Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall colours

A blaze of colour in late October.

Mt. Ida in the clouds.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Adams River Salmon Run - 2010

The 12-kilometre-long Adams River is the ultimate destination of as many as two million of the returning sockeye. In fact, sockeye salmon return to the Adams River every year but the migration that occurs every fourth year dwarfs the others, having reached as high as 3.6 million sockeye in 2002. With approximately 65 hectares of stream bed, the diminutive Adams River rates among the richest natural spawning streams in North America.
Four years earlier, the parents of the returning sockeye followed the same waterways, mated, laid their eggs in the coarse gravel stream beds, and died. The eggs slowly developed over the winter, then the warming waters of April and early May induced the tiny alevin to leave the gravel, and the spring freshet carried them down to Shuswap Lake.
For a year, the young salmon roamed Shuswap Lake, dodging predators and feeding in the shallows of the H-shaped lake's many bays and inlets. Then in May and June of their second year, they took a rough and tumble 480-kilometre-ride through the rapids of the Thompson and Fraser rivers to the Pacific Ocean.
Of an estimated 100 million sockeye fingerlings that leave Shuswap Lake in the spring of a peak year, approximately 10 per cent are expected to return to the British Columbia coast in the autumn four years later. In their Pacific wanderings that take them as far away as Japan, natural predators and ocean-going fishing vessels would take their toll.

What an unbelievable sight!

The air above is filled with children's chatter
while the underwater struggle continues.

The stink of rotting carcasses fills the air
as their deaths are recorded.

Further upstream the battle continues.

Partners attempt to lay and fertilize eggs

Before the cycle is completed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Air travel

Coming home to see the salmon!

On the flight from Athens to Frankfurt, they were the last to board, a family of five with overstuffed bags that wouldn't fit. Their seats were spaced apart. The father demonstrated a fierce determination. At the expense of anything that was already stowed in the overhead compartments, he was determined to make their baggage fit. He finally managed to cram one of the bags on top of our stuff, including my computer. I reached out and grabbed him, yelling at him to be careful! He didn't stop cramming the bag, just muttered "sorry" and carried on. The flight attendants were frustrated, telling him that the bags wouldn't fit. He refused to listen, moving other people's things to accommodate his determination. He finally managed to jam, cram and stuff everything after removing some items in order to flatten the luggage. Our flight departure was delayed by this idiot's oversized luggage!!

Meanwhile the family was all standing in the aisle, refusing to sit in the designated seats, expecting that other passengers would juggle their seat assignments in order that the family could sit together. After several requests from the flight attendants, the family finally got their wish with 3 of the 5 seated together. These three were seated in the row in front of us. The children continued for the first two hours of the flight to jump on the seats, slam the window shade up and down and yank on the seats in front of them while their mother slept! On arrival in Frankfurt, the father blocked the aisle and waited expectantly, while other passengers removed his luggage from the overhead bins and passed it overhead along the aisle to him.

On the flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver we were treated to another raucous family with two young boys across the aisle from us. The boys performed acrobatics accompanied with shrieking vocals for most of the trip. The only exceptions were when meals arrived to distract them from athletic activities! The parents put on their headsets and quietly watched movies while everyone within ten rows on either side shook their heads in disbelief!

Air travel has lost a lot of its charm for me. Surrounded by undisciplined children, screaming babies, snoring travellers and farting seniors in a contained capsule is not my idea of fun! Speaking of farting seniors, who had the bright idea to include overcooked broccoli in the hot dinner?! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our last day!

When I removed my earplugs this morning, I heard the steady downpour of rain. The entire island will celebrate! The olives will be plump for harvest. The hills will turn green. The pathways and houses will be washed clean. There is only one concern. Will the ferry sail tomorrow morning??? The rain is accompanied by strong winds!!

During breakfast we heard the Thunder God for the first time in Greece. He rattled and roared above us, sending spikes of lightning from the clouds. It was quite a display. The winds continued all day with the sun trying to peek through from time to time.

Yesterday we heard a story about a ferry arriving at the port of Piraeus, dropping anchor and sitting away from the pier. Apparently the fishermen were holding a demonstration and had positioned caiques along the edge of the piers so that none of the ferries could dock! This is Greece!!

Nadia and John waiting for dinner!

