…A Smaller Symi…
4th/5th June 2016
So far on our sailing trip, each bay/harbour we had gone to had been more interesting, more pretty and everybody we had met were all very nice and friendly! After leaving Alimia, we were heading towards the very quiet and small island of Halki, also, very close to Rhodes. The trip today was short, so we sailed most of the way and, as usual, parked perfectly in our tight gap on the pontoon.
Halki-(Khalki)- is a beautiful and primitive island with fine beaches and very clear waters. The main harbour, called Emporio, is very picturesque, with all the houses in different colours similar to that of Simi, on a smaller and less unassuming scale.
On entering this very sheltered bay that carves inland, you can see the two tall bell towers lingering over the red tiled roofs, and not far up the hill are the three, old windmills, conspicuous even from out at sea. Halki is rugged and barren and over the years it’s inhabitants have left for a better life on Rhodes and Kos. All its left with now are people visiting on day tours, and sailors, who normally stop here for the night.
The name, Halki, comes from the copper mines which the island once had. There is very little history about the island during the prehistoric times, but between the 5th and the 10th centuries -(BC)-, it enjoyed a time of wealth and luck from these copper mines. In the 13th century the Venetian forces arrived and put in place many tough regulations about who could own what. The Venetians also built a large fortress on the site of the old Acropolis, and within the castle-(in Chorio)-stands the church of St Nicholas, which has many wall paintings and frescos. The island was then taken over by the Ottomans, then the Italians until the end of the war when it was incorporated into the Greek republic.
THINGS TO DO BITS
Despite it’s proximity to the bustling island of Rhodes, Halki is very untouched by the effects of tourism. There aren’t many cars on the island, nor are there many scooters, and most of the supplies come from the ferry that docks in the brightly coloured main town each day. Emporio, which is the main town on the island and has the most inhabitants, is very much like a smaller Symi. With its neo-classical buildings and beautifully turquoise waters, the harbour has many, very special photo opportunities lingering around each street corner. Also in the town, is the very pretty and picturesque Church of Aghois Nikolaos-(Church of Saint Nicholas)-, with its fine bell tower painted in bright sky blue and cloud white it has also a small museum, which certainly makes it an interesting visit.
Although the island is not very green and is infact very barren, it is still a very pleasant and fascinating place to hike. Following the one road on the island would take you to a monastery over 500 metres above sea level, but on the way, you get to see the old capital called Chorio which is now standing in ruins on a very sloped hill-(This is were the Ancient castle stands)-. However, it is worth the 8km walk, because the view from the top is called “The Endless Blue”, and you get to look over the crystal clear water of the Aegean.
On other walks, the end point is sometimes a beautifully, sandy beach which dot the island each in many secret bays. There are five/six walks that you could do on the island, and you can buy hiking maps from many of the “loveliness” shops, dotted around Emporio’s promenade.
OUR FIRST HAND EXPERIENCES
Well, on the 4th, mum and I explored this small and quiet town. After having lunch at the Valantis Grill House,-(I highly recommend it if you visit the island)- we went on a long walk that, we hoped would take us to a beach. Each corner, like in Symi, was a photo opportunity! Each street was tight and claustrophobic and all the houses were beautifully painted in neo-classical colours. As we ventured around the town, I impressed the locals with my fluent Greek, which consisted of ONLY hello, thank you, and thank you very much! On the way, we also passed the old bell tower, a military base-(which looked as though it had five or six, large artillery gun)-, and, a brightly painted monastery which over looked the turquoise waters of Mediterranean.
On the way back, we saw a sign pointing towards another beach, which is called Ftengia. This route took us over a hill, past the three windmills which are very conspicuous from the sea, and we saw a very loud, (and hot) donkey. Ftengia, is on the entrance to the bay and below the windmills, but, the beach is small and has only a few sun beds. However, the waters are very clear and warm…..what more could you ask for!😄
After a drink at the restaurant, which is on beach front, we followed a goat track down along the coast and back into the, now busier town.
