There is a character in the brilliant novel Catch-22 that deliberately sets out to do things he hates because he wants his life to seem to last longer.
Tonight, I followed in his footsteps.
I have always looked at the two bays, Armeni and Ammoudi, which sit underneath Oia, with a bit of curiosity. For Armeni, I’ve never been there, but see donkeys and tourists going up and down so inevitably wonder what’s going on down there. As far as I know, it is actually the former cruise ship stop, now only used for local boats to and from the other islands within the Caldera. As I sit on my balcony, I laugh as I see tourists too proud to take the donkeys heaving and panting their way up the stairs, following barebacked donkeys.
The other bay is Ammoudi Bay, which I have visited before and is a little fishing village well-known for its fish tavernas, views of the sunset, and colourful fishing boats bobbing in clear beautiful water . There are two ways to Ammoudi: the road or steps. My buddies in Skiza told me that Ammoudi’s tavernas opened yesterday so, this being my last night in Oia, I immediately decided that tonight’s would be a fish dinner. As you can see from my Twitter post of 10 short hours ago, I figured I had “Buns of Steel” after nearly a month here, so would kill it.
It started out nicely enough: I decided to head down the road rather than the steps, and soon realised that the road was a much more roundabout way to get there. A kind local stopped and offered me a ride – hurrah! After a little walk around the bay, I enjoyed a beautiful fish dinner. As an aside, I should let you know that seafood is very expensive in Greece. Yeah, I know – you didn’t expect THAT, did you? Greece is, basically, massively over-fished, mainly for us tourists. Ammoudi’s Sunset Taverna charges around E65 per kg for most varieties of fish but, if you want their specialty (lobster spaghetti), be prepared to fork out E95 (yes, my friends, that’s around $160 for a plate of spaghetti!).
Luckily for me, the taverna had a fresh catch of my favourite fish, red mullet (in Greece, known as barbounia, or “King of Fish”), caught just this morning. It gives the mullet a good name for a change, and is a beautiful, delicate white-fleshed fish with red skin. I asked the waiter if the stairs had lights at night: “Yes”, he replied. Oh good.
After the sunset, as the light faded, I realised I would have to make tracks and head up the stairs before the light died, so up I went. Well…it took me about 10 steps to regret the decision but, being Queen of Morons, I kept going. There are, reputedly, 230 steps between Oia and Ammoudi. However, I beg to differ. First, Lord knows where the formal “Ammoudi steps” actually begin, but I can assure you that, even after 230, there are plenty more where those 230 came from to reach home. Plus (and this is the worst part) the steps themselves are SLOPED and LONG. Yes, so even when you climb the step itself, each step qualifies as a little hill all on its own, and I reckon each one is worth at least 2, but more like 3 normal steps.
Oh and, by the way, THERE ARE NO LIGHTS.
Moron that I am, I kept going so I could tick this off my list, and found myself racing against the last of the sun’s light to ensure that the path was lit up ahead of me. Naturally, the path was strewn with rocks and crevices so that you really do need light to get to where you are going or risk turning an ankle or, in my case, certain death.
Up and up, stopping, heaving, what was I thinking hauling my lard ass up these babies. My life flashed in front of my eyes: Mum, is that you? When would this end? Am I half way yet? Holy shit, batman, it’s too late to turn back. I wonder if I can call someone to come get me. Will it be too cold to spend the night here? Why the F*** didn’t I organise a taxi. Will they be able to find my Will? Where are those fricking donkeys when you need one? Finally, TWENTY FIVE LOOOOOONG MINUTES LATER: Is that the clanking of cutlery I hear? Lights appear on the steps. Laughter, non-morons eating their dinners. Suddenly, the steps were numbered…215, 216, 217…I stopped by a man out plastering the front of his house. “Hello” his little boy said. “Are you OK?” asked Dad. What’s Greek for “Call an ambulance?”
But, of course, the steps KEPT GOING. There must have been another 50 or 60 to get home, and then down my 90…OMG, I’m still alive. Apologies for no photos: it’s almost certain that, whenever I head to an Oia sunset, my camera or battery die, and tonight was no exception. And, to be honest, I’m just glad to be alive and photos are really unnecessary in such a situation.
And, like Yossarian’s crazy friend, my last night in Oia is lasting a lifetime.