It may have been for those who seek fine white sand. There were a couple tavernas on the beach and a large number of cars so I decided we would come back the next day to swim there and headed for Agios Sostis photo , a narrow stretch of sand with sea on both sides that leads to a peninsula with a small white church. There were just a handful of people on it, mainly because of the helacious twin roads that forced people with normal cars and motorbikes to park above and walk. We joined a couple other jeep type vehicles and made the steep trip down the mountain easily.
When you drive a Suzuki Grande Vitara, getting to these remote beaches on rocky dirt roads that have been washed away by the winter rains is more fun than the beaches themselves. But Ag Sostis was one of those perfect beaches that travelers to Greece seek. Today, the last week of July there were one or two couples and some young people, again university student age, sitting under a tree talking and singing. In September this and many of the other beaches is probably empty.
In fact they are probably empty all but the last couple weeks of July and the month of August, like our favorite beaches on the back side of Kea. Surprisingly it was just a 5 minute drive back to the Hotel Maistrali where we showered and then walked over to the Yacht Club, a former cafeneon that has been spiffed up and filled with interesting art and antiques. I had an ouzo with a simple meze of cucumbers and capers. Capers seem to be the most important food on the island, growing wild everywhere, served as meze and sold in jars in many of the shops.
You can buy the small pickled capers which most people are familiar with, the pickled leaves and caper berries which are like big capers. The Yacht Club is a nice spot to watch the boats and the people walking by. Last time we were in Serifos the port road was unpaved and restaurants like Manolis Taverna further down had to wet it in the evening to keep dust from covering the customers.
Now it is concrete. There is a row of fish tavernas and a pizza restaurant or two that have tables across the street going right down to the water. There are a couple bars mixed in and the sound of rembetika mixes with U2. Bobbis had recommended we try the Aloni Traditional Restaurant which was half way up the mountain to Hora and had a spectacular view of the port and the valley.
But Apostolis from Aegean Thesaurus had sent me a text message on my phone to go to a Ouzerie-Mezodopoulion called Kali's and that the owner, a woman neamed Kali, was expecting us. It did not really matter to me because I was tired from driving around all day and still full from lunch. But we decided to just go to Kali so we would not have to get back in the car. There was only one table by the sea and the chairs were tilted up against it which is the symbol for reserved. The tables across the street close to the restaurant itself were too hot without the sea breeze.
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Kali apologized for not having another table. I told her that it was OK and maybe we would come back later because our friend Apostolis from Sifnos had recommended her. She immediately took us to the table by the sea. Apostolis said to order anything you want and the meal is on him. An all-expense paid meal at one of the best ouzerie-restaurants in Greece and neither of us was even hungry.
I ordered an ouzo. Maybe that would get my appetite going. They had all my favorites from Lesvos and I ordered a Veto. The couple next door were eating a giant seafood paella. It is torture to be desireless in a place where everything is desirable.
I ordered a small plate of marinated gavros anchovies and Andrea got a sampler of fried tomato-keftedes tomato-balls , kolokithia-keftedes zuchini-balls pastourma-keftedes seasoned dried meat like pastrami made into balls and fried , cheese-balls and a plate of giant grilled shrimp. Probably we ate as much as we would have if we had gotten the pasta and the paella. Kali kept coming back to ask us if we were OK and if we wanted anything else.
Everything was delicious and it was a tragedy we did not have more of an appetite. Especially since the next time we come it won't be free. The next day I answered some of my e-mail in my room and then went down for coffee. I went to the desk to pay and Bobbis refused to take my money. You do good things for Greece and I am pleased to have you as my guest. Being me has its benefits.
Euripides (c–c BC) - Cyclops: Translated by George Theodoridis
We asked Bobbis about a traditional cheese shop we had seen signs for on the main road and he drew one of his famous maps. We followed it to a large building next to the island's electric plant DEH where there was a pen full of goats and a small shop full of capers, sun-dried tomatoes, marmalades and fruit perserves and lots of cheese. Rita Pareskevopoulou and her husband Giorgos welcomed us and gave us a small tour. Souma is the tsipouro of Serifos and unlike the souma of Chios which is made with figs, this is made from grapes. At least that is what I think he said. In the back room was a wall of shelves with wheels of cheese.
