Getting to Kimolos Chora Without A Bus

I went down to the car deck of the Milos Express ready to get off. There was just me and a German couple waiting disembark at Kimolos. The crew kept asking me where I was going, and checking and rechecking my ticket. I am sure they did not suspect me of fare dodging but wanted to make doubly, triply, quadruply sure that I really did want to get off the ferry at Kimolos. I suspect some passengers must have got off at Kimolos thinking it was Milos.

The books I had read indicated that there was no bus at Kimolos. This surprised me, as the main village (really, a small town) is uphill, and islands with a far smaller population have buses. I expected to have to walk up to Chora. There was no bus. It was a hot day and Chora was a long uphill walk. I did not then realise just how long and straggly Kimolos Chora is.

The German couple also wanted to stay in Chora. Kimolos harbour is larger than some of the island harbours, but from what I had read all the interest was in the Chora. My note showed that there were rooms at taverna Bouharis in the Chora. Before leaving England, I had scanned all the books I could lay my hands on and made notes - the taverna had rooms according to my notes.

"Rooms" said a chap with a pick up truck.

"In Chora?" I asked. "Yes," he said. We jumped in. I do not have that much experience of trucks, but the back of this one dropped down so it was fairly easy to clamber on board. I thought of the islanders' experience of catching fish and how this experience is used to land and net tourists. The rooms are the keep nets. Keep them netted and let them swim back to sea on another ferry. How many shoals of tourists would arrive in the summer months? Would there be enough keep nets or would some sleep on the beaches? How long will it be before Kimolos boats a minibus with the name of the rooms proudly painted on the side?

We bounced along the road and came to a stop half way the port and Chora, outside what was obviously a building with 'rooms' for tourists.

This was not the Chora. "Chora?" I said gesturing uphill. "Chora" he said pointing to the ground. 'No rooms Chora' the Half Way Room Tout said. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. I thought of the determined room tout in Sikinos. I was determined to prove the Half Way Room Tout wrong. I was determined to find a room in Kimolos Chora. Rather cheekily we left our bags outside the Half Way Rooms and ventured uphill.

In the midday sun, it was a long hot haul even without our luggage. Later I found an old mule track that gave a shorter route from the Chora to the harbour by-passing the Half Way Rooms. On the way up to Chora, I met Didi, an Englishwoman who had arrived the previous night. She was staying at the Half Way Rooms and did not know if there were any rooms in Chora.

I also spotted the museum, a sign outside said open Tuesday and Saturday 8-12.30, but I was too concerned with finding a room to stop and look in the museum. On Saturday I was to linger outside at various times during the supposed opening hours but the museum never opened.

Kimolos Chora is a maze of a place, designed to confuse pirates. The layout certainly confused these hot and tired tourists. A sprawling Chora, until I got to know the place better I did not know, even with a map and compass, which of the sprawling tentacle of streets I was on.

The locals were all very friendly and said "jassou", even after I passed the same way (unintentionally) several times. The German couple had set out to find a room, as did I, and we were exploring separately but our paths often crossed. I was trying to find the Taverna Bouharis, which I had read, had rooms. There were very few eating or drinking places, or shops. Later I found one or two, but this was now siesta time. I tried to find the main square so that I could orientate myself on the map. I was surprised that I could not find it. Later I realised that I had walked across the main square several times, I just had not realised that it was a main square it looked that insignificant.

Eventually I found the taverna. As I approached, the German man peered grinning out of the door. They had not asked about rooms. Mr Bouharis is an initially gruff but deep down a friendly and helpful man. "Rooms" I asked. No rooms. Were the rooms full? That seemed unlikely as there seemed to be so few tourists about. Was the Bouharis family using the rooms for their own use? That too seemed unlikely. Cannot be bothered? Hardly, as Mr. Bouharis was so helpful. I later found that the taverna had rooms, but they were being renovated. Mr Bouharis gestured me to sit down, and indicated that he would ring someone to ask about rooms. Later he shouted across to us, "Endaxi, OK, rooms. Wait. Someone come." We waited. Herbert and Maria and me.

