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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We run this island.

As much as I had loved Tuesday, I felt like we didn't get to see much. So we decided to rent ATVs for a couple of days. We talked to Poppy at the front desk, and she called a rental company. A man came to pick us up. He took Kate, Bethany and me first, and dropped us off at the shop in Fira. Another man in red overalls came out to give us lessons but mostly to mock us while the other man drove back to get everyone else. He asked if any of us had ever drive a four-wheeler. Bethany answered with a yes. He smirked and led us over to the ATVs. He started quizzing her on her expertise, but she had only ridden a couple of times. He concluded that she was lying, and to teach us our lesson, he just waved his hand at a four-wheeler and let each of us figure out how to work it for a test drive up and down the street. He laughed as none of us could turn the vehicle around at the end of the narrow alleyway.
But apparently it was good enough, because when the rest of the girls showed up, they handed us helmets and three sets of keys.  We wanted to get a couple of vespas too, but you need a scooter license to ride them in Greece. =[
So we paired up and paid for three scooters for two days. It broke down to €15 each — an unbelievable deal. Caitlin hopped on the back of mine, and we started our adventure.

First we went back to the black sand beach in hopes of finding a chocolate shop that Bethany had read about. Thinking something would be open there was obviously blind faith, but we tried anyway.
With no success, we moved on to Pyrgos, where Bethany also had the name of a restaurant to try. 

The drive was absolutely beautiful. Caitlin and I started cheering on our yellow ATV as it chugged up the hills to Pygros. "Come on, Squirt. You've got this! Go, Squirt, go!!" He now had a name — and a gender. We also started yelling "banana walnut" in a British accent, because it was just completely necessary.
We reached Pygros, parked our go-carts (as I began thinking of them) and started walking around the town. Just like Kamari, nearly everything was closed. An employee at a small convenient store told us the restaurant we were looking for was closed, and the small cafe across the street was only serving coffee. We went back to the convenient store and with a couple of English words and a lot of hand gestures, they directed us to Mythos Grill House down the road. It too looked closed, but someone ushered us inside and we sat at a table overlooking the island.

Photo taken from Caitlin's blog
We ordered two plates of tomato doughnuts, which we had heard was a must-have while in Santorini. They were basically deep fried tomatoes, but I really liked them. Most of the girls weren't to crazy about them. I think Kate spit hers out. More for me!
Amy and I split an order of cheese pies and I got eggplant dip. I thought the dip would come with bread, but it was supposed to be for the bread they gave us when we sat down. By the time I got my food, we had already hungrily scarfed down almost all of the bread. So I resorted to putting it on all the other food I had. It was still pretty good. It was so nice to be trying new food that wasn't in the pasta family.

After we ate, they gave us complimentary dessert. It was this weird gelatinous square cut into cubes. The texture was definitely weird, but other than that I really liked it, as did Amy. Everyone else just made faces. Kate tried to swallow hers whole like pills until she didn't have water. "I don't do weird food."

After lunch, Caitlin took the wheel for a while. I loved driving, so I was a little sad to give it up. But it turns out the ride is just as fantastic as a passenger. Without having to focus on the road, I saw so much more.

We continued in the direction we hoped was the red beach. We weren't terribly concerned with our destination, though, because the ride was so pretty. We just kept heading south.

We pulled over to take some pictures. I swear I spent my spring break in a post card. Perhaps a painting. But it's hard to believe this place is real. It's a paradise.

Our helmets made us look awfully ridiculous for as cool as riding the ATVs made us feel.

We drove some more, following our navigators Kate and Jess. They were following signs for the red beach, when suddenly one directed them down a dirt path to our left. We bumped along the curves of the path through our own dust clouds. We passed a couple of donkeys and followed more signs supposedly directing us to the red beach. 
Suddenly the path dropped steeply. I watched Jess and Kate disappear down the hill on their little mario kart. I still can't get over how much they looked like they belonged in the video game with their red ATV and white mushroom helmets.

Caitlin and I followed them to the bottom of the hill. We looked around the corner and still saw no sign of a beach. Just more dangerously sloped hills. We waved for Amy and Bethany to not follow us down there and decided it would be best to turn around and find a paved path to the beach. We didn't want to risk not being able to get back to the top. 
Throttle squeezed tightly, Caitlin and Squirt got us back to the top without a problem.

Photo courtesy of Amy
Kate and Jess followed shortly. We got back to the main road and kept heading south. We just kept going until we reached the very tip of the island. The road ended at a small dirt path and a lighthouse. As we hopped off and removed our helmets, we could see a couple emerging from the path. Caitlin turned to me and said wouldn't it be funny if that was Melanie and Simon (the Canadian couple we had met in Athens)? We knew they were coming to Santorini next, but what were the odds?
Pretty good I guess because low and behold, up walks Melanie and Simon. They're both in between jobs, so they decided to do a three-month tour of Europe. 19 countries. 25 cities. I found myself getting jealous, despite the fact that I'm studying abroad.
They said they were really enjoying Santorini, but were on to their next pitstop: Romania. We said our goodbyes again, and walked around the lighthouse on the path.

