“Hey guys, Look at me!” We barely heard him above the thundering waterfall, hardly saw him through the spray, but there he was perched on a giant rock at least 10m tall above the rock pool, his frame a looming shadow in the bright sunlight. Tired from the hike, we sat at the base of a large oak tree, listening to the distant bleats of goats, and watched.
Sailing around the North-Aegean
We had sailed in a few days ago from Limnos on our sailing holiday. Having rented a boat in Kavala, we had made our way to Thassos, Limnos and, finally, the small egg-shaped island of Samothraki: the Charming Island Trilogy. The island is, in fact, a mountain rising from the sea and it was here that Poseidon is said to have sat on its mighty mountain top at almost 1700m for a bird’s-eye view of the Trojan War.
The unique island of Samothraki, off the well-worn path, has an untamed beauty, diverse in its flora and fauna; it is a haven for migrating birds and other wild life has many gifts to offer the traveler from hot springs and cool rock pools to valleys of indigenous forest and deserted beaches. The smell of wild oregano fills the air, the honey is some of the best I have tasted, the sounds of the rushing rivers and waterfalls; Samothraki delights the senses.
This wild and rough island does not offer much in the way of natural anchorages and protected bays for the seafarer and even in the summer there can be strong winds, so it’s best to keep an eye on the weather forecast. The main harbor at Kamariotissa provides good shelter unless the SW is blowing, which can bring in a swell. Another artificial harbour lies at Therma with depths of over 3 m and provides better protection from the Meltemi summer winds.
Safely anchored in the main port of Kamariotissa, we had rented some scooters to explore the interior of this magical place. We had spent the previous day ambling around its mystical ancient site, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, surely one of the most visually spectacular sites in Greece. Doric columns set on a hill surrounded by purple gorse with the cool Aegean as a backdrop; one can almost imagine the place bustling with ancient worshippers, when it was one of Greece’s major religious centres in the 5th Century B.C. The site’s most celebrated relic, the Winged Victory of Samothraki (now found in the Louvre, Paris) was found here in 1863.
Some of the group had hiked on to summit the mountain and the evening was spent soaking our weary bones in the outdoor thermal pools at Loutra.
We had heard, too, of the freshwater waterfall, Kremastos, that flows through mighty granite directly into the sea on the Southeastern side of the island close to the volcanic beach of Vatos. Only accessible by boat, the plan was to sail there the following day and anchor for the night at the superb sandy beach of Pahia Ammos.
For now we were content to keep exploring the 12 natural rock pools, barely containing the Fonias River as it rushes down to the sea. Having caught our breath we settled in the dappled shade and turned to look up at the figure high up on the rock next to the waterfall. “Jump!” someone shouted, and he did, his body twisting in the air and plunging into the icy water.
By Merryn Wainwright