I was thirsty and after about ten minutes, I ordered a beer. Whom were we waiting for? I imagined Half Way Room Tout driving up and whisking us triumphantly back down to his Half Way rooms. What an anti climax to our expedition to find rooms in the Chora. I had hardly started to drink my Amstel when a van pulled up outside. Mr Bouharis gestured that we should go out to the van. I gulped down my Amstel, paid for it, and went outside. All vans look similar to me, but this was a different van. It had no drop down flap at the back. Herbert and the driver (not Half Way Room Tout) helped to haul me on board. If there is a hand on truck side and lift backside up class in the Olympics - I qualify!

Maria sat decorously on the seat next to the driver. The driver set off down the road, turned left, and seemed to twist and turn a lot. Where in Kimolos were we going? This was more like a fairground ride than a ride to accommodation. We passed the last of the houses and were in open countryside. Bouncing along in the back of the truck, we had no idea where we were going, up a long and winding track through fields.

The van pulled in on the forecourt of a large modern house. Taverna Bouharis was at the end of the Chora away from the harbour and these rooms were a lot further away from the harbour. I looked at the sun gleaming down and thought of my rucksack sitting outside the Half Way Rooms. It was going to be a long uphill trek. Still we had beaten Half Way Room Tout. We were not exactly in the Chora. We were beyond the Chora and had an excellent view over the Chora.

The rooms were comfortable and modern with shower and fridge, and outside a large terrace, with another terrace on the level below. Soon I discovered that the water was brownish. If there was mains water in the village it appears not to have reached this far out. There was a pump outside. I looked at the van outside and again thought of my rucksack. I could tell by the gleam in Herbert's eye that he had had the same thought. Mr and Mrs Van Driver (I know my nickname makes them sound Dutch, but they were certainly Greek) were still with us. "Baggage" I said, pointing to the day bag I had carried with me. "Big baggage. Megalo Baggage." I pointed to the half Way Rooms on the map. Mrs Van Driver looked doubtful. "Baggage. Milos?" "No, ochi Milos. (I had to stop to double check that "ochi" meant the opposite of OK, so it meant no). "Baggage Kimolos." Did he think that we had come on a day trip and wanted to stay the night in Kimolos? Perhaps such things did happen. The van driver was willing to fetch our bags and Herbert kindly offered to retrieve mine. Looking back, I realise that if I had gone along, I would have sat in the seat next to the driver, and Herbert would have been in the back. Herbert preferred to go by himself and sit in a seat! At least I was spared any reproachful looks from the Half Way Room Tout. Mr Van Driver gone, Mrs Van Driver was chatting to us. The house was in an exposed position and the wind was getting up. The windows were rattling in the frames. "To bradi meltemi." Tonight strong wind. Was a gale forecast? Why was she taking such an effort to tell us? She seemed determined that we should understand. "To bradi meltemi." Was it going to be such a strong gale that damage was expected? The windows were rattling more than ever. Would it be dangerous to go out? Mrs Van Driver pointed downstairs. Maria looked bemused. I tried to explain in German, but I was not sure what to translate. The drachma was starting to drop. There were tables and chairs on the terrace below. There might be a 'meltemi' (my English spell-checker, rather appropriately, suggests 'mealtime' for 'meltemi') tonight, but what Mrs van Driver was trying to tell us was that there was a bar downstairs. The bar was called the Meltemi. The bar would be open in the evening. "Beer, krasi, eat." Good. Yes? "Yes" I agreed. I hoped that the bar would not be too noisy. A field in the middle of nowhere was an odd choice of position for a bar. I hoped that it was not so way out so that the loud music would not disturb the neighbours - but what about the guests upstairs.

Herbert arrived back with the luggage. My rucksack still carries black sticky tape patching up the wounds it suffered travelling in the back of vans on Kimolos. My bruises and cuts have healed without trace.