Oh Naxos, you absolute dream! It’s bigger than the other islands we’ve visited, more mountainous and dramatic with the kind of narrow, winding roads that trigger all manner of fear of heights as you climb higher and higher on your little scooter. Every curve, every hairpin turn is an act of faith. And steering, obviously. But largely faith. I’d have crossed myself at every church we passed if there weren’t so bloody many and I wasn’t too busy clinging onto the handlebars.
The winds that had been sweeping across the islands had died down enough that we felt comfortable on two wheels again so the first thing we did was ride to Halki which is a lovely little village. We applied our daily freddo related caffeine fix to our faceholes in a café down a narrow street before heading to the kitron distillery. What the actual fuck is kitron?! I hear you cry. Or was that just me? I’d never heard of it before but they make it right here using equipment they’ve been using for 126 years. Well if it ain’t broke!
It wasn’t running today, we were told it runs pretty much every day in the winter though and it’s not the kitron fruit they use which is sort of a huge, lumpy lemon on steroids. It’s the leaves. They light a fire underneath a large pot, boil the leaves and ten hours later they have a clear product. Then they dye it different colours according to strength which is handy in case you’ve drank so much kitron words and numbers no longer make sense.
The yellow stuff is the strong stuff at 36%. The clear liquid is 33% and is slightly sweeter, and the sweetest is the green kitron at 30%. After a little taste of each we opted for the medium but after one glass I started really tasting the anice and I’m just not up for that in my facehole in those kinds of quantities. I’m sure Tarrant will mix it with lemonade and dispose of it accordingly much to the chagrin of her liver.
There’s also a really cool little church a short walk from the village so I dragged Tarrant along in the oppressive heat as she asked questions such as, is it far? Are we there yet? Why do you hate me? It’s worth it though. We got there just as a bloke was opening the doors. He’ll even give you an information sheet in your language so you’ve got a vague idea what you’re looking at, and what you’re looking at is really fucking old paintings.
Agios Georgios Diasoritis is an 11th century church and it’s covered inside with quite well preserved religious frescos from the 11th to the 13th century. So really fucking old then. I don’t have a clue what’s going on with them, you could tell me they depicted Monty Python chasing Hitler down Oxford Street with a cucumber trying to get him to sign up for their MLM and I’d be all like, oh cool, cucumber, yeah nice. In actuality it’s more to do with Saint George who the church is dedicated to which makes more sense.
After Halki we scooted to another church just up the road, this one was even older, perhaps around the 6th century this side of Jesus. You’re not allowed to take photos in Panagía Drosianí and you’re not handed any information. It’s set up with an alter and looks like it’s actually still used so Tarrant chucked them a few Euros and lit a candle for the Queen, gawd rest her soul. I’m not a Royalist but Tarrant very much is and we drank so much Metaxa in her honour last night you could probably have lit my shit on fire this morning.
The village of Koronos was our next stop which is your classic Cycladic village, all whitewashed with narrow streets and a disproportionate amount of churches. The views from this one were stunning though and we found a café with a terrace overlooking some cracking eyehole fodder. Like, actually though, as hard work as all this weaving round corners is, the rewards are so great. I had to pull over at one point just so I could stand there and put it all in my eyeholes. It’s utterly stunning.
After our freddos we continued north and a fucking wasp somehow hit the barely-there space between my face and my helmet, got itself lodged right inside and stung my ear. Seriously, you couldn’t have made that happen if you practiced chucking angry yellow insects at tiny gaps every day for ten years. I couldn’t just pull over on the many, many blind corners, I had to wait until it was safe before I could get the bloody lid off my head whilst chanting “shit fuck shit cunt fuck”, and something out of the Hunger Games flew out and away. I’m lucky it only stung me once. Even luckier that I’m not allergic.
Our most northerly destination was the Kouros of Apollonas which is an ancient marble quarry with an unfinished statue of Dionysius on the floor. It… it’s cool for what it represents but it’s a long way to come for what it is. We were here now though and my left ear was twice the size for it so we made sure we photographed it from every angle before starting the arduous journey back to Maragas Beach.
As beautiful as this scenery is the roads are hard work. People do tend to career round corners in the middle of the road and I tend to crawl around them lest I meet someone coming the other way. I was also mildly concerned that I’d catch a glimpse of a sheer drop off a cliff and the bike wouldn’t steer properly because none of my limbs will obey me. It’s one thing my legs refusing to move because I’m on a narrow footpath with certain death to my left and Tarrant has to come and rescue me. She can’t save me if she’s also tumbling down the hill I just drove us off.
It was an anxious pootle all the way back stopping only at church with a nice viewpoint. Once we were safely back at the campsite we just sprawled in our hammocks for the evening, vocally congratulating ourselves for having the foresight to actually bring them with us. Shitting hell, they’re comfy. We did try and sleep in them last night but it got a bit cold and every mosquito in a five mile radius obviously got wind there was a lot of exposed human flesh suspended from the roof just waiting for them to bury their diseased little faces into. We really should have bought hammocks with built in nets.
Naxos, South Aegean, Greece / Νάξος, Νότιο Αιγαίο, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Maragas Beach Naxos, Naxos
Useful shit to know…
- You can’t buy bus tickets on the bus, you have to get them from the ticket office at the terminal, supermarkets or kiosks etc. At Maragas Beach you can buy them from reception.
- Buses are brilliant and confusing all at the same time. They go all over the island from the port but the bus line numbers don’t correspond to the numbers on the front of the bus so you just have to ask the driver where he’s going.
- Timetables can be found online or on a piece of paper taped to the window in the office at the port.
- Naxos town is also called Chora. You’ll see it written on road signs.
- There are no bike rentals in Maragas Beach but Agia Anna is a ten minute walk away and there are two places there you can rent a scooter or quad bike.
- We paid €28 a day for a 150cc scooter.