Saturday, July 23, 2011

Leaving Santorini

I was dragged away protesting by the bus from Oia and shuttled under duress to the awaiting Athens ferry.  There I was treated to the strangest sight.

As the foot passengers queued to enter the gangways either side of the vehicle ramp, four men came scuttling out of the car deck. They were carrying what looked like someone on a stretcher, judging by the care with which they were handling the load, but it seemed too small and too heavy to be a person. As they approached, it came into view: strapped to a wooden pallet beneath a wet blanket was a giant sea turtle, alert and looking around with small head movements to assess the predicament he'd found himself in, which was no doubt as much a mystery to him as it was to any of us. The ferry stewards halted the queue of passengers and the turtle-burdened four conveyed the confused creature back into the ferry and disappeared up into the passenger decks. Maybe he had a first class cabin.

When all the aquatic reptiles and sea fauna carried on litters were comfortably aboard, we cattle charged up the stairs and spread through the vessel in a game of musical chairs, fastening ourselves to seats and then looking around and wondering if we should abandon this one for the really good one in the corner, chancing it, losing it, turning back and being foiled and charging up stairs to the next deck where perhaps better seats were counting down. The limited lounge areas that quickly swelled with bodies and backpacks were augmented with seating in a burger restaurant, Goody's, which attracted packs of holidaying teenagers. The only place to read a book or get any writing done was on the outside decks. Here there were plenty of seats, ingeniously designed for a Mediterranean ship to be an unbearable greenhouse: all perspex walls, plastic ceiling and airflow non-existent. Who would want fresh air on the open sea? It is clearly a clever ploy to drive you to upgrade your ticket for another €16.50 to access the cool, quiet, comfortable and civilised business class "distinguished lounge" on deck six, which is precisely what I did.

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