No matter how ready you think you are, nothing can ever prepare you for your first morning aboard a sailing yacht. I woke up to strong sunshine glaring down on me, the rhythmic rocking of the boat and loud, excited voices along with the sound of water splashing. Feeling surprisingly refreshed (despite going to bed at four in the morning), I made my way to the deck. Everyone else was already up and in the water, exploring the gentle lagoon our skipper had chosen for our morning swim. I remember sitting quietly and just taking it all in – the sun on my face, the gentle breeze, the sounds of “splish-splash” in the water – and I just couldn’t help but compare it to the same time last week (stuck in traffic, en-route to work.
Travel Tip: Once in a while, before your holiday settles into a comfortable grind, ensure that you consciously take time out to revel and appreciate the magnitude of what you are witnessing and experiencing. Say a silent prayer of thanks. This is how conscious memories are made.
Breakfast was fruit, bread and butter, cornflakes with Greek yoghurt and honey, all served on the deck of the yacht. This was going to be our staple breakfast for the next seven days and even now the taste of cornflakes with Greek yoghurt and honey takes me back to those lazy mornings by the sea.
After breakfast, we sailed for a while before anchoring again at our lunch stop, where we repeated the cycle – a spot of swimming before enjoying lunch which was cooked by our skipper on board. We had already discussed and devised a system on the first day, whereby every day one of us would take turns to go and purchase the groceries and the skipper would cook lunch from the fresh ingredients.
The second island on our itinerary was the beautiful island of Hydra. Piece of advice – do NOT miss out on Hydra. The island is gorgeous and it simply mesmerised me with its beauty. There were several yachts parked at the marina, which meant that we had to park alongside another boat and jump across three boats and a barge to reach land. Not exactly ideal, when you are wearing a skirt! We stopped for a quick gelato (a bargain at Euro 2.50!) and patted and posed with the cute donkeys standing nearby. We didn’t partake in a donkey ride and I would encourage you to avoid it as well, simply because the animals looked tired and a little overworked.
Travel Fact: With a perfect horseshoe shaped port, Hydra lies at a distance of around 69km from Athens port, easily accessible by yachts, high speed catamarans and ferries. Largely dependent on tourism, Hydra is blessed with numerous bays and natural harbours, and has a strong grip on the maritime culture. This is a vehicle free island.
The beauty of Hydra hits you as soon as you enter the enclosed marina but, trust me, nothing prepares you for the jaw-dropping views as you explore the island on foot. We asked around for the most beautiful spots on the island and happily set off on the path recommended by the locals. They did not disappoint. This was probably where I first started appreciating the striking beauty of Greece. Whichever way I looked, the sight of iron cannons thatched umbrellas against the deep blue sea greeted my eyes. Words cannot describe how beautiful the cliffs are. We put down our cameras and drank in the beauty. A little way downwards at the bottom of one of the cliffs, we arrived at a gorgeous swim-point with a ladder descending into the sea. As I was the only one who didn’t know how to swim, I was entrusted with the task of safeguarding cameras, wallets and valuables, whilst the rest of my group happily jumped into the water. I happily lapped up the rays of the afternoon sun and drank in the gorgeous scenery.
After an hour of swimming, we decided to head towards the cliff again and picked a gorgeous spot for dinner, a cliff-side restaurant with an unobstructed view of the sunset. Although pricey, we decided to sample more of the local cuisine and tried fried feta cheese, ratatouille, poached king prawns in garlic sauce and sun-dried tomatoes with roasted eggplant. With lively company, the sound of Greek music from hidden speakers and the sunset in the distance, it was a dinner to remember.
Travel Tip: Sometimes, do let go and splurge. There are some things which will always haunt you in life – choosing to miss out on a unique memory is one of them. Splurge out for the chance to enjoy a beautiful view, without any worry about being hassled to leave the premises to make way for paying customers. The best memories may not be cheap, but they will certainly be worth it.
Although the rest of the group chose to explore the island nightlife, Sarah (my bunkmate) and I decided to head back to the boat instead to relax and have an early night. We both fell asleep on our pillows and comforters on the yacht deck, and actually woke up around 3am to move into the bunk itself as it was getting chilly.
Awoken by the sun’s rays again the next morning, I was greeted by the most exquisite lagoon where our skipper had chosen to dock for the morning swim. The water was the perfect bluish green mix and an empty blue and white boat bobbed gently on the waves. I decided against swimming because I just wanted to enjoy the view and grin gleefully whilst thinking of all the work that I was missing back in Bangladesh. The best part? We decided to dispose of the uneaten food in the water (apparently that is actually environmentally friendly – disposing food, not anything which is non-biodegradable) and were immediately greeted by a school of silver and blue striped fish. Stupendous!
After another scheduled swim spot and lunch, we then sailed towards our next destination – the port of Plaka on the quiet island of Leonidio.
Travel Fact: Leonidio Plaka is the picturesque port of Leonidio, situated 4km from the town. It functions mainly with the help of tourism, but a small fishing fleet is also to be found; a well-regarded beach lies 4km across the shore. The port takes in a number of taverns and bars immediately adjacent to the sea, while every August, it also hosts the "Tsakonian Eggplant Festival", attracting well-known chefs from across Europe and achieving ever-growing popularity.
We disembarked and looked around, a little lost and quite enchanted. Lost because the scenery was a far cry from what we had witnessed during the last two days – this was like a place time had forgotten. The port was almost deserted, and so was the beach. Little did I know that two of my best memories of Greece would be on this very island!
Jennifer aims to travel all of the globe within the next 10 years, either solo or with company. Suffering from a serious case of wanderlust, she seeks to absorb the essence and soul of a place, rather than chilling back in a resort. She is always up for new travel adventures so if you’re a kindred soul, get in touch!