It was under heavy cloud cover that I left my house in Drapanias to go to Balos, a bay in the far north-west of the island where one can view the island of Gramvoussa, upon which sits an old Venetian fortress that was built between 1579-1583, destroyed in 1588, and then later rebuilt in 1630. I had three options for getting where I wanted to go: take the ferry from the port of Kissamos that goes to Gramvoussa island and Balos, drive my car the entire way, or drive my car part of the way and hike the remaining 9km path. I discounted the first option because I had read that the views from the road along the peninsula were spectacular and I didn't want to be stuck on a ferry with a bunch of tourists. I discounted the second option because I read that the road was wooly enough that one could expect damage to the undercarriage of the average car (and I've already done enough damage to my poor rental car, thank you very much). Besides, I felt like I needed the exercise, and 9km would amount to about a three hour hike each way, which sounded just perfect.
I parked my car here, and began my hike, equipped with some food, sunscreen, two bottles of water and my trusty, wide-brimmed hat. Perhaps I should have taken the skull with the rock implanted in its head as a warning:
I quickly took back my initial curses on the cloud cover as it slowly broke and the temperature increased by several degrees. I stopped to put on sunscreen and my hat, and to take a drink of water, despite the fact that I already had to pee (why can I not limit myself to one cup of coffee in the morning?).
My spirits were high as I ambled along the road, scoffing at the occasional vehicle that would drive by. Wimps. There were some really nice views, and it felt good to be moving my muscles.
I guess I was about an hour into my hike when I really felt like I was ascending, and the dark, gray clouds draping the peaks above me gave me hope that soon I would be sheltered from the sun for a while.
It was right about then that a bee decided to pester me, buzzing about my face and torso. I tried to swat him away with my hat, but he was determined to inflict discomfort and did so by stinging the back of my arm. When I was younger, I had an allergic reaction to a bee sting. I'm pretty sure that I haven't carried this reaction into adulthood, so although I was annoyed and it smarted pretty badly, I continued on. For about ten steps, before another bee began to attack me. Suddenly I noticed that there were bees everywhere, zipping at warp speed through the air, stopping only to buzz angrily about my body. My swats didn't deter them, but only angered them further. I was faced with a dilemma now, to continue on or turn back. I didn't know how far their territory extended; I hated to have come this far for nothing, but I also didn't want to end up as some story on the news about an American tourist who was stung to death by bees. When the next be stung me on my forearm, I said, literally and loudly, "Fuck this" and turned back. As I began to walk back down the path I had come, the bees continued their attack and I took out a small towel I had brought with me and began to swing it around my body in an attempt to keep them away. I realized at one point that I probably looked like one of those Shia men who whip themselves. It was while I was performing this ridiculous feat that I ran into two other travelers coming up the path, and it was at this time that several bees decided to go for my legs and feet. So now I'm dancing some bizarre jig while flailing about with my towel and hat, and trying to explain to the people as they come towards me that I'm being attacked by bees. They just looked at me like I was a freak and walked on. I eventually passed out of the worst of the swarm, and it was then that I began to cry. I felt like a little kid who has fallen off of her bike and doesn't know why the world would possibly do something so cruel to her. Don't get me wrong...I wasn't sobbing hysterically...but I was feeling mighty sorry for myself right about now. Actually, I was crying AND laughing, because I kept thinking about how ridiculous I must have looked to those people I passed.
Enter Inga and Darros, the good samaratins from Lithuania. As I was wiping the tears from underneath my sunglasses, a car came around the bend and stopped next to me. The passenger side window rolled down and a pretty girl with dark hair asked in an accent that I couldn't identify if I'd like to come with them to Balos via car. Once in the car they explained to me that they, too, had attempted to make the hike but had also been attacked by bees. They had decided to turn around and go get their car. I thanked them profusely for their kindness, and we began the precarious ascent to the destination that I hoped would be well worth it after all this trouble. Before long we came along side the assholes who just ignored me when I was telling them that I was under seige, and my two generous companions stopped and asked them if they would also like a ride. They were Olga and Giorgos from Thessaly, and I quit attempting to make any conversation with them when it became clear to me that they seemed rather aloof and uninterested.
We eventually made it to a parking area and set off for the bay below on foot. Inga and Darros told me that they'd take me back down with them when we were finished, so I stuck with them. Olga and Giorgos eventually just went off on their own. On the hike down to the bay, Inga and Darros told me that they had heard that there are statistics available that show that strange, bad things happen to people when they go to the mountains during the month of July, and that most airplane crashes happen on two certain dates in the month of November. After the bee experience, I'm going to take their word for it and stick to the beaches for the rest of the month. I also need to do a little internet research on plane crashes in November (that is, after all, when I'm due to head home and someone else is due to fly over and help me get there!).
I don't know if it was the cloud cover, or the tar-stained sand, or the bad experience in trying to get there, but I was not blown away by the beauty that I was anticipating from numerous pictures I had viewed prior to coming here. I think that on a perfectly sunny day, the variations in the colors of the water are probably gorgeous. I think that the water is probably very nice and warm to swim in, if you can ignore the trash that litters the beach and the tar deposits. If I ever do come again, I will do so by ferry, with all the other tourists. However, I can't say I regret doing it the way that I did, because otherwise I wouldn't have met Inga and Darros, who are super nice and down to earth and definitely in the running for cutest couple ever (alongside Matt & Regan, Kurt & Sharyn, and Ben & Gwen).
Long day, even though it was really only about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish.
I was very happy to find a Mythos beer waiting for me in the fridge upon my arrival back home.