This shelf is from March, this is from April, this is from May and this from June. We took a cheese from June which weighed about 3 kilos. We also bought capers, sundried tomatoes, a bottle of tsipuro and some orange marmelade and then said goodbye because we had to catch our ferry to Kythnos. Rita gave me a colorful flyer advertising her cooking lessons which she does with Giada Saint Amour Di Chanaz, another chef and Phd researcher of world food. Rita has written a book on Serifos cooking and had won a national cookery prize.
Perhaps it was my aroused state, but as I peered out through the bug-splattered windshield of my 4-wheel-drive camper van, the two canyon walls seemed to splay out like the craggy, tawny legs of some ancient earth giantess. Where the legs met, the Kern River beckoned, surging and pulsating in a geologic dance of rock and water—the rock hard and squeezing, the water ever moving and exploding in wild rhythms. Somewhere in the canyon before me, my mother and father had been brutally murdered twenty eight years earlier when I was a little boy five years old.
Now I was back to find the killers. Blasted out of the nearly vertical southern canyon wall, the road narrowed and snaked along, compressed between a ragged, dynamite-scarred rock face on one side and a sheer drop off with no guard rail on the other. Not far below, the leviathan Kern River surged through an earth-beat tango of smooth sensual glides punctuated by explosive whitewater cataracts.
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After what seemed much longer—but was by my odometer only twelve miles—of twisting turns, the canyon opened and the narrow, constricted two-lane tarmac broadened into a full-blown, four-lane expressway. I remembered reading that, in one of the more bizarre anomalies of the US highway system, this major freeway from nowhere to nowhere sits locked away alone, largely cut off, deep inside the body of the Southern Sierra. I noticed with pleasure that the builders had taken care to blend this civil engineering marvel into the natural slope.
Except for the road scar itself high up the canyon wall, the original look of the place was intact. To stretch my legs after my long drive from the San Francisco bay area, and to more fully take in the canyon towering around me, I pulled off the road and eased into a gulch. Prompted by survival instincts that had kept me alive through three tours of duty as a Navy SEAL captain, one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, I hid my Sportsmobile van under a canopy of smooth-barked manzanita.
Grabbing my binoculars, I locked the doors and started walking along the edge of the mountain freeway, and then onto a rocky promontory jutting over the river. In the brilliant mountain light, I gazed at the undulating river far below, the tree-dotted, boulder-strewn slopes, the majestic Greenhorn Mountains to the north—technically considered the southern end of the Sierra Nevada—and the Piute Mountains to the South.
The silence was absolute, as, through my binoculars, I studied the cathedral-like canyon. A thousand feet above, a California Condor, with wings spread incredibly wide, effortlessly floated on the thermals rising off the southern-facing rim, eyeing and apparently grooving with this slice of creation that had been carved out over the eons by the Kern River. Sounds of screeching and crashing ripped me from my reverie.
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Metal resounding on metal mixed with the cacophony of imploding plastic and shattering glass. I spun to see a black humvee repeatedly side swipe and rear end a white Prius, obviously trying to run it off the cliff. The Prius dodged this way and that, but despite the efforts of its driver, it could not outrun or outmaneuver the much bigger, more powerful jeep on steroids. Frozen, I watched the two warring vehicles as they approached my promontory. Then the humvee exploded forward like a moon shuttle booster rocket, and rear ended the Prius in a homicidal acceleration that sent the small vehicle straight toward—and off—the edge just a few yards from where I hunkered.
She—a raven-haired woman—was there for an instant, then gone. Riveted, I watched the Prius make a short arc through the air, land right side up, and slew wildly, skidding down the long scree slope. Dense clusters of bushes slowed the little car. Damned if the woman was not only keeping her wheels down, she seemed to be exercising some degree of control. I watched in admiration as she steered into soft bushes, avoiding trees and rocks which certainly would have killed her.
Incredibly, she even had the presence of mind to aim for a gap in the dense tangle of trees lining the riverbank at the bottom of the slope. Whipped by bush after bush in its path, the hybrid slowed, then slowed some more. Still going way too fast, it swept through the gap in the riparian vegetation and slid into the water, disappearing below the surface. The black humvee had skidded to a stop just before the cliff edge.