We rounded the corner and climbed up some rocks. We sat on the top of a cliff. Words can't capture this. I guarantee it.

I was sitting without a care in the world, not paying attention to anyone, when all of the sudden I heard Kate yell. I had seen her walk away a few minutes earlier, but I didn't think anything of it. We looked around and there she was — walking on the next cliff down, yelling for Jessica to take her picture.

I didn't even realize we could get to that cliff. It didn't look attached. Of course as soon as I took a picture of her I was getting up to explore too. Jessica, Bethany and I went down to the cliff, but Kate was nowhere to be found. We kept yelling her name and started to even get worried, but no response.
I turned to Jess and said, "you call her." I guess she only has ears for Jess, because after one shout of her name, Kate replied.

We got to the edge of the cliff she was on before and saw that there was another one below we couldn't see from up by the lighthouse. She was climbing her way down that one. I had no idea Kate was so much of an adventurer. She just kept climbing.
Jessica and I kept following her. Every time we got to where we last saw her, we found a new cliff a little lower down. The lighthouse kept getting smaller and began to disappear behind the cliffs the lower we got until it eventually disappeared all together.

Eventually we caught up to Kate, who was sitting on her "mermaid chair." There was a rock perfectly shaped into a chair. Kate decided it's where the mermaids sat. It only had one arm because the other side was for their fin. Couldn't argue with that logic.

We sat together for a few minutes, but I wanted to head back up. I knew there was no way the other three girls could see us, and we certainly couldn't hear them. I felt bad leaving them when we still wanted to find the red beach!

We climbed back up to meet them, then rounded the lighthouse and found some more rocks to climb. Kate is a monkey. Before I knew it, she was climbing another rock.

I can't really blame her though. I love climbing and nothing beat that view. Nothing.

Eventually we coaxed Kate down from her perch, and I reluctantly followed. We got back on our ATVs once more and retraced our path back to where we were before, hoping to pass the red beach.
Caitlin and I were last in line, and I thought I saw a sign for it. So I spent 10 minutes honking and waving trying to get their attention, but little Squirt just couldn't keep up with the other two. I eventually got them to turn around so we could go back to the red beach... only to find out that I had seen a sign for the same dirt path we went down before. Oops.

We tried down the next path and parked in a small lot. There was a man walking his dog nearby. We tried to communicate with him to ask him where the heck we needed to go, but he spoke very little English. All we got out of it was that we weren't in the right spot, but we should go right back on the main road. And so we did. And we followed more red beach signs through another maze of streets. We reached the coast and saw no red, so we cut our losses and decided to head home. We raced along the streets as the sky turned pink. Caitlin was driving and Squirt actually pulled ahead of Mario Kart, but the lead was brief and Jess and Kate won. I don't think Bethany and Amy ever knew we were racing.
When we got back to Karterados, we ran to the grocery store. I needed more greek yogurt. It was seriously the best yogurt I've had in my life. I miss it.
We had dinner at home before Bethany, Caitlin, Amy and I drove into town in the dark. Erika, Yelena and Kelsey had arrived in Santorini that day with their Bus2Alps group. They were staying in Fira and we were supposed to pick them up on our ATVs around 8 p.m.
We had an hour to kill, so the four of us walked around through a few shops and figured out where their hotel was. We drove Bethany home real quick so we would have enough room to pick up all three of our CCI sisters.
Amy, Caitlin and I sat on the steps of their hotel for a while before they finally emerged. Erika ran and jumped on me, nearly knocking me over with her hug. Everyone joined the embrace as other people at the hotel, likely Bus2Alps travelers looked on in confusion.
We tossed them helmets, and we rode off into the night. The girls were getting very sick of their travel-mates, so they were thrilled not only to escape them, but also to look so cool doing so on the back of four-wheelers. We were their personal escorts — their knights in shining armor.
They came back to the hotel room and the nine of us talked about our Greek adventures. Caitlin, Bethany and Amy tried Ouzo, a typical Greek "Apéritifs." Caitlin and Bethany coughed and sputtered, practically gagging. Amy downed her shot, looked quizzical, shrugged her shoulders and declared she liked it. Jessica and Kate had some sort of mixed drink that they made too strong or too gross, and they passed it to Amy, who liked that one too. Before we knew it, they had accidentally gotten Amy a little tipsy. She started climbing over beds and jumping from one to another. Suffice to say we were entertained.
After a couple of hours, Bethany, Caitlin and I took the girls back to their hotel.
It was so great to see them. It's hard to see how much of a family we become while we're in Florence, but I really felt it then. I didn't expect to miss them so much after less than a week, but I did. We all did.
And we had a couple more days of exploring with them before Bus2Alps took them elsewhere.
By the time we got back, I was exhausted. Bedtime!

Another perfect day.

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