Dinner was planned for our last night at Jazzmin Cafe. Theo would make lemon garlic pasta, I would make a salad and Nadia would create another veggie dish. At the last minute Nokie arrived and took over the underground kitchen. Armed with a three foot length of broom handle, he wanted to roll out pastry to make a pork pie. There were pots and cutting boards everywhere. The counter was dusted with flour. Some pastry was prebaked, to be crumbled later into the pie filling. His creation finally went into the oven at 10pm!! The kitchen was finally free for me to make the salad. Reaching up, I pulled down a large bowl. Unbeknownst to me, Nokie had poured the pork broth into this bowl to cool. I took a bath in it!!

Nokie rolling the dough!

Being a super organized person, I had packed the luggage earlier in the day and taken the bags to the car, ready for our early departure the next morning! As I grumped my way to the car, dragged my bag back up to the room, cursed my way into extra pants and shirt, I couldn't think of anyone to blame for this fiasco!! Of course that added to my frustration!! It was bad enough to have stinky socks in the luggage that refused to dry in the damp humidity; now the odour of pork would permeate everything!

Returning to the Cafe with a black look, I was greeted by Nadia's laughter. It was tempting to pout but I decided not to add further ruin to the evening!! I gave in to the potential humour of the incident. The pie finally emerged from the oven at 11pm, golden and steaming with delicious aroma. The dinner was delicious, finished off with slices of Russian Cake freshly baked that day by Theo. We tucked ourselves into bed at 12:30am, stuffed and tired. The alarm was set for 5:00 am.

On the ferry at 6:00am, we decided to share a 4 bed cabin with Yorgos and Nadia for the trip to Piraeus. Wise decision!! We all needed a few hours of sleep.

After careful consideration, we decided that our Greek friends just don't think of us as elderly folk who need their sleep! They think of us as friends who want to share in their tradition of late dinners!! Bravo!! We will look back on these special times as we tuck ourselves into bed at home, night after night, at 10pm!!

Looking back at the port of Katapola from the ferry at 6am!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What a day!

The clouds had lifted a bit this morning but it still felt like a steambath when we headed to Aegiali to pick up Gabi. She had agreed to make the hike from Langada to Tholaria with me. This is my favourite walk/hike on the island.

We arrived in Langada at 10am and were immediately greeted by several friends from past visits. John stayed to share mountain tea with Vangelis, a Naturopath and Herbalist, while Gabi and I started the trek down through Strombos and up to Tholaria. We passed olive trees full of fruit, waiting for a good rainfall to fatten the olives. Enroute we had three minutes of rain that helped to cool our overheated bodies. In Tholaria we gulped cold drinks to rehydrate.

Next we drove back to Langada for a book swap with Michael Ann. I had finally finished SLAP, the book that I brought on this trip, and was reluctant to pay 15 euros for a new book. She was more than happy to have new reading material. Now I had to decide between Joan Didion's "Slouching towards Bethlehem" or Jonathan Harr's "A Civil Action". Both are non-fiction books.
Michael Ann (Mikey), John & Gabi

By the time we finished our book exchange, over coffee, everyone agreed that it was time to share a lunch. It was 2:30pm!! It was another one of those Greek experiences with many small dishes of delicious food on the table and never ending conversation.

When we finally arrived back in Chora, there was an invitation for dinner back in Tholaria at 8pm!!  Without hesitation we made the winding half hour drive again after dark, skirting sleeping goats, to join our friends. Another groaning table of food and more conversation on Judaism, Islam and the Mormon faith. Questions about  the situation in Bountiful surfaced. Mormons and Jehovahs regularly visit Amorgos, hoping to convert some of the island's Greek Orthodox residents.

Most of the goats had moved off the road by the time we drove slowly home. The air was very warm with the promise of rain tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

cloaked in cloud

cloaked in clouds
flown in from africa
everything is damp
nothing dries
wind swirls endlessly
around windmills
between buildings
through the cafes
chora is invisible
shrouded in white

All day the clouds descended on Chora, wrapping us in a warm steambath from Africa. Laundry hung limp and wet. Skin felt damp. Bed sheets were sweating. We drove down to the port and into sunshine. Everyone was walking around in summer clothing.

Back up to Chora for lunch and we watched the clouds drift into the taverna, softening the light. Winds from the south blew endlessly. Bouganvillea scratched across the windows. The air was thick enough to chew. Really glad that I took advantage of good weather yesterday for a swim.

