A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Friday, June 12, 2009

One Bad Day

It was bound to happen. A horrible travel day. Intermingled in the peaks and valleys of a backpackers life. From start to finish, I don’t wish to relive this day, but I’ll retell it to banish it from my thoughts for the time being.

Alarm goes off at 3am. Time to pack up for the airport. Leaving this early means we have to pay $35 for a taxi. Ron has lost his fleece jacket and is freaking out. Where were we last? The bar up the block. He runs up and amazingly finds the surly old bartender still there reading a book. Philosophy I presume at 3 in the morning. One piece of good news, the jacket has been recovered.

Yawning we make the flight and collect our backpacks at the other end. Walking out the sliding doors into the hot Cretan air, we unknowingly start 4 hours of being lost. First we can’t find the city bus amongst the gaggle of tour buses. Then we are dumped in downtown Iraklio and can’t find the connecting bus to where we are staying the night, Agia Pelagia a little town west of the city, pronounced “aya pelayia”. We get in a wrong line that is headed to Knossos. Then the right line behind the old lady British duo asking for a tour. They don’t get the answer they were expecting and keep asking louder. This is when I realize I’m probably this annoying too but don’t realize it. We get the bus but are warned we aren’t dropped off in the town and have to walk 15 minutes. No problem I think.

Getting off the bus I ask the driver, “This way to Agia Pelagia?“ pointing down the road. He says yes. When the bus leaves we see a sign that points to the left for the town that winds down under an underpass. Dilemma ensues. Do we trust the bus driver or the sign? We go with the sign and start walking downhill. The sun is hot. It must be 90 degrees and we are carrying our heavy packs. Down, down, down. Twenty minutes into this I spot a sign to our hotel pointing up a another road. We see a hotel on the top of hill and turn to walk up the stupidly steep incline. Huffing and puffing, the receptionist tells us no, this is not the Hotel Bellevue. And we have to go back to the main road and turn left to Iraklio to find the street. Back up the main road?!

With no other choice we head back on the road we came, sweaty now and disheartened. We reach the road but are now confused, going left is not towards Iraklio (later we found out she meant up the road we were on, not back the way we came). Again, what to do with the conflicting information? We decide to go left and another twenty minutes later happen upon a gas station and outdoor café. Light-headed and dehydrated we order some sodas and asked the clerk for directions. She says to go the other direction and take the first left. #&$%@!!

We decide to eat some phyllo stuffed ham and cheese pies to ease the pain. We are now walking on a highway, the cars veering towards us around blind corners, we were more than once 4 inches from death. But we finally find the right street and after 3 hours and change we arrive at the hotel and check in. The room is fine for 30E/night. Simple with a little balcony and kitchenette. We decide on not spending the extra 7E on AC. Big mistake. But we would only learn that later.

We get in the room and immediately take all of our luggage to the balcony. We start a blazing hot bath and throw every article of clothing into the bathtub: shirts, pants, underwear, socks, jackets, totes, sleep sacks, money belts, bandanas, neck rests, everything that can be cooked is tossed in. I woke up again with a new series of bedbug bites. I can now count 87 distinguishable bites to my body, with a particularly nasty series up my left arm and neck. Clearly we’ve carried the bugs with us and need to eradicate them. After Corrina’s comment and further research, it is absolutely true that one person can show bites and another won’t. Up to 30% never show bites (probably the ones carrying them around) but the bugs also go back to the same host over and over and won’t eat the other person. Great. Lucky me. I guess I’m tastier.

Once everything was cooking in the bath, we napped naked and exhausted on the bed for a couple hours. When we awoke we realized our blunder of not going to the ATM in the city and with 10E between us we headed to the village to get more for our stay. Again, getting directions and again not being able to follow them we went all the way down to our local beach and had to walk up over a punishingly steep hill to the village. At one point I stopped to rest behind a 3 foot bush. Heatstroke. Need water. Sun, I asked for sun?! Too much sun.

We made it to the village, got money and groceries and hopped in the ocean. The cool aqua ocean water for a few brief moments was the first optimistic turn of events for me all day in a universe certainly against me cracking a smile.

We headed for home. Of course, uphill. And then up a hundred steps painted alternating white and blue. Yay, Greece! I cooked up our dinner: some curly pasta with sauce, bread and butter, and greek wine from a plastic bottle. It was filling and passable but I really need to score a miniature salt shaker. Salt is a small, but essential bit of luxury for me.

After a day of exertion and seemingly nothing going our way, all we wanted was sleep. And all we got was “The Mosquito Hunter” for at least 3 hours. Without AC we had to close all the doors and windows so the room heated up to at least 90 degrees or more. Like a sauna I was sweating and found it hard to breath. Suffocating almost. And we killed one, then two, then three, and when we got to #6 and it was 2 in more morning I wanted to cry. My book, Michaelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (a great biopic on the Sistine Chapel) was shred to bits. The greek gods must be punishing me. I will be eaten alive by bugs. That is my fate.

Once we stopped bickering with each other about our miserable situation, we opened all the doors, slathered ourselves with insect repellent and sat on the balcony commiserating with a bottle of ouzo at 2 in the morning. Laughter (and a hug and a shot) is the best medicine in times of dire straights. At some point in the wee hours we drifted off to sleep probably too exhausted to care any longer, and woke up to a happy little boy squealing with his grandpapa in the pool outside.

Thank god for a new day.


corina June 15, 2009 at 5:09 AM  

not sure if this works but i recently read on a travel advice site to take vitamin B1 to keep the mosquitos away...may take a bit to take effect tho'.

sounds like the day from h-e-double hockey stix! hopefully its a once-a-year kinda day ;p

vlyons June 16, 2009 at 2:55 AM  

We had a similar day on a different Greek island quite a few years ago. Your description of the heat, hills, conflicting directions and no AC brought it all back. No bedbugs though, so you definitely get the "bad day in Greece" award. I hope it got better from there. The salt water's gotta be good for the bites, right?

Robin June 25, 2009 at 5:40 AM  

Linda And I just read your bad day account. Are hearts are with you.
We love you guys and hope you have no more bad days!!
Robin & Linda

Alison June 25, 2009 at 4:07 PM  

I'll definitely look into the B1, anything too keep the bugs at bay since I seem to be target #1.

VL - the saltwater is helping! slowly but surely I'll be back to normal.

And hopefully not too many more bad days ahead...

Amy June 26, 2009 at 6:44 PM  

I love the picture of the bakery with Spirro in the back ground, Hilarious.

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