Andros

Arrival on Andros in the Rain

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Andros, an island on my agenda of islands to be visited for so long, and here I was at last. What was I doing? Sitting in a bar with a bottle of Amstel. So what's new, you may be thinking? But to go back to my arrival. Gavrion looked a bit of a dump in the rain.

My first glimpse of Gavrion was not welcoming. The decks of the Haroula were swimming with water. Gavrion harbour was full of puddles. For some reason, the Haroula did not dock at the surfaced part of the harbour, but by a piece of rough ground nearby. I squelched across the puddles. I noticed that no other tourists had got off. Should I dash back on board? No, the Haroula only went to Rafina and I did not want to go to the mainland. If the ferry had been going on to somewhere nice, I might have stayed on board or jumped back on board so unwelcoming was my first glimpse of the island. I thought of my first trip to Scotland, when I arrived at Glasgow at some godforsaken hour of the morning on a very rainy day. I had never felt the need of an umbrella until I went to Scotland. I left Glasgow ASAP by catching the paddle steamer the Waverley to Rothesay.

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I had spent so long trying to get to Andros. Now here I was. With water seeping through my shoes, I went to the area where buses were parked. The Haroula had docked at 15.30. There must be a bus to the Chora soon. Somewhere I had read that a bus met all the boats. I should not have long to wait. A tot of Metaxa would not have gone amiss as I shivered by the quayside. It was now not only wet, it was also getting colder.

During an intermission when the rain came down heavily but not torrentially, I ventured out from the shelter of the taverna canopy. I splashed past some shops. I bought a map of the island. I also paddled round a back lane that looked as if it could be interesting on a dry day. I did not venture too far, as the taverna seemed about to close. I did not want to leave my bag there too long in case the helpful owner took it inside and locked the door - and I would not be able to get away even if there was a bus. There was nowhere else dry to leave my bags.

Should I get a taxi? No, an hour is a long and expensive way to go by taxi. (Note from England. Looking back, whatever the cost of a taxi from Gavrion to Chora would have been, it would have been worth it for the pleasure of doing the trip in daylight, and spending the extra time in Chora. Wet weather is far more endurable when you have a home base. At the time, as I always do in Greece, I felt that as well as being expensive, catching a taxi was in some way "cheating.")

Reader I gave up waiting and caught a taxi as far as Batsi. The fare was 1500 dr.

The rain was beating against the windows of the taxi. I saw rows of empty sun loungers on the beach. At one point, we saw a group of people in bikinis and swimming trunks dashing into a car. Cold they may have been, but they were suitably dressed for the weather. Nowhere looks at its best in the rain, I kept telling myself. Did Andros have anything other than out of season closed tourist establishments to offer? I thought of my visit to Kalymnos the previous autumn. Kalymnos town, Pothia, was bustling and interesting. Pothia was too bustling for my taste, with high-speed motorcycles whizzing up and down narrow lanes without pavements. One day I had caught a bus to Masouri, a resort at the other side of the island. Until I reached the resort, I had not realised that there was no village as such, just a mass of tourist development. I caught the same bus back, and the driver did not charge me for the return journey. Perhaps he felt that he had sold me a pup. I had a similar feeling in Gavrion and Batsi - but at least there was some life other than tourist life, and a few hardy tourists. Tourists are like flowers, the annuals coming for the peak summer months, sowing themselves here one year, somewhere else the next. Then there are the hardy perennials like me.

By ten past five, I was in Batsi and, you have guessed it, sitting in a taverna. It was still raining. Not just raining, but absolutely pelting down. The taxi driver showed me the bus and taxi stop, just near the taverna Koala that was to become my temporary home. "Not many tourists go to Chora," the taxi driver had told me. As the taxi pulled up, a number of room touts approached us. The taxi driver shooed them away, saying that I was going to Chora.

Between rainstorms I ventured out of my taverna sanctuary and looked around. There is a huge accommodation block on the Gavrion side of Batsi, covering half a hillside, terrace style. Looks spacious and may be fine to stay in, but is an eyesore.

I wondered if the owner of the Koala Restaurant in Batsi had an Aussie connection. I doubted if there were many koalas bounding around the Andros countryside. The other customers sounded as though they were German and Dutch, and a couple waterlogged Brits. Poor sodden (water, not drunk) sods, they were probably on a package at Batsi.

After I had eaten the owner of the Restaurant Koala let me leave my bag indoors whilst I ventured into the dripping rain for a glance at Batsi. The rain had not relented. A few other brave souls were sitting under the substantial canopy at the taverna, but the rain was finding a way through the gaps, and every so often someone would up and move to a drier table. The owner looked on, helping with the move and making suggestions as to the least wet place to sit. A new form of musical chairs. I was favourably impressed. For a resort, not bad. A steep path, lined with vegetation ran invitingly uphill. Rather, it would have been inviting on a dry day. That greenery stunned me by its luxuriance. A foretaste of what I was to find in the rest of Andros.

The path offered no shelter from the torrential rain, so I confined my explorations to the lower levels of Batsi, browsing amongst the few shops that were open. Batsi is certainly more attractive looking than Gavrion, but I suspect that Gavrion has an older core (when I braved the torrents I found a marbled back lane at Gavrion).

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