Park It. Live It. Love It.

a story of a girl living in the Northern Hemisphere

The Landslide.

So it seems I’m known for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this post is no exception. I apologise for the lack of originality in yet another post about a near-death experience.

Yet again I was at Ammoudi Bay – and I promise you, this is the last time I will be going back. Sunbake, take photos of friends jumping off cliff, listen to ipod, blah, blah blah – the usual.

We all had to cover our faces when a slow moving cloud of red dust came around the corner and blew across the Bay. It was quite thick and took about 10 seconds to pass. Once we could breathe again somebody pointed out that this could only mean one thing – some rocks had fallen down.

We thought nothing of it and continued our day. It wasn’t until we attempted to leave that there became a problem.

Huffing and puffing over and around the cliff we came to a couple who were standing on the path looking ahead…looking ahead at the HUGE pile of rocks that had broken off the side of the mountain, tumbled down, broken into slighter smaller but still pretty big pieces of rock and were now obstructing the only path back.

Oh and did I mention these people in front of us watched the second landslide happen a mere 30 seconds before we rounded the bend?

For crying out loud! How many times is Greece going to try and maim/kill me?

As the crowd started to build up behind us, word spread that we were all trapped. People begun to offer suggestions – “Somebody needs to swim around and send a boat back”, some people wanted to climb over the rocks anyway, despite the fact that everytime the wind blew, dust and rock came cascading down.

One man – so brave – climbed down the rocks and swam round, bringing back word that they were sending a boat soon. So in Greek time, about an hour later the boat came. The boat was a tiny dinghy transporting five people at a time to a bigger boat, which in turn transported us all back to shore.

The whole operation took over two hours. Us sitting in the hot burning sun, laughing to ourselves that only in Greece would a ‘rescue operation’ – dare I say – take so long. And where people who sailed past gave us the ‘whatever, I don’t care’ Greek Hand as we shouted out for help.

I sure will miss this country.

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The Spiteful Sea.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a secret beach that apparantly only locals knew about. I was also sworn to secrecy – and without having to sacrifice any animals or my own blood! I was told this beach had hot springs and caves you could dive to. I was very excited.

The beach is at the bottom of the Caldera which meant a 20 minute walk down the rocks along a narrow and sometimes invisible path. We finally arrived at the bottom to find only three other people present, taking photos and picking up rubbish – unfortunately the tides had washed up litter along the shore.

Determined to make our trip to the secret beach a success we ignored the rubbish and settled near a small cave chiseled into the many-layered volcanic rock. We left our bags, food and drink in the shade and set up in the sun about 5m from the water.

The other tacky tourists (as opposed to us ‘locals’) had left and it was a nice feeling being on a secluded beach, listening to my ipod, the wind caressing my face and the hot sun touching my skin.

My friend mentioned that with our eyes closed it doesn’t feel like we are in Santorini. The sound of the waves crashing makes you feel like you are somewhere else – usually you can’t hear the waves as there aren’t any. I agree and start to think of my family holidays to Port Stephens NSW where we used to go body boarding among giant waves.

Eyes closed and nestled with the familiar thought of home I was laying there for about five minutes before I heard the crashing of a wave a little larger than usual, then my friend shout out and then one second later a wave of dirty cold water mixed with black sand washed over me, and then retreated as quickly as it came trying to drag my camera, towel and hat with it.

We jumped up and ran back to the cave not knowing if another wave was on the way. I had my camera – unfortunately dripping wet – in my hand and we scrambled to chase our towels and sunscreen without getting caught in the current of the rogue sea.

Where did that come from!

Covered in dirt, sand and seaweed we were afraid to go back and wash off so we sat there bewildered to survey the damage. I took apart my camera and dried it but to no avail. Thank goodness I got some good photos on the way down – and one just after the catastrophic moment.

We decided to call it a day on the secret beach and made the trek back up the rocky caldera wall. Exhausted, still shakey and smelling of sweat and general muck it took almost 30 mintues to reach civilisation.

“I think we should tell everybody about this beach so they can curse us the way I’m cursing my friend right now” grumbles my friend, referring to the bright spark who told him about this place.

To recap, an adventurous day in which the sea attempted to drag us out and swallow us.

But still, a day when you almost drown in Greece is still a day in Greece.

The Black-Out.