Two muscular men climbed out, one tall, the other short, both sporting square-edged, flat-topped haircuts and thick black shoes. Both gripped rifles with large scopes which they aimed at me, and I knew that, as their only witness, they intended to shoot me dead. I dropped my binoculars and flung myself down the steep incline. Shots exploded around me, two within inches of my right ear, sending concussive shivers down my spine. Dodging this way and that, I ran wildly, skidding, scrambling and sliding down the inclined plane of the canyon wall, avoiding the bushes, trying to put trees and rock outcroppings between me and the shooters, all the while praying the girl had managed to escape drowning.
I slid, first on my feet, for a moment on my belly, then on my back. My senses sharpened, I spotted the car below me and dove down. When I looked inside, the woman was not there. Had she been washed away? Knocked out cold, maybe drowned? I surfaced, gasping for air.
Swimming at a right angle to the current, I stroked back to the bank and burst up onto a small grassy beach. The dripping-wet body of the woman was lying in the shelter of a huge sycamore trunk.
As I leaned over her, first one blue eye, then another looked up at me. Bright red blood oozed from her left forearm and from her right leg above the knee. A smart cookie, she had clamped her right hand over the wound in her left arm and with her left hand was staunching the flow from her leg, but the bleeding continued. I pulled off my t-shirt, tearing it into strips. Pressing the patches of cloth over her wounds, I had her hold them in place while I checked for broken bones, concussion, and spine and neck injuries.
Making it down that slope! And getting your car through that narrow gap in the trees! Being careful to stay hidden, I peered around the massive sycamore trunk up at the two guys who were now out on the promontory scanning the canyon for some sign of us. You okay with that? Why the hell not? It only makes sense to equal the odds a bit by calling in some cavalry. I helped her to her feet. With her wet, faded-red t-shirt and shorts clinging to her body, she brushed her hair back and drew a deep breath.
Although she limped slightly, she moved toward the water with animal grace. I was glad to see, though, that she knew her stuff. Staying close to the right, where the dense, intertwined willow, alder and sycamore trees lined the bank screening us from the riflemen above, we silently floated downriver. Back in the water, after years away from it, I experienced an upwelling of my old love of swimming in nature, plus a new sensation. This woman kindled a spark within me. As the current carried us, I became aware of a dull roar growing louder and louder. Tripnee moved into position directly ahead of me.
I was hypnotized by the rhythmic stroking of her lithe, sculpted arms. As the current swept us toward the horizon line just ahead, she assumed a feet-downstream, toes-at-the-surface position, and I followed suit. Picking up speed toward the brink, up to my neck in this surging river, I could see nothing but spray and mist thrown up by the cataract into which I was about to be hurled. With the speed of a projectile launched from a catapult, I shot down into a wild orgy of sucking, squeezing currents, probing fingers of foam, and thrusting tongues of limb-bashing whitewater.
Tumbling along submerged, I thought everything was pretty much fine, except for the no-breathing part, when suddenly my right foot caught in a slot between two big rocks on the river bottom. I hung by my ankle face down, stretched out in the driving current like a Raggedy Ann doll in a hurricane. The harder I struggled, the tighter my ankle wedged into the vice-like grip of the rock crevice.
Desperately I tried to move back upriver to free my foot, but the current was utterly relentless and overpowering. With my lungs screaming for oxygen, my strength waning, and my mind starting to black out, it occurred to me that I was going to join my mom and dad very soon. Suddenly, amazingly, I felt Tripnee pushing me back upstream. While I was immobile underwater, she must have realized I was in trouble, swum for shore, run back up the bank, figured out where I was, and dived down to catch the small underwater eddy created by my entrapped body.
Now she was under me, facing me, with her head pointed upstream and her feet somehow braced on the riverbed. She pressed her body against mine, held me tight, and somehow propelled me little by little, inch by inch, back against the current. As soon as I was free, Tripnee unbraced her feet and we shot off down through the rapid.
Frantically, I stroked for the surface, where I filled my lungs again and again with delicious, life-giving air—each lungful a treasure beyond price. Soon we were sucked under again—and still again.
