Something I forgot to mention in previous posts was how wearing a baseball cap to protect my increasingly balding head from the sun leads me into banging it a lot – the peak obscures my view of potential head level obstacles. The first head bang I did was actually sans cap in the apartment shower room on day 1- banging my forehead on the edge of the glass shelf above the sink. Second head bang was due to the cap and it ironically occurred while I was looking at other caps in a shop in Tigaki. I walked into a metal pole supporting the canopy outside the shop with a loud hollow metallic clang and a halo of twittering birds flying around my head for a couple of seconds. The third and fourth bangs happened in quick succession in the village of Nikia on the volcano island of Nisyros, which was our destination today. And if that’s not a good segue I don’t know what is.
We had to be up early to meet the trip bus at a nearby pick up point at a crossroads. Then it was off to Kardamena to catch a boat. We were lucky that the Aegean was relatively calm today and the boat trip took us about half an hour. We docked at Mandriki harbour on the island of Nisyros (sometimes spelt Nissyros) and then hopped onto another coach to take us up to the village of Nikia and then the volcano caldera. By the way if your rep tells you that it is only their guests that have access to walk on the crater floor – this is total BS. This trip at least 10 Euros cheaper with Theokritos Travel in Tigaki than with Thomson and included a trip to Nikia (on Sundays only) which I’m not sure was even included with Thomson’s version of the event.
The village of Nikia is a cute little place with an award-winning square, a typical church, a monopolistic café, excellent views of the volcano caldera and some rather scabby toilets near where we parked. It was in this toilet where I managed to bang my head going in and (more stupidly) coming out on the low door frame. This actually drew blood and I had a curious square scab on my bonce for most of the rest of the holiday.
After a nice wander around Nikia and some refreshments we got back on the couch and were taken down into the volcano basin. The first thing that hits you when you get off the coach is the smell of brimstone aka sulphur. Gases around the crater are rich in such stinky things as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and ozone (if my understanding of the chemical symbols in the pamphlet is correct). There is a small charge to enter the crater area where there is a cheap café with a shaded rest area and some nice toilets.
We walked down into the largest crater – the Stefanos crater – holding our noses and feeling like we were on the surface of another planet. It really was breath-taking in more ways than one. Steaming fumeroles covered with crystals of yellow sulphur abound and you can hear the hydrothermal action bubbling away threatening beneath the spongy crust of the crater.
The last real volcanic action at Nisyros was about 20,000 years ago, but the volcano is still very much active. There is continued seismic activity (e.g. the earlier earthquake) and the amount of water and carbon dioxide coming out of the island is significant. A number of craters were formed in 1873 and 1888 and there were significant earthquakes causing much damage on the island and on neighbouring islands such as Kos. The island of Nisyros was in fact formed from volcanic activity about 60,000 years ago – in a way the island is the volcano.
Once we’d got our fill of hot gas and cheap Pringles we returned to Mandraki for lunch. We had a good amount of time to share a club sandwich and try some of the locally made beverages – one is made with almonds, sugar and water and has a name that escapes me, the other is cinnamon flavoured and is also available in Kos and is called kanelada (various spellings again exist and sometimes a ‘c’ is used). Both are excellently refreshing and a cheaper natural alternative to Fanta or Coke.
Mandraki is the main harbour village of Nisyros and has a mountain side monastery and also a ruined castle. We walked up the stairs to the church below the monastery to enjoy the views, but did not have time to investigate the basalt ruins of the castle. As well as basalt, pumice stone is a predominant rock on the island and in fact a small neighbouring islet has a quarry which exports the rock globally. So if you use pumice to scrub your feet it’s probably come from this quarry.
The boat trip back to Kos was even smoother than the ride out and the coach pick up and drop offs were all very efficient. Our tour guide was a well-educated woman originally from Nisyros who was full of facts and figures and was very friendly and open to questions. All in all it was a most excellent trip.
Once we got dropped off we went to the ‘Wet…’ poolbar just off the main road in Tigaki and had a couple of ice creams. Then we had a speed nap and got changed for another night oot on the toon.
Aspros Mylos is apparently ‘the best steak house in town’ and I have to say they did a delicious mixed grill of belt straining proportions. Siggy had a piece of gammon the size of a dinner plate. Then we dropped in at The Comfy Co. cocktail bar (for a Sex Appeal and a free shot of schnapps) and Memories (Sucker Punch and Apple Pie, plus two free shots of raki). I think the woman in Comfy is Dutch and it’s a funny accent to hear in a Greek bar. Free peanuts were an easy substitute for pudding.
All photos: Copyright 2015 Matthew Haynes