vessel with a big heart' and I thoroughly enjoy spending the day on board her equally as much as I do on the Triton.

Oh, nearly forgot. Also on one of my excursions to Rhodes town last week I had a young couple with whom I got into conversation. Forgot to ask their names, but I know the guy's name now [sort of] because he's the synth and guitar player with The Shimmer Band. Well, best I can do is refer to him as Schmidt, because that's how he's described on the website. I think I surprised him a bit because I don't think he thought I'd be into their kind of music. If you do get to read this Schmidt, I've checked out your web site and the videos therein and I'm well impressed. Seems to me that you guys are the modern equivalent of my kind of music. There's a lot for the old rocker in me to like in what you chaps are doing. So I'm happy to place the link to your site in this post. It was a pleasure meeting you and your lovely lady. Also, the band has a Facebook page: HERE.

And, finally, just one shot I took whilst ambling around Rhodes town just the other day. I don't know why, but I thought the sign was amusing. It reads in English around the perimeter "Access Only for Pedestrians" No chance we'd bring the coach down there then without drawing some flack, eh?

Live long and prosper.


  1. We had the pleasure of meeting Nikos last year when we did a walk from Malona to the waterfall. He was leading some of his guests back down from the cave at the top of the waterfall,and the guests that chose not to do the climb and stayed down the bottom were very surprised to see us, we were equally surprised to see them lol. Nikos very gallantly had his photo taken with me, and comfirmed our choice of route back as possible though the bridge was broken but still possible to get to other side (not possible if there had been water in the river, such an amazing gentleman.

  2. More beard needed for a Seasick Steve gig methinks!!


    1. Well, I did say on stage with him. I wouldn't presume to be him!!