Go With The Flow
In the early hours of the morning, we arrived at the port in Corfu, met by a gaggle of taxi drivers and others offering places to stay for the night. Over the noise came a booming voice from a thin Greek man with long, greying hair.
“I has the best place to stay on thees Island!”
The other locals moved aside, while this tall man strode purposefully toward us.
“Look, my van ees over there, cheaper, let’s go, aiyes get yous there.”
The three of us, as well as about half a dozen other Brits, got into his rickety white van and set off through the dark streets. The sliding side door of the van wouldn’t close, so we all clung onto each other and jammed our legs against the sides as we gained height and careered dangerously along the dark mountain roads. After a terrifying thirty minutes, we turned into his property and found a place in the dry dirt to pitch our tents. We spent a week there enjoying the sun and getting to know the other British students on the beach.
Evenings were spent at the makeshift bar, where they played music loud into the night. The campsite owner acted as DJ and we drank cheep beer while he put the tunes on. Toward the end of each evening, he would turn the volume up and play ‘Light My Fire’ by the Doors. As we danced, he sprayed liquid fire lighter in a circle around us and lit it. The Corfu health and safety team were obviously elsewhere. It was always a good night out. Later on, dogs roamed the campsite but it was okay so long as your tent was zipped shut. But the breakfasts went from excellent full English to limp toast and left-over fruit. We tried to leave one day and the campsite owner refused. It took three more days until we could move on.
Eventually we made it to the port and boarded another ferry, then got the train across Sparta. I was tired and drifted into a deep sleep despite various birds squawking in cages above our heads. One old man a few seats away had even brought a few goats along for the ride. I woke up to a prodding feeling in my chest.
I opened an eye and saw a sweaty ticket collector in a peaked cap. He was jabbing my chest with a cheap pen.
I was too angry to speak. I glared at him as I handed my inter-railing ticket over to get stamped. I’d just been having the best sleep in weeks and this jumped-up uniform decided to wake me up with his fucking pen. The Brit students with us thought it was the funniest thing they’d seen in ages. They laughed and smiled opposite me. But my mood took a while to subside. The snorts and screeches of the surrounding wildlife mixed into the commotion that prevented any more sleep. I saw the funny side, eventually.
On arrival, we spent a day in the busy City of Athens and visited the Acropolis. It was steep and baking hot, but the architecture was worth it. Then a ferry took us to the island of Ios. We met a bunch of lads who knew Jessie there and spent the next few days on the beach and in the bars during the evenings.
One afternoon, the boys swam out to a coral reef which we were told you could stand on. About four hundred metres out and the depth was at least a hundred metres. We got to the reef and five of us lined up and stood on it. I wore goggles and, on the near side to the beach, I could easily see the ocean floor through the clear blue waters. On the other side, out to sea, it was so deep that the blue and green colours blurred into seeming infinity. I could make out some shoals of fish, but not much else. I looked over at the others. They were peering into the sea. I had an idea.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
Everyone stared a bit harder.
“Fuck! It’s a shark!!’ There wasn’t a shark. I just thought I’d shout there was.
It caused instant panic and everyone struck for the shore. Shouts, cries and splashing filled the air. I was caught up in the frenzy and panicked as well, even though I knew there wasn’t a shark. My heart pounded and I swam fast, overtaking a couple of them. When we got to the beach, I confessed it was just a joke. Some laughed, others didn’t. I laughed with the ones who did. We partied for a few more days, but Michelle, Jessie and I had to leave the island as it was just too expensive.
Another ferry took us to the small island of Paros. Around a bay, we found a campsite, which had salt water showers and toilets that consisted of holes in the concrete floor. Sun-baked days glided past on the beach under the still, clear blue skies and we swung in my hammock into the evenings. It was so cheap to eat on the island that we all ate in restaurants every evening. We talked and laughed to torchlight walking along a cliff path from the town over to our isolated campsite. As relaxed as everything was, I still read a book about company law. It was a subject in the next term I wanted to do well in. I daydreamed about a career in business law; maybe even as a barrister.
One morning, the wind had risen. The sky and sea were still blue, but the warm wind began to blow dust from the floor of the campsite. The weather was turning and it was time to head back to England. On the way, we took in the sights of Rome and Paris until we arrived in Oxford for the beginning of the next academic year.