Judging by the waves of post comments and Facebook replies to your latest entries, you’d wager that your blog has taken a turn in favor of shock value. It’s true. Among the thousands of blogging travelers in this world, you wonder how many of them focus beyond, “And then I visited this amazing historic place, and it was beautiful!”
Of course you’re doing all of that! But, come on… you can read the same thing in travel guides. Did you go to London and walk the city and take snap shots of all the buildings? Sure. Did you go to Athens and see the Acropolis? Absolutely.
The fact remains, however, that those experiences are far less memorable than your subject matter.
Should you visit another place like the Mont St. Michelle in Normandy at sunset—the sight of which took your breath away, and the experience of which, while you were drunk of love, practically moved you to tears—you’ll be damn sure to write about it.
But you don’t travel, frankly, for the sole purpose of executing the guide-book experience. Haha, not by a long shot; your budget doesn’t permit it. You do it for the stories, and you have a knack for collecting them (or perhaps you are no better at it than the next person, but have a better flourish for description).
The mental: dealing with a difficult hippie in Agia Galini; fending off the advances, the hisses, the clicking and honking of men (thank you Angus, first for your dedicated readership and amusing comments—they always make you smile—especially the latest which, in so many words, implied that, in case you forgot, you shouldn’t be a dumbass about your feminine charm—hah!).
As you write this with numb fingertips, you still berate yourself.
You left Spaso and Agia Galini two days ago, on a Monday. You woke that morning more than eager to depart. Spaso, early in the morning, had come up the stairs to your “room” (more like a loft) on the non-insulated second floor. Having perched on a chair next to your bed, he searched for you under your hat (which he despised on you), your sleeping bag, the carpet on top of that. You were fully clothed—layered in all your shirts and your jacket to keep warm. Once he found your cheek, he leaned down and planted a prickly kiss, wishing you well.
Please don’t do that again.
“If you would like to stay longer, you are more than welcome,” he said softly.
Yeah, you figured that much.
“There is a storm coming from the north. There was snow in Athens last night. The boats won’t be running. You should stay here until it passes.”
You could still feel the prickles from his stubble. No thanks, I’ll take my chances with the rain.
You didn’t despise Spaso. You had what you might describe as a bitter-sweet “friendship” with him: sweet for his hospitality and his general affinity towards you; bitter, because of the constant strain of challenge, and for the acceleration of said “friendship,” which included premature confrontation with much of the bad, and not exclusively the good.
But no, you would not be staying. You had an incredible couchsurfing hostess, Carolina, awaiting your arrival in Iraklion—Carolina, from Argentina, who smiled and laughed readily when you spoke, and punctuated conversations with, “Perrrfect, Marrria!”
So you headed out into the rain.
Back in the company of Carolina and other couch surfers, you were about as excited as a puppy. All the words you’d suppressed over the past week came rushing out and flooded the ears of strangers who couldn’t even begin to comprehend what sort of person you’d been living with. But you didn’t care. Just to speak freely, without fear or strain, was a gift.
You didn’t really care about the storm, the fact that your boat had been canceled, that the storm was so cold and so wet that it didn’t permit passing time outdoors. The first day back was still fantastic. You went to a party, met some new people, caught up on email, filed your tax return, uploaded photos. Kept yourself busy on your butt in front of the computer.
But this morning, you wondered what the hell you would do to pass the time. Before ayahuasca, you’d guessed that your personal hell was boredom (“It bores us. And that is that, except for the fact that there is no such thing as boredom. Boredom is really a psychic defense protecting us from ourselves, from complete paralysis, by repressing, among other things, the meaning of that place, which is in this case is and always has been horror.” –House Of Leaves) (Well, that part about it being your personal hell turned out not to be true, but boredom is still a very difficult situation for you). Damn, the boat to Santorini was canceled again, and the next one might not be for another four days. Or, you could catch a boat back to Athens in two days, but that would set you back financially…
So what to do, what to do? You can’t sit any longer!
Why not go for a run? Bundle up and brave the cold wind, as it wasn’t raining beyond an occasional sprinkle.
And so you went—ran down to the port to get the latest news on the ferries, and then wondered if you might run to the end of the 2km sea wall that sheltered the port from the sea.
Ahhh, well, the sea wall, a strong, broad, stone wall extending past an old castle, was getting absolutely hammered. The sea itself was an angry slate color, churning out menacing waves that splashed against the thirty-foot bulkhead on top of the sea wall, rose up over it, and flooded your intended path.
In America, on a day like this, someone would have restricted access here.
But not in Greece. Haha, no. In terms of safety precautions, Greece leaves something to be desired; that’s stating it lightly. Greece is abominable when it comes to safety. Lane lines and traffic lights are merely a suggestion. People park, double park, and triple park, blocking streets jammed with motorbikes and pedestrians (since sidewalks are impassable, clogged with turned-over dumpsters, scaffolding, dog shit, and more parked cars!). There are no helmet laws. You’ve seen a man, his wife, and their infant on a motorbike weaving along wet streets; you’ve seen a man stop his motorbike in the middle of an intersection in order to light a cigarette.