In the morning, Nadya decided to bathe the abandoned kitten first in vinegar, then in a chamomile solution. He objected at first, but finally accepted Nadya as his mother figure. She managed to transform him into a clean little critter. His chances of survival are still quite slim as there are no humans prepared to take him into their homes.

In the evening we ventured out into the clouds for a drink at Bayoko. No one else was visible on the pathways or in the Cafe. We wandered the narrow pathways of a ghost town, unable to see more than two feet ahead. Eerie lights in windows of homes, rumblings from TVs and the wind were all that we saw and heard. The air was still warmer outside than inside. Our landlady had decided to cloak our bed for winter with a heavy eiderdown. We couldn't breathe!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

cloudy days ahead

The weather predictions for our last week looked glum so we decided to take advantage of clear skies yesterday with a road trip. We started with a drive up to the ancient Minoan site above Katapola that has been dated to the 11th century BC. Excavations halted at this site years ago so we didn't discover anything new but the view to Chora and down to Katapola is breathtaking. From the other side, we could see the entire southern end of the island.
View from minoan site with Katapola below and Chora up on the hillside     

From there we drove north to Aegiali where I had (possibly) my last swim of this trip. John could not be coaxed into the water. On this vast expanse of beautiful beach, I was the only one who enjoyed the crystal clear water!

Coffee at Marabu with Christos, warm greetings from Nikolas, chats with Brad & Sandy, late lunch at Asteria. The day disappeared in surprise encounters with old friends, more good food and sunshine.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving Sunday started with me in the underground kitchen. First on the agenda was baking a cake but before I could start, I had to find things. Everything had been moved. Baking powder was now purchased in a large plastic bag instead of small 2 tsp. packets. Vanilla was still in powder form in small vials. All of the baking supplies were in a box on the floor, under the counter. The cake tins were hidden in a drawer under the oven, measuring cups were hidden at the back of a shelf. Theo had cleaned the kitchen and stored everything away in preparation  for winter. I didn't even know how to turn on the oven in the new gas stove?!

Miraculously, the cake disappeared into the oven and reappeared 45 minutes later looking beautiful and smelling edible! John's sister had sent me a recipe for a basic cake which I adapted into a chocolate spice cake with sliced apples on top and drizzled it with rum/butter.

Meanwhile the cabbage and the rice were boiling and the potatoes were baked. I scooped the potato out of the skins, mixed it with yogurt, butter and herbs then scooped the mixture back into the skins and topped with grated cheese. There must have been 400 flies in the kitchen so my arms were constantly flicking them away. When the potatoes were ready, I covered the pan with a tea towel.

After peeling away the cabbage leaves and setting the rice in a bowl to cool, we decided to walk up to the windmills. This was the longest walk for John on this trip with the most uphill and downhill!! It was a challenge! His knees welcomed a much needed rest later in the afternoon.

Around 5pm, I headed back to the kitchen to make the stuffing for the cabbage rolls. This time I added ground meat, bacon, apple, raisins and fresh dill. By eight o'clock there were delicious aromas drifting up from the kitchen and everyone was gathered.

Our dinner group included five Greeks, one Swiss, two Italians and two Canadians. While the meal was not a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, we did give thanks for friendships and for good food.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Shadows and priests

shadows lengthen
shaping memories

Church bells rang out an announcement just moments before the congregation of clergy emerged. 
They appeared in wind whipped black cassocks. 
Some wore tall black hats, daring the wind to tear them away. 
One hat was circled with red, worn by the chief priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. 
All ten boasted long hair and full beards.

Several locals had gathered to ogle, wondering why the head of Greece's church was on Amorgos. 
After they drove away in a variety of vehicles, we learned that he was here for a special wedding the next day in Aegiali. 
If it was an islander getting married, the entire island would be invited. 
This wedding must be for an outsider!!

We were sitting at Bayoko Cafe/Bar in Chora watching this spectacle. 
After they left, and the locals stood around gossiping, we returned to the pleasure of our meal, 
Bayoko Pitas stuffed with ham, cheese, tapenaude and grilled! Yummhhh!

Arkesini and south

Yesterday we headed to the southern end of the island to check out the beach. Cold wind from the north blew us along the beach as we wandered among the goats. No one else was in sight.

