Thirasia - Now I have been to all the Cyclades

Thirasia. I had been wanting to go to Thirasia for so long. A visit to Thirasia and I would have been to all the Cyclades. And yet, if I scoured the map I am sure I would find more islands I had not visited. But such islands would be so small that they do not really count, or so I tell myself. Like Rhenaia, Keros, the other Koufonissi, and the islands off Amorgos. And do day trips ‘count’ in this ticking off of islands? Nothing in life is ever completed, but I would treat Thirasia as the ‘last’ Cyclade on my list.

I had been putting off going back to Santorini for years, assuming that living costs would be high. Of course, I arrived on Santorini to find that it was possible to live as cheaply as on other Greek islands. There is the odd large ferry calling in at Thirasia, but in practice to get to Thirasia you needed at least one night on Santorini. So plans to visit Thirasia were shelved until I went to Santorini. Once on Santorini I made enquiries. There were plenty of tour boats taking in the volcanic islands and Thirasia, but I wanted to go on a ferry, to Thirasia alone. This would be cheaper than a tour boat (it was) and I would get longer on Thirasia (a false assumption - I was to spend longer waiting for the ferry in Santorini old port than I did on Thirasia!)

I knew that the Nissos Thirasia was the small ferry that travelled between Santorini and Thirasia. There was a small ticket office, hardly bigger than a garden shed, off the main square of Thira that seemed from the signs outside to be the Nissos Thirasia agent. The building may have looked like a shed inside. I had no chance to find out for the office was shut, apparently for the winter. When not in ferry mode the Nissos Thirasia operated as a tour boat. Ho hum. I found another ticket office advertising Nissos Thirasia tours. Yes, they knew the ferry times to Thirasia. The next ferry was at 8.15 a.m. on Friday, and returned at 1 p.m. the same day. That was on Wednesday. Therefore, Friday it would have to be if I was to step foot on Thirasia and my last Cyclade. Odd, writing the ‘Cyclades’ in the singular, the most obvious pronunciation would appear to be ‘Sigh Clayed’. I once met someone who did just that, calling the islands the ‘Sigh Clayeds’.

On Thursday evening, I called in the agents again, to double-check the time of the boat to Thirasia. A good job that I did, as there was someone else in the ticket office who told me that the ferry left at 7.45 a.m.

Friday morning, seven thirty. I am in the old port waiting for the tub to Thirasia. Will she turn up? Will I get back? There are a number of people in the kafeneion and I cannot think what they are doing if it is not waiting for the tub. [Note from England: I later found that they worked on the small boats picking up people from the cruise ships]. My last Cyclade - and by what means of travel did I start my journey? Cable car! I cannot say it was my first ever trip on a Greek island by cable car as I went up in it yesterday.

8 a.m. No boat! I have ordered a Nescafe. Chap I was directed to (Blue Shirt) is going to Thirasia when a cruise ship has arrived - when I first saw the Seawing, I hoped she was the Thirasia tub. Some hope!

Blue Shirt will go to Thirasia when the cruise ship is in. When does he come back? Tomorrow. I explained I wanted to catch the ferry that went out 7.45, and came back at 1. "Ah," he said, "Ferry boat. Nissos Thirasia. Half an hour." So I wait. The coffee has arrived. It was so windy for a time that the coffee nearly lapped into the saucer! If the wind does that to coffee - what will it do to the tub? Hecky thump! No other tourists around. These chaps are not waiting for the Thirasia ferry. The girl at the ticket office who gave me the times of the Thirasia boat was more right than the chap. Why did I rush? I have just realised. I have ordered a Nescafe. What will it cost? I have stuck 1000dr under the milk jug, but is it enough?

The cruise people. What are their hopes and expectations of Santorini? The café empties as cruise ship docks. Are they all serving the cruise ship? Many whiffs of donkey. Some donkeys must be kept down here as they arrive from the far end of the harbour. The mule path is much wider than when I was last here - but still old style though on a big scale. All the dung must drain down to the harbour.

The Nescafe cost 500dr. Not bad. Touched to see two cats eating from tub behind counter. Mystery of the coffee drinking chaps solved. I should have thought of it. Taxi boat drivers! There is a whole quayful of them. Their boats are so rocky - I do not envy the cruise passengers! Again - I am reminded of the old days when ferries did not dock but were met by taxi boats. The cruise ships - do they dock anywhere in Greece? What is the problem? I guess their size would clutter up the average harbour! One of the ‘capetan’ boats - bigger than a taxi boat - heading cruise ship wards, empty. Still no other tourists in sight.

