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Friday, January 9, 2015

My Santorini by Jono Cusack

Santorini, a beacon of light and hope for Greece in the middle of the Cyclades. The island is typical of paradise with incredible views, spectacular beaches, and supposedly, the occasional beautiful woman. The only thing missing, was everyone else.


It was 5am at Piraeus Port, I was curled around my backpack, clinging to anything that could provide a hint of warmth. The sun had yet to reveal itself. There was a small, select group of passengers huddled around the gangway ready to board the ferry to Santorini. Be they Greek or from somewhere in Eastern Europe was impossible to say under the glow of the streetlights. The alarm sounded to board. I picked myself up with the back of an eighty year old carpenter and joined the dwindling queue of passengers.

As we disembarked, the ferry was less than a third full at best. The complimentary coffee in the galley remained untouched throughout the entire journey. The water was smooth and took the better part of the day travelling through the crystal blue to reach the shear cliff face of Santorini. A white Holden Berlina driven by a short, rotund balled man called Alex awaited me. We travelled up the gradient towards the capital Fira, and my hotel.

Santorini is as the photos depict. A place where shots taken with even a disposable camera can be on page nine of National Geographic. We passed very few cars on the ten minute ride. It was clear I was the only guest as we pulled into the renovated townhouse that was my hotel. Alex left me alone with my backpack and a pair of keys to room 4F. I opened the shutters to my two single-bed room and looked out over the courtyard. The silence was haunting, not even the limited traffic from the main road could cut through the atmosphere. Fearing the ghosts of the ancient Minoans, I left to find that one vantage point which Santorini is known for.

It was easy enough; the paved paths of Fira all lead towards to the same edge of the same cliff looking over the island’s sunken centre. I bought a beer from the one corner store I found open and placed myself in position as the sunset only had minutes to live. The island closed in on itself as the sky turned to crimson. To the east and west, the white-chalked walls with blue domes at their peaks appeared as natural a feature as the volcanic peaks at the horizon. Santorini, at this time each day, begs any onlooker to fall in love. I was quite obviously alone, not just from those to fall in love with, but from any human contact at all.

It was closing time, everywhere. I stopped at a place with twenty quad bikes standing at attention. Not one had been rented. The owner opened a book that was more ancient tome than diary and placed my name in there for 8am the following morning. I had to ask, the one question that was on my mind since I arrived.

 - 'Where was everybody?'
 - 'This is off-season, very few people this time of year.'

I had the island to myself.

The next morning. At speeds illegal anywhere else in the world but Europe, I explored the entire place in a day. The few locals around were entirely negligent to the fact that I was walking through their homes. Black Beach and Red Beach were entirely uninhabited. It was warm, I had the company of several stray dogs. I looked out at the water coming in to the black sand and thought, '...is it still a nude beach if you are the only person nude?' Beaches and white washed walls passed into each other. The archaeological site of Akrotiri was of course, closed. The entire day felt as though I was discovering every ride of an abandoned amusement park.

In a circumnavigation of the island I reached Fira yet again. I returned the bike to no one and left the keys in the letterbox. Fortune would have it that the gyros shop had opened for the evening. I found the same spot for that same celestial view. Without anyone there, it felt like for the smallest amount of time I had ownership of that view. The volcano of Santorini was mine.

Author Bio

From Buenos Aires, to Milan, to Moscow, Jono Cusack ghas lived across the world for the past decade. At the beginning of 2014 he started again and began the first of five long haul trips around the world, the Pan-American Highway. Along the way he seeks the stories of those incredible people whose tales remain unknown. Follow along at www.seesomething.com.au and www.facebook.com/seesomething

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