On the return, we stopped in Arkesini for a late lunch at Maruso. The owner was a friend and former student of Jehane and Molly's so we shared some of her stories (ie) she talked in Greek and I translated to John! How hilarious is this?! Because she simplified her stories, I was actually able to follow along!

We requested a small sample of wine from Arkesini that was made from sundried grapes! Too sweet!...but it would be very delicious as a dessert wine.

As I said before, the island is almost empty. Tomorrow I will make cabbage rolls, stuffed potatoes and a chocolate/apple/rum cake for our small group.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Farewell to Kalliroi

Windmills above Chora. 
Prophitis Ilias is just visible, a tiny white dot on the far peak!

The winds continue to blow but we haven't seen rain yet. The forecast promises warm winds from the south by Monday and a cloudy week ahead.

Last night's dinner included Phillippe and Lilou from Saint Quentin la Poterie, a pottery village in Southern France. Phillippe creates traditional earthenware while Lilou works with contemporary porcelain. There are 21 pottery workshops in the village, just west of Avignon. Wow! Marg would love to visit this special place!

After dinner we said farewell to our good friend Kallyroi. We will really miss her. She left this morning along with Dimitris and Antigone. 

The underground kitchen will take a two day break from communal cooking while I try to think of a Thanksgiving meal for Sunday. We have invited Julio and Simona, the Italian couple who created an amazing meal for us a week ago. It isn't possible to find turkey here and very difficult to find organic chicken so I am considering a Ukrainian Thanksgiving dinner with cabbage rolls, similar to the meal we prepared in Mexico!! Not sure that I want to make perogie dough in that tiny space, but, we'll see. Maybe a bread pudding for dessert with apples and raisins and cinnamon?!

The smoking situation was overwhelming last night. Cold winds forced them to close the doors to the Cafe. With 5 smokers inside, I was finally convinced to put on my jacket and move outside. Every night I hang our clothes outside to air.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Cats, cats, everywhere cats!
Most are homeless and struggle to survive.
Armelle has adopted this one.

Amorgian life - (cont'd)

The Philosopher!

On previous trips we have been told that Amorgos is the most expensive island.  Here are some of the prices that we have paid: Gas for our car = $2.40/litre, 2 apples = $1.20, white bread = E1.40, brown bread = $1.70, 500g oatmeal = $5.00, eggs = $.30 each, 1 litre milk = $2.50, cheese pie = $2.10, 200g yogurt = $1.50, 250g butter = $4.50. All produce prices are ridiculously high.

It is difficult to compare the cost of eating out because what ends up on the table is so different to what we expect at home. I will use last night's dinner as an example. Four of us shared this meal: two grilled fish(nothing else on the plate), two grilled pork steaks(each steak had a dozen french fried potatoes with it), one Greek salad, one bowl of briam(stewed veggies), one spinach pie(cut into one thin slice each), a bottle of Greek organic wine and a large bottle of water. The total bill was E51(about $70) before the tip. 

There are advantages to this type of meal. The pork was raised and slaughtered by the owner, the fish was also caught that day by a local fisherman, the misithra cheese on the salad, made from goat milk, was processed by the owner, the spinach pie and the briam were made that morning by his mother. We are fortunate to have Greek friends who know which tavernas offer locally grown meals.

Environmentally, Greece is making changes. On most islands, including Amorgos, there are recycling bins for paper products, glass and plastic. It is difficult to tell whether the average resident takes time to separate their garbage and who knows where the collections from these bins end up!

A smoking ban came into effect just before we arrived in Greece. It doesn't seem to have made any difference in the cafes and tavernas on the island. Who is going to police it?? This is considered another invasion of personal rights!

Apparently most of the islands are considering desalination. Plastic water bottles are the curse of these islands where no potable water is available.

Dinner at Michael Anne's

We arrived at Michael Ann's just before sunset. 
Her house is above Langada, at the north end of the island, along a narrow pathway. 
The view is spectacular!

The dinner was amazing, followed by a delicious cheesecake and a sweet kumquat liqueur! Whew!

The pathway was in total darkness for the return trip. 
Fueled by wine, good food, spirited conversation about the Virgin Mary 
and parthenogenesis (maybe you had to be there), 
we gazed at the stars and took carefully placed steps. 
The little flashlight on the end of the pen that my sister gave me 
cast a bluish light on the hazardous pebbles enroute.

