Thimena

2007 note. I have read that larger ferries now call at Thimena.

Thimena is a small island near Fourni. I had heard that tourists are not made overly welcome on Thimena. Thimena was tantalisingly close to Fourni. I was determined to pay a visit.

I asked around. Another tourist told me that the Thimena islanders did not exactly push you on board when you tried to land on their island. Thimena, here I come! This was in 1998.

I caught the Popi Express, the small local caique that went from Fourni to Ikaria via Thimena. These are some extracts from my notes.

//Sitting in a high up place with water wells and a view on Thimena. No other tourists on tub. No one else - Greek or foreigner - landed.

The priest was on the caique to Ikaria. The caique did not land exactly - she pulled alongside another tub- and I had to climb the railings. No mooring space - boat parked along side another . had to clamber over two railings, then through another boat. A Thimenite helped me ashore - so they cannot be that unfriendly to tourists.

I am told that the caique back to Fourni is at 2 p.m. What shall I do with six and a quarter hours on Thimena? We shall see?

Ducks - and what looked like a goose - by the harbour. A largish church. A small school, obviously in use.

No cars - I think a vehicle could not get beyond the harbour. Not seen any trace of a café - but gradually wending up and not explored all options in paths. Also - even if there is a café - would it be open at this early hour of the morning?

11.55 Sitting in shade under tree above Thimena harbour. Almost finished my water; one polo left. No sign of a shop or taverna. No breakfast (I'd forgotten that the shops would not open on a Sunday and no yogurt, fruit or milk in. Too early / not enough time to buy anything before leaving Fourni.) The boat is not until two - if he meant two - could be two something / or could be the time the tub leaves Ikaria?

A place above has a blue light inside, the sort used to kill insects. Is it is a shop? A teenage boy goes in and I hear the words ‘kotopoulo’. The boy comes out carrying nothing. On my first walk through the village, the man who helped me off the boat was joking to some women - he was in one garden, they were in others. Café. Nescafe. Birra. Greek salad. The names of tourist favourites echoed up and down the street, interspersed with laughter. Tourists I had spoken to on Fourni had told me of someone who had recently visited Thimena and found a cafe that was closed for two days for renovation. I do not like to ask where it is - for fear of sounding like the tourist that I am! A drink and a nibble would be so welcome just now. I have seen most of the village. With my batteries recharged, I would like to explore. With no food and drink, it will take longer for my batteries to recharge. Without food and drink, will they ever recharge? Sucking my last polo. Saw one woman cooking lunch - fish, medium size. She had three or four in a circular pan - to fry or barbecue? Another woman was sitting at a table by the roadside eating dry bread and red/green grapes.

How does a community function without shops? A sign on the next building about a meeting in Thimena cafenion at 5 p.m. on 2 October. Now it is Monday. Buildings either side of steps up from the harbour could be cafes. Boy goes past carrying two plates, a napkin, and what looks like a thick slice of currant bread.

One school - looks like one room - a nice building, similar in style to that at Katapola, but much smaller.

Sitting under tree in only shade with ‘seat’ - covered in flies. Perhaps the flies are savouring the only tourist blood on the island! I say ‘seat’ in quotes - as this is a step along wall with a pipe running along it.

Switched to sitting on the floor in front of the tree. Boy goes past carrying at least four crates of empty beer bottles. I'll survive - I have found 1/3 roll of polos. A marble engraved sign (in black) on wall of what may be the kafeneion - so worn.

Sign on ‘café’ wall that it is difficult to read. Throughout island I've seen ‘touristy’ litter like drink tins. Where was it bought?

A woman went down to beach - and came back with a large plastic basin, washing and a packet of washing powder. She seems to have done her washing on the beach - put it down on steps - then went and left washing powder at place I think may be a shop. A shop, perhaps, but not as we know them (can we borrow a packet of powder and return it with a bit more used?)!

Now walked down to town beach to sit by tap area. The two ducks that were around when I landed have gone - but the large white goose is here. Poor bird - is he/she being fattened for eating? Palish blue eyes, rimmed orange; orange that matches feet and bill. He/she throws head back, wobbles tongue and trills. The front (i.e. away from head) of bill is pink - then orange, but pale at tip. An oddly coy expression as he/she tips head back as if asking for food. If only, dear bird, if only!

Back to start of my day on Thimena. People friendly.

Walk 1 - along path to the cemetery I had spotted from the boat. The path went beyond - and I could see a path continuing on headland to my left [just retreated back to main steps to get out of the way of another woman doing her washing]. Just beyond the cemetery in a small valley - a breeze block walled container full of rubbish - much of which had escaped onto two nearby beaches. In other crevices and gulleys I saw bits of rubbish. A now dry steep stream running through village contained a lot of rubbish. Did not try walking further for fear of catching something from the rubbish. [chap just said ‘hello’. He is Egyptian! He seems to live here.] In appearance, I assumed he was the usual gnarled Greek island fisherman. Or does he live on Kapetan Petros that I have just seen him board? [Note from England. I was to see the Egyptian, and Kapetan Petros, when I was waiting - and waiting - and waiting - for the Lipsi dolphin on Wednesday, he must think I spend my life waiting and was waiting - and waiting - and waiting!] Still not sure if that place is a shop, or the house of a popular person. Not seen anyone bringing things out - they take things in - like washing powder and fruit bread.

