Friday, 21 June 2019

It's Oh, So Quiet...

Considering we're both not working any more, it's been a bit hectic of late. There we were, back during the winter, planning how we'd be at the beach and having lunch in a beachside taverna at least once a week when the summer was under way and here we are getting to the tail end of June and, apart from a few walks down to the local beach in the early evening for a swim, then the walk back, it's not really gone according to plan.

There have been a few extra-curricular things to do, which have largely fallen into the category of helping out friends and doing a spot of destructive DIY for a neighbour, plus other stuff like having to visit the accountant, having to post a letter to a UK government office, and...

"Wait." I hear you cry, "Having to post a letter to the UK? Is that really something that could be counted as an 'extra-curricular' thing to do?"

Oh yes. See, the nearest post office to us is in Gennadi, but, unless you want to spend a couple of hours waiting your turn and, in the process, lose the will to live, we tend to avoid that one. I've written about the experience of using the Gennadi post office before. If you have long enough (I'm serious) check out these posts:

"It Helps to Pass the Time"
"Up and Down"

So, as and when we have a need to post something, we tend to do it at the post office in Arhangelos. There is a post office in Lindos, of course, but to park the car about a mile outside the village (it's tourist season now, remember) and then walk all the way into the village and then through the warren of tiny streets you need to negotiate in order to get there, well, you may as well be sitting on your rear in the Gennadi office for an hour or two. It's less sweaty and you don't have to continually collide with the barely dressed and tattooed hordes all the way there and back.

Thus we bite the bullet and, once we've written our epistle and inserted it in a neatly-printed envelope, or package-taped up our package, or whatever it is we need to send, we find it less stressful to drive the twenty-five minutes up the road to Arhangelos, where one can almost always pull up in the car right outside the post office, and dash inside, often discovering that the place is empty, save for the decidedly "Grizzly Adams" type bloke who's sitting behind the toughened glass screen waiting to be of service.

Despite his appearance, which gives one the very definite impression that he's liable to be out in the hills howling up at every full moon, he's actually quite erudite and always efficient at processing your request, often sticking the stamps on for you himself. And before you say, "How do you know he actually sticks them on and doesn't simply chuck the letter in the old 'circular file?'" We know because nothing we've ever had occasion to post from there has ever failed to reach its destination.

The plus point about going to Arhangelos too is that we can then do a spot of serious people-watching over a very reasonably priced Freddo espresso and perhaps a slice of bougatsa, plus we can buy some mountain tea and fresh fruit and veg from the very 'ethnic' local fruit and veg shop in the main street. A result, whichever way you choose to look at it.

Anyway, as I type this we are actually planning a stroll down the hill to the Il Porto café-restaurant at lunchtime tomorrow for a drink and a spot of lunch. Maybe then we'll finally reach the realisation that we are now supposed to be people of leisure.

I was talking with Petros the other day, he who's very 'careful' with his money whom I wrote about in chapter 10 of Tzatziki For You to Say. A few years ago he planted up a huge number of aloe vera plants in order to try and start a business selling them for the gel that's found in their 'leaves' that appears to carry so many benefits for one's health. At the time he told me that the plants need three years before they're mature enough to be harvested for the gel. Well, the three years have now passed and not much has happened vis a vis his getting the business off the ground. Plus, the crop looks decidedly under par if I'm going to be honest. I asked him about the whole project and why it appeared to be stalling. 

It all has to do with the water. Now, I've talked on many occasions on this blog about how the last few winters (leading up to, but not including the winter we've just been through)  have been much too devoid of rain. Before last winter began, the water shortages on Rhodes had reached critical levels. Friends of ours in Rhodes town have endured a couple of summers when their mains water was cut off for 20 hours at a time several times a week, owing to the severe shortage of water, due partly to the drought conditions of winters that were much too dry, and partly to the over-development that's going on all over this island.

Now, I have it on good authority that new hotels that are constructed near the beach must also install a desalination plant for the water that's to be used in the hotel, so as not to place further strain on the already-overstretched water supply on Rhodes. But the fact still remains that the natural aquifer beneath the island has been dropping for some years now, and the upshot of this is that the sea makes incursions further and further inland metres beneath the surface of the ground. As the aquifers retreat, the seawater advances. It's happening in places like Majorca in Spain too, I hear. Now, this past winter we finally had something like the amount of rainfall that was once normal for Rhodes, thus filling the reservoirs and likely to some extent helping replenish the aquifer to some degree.

From what I'm told by friends who live in town, the water coming out of their taps is now once again sweet and drinkable. Even we here on a hillside in Kiotari did have a few weeks of 'brackish' water coming out of our taps a couple of years ago, which did kill one or two plants in our garden. Some parts of the island had non-potable water coming through the pipes for months, even years. That problem seems to have been alleviated, though, after this past winter. 

So, back to Petros. He'd told me ages ago that the aloe vera plants had suffered, and some died, owing to his having to water them with this - what amounts to - sea water. It was that or nothing. Now, though, we were discussing the fact that his house in Kalathos once again has sweet, potable water coming out of the taps and, like us, they can simply filter it and use it for drinking. They'd had the problem of brackish water for much longer periods of time that us.

Looking at his 'crop' I asked him if it was taking time to recover, now that the water was sweet again. He said, "it's not sweet, Gianni, it's still virtually sea water." Reading the puzzlement on my face, he went on to explain that the water he uses to water the 'farm' comes from a well on his land. If he'd had to use mains water, it would have greatly increased the cost of the project and severely cut his anticipated profit margins. So, there was the rub: the aquifer, since his house is so close to the sea, is still not recovered sufficiently to displace the invading salt water deep underground with fresh water, and thus he still has the same problem, despite the improvement in the quality of the tapwater.

I have to admit to feeling deeply sorry for him, since it looks like the whole project is dead in the water. And that's not intended to be a pun.

He'd invested in the new plants and irrigation system right at the time when the natural aquifer that feeds his well had begun to lose the fight owing to a) tourist development outstripping the available water supply and b) a succession of winters that didn't bring the needed amount of rainfall.

Seems that everywhere you look, man's idiocy when it comes to managing our planet's resources is becoming more and more evident. Even a beautiful Greek island isn't immune. And I must stress that, despite the problems, despite the apparent lack of careful thought going into infrastructure-planning, Rhodes is still largely a wonderful place to be.

So, apart from the delay in our summer of leisure actually getting going, and apart from the ecological changes going on, it's generally really rather quiet around here at the moment.

Back soon.

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