I have already mentioned that I admire the Greek spirit. They are a proud people and my boss is no exception. I believe this spirit has rubbed off on me.

Last night at work – when we were three quarters full – there was a power failure.

And not just in our restaurant, in the whole of Perissa.

I had just taken an order and was in the kitchen pinning it up for the Chef when all went dark. The kitchen and Bar were faintly illuminated by an exit sign but the remainder of the restaurant was in darkness. True to Greek form I continued to work as per usual. I made drinks, I cut bread and I delivered them. The boss went to the cupboard and retrieved candles and we distrbuted them among the tables.

It was eerily quiet without the traditional stringy Greek CD playing on repeat. There was a low hum as patrons continued their conversations and tried to read their menus in the candlelight. For some reason it reminded me of Speed Dating – romantic lighting that makes everybody look more attractive and quiet awkward conversations.

Yes, I thought, I can catch a little break here while we wait for the power, which we’d since had word would take 10 minutes. But no, for reasons unknown people continued to stroll into the restaurant, take a seat and call for my attention so they could order.

“Excuse me, can we please order?”Are you kidding me? I can’t see, you can’t see, surely you must understand that the Chef can’t see either? Or do you want him to burn his hand on a hot plate or slice open a finger with a knife?

I was baffled.

I was able to take drink orders and had to refrain from insulting those people who gave me dirty looks when I explained their food order would have to wait. Although the idea of injuring someone did cross my mind because then we could have a ‘whodunnit’ Cluedo moment, “it was Lana at table 15 with a side plate” !

Half an hour later the restaurant erupted into cheers when the power was restored. You’d think they’d been trapped and starving for weeks.

For all you tourists out there, please have some common sense – should this happen again – and put off your dinner until those of us who have to prepare it can see how many fingers you are holding up.

Otherwise I’ll show you how many fingers I’m holding up 🙂

The Scooter.

“It all started with an innocent venture to Ammoudi Bay…who knew what was in store for Lana was a brush with death…did she survive?”

That’s how I imagine the trailer to the movie will sound.

The Characters – A group of Periss-ians and a group of travelling Italians.

The Setting – Ammoudi Bay carpark – a steep ramp cluttered by scooters, quad bikes and matchbox cars.

The Plot – Events took place that left us with one extra Scooter and nobody to ride it home. I piped up “I used to ride bikes all the time back home, I’ll give it a go”…famous last words. Luckily for me we talked one of the Italian boys into hopping on and taking a test drive to see if he could handle it.

His first attempt was incredibly shakey and we all held our breath as he almost drove through a row of bikes and off the ramp into the sea below. He rode back to us to say no, the bike is too heavy and he doesn’t feel comfortable. “I’d have to tell his mum” said his Italian friend, worried for his safety. Fair enough, let’s just leave the bike here we decided.

He attempted to turn the bike but instead revved it way too hard and the next thing I knew I was pinned between an out-of-control scooter and a maroon 4WD. I could feel the tyre spinning against my leg threatening it’s way into my skin. After a moment of shock I recovered enough to yell ‘let go of the throttle!’ so I could peel myself away from the rubber tyre and its persistant grinding.

After a few minutes I was ok, no broken skin but bruises were inevitable where I’d been trapped between the two vehicles.

It was only then that the memories of my childhood motorbike-riding days came flooding back and they too were filled with these kind of accidents. Why did I not remember this earlier!

Conclusion – The phrase “It’s just like riding a bike” (pun intended) can give a person false confidence. Also, just because a person is Italian does not mean they can ably ride a scooter.

The Exodus.

You journey to a new place. It’s scary, it’s different, but slowly you adapt and it becomes your new home. Life doesn’t seem so lonely once you meet people in the same situation. They become your family and you all look out for each other…

It’s all very beautiful until one by one they all leave you and you become one of the only people sticking it out until the end of the season. Alone.

Yes I am being extremely dramatic today because over the next week everyone new I’ve met and learned to love is leaving me – bold and underlining should prove how upset I am.

I know what you are thinking – welcome to travelling Lana. But seriously, how is that helping me?

We have had the same click for almost two months now and I don’t know if I have the energy to start from scratch and make friends all over again, but I guess I don’t have a choice. The show must go on.

Well, I could become a hermit, hang around with the stray cats and dogs and give out such negative vibes that nobody wants to talk to me for fear of contracting an ugly, unsociable disease.