Safety? Yeah right.
And as Cheda had explained to you, “You are responsible for yourself. If you slip off the sidewalk because of a broken curb, that is your fault. Americans complain too much, and they expect too much.”
That might be true. Americans have a sense of entitlement to safety, and to money, should something unsafe come within their view.
You are responsible for yourself.
That’s the problem when you get bored. You just have to do something—stupid… But you admit your stupidity.
Stupid…like trying to run down the sea wall. Not because you are an adrenaline junkie, but because you are an endorphin junkie, and mixing danger with a workout might give you a nice chemical buzz.
You ventured down, splashing through inches of water that washed over the path, closer to the castle, where the waves bashed into the sea wall, shot high into the air, and rained onto the concrete with a sound like thunder. This is going to be wet.
You tried to time the waves, but there seemed to be no order to them. The freezing headwind stung your face, made breathing difficult. If you could charge past the castle, you could take shelter along the higher bulkhead on the sea wall, and hopefully evade most of the water that soared up and arced over it.
Here goes nothing!
You charged, realized very quickly it was bad timing, but no longer had the option of turning back.
Water crashed against the sea wall, splashed up, and rained down hard as your streaked past. You gasped at the cold, but pushed on, generally pleased with yourself. You stayed close to the high wall, slowed to a trot, and caught your breath. That wasn’t so bad. You continued on.
More water rained down on you. Then more.
Fuck! Your iPod!
It was getting soaked. Forget the game. You decided to turn back, lest you permanently fuck up that awesome music-thieving device that had been with you since 2005. There was no way you would make it another 2kms without ruining the thing.
More water rained. Even more. More than you could have expected, eying the way the waves hit only minutes earlier.
And then you stared in horror at the castle that had been behind you.
The waves no longer crashed against the bulkhead and flooded the path with a few inches of water. More like a few feet. And when the flood hit the wall of the castle, the water split in two directions and surged along the length of it.
More water rained, so cold you were gasping. And the wind came howling. You dropped into a crouch, tried to catch your breath, but couldn’t breathe at all. The rain, the wind, the cold gripped your chest—your lungs—and knocked you about. Forget about your iPod. Get the fuck off this pier!
You crept back toward the castle, wondering fearfully how you would manage to charge past the waves that were throwing rocks onto the path. Did you honestly think you were sturdy enough—heavy enough to withstand blows from the sea?
Not really, but you didn’t have much choice. The wind picked up, and you ran for it, only to skid to a halt when a wave bashed into the side of the castle and exploded. Followed by another. And another. When the water reached you, it was still at knee-height.
Another moment’s pause, and then you took off again, high-kneeing through the current.
Crash! The water hit the bulkhead. Then, Boom! A wall of water surged high into the air, showering over you, and the tail end of it—a body of water torso-deep—swept you off your feet and slammed you into the wall, at which point it exploded in two, one half carrying you—mouth agape as you strained to keep your head from being submerged—gasping and grappling down the length of the wall.
Your palms scraped roughly against stone and concrete until they seized upon a tiny rope secured between two poles. You threw your arms over it, clung for your what little remained of your dignity, and felt your legs flop helplessly as the current rushed past and back into the sea. As soon as your body settled back on the concrete, another ominous crash sounded behind you, but you were streaking towards safety.
Ahem! Did anybody see that?
You often wonder why you have such an impact on people when you are running. Perhaps its because you’re giant, or because you have the audacity to wear spandex in public. Maybe its that people aren’t used to seeing someone run with the same exercise intensity. Whatever it is, you get noticed, and several times people have said, “Hey! It’s you! I saw you running the other day.” And they offer you a lift, or a drink.
In this case, you were charging full-tilt-boogie through the streets of Iraklion during a storm, soaking wet, with rivulets of blood running from your left hand, trying to beat a path to a hot shower. Later, when you returned to the pier to capture a few more memories, a fisherman leaned out a window and called you over.
“Hey, come here! Have some wine!”
Without hesitation, you approached the boat. The man was smiling and holding up his glass. “Have some wine with us.”
Why not? You were bored. So jumped on board, went below-deck, and seated yourself with not one, not two, not three—but five fisherman who were waiting out the storm.
“I saw you running yesterday,” said one man. Again, what was it about the running?
They asked you who you were, if you were part of the cruise ship, if you smoked marijuana, who you thought was the cutest guy on the boat…
“It wouldn’t be polite to answer that,” you said, feeling your stomach flip as the boat rocked. You wondered whether you had made a second stupid decision that day: boarding a boat with five smoking and drinking fisherman, finding yourself surrounded by all kinds of ropes, lines, hooks, and for god’s sake! Why did each one have to have a knife on him?!
But what did you expect? It as a fishing boat. As it turned out, they were perfectly polite and the moment your stomach couldn’t handle another minute on that rocking vessel, three of them went on deck to help you disembark.