‘Sweet Simeon’ Kalymnos, Greece

When people told us about island hopping in Greece and Turkey they made it sound like there were ferries and catamarans and speedboats galore. Ferries, yes, speedboats no, and a convenient schedule, that would also be a no. To get to Kalymnos from Kastelorizo we had to spend a night in Rhodes, and once again with no accommodation booked, we strolled off the ferry around 5:30PM in complete awe of the very impressive Medieval Castle staring right at us and within seconds had a little scraggly, big-bellied Grecian, pulling at our packs hitting us up for a room.  He got on his scooter and told us to follow him on foot through the castle, up and down cobblestone alleyways and within fifteen minutes, the hotel. He gave us a tour of a very below average room, one of the worst so far, that when he saw my reaction to the bathroom, he dropped the price, threw in a couple of beers and all was well. Since we only had about two hours left of daylight to view historical Rhodes, it didn’t exactly leave us much room to be choosy. The castle was overwhelming, but the tourists and souvenir stalls inside were even more overwhelming. A bit of a shock considering where we just came from that we quickly realized a night would be ample enough time here. We ran around for about an hour taking in the castle’s beauty from the outside content with our exploration for the evening, found a quiet little restaurant on the outskirts to feed our hungry tummies and called it a night. I thought for sure we would open the door to our room and find cockroaches scurrying for cover, but to my surprise there was not one for me to find. I had already put Simon in charge of cockroach duty, but he was happily relieved.

Early morning start and we were psyched to finally be on route to the long awaited island of Kalymnos and world class climbing! Michael, from Kastelorizo, greeted us with a giant smile at the ferry harbor, but was saddened because he had bad news. Unfortunately, his house was filled with unexpected guests and there was no longer room for us.  Still eager to help us out, he hooked us up with an uncle for a scooter rental and a cousin for a hotel room, another family affair! Michael had to get back to work, so everything moved fast and since Simon held the International Motorcycle License, the men took care of business, while I tried to ‘patiently’ wait in the car. This being the island I planned my entire trip around, I was starting to get a little nervous. Since we weren’t going to be staying with Michael, the Kalymnos local we met in Kastelerizo, I didn’t quite see the point of staying at the ‘Panoramic Hotel’ overlooking the not so scenic harbor. “Very, very beautiful view, you will see madam!” … um, ok, but how far is the climbing from here? “ No more than 5 minutes. Very close!” I look at Simon and he’s stoked, everything is just falling into place perfectly, but he’s sort of at a loss with my expression since it doesn’t exactly match his. This would be our longest stay so far and I’m staring at a tiny room with two twin beds, a congested view of the harbor with a mini balcony that barely fits the two of us, no mini kitchen and no climbing crag in sight. We ask him how much the room will cost and he shushed us saying “very special price.” Right. We thank him, close the door and I turn to Simon and say, when we make our way to the climbing area and it’s more than 5 minutes, which I was sure it would be, and we love it, can we move? He nods yes. Good. We made our way to Masouri on the scooter, which took a solid thirty minutes mind you, and first glance down the hill overlooking the town, we were smitten. As Simon ordered food, I ran around looking for a cute little studio. Studios were going for 18-22 Euros a night with a mini kitchen right over the water! What???? I ran back to Simon, now with a stoked look on my face and suggested we ride back, grab our stuff, and make our move now. Satiated, he was game, but hesitant about offending Michael and his cousin so I offered to do all the talking. I presented a good story about how important climbing was to us, how we needed to be much closer and sort of threw in that it really wasn’t ‘5 minutes’ away and I think they got it. Not necessarily happy about losing out on a week or sending us away with pleasant farewell wishes, but understood. With our 50 CC rental scooter, my backpack, his backpack, and our 2 daypacks, we chugged our way up and down hills to our new little home with a fantastic new view. The ocean on one side, the climbing crag on the other, room to walk around and unload, a fridge now full of fresh food and an 80 meter rope / 20 draw hook up from a guide named Hans that offered it to us for free for the week! Yeah baby!! That’s my kind of everything falling into place!