8.15 I will linger. If no ferry by the time the onshore trip leaves - I will get the trip. They leave after 10 a.m. or so. What a way to spend a holiday! I had to assume that the earlier time was correct. Could I rely on a taxi turning up at the rooms? There is a radio taxi place in the square. I could take their telephone number and ring them if no taxi arrived. Cloudy, but early. Thirasia chora glistening temptingly in the sun. Will I reach it?

The tubs I will be on [I hoped!] double up as tour boats. When I come back, how will I know which I will be on? If I do get another boat back - I must be careful not to get a tour boat that goes to a cruise ship not to land. But - come to think of it - the boats must end up on shore - the ‘mainland’ if I can call Thira that! Strong whiffs of eau de donkey. I forgot to mention the Donkey That Peed. Odd - I have often seen droppings - but not pee. Then of course they must, mustn't they. This donkey in Katapola semi squatted his back end and let loose. It was like a hose pipe at full pressure. A huge amount of pee - so smelly! How many passengers on that ship? One taxi boat now - that holds, say, 20 people? How frustrating to be on board and not able to leave. Are people given timed departure tickets? What happened on my Scandinavian cruise? In most places we docked. Did we? Rhum - taxi boat? I remember the piper, not the means. Iceland - ha! Alesund - docked. Faroes - I am sure a taxi boat. Surely little Rhum did not have a harbour for a cruise ship - unless sit was a foible of the eccentric owner? This cruise ship has moored a long way off. Closer to are floating ‘things’ - round - for boats to moor to. Do cruise ships book these?

8.25. A sudden influx = must be shop people about to start work. Coming down, the cable car desk was unwomanned - chap had to shout her. Other passengers on my trip seemed to be teleferique staff (NB the cabs are Swiss made). Coming down (only me in cab) two ‘camera’ holes front and back, and eau de donkey seeped through.

A taxi boat has arrived - empty. I was preparing to count them out! A number of Greek chaps with beige trousers and black jackets - seems to be the taxi boat man's uniform. A dog - tan mongrel - latched onto me as soon as I got out of the cable car (1 ½ hours ago!) Detached himself slightly when I sat down in kafeneion - but still keeps sniffing. Poor chap - what can this eau de donkey constantly around him do to his scent glands?

Ah - a chap in black uniform, gold trim and walkie talkie. [Note from England: I had not then realised that port police went into a dark winter uniform, and thought that he might have been the ‘gangmaster’ of the taxi chaps] Is he a harbour chap? Why not white? Is white the winter uniform? Or is he a taxiboat gangmaster? One of the small tour boats (bigger than taxi boat) now alongside cruise ship - but no-one has landed. Perhaps they are still breakfasting? I do not know the ferry route? Circular Old Port, Athinios - intermediate stop - 2 Thirasia ports - Origin - which way and where does she start - and does the ferry run - (as opposed to the cruise run) take in all these stops? Which stops in Thirasia will she go to? I guess that the tour boat mode will go to Riva, ferry to Manolas - to be met by truck bus. [Note from England; I got those the wrong way round! The truck bus goes from Riva!]

If she goes much later, she will be in tour boat, not ferry boat, mode and I will hardly get there before it is time for the 1-ish tub back!

The port chap has something that looks like a handcuff coming out of his belt (showing below his jacket….) A chap walks past with a heap of newspapers on a [tick shape!] trolley. Arrived by donkey? I do not yet have the Athens News. I've been here so long that the table cloth clip had become attached to my bag! A white boat near cruise ship - the tour boat, or the ferry? From which way will the ferry come? More papers arrive. More eau de donkey. Are there any arrangements for getting papers onto a cruise ship at sea? They could access / print out Internet editions. I can see something white poking round cliff in Oia direction. Is it a church I had not spotted before? It is getting bigger. A ferry boat?? Or another cruise ship! It is so big it must be a cruise ship. Blast!

Ah. Rust. A rusty car ramp. 8.45. A ferry! Knowing my luck, she will be on her way back from Thirasia - and going no further than the old port. Perhaps she left here earlier than 7.45! I have been here since 7.10! It is the Nissos Thirasia. I will follow the ship - so long, notebook!

