Touring Day

We were in Greece from August 8th to September 11th back in 1977. It’s a long time to be camping in one little town, so one day we drove south to do a sightseeing trip.  Aeropolis was a scenic little port – just a few houses near the water. The main town, not very big, was a short distance inland.

I looked up Aeropolis on Google Maps and clicked the Satellite option. It looks like many more buildings have been constructed along the beach since I took this photo. The houses look almost deserted, but in the next photo, you can see that there are people living there.

Also, notice in this photo the farmhouse on the hillside and the fenced fields. If you click on the photo you’ll be able to see more detail. All those “fences” are made of rocks. They used the material they had. Makes me think of some of the walls between fields in the UK.

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You can see cars and people near some of the buildings, and in some of the boats. There are even some swimmers in the lower left corner.

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From Aeropolis we took a detour off the main highway, and drove twelve miles south to Pyrgos Dirou. This place was known for its caves. They are part of an underground river. At the time, only a small part was accessible by boats through narrow passageways surrounded stalagmites and stalactites. According to Wikipedia, these caves were places of worship in Paleolithic and Neolithic times and their inhabitants believed that the caves were the entrance to the underworld. I’m  amazed that they still exist considering all the earthquakes the region has.

We paid  the 180 drachma entrance fee (about $5.50) and were asked to take our place in a small flat-bottomed boat along with (I think) four other people. I could certainly believe that we were heading for the underworld. I couldn’t take any pictures inside the caves but I bought a postcard which I sent to my parents and asked them to save for me. I scanned that postcard today and although it’s very grainy, it will give you an idea of what it was like in the caves. The lights make it look more colourful than it would have been in natural light.

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Underwater cables ran along the riverbed lighting our way. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if they had a power failure. Imagine being in there in the pitch dark and not knowing where the entrance was. My claustrophobia ramped up a notch at the thought.

On the bench in front of us in the boat, sat an elderly woman wearing a small black “churchy” hat – the kind with the net in front of the face.  She was oblivious to the stalactites that we had to dodge now and then as our pilot navigated the twists and turns through the caves. We had to duck or lean over several times to avoid being whapped in the head by them, but the little old lady took no action. Gary gently pushed her head to the side each time she was in danger of being knocked out.

She sang throughout the whole trip, not missing a beat when her head was tipped out of the way for her. She smiled and nodded at Gary and kept on singing about the fengari (the moon). I was a bit nervous about her singing when I saw signs posted here and there in English advising the tourists to be quiet. I wondered what the vibrations might do in these cramped quarters. I tried not to think about earthquakes.

When we came to the end of the passage, we were asked to step out of the boat onto a ledge of the underground riverbank. Some tourists who were waiting there, climbed into our boat and left. The tour guide assured us we would get on another boat. While we waited, we were given a little tour spiel to keep our minds off being stranded. We were told to have a look at some of the formations along a path beside the river.  When the next boat came along, I got in but Gary was asked to stay behind. At that point I said no, I would stay behind too, and after a bit of arguing they took someone else. I just had a gut feeling that I didn’t want to be separated from Gary at that time and place. We didn’t know the language and we were dependent on the tour guides to get us out of there again. I’m not sure we could have found our way without them; certainly not if the lights went out. I was also a bit worried about the electricity in those cables and underwater lights. Did I dare try wading or swimming out if I were stranded? I would never find my way in the dark. We both got in the next boat that came along, but it was a wake-up call to show us how completely we were at the mercy of the tour guides. For a control freak like me, that was hard to take.

In hindsight, as fantastic as it was to see the caves by boat, it’s one of those things I would never do again, now that I’ve had time to consider all the “what if”s.

The tour continues next time.

21 thoughts on “Touring Day

  1. Wow the caves sound wonderful except the reliance on a guide.. not sure you’d get me in there… I often wonder why one can’t take photos in places like that.. I can understand the flash story but why not photos.?.. I am enjoying this tour with you..

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    • I gave you the wrong impression. It wasn’t that photos weren’t allowed, but that I didn’t have the capability and skill to take pictures in the near dark. And yes, relying totally on the tour guide…not something I would do again, but I’m glad I did it and it turned out okay.

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  2. The sea in the bay looks so clear and inviting – I love that turquoise effect with white sand and high sun overhead. The boat trip into the underworld must have been hair-raising. One can feel vulnerable in these situations.

    Reminds me of a trip in Africa with a hotel waiter who wanted to take us to his village on his day off. A completely overloaded boat trip across the Gambia River, a 5 mile ride in a ‘taxi’ across scrub and grass and then a dug-out canoe to the village. No one knew where we were, there would be no way to contact us. We had not told anyone where we were going and the hotel rep had warned against leaving the compound unless on an ‘official’ organised trip. As it was, we had a most amazing adventure: we met the whole village, shared some strange ‘tea’ with the village elders and were humbled by the way these folk lived in mud huts with very little. We were mortified that they insisted on giving us fruit and eggs to take away. We asked how we could help – they just wanted our left over soaps, shampoo, toothpaste – taken for granted by us but a luxury for them. I confess I was very anxious the whole time and relieved when we got back safely – but ashamed that I had imagined the worst of these lovely people.

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  3. Cool. This is very much like the short story I wrote in my book anthology about my trip to the Island of Capri off the coast of Italy (Naples). We went into a grotto like that too. I wrote about how my grandma made everyone laugh. It really was scary though. I thought I was being kidnapped the way they hustled us into rowboats and told sit on the floor ducking down. You’re right, looking back, I don’t know if I’d do it again, but I’m sure glad I did it once. You had an amazing trip to Greece. That town doesn’t even look like a town, but just a few buildings.

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    • The photo of Aeropolis is only the port area. I didn’t know that at the time. There is more of a town a short distance inland. Probably safer from the storms and more agricultural land available. I saw in the satellite images that there are orchards everywhere (probably olive trees).

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  4. The tour was exciting again. But I would be a bit afraid too (especially if I would have to go into the boat without my husband).
    I just love travelling with you.

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    • I looked it up and found only a Blue Grotto in Italy on the island of Capri. Is that the one you meant? It’s in that general part of the world. Narrow entrance to that sea cave. I wonder what happens when the tide rises.

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  5. The bay is really pretty: I bet it would be a great place to do some diving! I like the cave too, but the only way I would go in there would be by myself… alone!

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    • There were some fish left way back then. I don’t know how it is now. The water is really clear because of the high salt content. I agree with you on the cave. If you were by yourself you’d be able to mark your return route and also be sure of a ride back.

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  6. Oh Anneli, this is just fantastic. I agree with montucky about the diving: would love it.

    Just WONDERFUL 🙂

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  7. Love that singing lady! Your description reminds me of those toys with weighted bases that tinkle when you push them over and they just keep coming back for more. Somehow it’s ridiculously funny to think of her in that scary cave toothed with stalactites and vaguely sinister guides…

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