Let’s call that Plan B.

I’ve met some beautiful people. We have leapt of cliffs together, shopped, watched movies on laptops (thanks Aoife), sang duets, entertained ourselves with trashy romance novels, wined and dined, gossiped, judged, been judged and absolutely ripped up the dance floor.

I sincerely hope we don’t fall into the ‘friends we’ve added but will never ever speak to again’ category on Facebook. Thank you for spending a summer with me.

You will always have a bed if you are ever in Sydney, Australia. And I hope I’ll have a place to stay with you too – the faint silver lining to watching you all sail away 😦

The Greeks.

The Greeks are like the seasons in Melbourne – you can experience many facets in one day. I am constantly in awe of the multiple personalities this culture has revealed to me.

I was warned the Greeks were an ‘expressive’ people and having come from an Italian background I braced myself for the violent hand gestures and top-of-the-lungs yelling even when having a friendly conversation. But I was not prepared for the vast differences from person-to-person.

We can stereotypically** believe that Australians are lazy, the British are snobs and Americans are obnoxious, but I can now safely say that nobody can stereotype the Greeks.

In the time that I’ve been here I have come across the following people:

  • My boss who yells at everyone, who hates to be joked with but came out and told me when ‘tonight is sexy time’ with his wife – apparently every second Thursday!
  • An acquaintance who professed his love for me while I was at work and who admitted to occasionally following me around
  • A Bartender who everyone may not get along with but who is very observant and gives incredible advice
  • A wife who laughs while her husband yells at her and others
  • A slightly sleazy bar owner who looks at you hungrily but then jumps to the rescue when one of his staff’s family members are in trouble
  • A co-worker who I have nicknamed Speedy Gonzales because he zips around, breaking glasses and blaming me. I don’t think his buzzing attitude is all that natural; and
  • A group of older men who accidentally found us skinny dipping, said ‘YaSas’ and kept on walking without comment

Wow. I’m exhausted.

One thing is for sure…the Greeks are very sincere. They don’t bullsh*t you. What you see is what you get.

So get over here because what I’m seeing is freakin’ hilarious!

** Please note this is not a statement of my beliefs, only a comment regarding the stereotypes present in today’s society.

The Cliff.

I did it. I survived. I may do it again.

I made a list of A-Z experiences I must tick off whilst in Greece. Letter ‘C’ is Cliff Jumping. Tick.

Yesterday a group of us drove to Ammoudi with two goals in mind:

  1. Visit the site where ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ was filmed and recreate the scenes using a pair of jeans and our uncanny ability to overact
  2. Jump off a cliff

We succeeded on both accounts.

Ammoudi Bay is a gorgeous little fishing village near Oia. Quaint, quiet and filled with the fragrance of grilled seafood roasting on hot coals outside each restaurant.

It is a tiny bay with a dozen or colourful boats (well, dinghy’s really) with tangled fishing nets hanging off the back and Greek flags raised proudly on the front.

For those teenage girls (and those who wish they still were – me) this was where Lena first met Kostas on the pier in the first film. A short walk around the bay takes you to a smaller area set amongst the rocks where people leave their belongings and swim out to the cliff. The same cliff they jump off in the second film.

The Jump – I can remember taking a short run-off as I was worried I wouldn’t leap out far enough to miss the rocks below (though not worried enough to stay on dry land). I can remember screaming ‘oh sh*t, oh fu**, ahhh’ as I leapt off the edge. I can remember hitting the water and the sudden taste of salt up my nose and down my throat. I can remember shaking and trembling as I tried to scramble back up the cliff, desperate for something firm beneath my feet.

I cannot however remember being in the air or the feeling of falling 15 feet. Adrenalin perhaps? What is the point of extreme sports if you can’t remember the most important part!

After I’d returned to shore after a second successful jump I sat and watched others do the same, including a boy who (through peer pressure no doubt) climbed to the very top and leapt off.

Absolute terror filled me (and I’ll admit, a little curiosity) as I waited to see if he’d make it out alive – he did. I thought to myself ‘what an idiot’. But hang on, I am up there doing the same thing, am I too an idiot?

I believe I speak on behalf of my mother – who is yet to be informed of my dare-devil antics – when I say yes, I am. Sorry mum.