We spent the next 7 days climbing non-stop. It’s impossible to take a rest day when the access is so easy and the climbing so fricking good! Simon’s extent of climbing was a day at Malibu Creek before our trip and some gym climbing years ago, but since there was no surf and a dire need to exercise, he threw himself in and crushed it.  A couple of days of getting back in the swing of things, a couple days of trying hard and feeling sore, a couple days of needing a rest day and a final day of wishing you had more time so you could finish strong! Haha. We hit up 9 walls in 7 days: Odyssey, Spartacus, Afternoon, Summertime, Panorama, Sikata Cave, Secret Garden, the Grande Grotto and Argenonta. It was phenomenal, the ultimate climber’s paradise. You can literally spend a month or more climbing a new wall with new routes every single day. I was blown away and wished I had planned for longer, but the fact that I love traveling and scuba diving sometimes equally or more than climbing is how I found myself with only 8 and half days. I climbed in Kalymnos, it was awesome, and that’s all that matters! Thanks to Mark and Karis and the Norwegians for good times on the rock and no thanks to all the mountain goats who were relentless at stealing our food!

Since most of the climbing had to be done before 2 PM or the sun would crush you, we had tons of down time to enjoy the beach and cooking class and drinking Ouzo and saving dogs and a new bucket list check -nude snorkeling on the ‘special beach with yellow umbrellas”! Our cooking class consisted of making Mousaka with two women from Telendos who own a local restaurant in Massouri with their husbands and it didn’t take long for the men to jump in and get involved. The men, sitting together on the seats directly outside the kitchen, couldn’t resist putting their two cents in and since there was an unlimited helping of white wine throughout the class, it was silly fun. We have it all on video and followed suit with three more lovely dinners there that included bonus invites after each meal into the kitchen for more lessons. Everything either organic, straight out of their garden, homemade, or fresh, and made by very proud chefs, so in addition to our Egyptian date night it looks like we will be adding an evening trying to recreate these local Greek dishes!

On one of our last few days I ran across the street to ‘use the restroom’ before heading up the trailhead to Argonanta wall and came across the sweetest puppy full of energetic puppy love, chained to a drainage pipe with no food and water. I lost it and immediately insisted on a rescue mission.  We gave him some of our food and he basically swallowed it all whole. I couldn’t focus on climbing and was happy when the sun came out so we could work out a game plan. Our hotel had a few dogs running around, so I figured hitting them up about him might help. I begged the daughter, Katerina, to drive back over with me and of course, once she saw him, she instantly agreed that we had no choice, “The owner of this dog does not deserve this puppy!” The two bleeding hearts drove home giggling with rescue contentment and sorted through name options. After a good chuckle, I threw out ‘Simeon’, Simon’s name in Greek and Katerina loved it! Lol Word spread fast though and within hours we were told Simeon belonged to a crazy shepherd who threatened to kill whoever took his dog. Heartbroken, we had to dig the chain out of the trash and tie him back up to the pipe. Fortunately, Katerina was good friends with the county vet and had already devised a plan. To make a long story short, the vet had the capability of taking away both Simeon and his sheep and after checking on him, stopped by the shepherd’s house to give him his first warning. If the condition didn’t change within a week, she would remove both. From Katerina’s updates it looks like he’s no longer chained to the drainage pipe, in better care, and under the vet’s careful watch!

Everything seemed to be a highlight in Kalymnos, but there was one more for us and that was Marius, the cashier that worked at one of the mini super markets. No matter how long the line wrapped around the aisles or out the door, if a question was asked about Greece he would drop everything.  We had to get him on video because he just tickled my heart. He was so staunchly passionate it was a treat to hear him speak. We were buying coffee one night, dropped it on the counter and he stopped abruptly eyeing us up in dead silence.  Did we know how to ‘properly’ make this coffee he asked. Since he was so serious, we thought we might but shook our heads no. He went into extensive detail as I turned around several times to the long line behind us and apologized profusely. I woke up to superb Greek coffee made by Mr. Simon himself, freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli with Greek yoghurt and honey and fresh croissants. This was our morning for the next six days and we never tired of it.

Kalymnos was a treat and it’s highly likely it will get another visit from us! Maybe because we settled in for a little more than a week, maybe because of the insane climbing, maybe because of our seriously rad studio overlooking the ocean, maybe because of all the wonderful locals, and maybe all of the above and then some! It’s been on my list for a very long time and I’m thankful I finally got to experience it in all of its glory with Simon. …and Simeon!

Picture credits: Simon and Alice

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