When at last I surfaced below the rapid, I looked around for Tripnee, but she was nowhere to be seen. House-sized boulders of salt-and-pepper granite glided by on both banks. The Kern rounded a bend. The riflemen now had to be out of visual and rifle range. Then, there she was, rising to the surface at my side. In that same moment my vision shifted and I was struck by the greens of the willows and alders, and the blue of the sky.
Can you swim to the bank? We were in a long, quiet calm, and stroked for the right bank, the bank nearest the highway, where we would be most hidden. In the shallows, I stood up and winced as a throbbing pain radiated up my leg. My entire ankle was chafed raw and bleeding. Seeing this woman in her nicely filled out red bikini top and matching shorts further eased my pain. Feeling a wave of shyness, we both looked out over the calm. We eased back in. Neck deep, slowly treading water with extended leisurely strides similar to the motions of a cross country skier, I ignored the ache of my injury, and inhaled long, slow, full breaths.
Despite the fact that we were fleeing from crazed gunmen and our lives were in extreme danger, I experienced something that was rare for me: A sense of rightness, a sense that this was where I wanted to be. We floated around several more bends and swam more roaring, electrifying, body-blasting rapids.
I could tell Tripnee knew the river like the back of her hand. She led and I followed down through rapid after rapid. Some were too dangerous to swim, and needed to be walked around. Unfortunately I inadvertently swam a few of these anyway, because at times we got separated. But somehow we survived and kept going. To order your signed copy of Whitewater by William McGinnis now, now, click here.
I really believe, however, that the safer and better all rafting trips and outdoor recreation experiences, the better for all of us. The more people who return home in one piece, thrilled and delighted with their river trip or outdoor outing, the more river rafting and outdoor recreation in general will be seen as a great thing to do and the more all outfitters, the recreating public and our recreation resources will benefit. Although the myriad users of this book are independent, far flung adventurers, guides, outfitters, tour operators and recreation resource managers, at the same time, ideally, we are all working together to enhance the quality of life on this planet!
The highest purpose of this book is to contribute to this broad, growing effort—which is, after all, an ongoing quest of planet-saving proportions. Dealing with Serious Accidents. Entertainment and Interpretation Deep Fun: It is not enough just to get people as safely as possible down the river, it is also paramount for guides to enhance the fun, camaraderie, learning and openness on river trips. Answer all questions with thoroughness, care and appreciation. Realize that your caring answers can turn any question into a good question and can send the message that here, in this boat, it is okay and safe to know what you know, okay and safe to not know what you do not know, and okay and safe to be open and unguarded.
In the beginning of each trip you are laying a foundation of seriousness that must underlie heartfelt silliness. Give an extra thorough safety talk with humor and supportiveness, and extra thorough in-boat training with a blend of humor, lots of positive strokes, nurturing and firmness.
Thoroughly teach your crew everything they need to know to paddle well, stay in the boat, and cope with emergencies. It is only when everyone feels reassured that they are in good hands and know how to play their part that they can completely relax and really be silly—and, in a sense, build an edifice of silliness on this foundation of seriousness. Celebrate the fact that the river of each human soul tends to be deep and wide and multi-layered and ever flowing. It is normal for us to have multiple and even contradictory feelings about issues, ourselves and one another all at the same time.
As guides we can model, and inspire in others, an acceptance and celebration of this ever unfolding, multifaceted, mysterious richness! As human souls, even with all of our differences, we have an infinite number of things in common. First, set an example of finding and focusing on things everyone has in common as humans in any setting but especially when working together to run a river, we have just about everything in common, fundamentally. When a group of us humans has a really good time together, our very differences, seen from the perspective of all we have in common, can greatly add to the fun we find in being together!
Be humble, that is, include everyone in your coolness: Perhaps the single most influential thing a guide can do to inspire openness, trust and true camaraderie—and, hence, deep fun—is to simply be humble and appreciate others. When most people contemplate outdoor adventure activities like whitewater rafting, it is entirely normal to experience fear, consciously or unconsciously, on a number of levels.
There is physical fear: Am I going to get hurt? Am I going to die? There is social fear: Am I going to be accepted or rejected by this group?