Walk 2 I went to the top of the highest stepped path I could find - dead end. Chap sitting there looking inquisitive. "Monopati" I say in a questioning voice. He said something that I know now must have been the name of the fishing village I reached. He was most insistent that I should keep left. When I got to a left junction, I noticed what became walk 3. Also I could have got onto the path he mentioned by a lower, better surfaced path. It was difficult to tell at some turns whether what I had reached was a path or the forecourt to a house and nothing more.

[chap just arrived with bags of spud, courgette, apples. Mmmm. - it would be cheeky to ask him to sell me one!]

The path was clear and stone free to a ridge with two shrines. One - a large shrine - almost walk-in like a small church. Below - the stump of a windmill. Ahead - a small fishing village. At first it seemed deserted (it was early in the morning!) but when I walked back it was coming to life.

The beach was like that at Kambi - but of course, no taverna.

[The tub back to Fourni arrived at 14.10. I continued writing my notes on Fourni.]

A lot of loose ends in my thoughts about Thimena. Who lives there? Are they indigenous Themanites? What do they do for a living? Can they get by on what they earn from fish and crops and need nothing more? The houses mostly looked fairly new - suggesting that the population has increased recently.

Later on - I did not stay [at the fishing village] much after 9 a.m.) I saw what looked like fishermen; and a woman in her house. When I went down - it was only her washing that made me realise that the place was not totally depopulated.

A pleasant beach. I'd guess 12 or so houses? Back up hill - past shrines - and to track inland I had noticed on my way up. I say ‘track’. It was a widish rocky area, with walls on two sides of the type that I associate with higher land. It was here that I saw one of those large ‘lizards’ that I see near Chalki on Naxos. I also saw the odd small lizard. I have seen none in Fourni - and it could be that Fourni does not have the paths and stone walls that lizards - both large and small - so love to frequent.

The wide area narrowed - into an area with buildings. People were working nearby - and as in the village I was treading carefully as I wanted to walk on footpaths and not trespass. The path continued -

And for a hundred or so yards was delightful - a dry and slightly stony path, but easy to walk on, part covered over with greenery. It could almost have been a summer walk in England. On either side, well cultivated fields.

A chap sitting in a field under a tree, next to the wall said ‘yassou’. He thought I was going to a church. I agreed. He waved vaguely ahead. Walked to the end of the walled area - on either side hills - close and steep on right, further away and less steep on left. More immediately I came upon that other site to which island footpaths are apt to lead - the football pitch (rough and flattish)!

There was a distinct track, a trodden (vaguely) patch, which I followed. It led to a terrace but was walkable - as steps of stones were at the edge of each terrace. I reached a plateau. I went ahead - and saw the sea beyond. There was no sign of a church. I wandered a little - then retraced my steps. As I got to the bottom of the terrace area I heard a voice "Apano." Up. I am sure it was the man who gave me directions. Down at football pitch level - the top of the hill looked a formiddable height. The rock was bare - I had not noticed the track leading that waty. My eye had been more taken by an isolated red stone (that side of the island of Thimena had a lot of red volcanic rock) and a stone pile (c. 4 feet) on my left. I had not been looking for a track on my right. I kept turning, looking back at the hill. If I could have seen the church, I would have retraced my steps. But it would have been like looking for an (admittedly large) needle in a haystack. As I came back the words echoed in my ears, "Apano." By the time I came down my informant must have been shouting from some distance away. I hope I did not upset the chap by not seeing the church. I'm quite upset I missed it now. I can see just where it is from Fourni. I did have other concerns. My water was getting low and short of drinking tap water (which I did not fancy doing) there was no means of replenishment on Thimena. Also - although I had been told the caique left at 2 p.m. (actually 2.10) I wanted to be close at hand. Imagine if I had found the church and lingered then at say 11.30 saw the caique come and go. I would have been stuck on Thimena until Wednesday afternoon!

I hovered in the village from about 12, keeping an eye open for the boat. I had been told that the boat that did the return trip might not be the boat that did the outward trip.

On Thimena it became a little cloudy - I wondered - the little caiki cannot run in rough weather. What would happen if I could not leave Thimena?

At 2 p.m. a boat arrived, smaller than the Poppy Express - but with a seat or two in the cabin. The driver was unloading things - bread etc. I asked in my questioning tone: "Caiki Fourni?" Another chap nearby - who seems to be the nearest Thimena has to a harbour master - said 10 minutes. When she did come in, I did not notice the caiki until the ‘harbour master’ told me, she came in so quickly and so quietly. There was another reason. I was sitting leaning back on the steps to the harbour when I felt something touch my back. It was a small dog, a King Charles spaniel or something similar. She had obviously had a puppy. I had already noticed a small kennel in the yard of what I took to be a cafeneion. Then I saw the puppy - the reason why I did not notice the boat pull in. So small (the mother was much smaller than the average KC, almost as though crossed with a chihuahua). The pup had long stick out hair - dusty pale brown and a patch. I patted him and he snuggled up next to my boot. Curled up, he was hardly bigger than my boot. Ah!//