On the 5th, we left early in the morning so we could go on the 2.5 kilometre walk to the castle, where we were looking forward to the promised super view from the top. Whilst walking to the edge of the town, I kept glancing at my waterproof and rip proof map of the island ( available from most good book stores in Halki, for five euros……) By doing this, I felt a little like Ernest Shakleton, trekking across the Antarctic…the only differences between us two explorers, is one, I was wearing crocs and he was probably wearing high ankle, thick boots. The other difference was I wasn’t in Antarctica….no, instead mother and I were walking through an oven.
As we followed the path up the mild slopes, we tried our best to ration our ONE, bottle of water until we got back from the castle and old capital town, of Chorio.
With a height difference of over 200 metres, which mum insisted on converting into feet; ( 600 feet, that’s 600 feet…. 600 feet you know! ) and a total distance of 2.5km, we finally reached the summit an hour and a half later. The view from the top was incredible. To the left, you could see the abandoned island of Alimia, then behind it and to its right is the large and cosmopolitan island of Rhodes, but beyond that is the bright blue sea.
The route to the castle is gruelling, we walked all of the way from the village which is along the ( only ) road in Halki and consists of many annoying zig zags, we later learned that a trip of some kind is available which drives you along the road bits first, depositing you at the start of the footpath, which, incidentally, is surprisingly sound and good.
If like us, you walk all the way, when you reach the longest of the zig zags, where for the first time a tree casts some welcome shade onto the left hand side of the road, there is a track which only slightly appears more beaten by feet, than goats hooves. Keep your eyes peeled, because this joins the start of the stone path and cuts out at least three zig zags of the road taking you onto the main castle path.
Take a hat, go early, DONT wear crocs or flip flops, carry plenty of water and don’t forget your camera, the view is stunning from up there. We encountered a long black snake on our walk, and afterwards as we chatted about it mum and I realised that we actually didn’t know what to do in the actual eventuality of meeting a snake head on. As the only snakes found on this island is the adder, it was clearly a poisonous one, therefore one to be avoided, and when mum posed the question about ” what should you do, when you meet a snake” my answer of ” jump on your back!” Didn’t go down too well!
Further research suggests standing still until the snake retreats or passes.
All I’m going to say is that it’s a good job Geoff wasn’t with us, as I really don’t think he would have stood still.. In fact I reckon he would have been back up the hill to that castle in one leap!
THE “NOT SO FAMOUS” (yet) HALKI PARKING EXPERIENCE.
Similar to Symi town, in Halki marina you first select or are indicated your space, you drop your anchor ( here they like your anchor straight out in front of you, regardless of cross winds ) and reverse into the chosen position where you tie up stern lines to cleats… Erm… Cleats…… That’s if you can find any.
Maybe the clever people who design these new floating pontoons wish not to spoil the aesthetics of the contemporary appearance of these moorings by placing the cleats out of sight, maybe the cleats are placed beneath the pontoons…. Erm.. No!
Hmm, a lack of cleats causes somewhat of a problem. Not so for the HUGE motor yacht who, cleverly, had found two which he was selflessly sharing with another few boats, and who then in an act of whimsical fancy decided to tighten up his stern lines in the strong afternoon wind which seems to blow daily by driving hard against his mooring. “POP!” that was the starboard cleat, holding also the yacht to his right, and then “POP ” oops, there goes the port side cleat, holding two other yachts also, as obviously the motor yacht had had to engage in more vigorous tightening due to the recent lack of a port cleat!
As Geoff and Mum jumped aboard a friends boat to try and secure dangling lines and unusually floating pontoon cleats, the owner of the motor yacht ( who was neither skipper nor crew) could be heard asking mother in the truly compassionate tones of a motor yacht owner, whether the yacht she was on was hers… When mother answered ” no” the caring, considerate chap then asked,
” so- why are you bothered then?!” He went on to explain then- to nobody- because by this time everyone had realised the importance of his words and stopped listening, that it actually wasn’t anything to do with them, as the cleats had just “jumped off ” the pontoons!
Makes Symi seem like child’s play!
Contact me for more ” helpful tips” on parking in Halki.
Berthing for a 45 ft sailing yacht is 13 euros per night, water is a further euro per 100 litres. There are no electrical hook ups available. Good supermarkets close by and many restaraunts and cafes with free WIFI.