The only way for us to get from Santorini to Turkey in the WINTER without paying €289 per person for a flight, is to catch an 18 hour ferry to Rhodes, then a 5 hour ferry from Rhodes to Marmaris, in Turkey.
Our experience of buses and taxis on Santorini island should have prepared us for the chaos of the Greek ferry system… But it didn’t.
The ferry turns up 45 minutes late, so instead of a 3am departure time, it’s more around 4am. To get on the ferry, the ramp comes down and a large herd of people waiting to get off start running, meanwhile the herd of people we are standing in start charging at them, meanwhile the trucks and cars on the ferry start driving off the ramp, into the mass of people. It was an absolute free for all. One guard stood on the ramp with a ciggie in his mouth yelling in Greek with his hands in the air. He did a lot…
On finally getting up into the very large rickety boat we are pointed down a narrow dark corridor full of dorms, all I can imagine as I’m walking down the dark claustrophobic corridor is Titanic, where Jane is swimming down to get Jack.. It’s so narrow, no windows, no air, no light!! We followed that down, trying to find our ‘air craft seats’ but to no avail, we are then redirected by 4 different staff to eventually find our section of seats.
I look into the room of ‘air craft’ seats dotted in rows, I look at the ceiling shaking just above my head, I look for a window. Nope. I look for a deck. Nope. All I can hear is the ceiling rattling. Breathe, breathe… Breathe…. I turn to Dan, “I need to get to the deck, now!” It was all too much. We clamber down hallways, up claustrophobic stairs and finally get to the roof. Air. Sweet air.
Once on, we are accompanied by a Canadian-Greek bohemian lady, and her Alaskan malamute, cross golden retriever. One of the first things she tells us is how old this boat is and how it’s its last trip… I respond with “That’s not very comforting.” She laughs, “oh how Western of you.” She goes on to tell us of her and her dogs deep bond because they are both half white, and half ‘not white’….Or indigenous (?) She then went on to invite us to ‘Rainbow’ a hippie gathering in Romania, where a group of people live off the land for one month. Then went on to say she picked us out as we boarded the boat, because we looked like ‘cool people’. This was getting TOO much for a 4am conversation. As we went to leave her and find a nook or cranny to sleep in, she held Dans hand, and told him he was a ‘special one’. All I could think of was “You are a wizard Harry Potter.” “I’m a what?”… But replace Dan with Harry. And then I went back to remembering its 4am and I haven’t slept.
I woke at 12pm, had some Tzatziki and very hard bread which Dan thought it’d be a good idea to ‘pre-toast’, then fell back to sleep until 2pm.
At 2.30 we pull up to another small island, Dan and I observe the chaos from the outside deck. Four Greek men with cigarettes hanging out their mouths pulling on ropes, a Greek man with a Walkie talkie yelling in Greek to ‘straighten up’ I assume, more yelling, more smoking. Once the ramp is lowered, QUICK. A 25 metre truck begins to drive off, dodging the crowd of men and women running up the ramp, cars dodging people, people running at cars, a coffin on the back of a pickup truck is driven on, then stopped as the coffin starts to slide, the priest runs forwards and starts praying… It is INSANE. I wanted to take a photo of the coffin on the pickup truck surrounded by a priest in his black cloak and square black hat on the ramp of a ship. But thought against it.
I then fell back to sleep. I wake at 5pm. Only 4 hours to go!
By 9pm we are anxiously watching Google Maps as the blue dot moves.. Slowly. Slowly. We aren’t close. I’m angry, I’m cursing at those slow relaxed Greeks with their cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.. 18 hours… Pfffft.
We arrive in Rhodes at 11.30pm and the chaos continues. We walk down to the first floor to collect our bags to a large mob of angry Greeks yelling at anyone and everyone who’ll listen. I can’t work out whether it’s because they can’t get the ramp down to let us off, or because the man who opens the door to the luggage storage is fighting with the raging sea at the end of the ramp, or because they can see the sea splashing over the wall at the port.
It seems we have arrived in a storm.
Finally they get the ramp down, it’s 12am, we get our bags and run into the sea blizzard.
One of the first things we see as we strain to see with salt water in our eyes, is a sunken fishing ship right beside the ship we arrived on… Welcome to Rhodes!!
We hop into a taxi, again he tells us how old our ship was.. So reassuring. He drives us to Via Via hotel in Rhodes Old Town, a short 15 minute drive. As he slows down he tells us how in the summer cars aren’t allowed inside the city walls because there’s too many people. I can believe him when the car is literally as wide as the street… A footpath I think most would call it. Anyway, we made it, to our cute wee hotel, our two single beds and the sound of drunk Greek men and women shouting… Again, welcome to Rhodes!