I am on the Nissos Thirasia- but where are we going? A landing craft type tub - similar to the Anti Paxos boat. The chap on board the Nissos Thirasia said she left at 9.30 for the New Port, and left the New Port at 9.40 for the Old Port. My first thought was to stay in the Old Port until she returned. Still on the quay, I decided to buy a ticket and double check the ferry time with the ticket seller (the ticket office had been shut when I first arrived). The old dear in the ticket office rushed me out to tub and thrust me on board - and I am off. No other passengers on board. Two tourists got off and asked about return times - they must be staying on Thirasia. They would have had a far longer day in Thira than I was going to get on Thirasia.

Am I going to Athinios? Am I going to Thirasia? Where am I going? Where will I get to? It is now 8.55. We are heading Athinios wards.

Another hurdle I had to overcome. The sign on the harbour showed the Nissos Thirasia as docking at the far end of the harbour. When I saw her approaching, I headed thattaway. A nice chap in the bar said "Madam Thirasia, no". The signposted quay was not being used - she pulled up at the cable car end of the harbour.

Will she go back to the old port before going to Thirasia? I do not know. I do not mind - a pleasant ship. Nicer being on board than on shore. The ship is rocky, but not too much so. She is more stable than the new Skopelitis. She is far bigger than the cruise taxi boats.

9.10 At new port. For how long? Where next? What did chap mean by 9.30 and 9.40?

Piles of newspapers were taken on board at the old port. They must be Thirasia bound. So many papers for a 200 odd population. There must be several papers for each person! A truck gets off. Someone else gets on. A number of people got off at old port. Another truck comes off. On shore "Information centre Accomodation [sic]" sign. Reminds me - all over Naxos small oblong "Promponas" signs - why did they not get spelling checked, e.g. ‘Lokal’ wine. Newspapers being taken off the tub. So for they are for the New Port, not Thirasia. A red truck comes on board. A Japanese chap with a bag stands and stares looking at the tub. Two more people come on board. All papers have been taken off. So Thirasians not such newspaper lovers as I thought! (The papers were probably unsold copies being sent to wherever unsold newspapers end their days…………..)

There are four coaches in port - tour coaches. A taxi boatload of tourists has just landed - I assume from a cruise ship. The red truck now loaded with barrels and leaves [Note from England; writing this up in post autumnal England, I think of the autumn leaf-fall!] Were barrels (empty?) already in tub? Is Thirasia drunk dry? A van of fruit and veg. comes on board. If I had not caught her in old port - I would have been fidgeting wondering if she came back! Today there were only two public buses to port. 6 ish and 8 ish. A number (10 ish) of people in port with bags. The Hotel Perissa in port - seems open, as a shutter is open - and washing out to dry. Not sure which bit of downstairs is the entrance. Useful if you have an odd hour of departure and do not want to risk night time transport from town.

Notice in harbour from computer ticket age (i.e. so your ticket shows intended return date)


Passengers who possess round trip tickets or voucher must validate them at the local naval central agents. Otherwise their entance [sic!] in the ferry boats will be forbidden.

From the Port Authorities."//

Harbour agent sign: "Zimmer. Rum. Camera." Rum rooms! Is ‘rum’ room in any language?

9.30. We are leaving. For….? A thought - in high season - if a room bus meets tub - how - without mobile phone - does the owner know that room not taken by someone on land before they arrive by bus? Ah - the rugs have been taken off the ramp - but empty crates still being taken ashore. My last Cyclades - here I come. Or do I? Will I ever reach Thirasia? Will I ever get back? Hey - we point to Thirasia? No - we are circling. It is like a rotating wheel, a game of roulette. Greek roulette. Which way will she end up? I think of the multi-sided coin that I felt I needed in Naxos to help me decide my next island! Ho Hum. Heading back to old port! 9.45 - at old port. Or rather, we are almost at the old port- we are heading straight past -—-we are going to Oia?……to….? Are we going to Thirasia? How glad I am that I did not stay in the old port! How frustrating to sit there and watch her within yards of the harbour and go past! Why did he say 9.40 at Old port when she glanced past and did not touch? Odd! Thirasia - Oia - I can see from the colour of the lava levels that they were once joined.

There are two harbours on Thirasia. The old port, Korfos, is below the main village Manolas to which it is linked by a mule path. Riva is at the north of the island, a modern boat stop of a port linked to Manolas by a track suitable for vehicles. Between Riva and Manolas - on Santorini side - there had been much quarrying. There was the remains of mining equipment on the coast. I saw the remains of similar equipment on Santorini. These cliff to sea structures looked like the means by which mined materials were transferred from the island to boats below.

And so I reached Thirasia. I have now been to all the islands, at least all the permanently inhabited islands, in the Cyclades.