It has to be said that the month of October is a great time to throw yourself into the discovery of some of the less well known ports and islands in the Aegean, not because the weather is still mostly fine and the sea superb for swimming, and not even because the crowds of summertime tourists have all but gone and you can have the bays all to yourselves . . . . but because it is impossible not to relax when you know that autumn's here and that winter is on the way, but there you are, bathed in warm sunlight, your bathing suit dripping seawater onto your bare feet. Perhaps it is the sense that time is standing still, or that mother earth is taking pause to reflect. It's as if the whole eastern Mediterranean has taken on a hushed, gentle tone, with soft October sunshine bringing out the beauty of steep, rugged hills and sudden showers leaving the air deliciously crisp and fragrant with the scent of pine.
Okay, so we happened to get rained on (a few times!) but that just added to the enjoyment of our trip. We watched distant thunderstorms from the aft deck, wrapped up in polar fleeces after the sun had gone down. And while there was plenty of wine and good cheer to go around, those thunderstorms were merely light shows for the nights when we didn't have a starlit sky with a rising moon. And the conversation flowed as surely as the wine and the laughter rang out into the quiet of the bay and sometimes mingled with the distant claps of thunder. There we were, well fed, comfortable, safe and dry in our beautiful handmade gulet, awaiting morning and the chance to go for another swim in the turquoise waters that lapped about us.
Granted, the days were shorter and the nights were longer, but this gave us ample opportunity to take advantage of the yacht's in-built entertainment system, where we watched Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and a Hollywood blockbuster on the disappearing TV while our kids busied themselves with games of "Uno", "Magic" and "Taboo Junior" . . . and during the day, we embarked on a musical journey from The Beatles to The Who, with an odd-ish rendition of "Thunderstruck" blaring from the aft deck's speakers while we crossed between Tilos and Nisyros on a quest to see the remains of a volcano.
Sure, I noticed that a much-talked about ouzeri in Livadia was not open for business at lunchtime as we passed through town on our way back from the "dwarf elephant museum", but that didn't matter as our chef had already seen it fit to prepare a hearty lunch, which we ate while underway between Tilos and Symi. Good thing we did not hang about as as soon as we arrived in Symi the sun broke through the clouds enough to reveal beautiful clear water, a shingle beach and dark green conifers standing tall in a cleft in the hills. We thoroughly enjoyed our time spent in this bay, "Skoumisa", swimming while the rain dropped on our heads and kneeboarding until disk. At the entrance to the bay, a whitewashed monastery was sitting atop an islet, and although the islet was attached to the mainland by a rough causeway, there were no tourists to be seen. We saw tourists in Symi Town, which was a gorgeous place to spend the night, but only two managed to follow our lead and find their way up to the church above the town - which was the most strenuous exercise we'd had all week - just as well that the views were magnificent!
Ah - admittedly, we had to turn around and go back to Symi after learning that the harbour authorities in Bozburun were no longer doing port clearances as the summer was officially over. . . which meant we had to alter our itinerary and spend the rest of the day anchored a short way off Aghios Georghios Dhysalonas beach, contemplating the grandeur of those 300 meter high cliffs that towered above us. We were amused by the death-defying acrobatic displays of the local goats and photographed them in action, not realising at the time that more than 50 years ago, this narrow inlet had been used as a film location for the movie, "The Guns of Navarone" - featuring acrobatics of a different kind. It was all very quiet on the day we were there, probably because the only way to get to this bay is by boat. And so, with a few clinks of our ouzo glasses, we enjoyed a final night in Greece, listening to our favourite music echoing off those lofty crags.
The next day it was back to Turkey and more of that southern coast rugged beauty with its double dose of serenity. It was here, with late October breezes on our faces, that the last little bit of anxiety and stress took flight. The breeze brought hints of sage and thyme, mixed with the salty smell of wave-washed rocks.
We are all satisfied that we've now had the last swim of the season. . . and if ever the opportunity arises to go back to visit the islands in October, we'll take it.