The drive back to Chora was uneventful. 
The goats had chosen other spots to sleep instead of the middle of the road. 
Another fun evening!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 3rd

On Sunday, October 3rd, my mother would have been 85 years of age. I thought of her in the morning while my sisters, on the other side of the globe, were taking part in a "Walk for the Cure of Breast Cancer". My mother and sister were both diagnosed with breast cancer. Bravo to everyone involved in this fundraising event!

Around noon we travelled south on the island to visit the gravesite of Molly MacKenzie, an old friend, who lived on this island for many years. She died earlier this year in Athens and her body was returned to the island for burial. Several sites at the cemetery were unmarked so we drove back into Kolofana to ask Sophie, the cafe owner to show us which one was Molly's. Sophie can be seen these days wildly waving from her cafe at passing cars, hoping to entice them into her cafe for meals. This behaviour is not at all typical of Greeks. I suspected that Sophie was a little off balance so I was not convinced that she would lead us to the right site. We left a beautiful heart shaped rock from the beach at Agia Anna at the gravesite that Sophie indicated was Molly's.

Happy days with Jehane, Irini & Molly at Kolofana.

When we returned to Chora, I showed Maria a photo of the site and she assured me that it was the wrong one! Maria had made the funeral arrangements and attended the ceremonial burial. We'll return again to move the stone and place a plant on the correct site but we won't be stopping to say hello to Sophie!!

The island is emptying. We shared a delicious farewell dinner last night for Riikka, Demetres and Sandra who left this morning. Kallyroi made stuffed tomatoes & peppers flavoured with freshly chopped mint and a tasty fava. Riikka helped me to throw together another cabbage salad with a yogurt & honey dressing. Yummh!!

Sandra displayed her paintings before packing them up for return to Athens. 
Her work is wildly colourful, evoking the beat of Africa . 

Saturday, October 2, 2010


The beach at Aegiali.

Finally! It was time for John to get his feet wet! We drove to the beach at Aegiali yesterday and he was coaxed into the water. It was a lengthy process, with much muttering, but he was finally submerged in the Aegean Sea!! Bravo!!

During the afternoon, it was obvious that I had fallen victim to a cold virus that had swept through our group. An afternoon nap felt good.

Looking into Karamel at Kallyroi and Armelle.

Later we joined a group for dinner at Karamel, our friend Armelle's Cafe. She opened in June in the Xylokeratidi end of Katapola. Her Cafe is unusual because she cooks a different dish each day, in the French tradition. Last night we had two choices: beef tongue or vietnamese pork.

I realized when I stepped into the kitchen that I had made a mistake. Viewing the tongue before sampling was not a wise idea. It lay on a plate, shrunken and pasty from boiling. How could I convince myself to try it?!

Finally, I decided to try a small piece as well as having a serving of the vietnamese pork. The tongue was tender but reduced taste buds made it impossible to say whether I enjoyed the flavour. John and Theo thoroughly enjoyed full portions. The rest of the group ordered vietnamese pork.

Friday, October 1, 2010


A friendly visitor to my drawing site.

Dinner at Fish's taverna.

The days are still sunny and hot on Amorgos. Yesterday I climbed up to the windmills with my drawing book, found a shady spot with an interesting view and discovered that all of my pencils were back in the room!! These memory lapses seem to be more frequent.

All was not lost! After returning for a pencil, I found another location that was perfect. The only ones who wandered past were friendly cats. Bouganvillea blossoms litter the pathways now. Geraniums are preparing for a rest. Grape vines are heavy with fruit. Stores and cafes have closed their doors for another season.
It will soon be time to harvest olives and put them into the presses.

Last night we ate at a tiny taverna in Chora, sharing meatballs, fava, tomato balls and eggplant baked in the oven with island cheese. The owner cooked, served, chatted and joined us for a glass of wine.

Today, as it is the first day of the month, we will share greetings of "kalomina", wishes for a good month ahead, with everyone we meet. 

The island is emptying. Anastasia, Thanos, Andre & Sarita, Alexandra, Miguel, Steve,  Vivi, Veronique, Jenny & Alexander have all sailed back to other lives. They leave us with warm memories of days and nights together at Jazzmin.