Stories and Photographs of my travels, Tales of friends, family, animals and my life
Yes we do have painted ladies on the island – they drive around in a phallus shaped car, wear skimpy fake leopard skin tight clothes, have dyed blonde hair with extensions and wear pole dancing shoes. No wonder they have so many dings in the car – how can you drive in those things? Anyway I’m talking about a different kind of painted lady which currently refuses to sit still long enough for me to take a photo. A few days ago clouds of butterflies flew over the house and I mean hundreds of them . I thought they were red admirals but was reliably informed they were painted ladies – although I’m sure there were a few admirals. So far April has been amazing – the downpours have created a paint palette of colour. Mauve, pink, yellow, orange, white, blue, crimson and red flowers set off by a multi green hued back drop of vegetation. Now I’m not a flora and fauna buff but I was very happy when I found my first orchid on one of my morning treks with the dog (see above picture) and I even borrowed a book to identify it . Well actually the reason I borrowed the book was more food orientated. I read on the net that there was wild celery growing on the island but the flowers looked like those of the nightshade plant. Wanting to save friends and family from an ugly death by soup , I decided to check my facts. Although, the method of killing would make a great addition to Cludo. Mrs White, in the Dining Room, with the soup. Unless she picked the nightshade by mistake and killed herself along with all the guests – game over.
Well the book has lovely photographs which are labelled in Latin and no obvious alphabetical system to look them up. I decided to give the search for wild celery a miss . However, I did find a picture similar to my photo. Yes it is an orchid possibly related to the scolopax scolopax or sphegodes. Personally I think the flower I found should be call socutiex picachewesk. It looks like a friendly little insect to me.
Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart
We knew he was really sick when he stopped eating. This time he had consumed something really rank. Every half hour all night we were taking him out to be sick or go to the loo. He moaned in pain all the time and when morning came we rushed him to the vet ( they don’t operate at night) . Our neighbour , Kristoula, who thinks she is a expert having kept goats and chickens all her life told us that he would sort himself out and come good. Two lots of IV fluids, intravenous antibiotics, oral medication, 10 days of worry and sleepless nights later he has started to eat and drink again but is still not really well yet. I put him outside for a while so Kristula could make a fuss of him. “See I told you he would come good ” she said.
Let me take you back to May 2017 when this young juvenile dog turned up in the village with his little protector.
It took a while to realise that the dogs had been abandoned and had made their way to our village. During May Athenians begin to arrive for their holidays , the weather is perfect building work, gardens are being tended and tourists are out walking. As many owned dogs are just left to wander the streets and fed outside sometimes it is hard to pick out the strays (as detailed in an earlier blog) .
One consistent story that we were told was that the dog’s owner had left the island and gone to Athens making no provision for him . Anyway when the dog got sick from a bite we fed him, organised a vet to visit, medicated him and nursed him back to health. During that time we fell for his clownish, gentle good nature, constantly wagging tail and fixed grin – despite the pain he was in .
We found a shelter to take him on when we left the island to return to Australia, assuring the volunteers that we would pick him up when we returned the following year. Mitch arrived ahead of me in 2018 , travelling with a number of dog related items in his luggage in order to start the process working on his training and health.
One evening whilst drinking in a friends bar, a man started to make a fuss of the dog and taking pictures to send to his girlfriend. “This used to be my dog” he boasted. Why did you leave him on the streets? he was asked by a bunch of very irate friends of ours and Mitch “I had to go to Athens suddenly” he replied with no shame . I’m not sure what followed but I understand he was told in no uncertain terms what an arsehole he was.
Now there are large fines for the abusive behaviour towards dogs. Luckily for him I was not there otherwise he would have been reported. Mitch just asked him if he wanted him back – sarcastically I was assured later. “What if he had said yes” I asked. “Apart from the fact that the dog was mistreated with him what about the large sum of money and time we have spent ” . I was assured that the comment had been a joke – from a distance though it didn’t seem that funny.
This is Paleoti. He was abandoned by his last owner and and became a street dog who lived off scraps the villagers fed him and, I presume , by scavenging. Just under 2 years ago Paleoti came into our lives when he found his way to our village and hung around the square with his mate Penelope – another abandoned dog. The dog was always hungry and even when he got very sick from a dog bite on his neck that became infected, he managed to chow down the food we put in front of him. I will tell the whole story in another blog of how we came to adopt him , but for now I just want to say that this dog will eat anything and seems to have a cast iron stomach. So today my dog snacked on used toilet tissue (not mine I hasten to add) that was up by the bins, rabbit droppings a dead bird, a green bone that the cats had abandoned, dirt, my potting soil and gravel. This is in addition to the food we give him twice a day and biscuit treats. I would love to hear what the worst thing your animal has consumed 🙂
Looking back on this blog I realise just how long it has been since I have written about life on the island. 2017 was a busy time for us, The garden was under development, plans for heating to be installed in the house underway, we were fully booked with friends and guests and visitors in our spare apartment, family and friends were arriving for the summer season and our social calendar was chockablock.
Despite the storm, the garden was very productive and we had to develop new culinary skills in pickling and preserving. I decided it was time to learn Greek and blues harmonica. The first out of necessity, the second a long standing wish. Also the jewellery design business was beginning to take off and I needed to make more merchandise.
We were planning to stay for Winter but events meant that we had to return to Australia in September 2017. The house with the pink shutters was closed up and we returned in 2018 . The next few blogs will be a catch up until present time .
High in the mountain hills, up a road that steeply winds through rowed grape vines soaking in the last rays of sunshine, we drove into one of the highest villages on Samos Island. On the outskirts of the village is a restaurant, built on an edge that gives at least a 180 degree view of the coast, mountains and valley below. It seems as if the restaurant floats in the sky. The food is a tasty take on traditional fare, the staff are friendly, the wine is excellent, the prices are reasonable and the sunset is spectacular. Where is it? You will just have to come and visit to find out!
Our Stray Street Dogs after being cared for and fattened up.
This is a story of two stray dogs. Paleoti (village dog in Greek) and Penelope were abandoned and turned up in our village on Samos Island, Greece in May 2017 of this year. They were dirty, starving, and sick. Villagers and tourists fed the dogs scraps and tried to look after them, however they did not have the money to pay for vet fees, proper dog food or medication. Both dogs are loving and friendly and have developed a close bond with each other from being on the streets. We bought the dogs proper dog food to supplement the scraps, provided flea and tick collars, paid for a vet, medication and cared for Paleoti when he became very sick. By this time Penelope found a home in the village and was being cared for. We had also become very found of our smiling stray who never stopped wagging his tail, despite being in a lot of pain. He tolerated my nursing with patience and loving licks. Unfortunately and unexpectedly we had to leave Samos and return to Australia for a number of months, so we attempted to find someone to care for him whilst we were away. A number of people offered but then backed out. We knew that the animal shelter funded by voluntary contributions and a grant from the council had closed in 2016 and thought there was no place for the many abandoned animals to be taken and cared for. I was also aware that the illegal killing of unwanted animals ie poisioning/shooting had increased, so was desperate to find a home for Paleoti before we left as I’d been informed by someone that he was going to be ‘got rid’ of when we left. Now this is where a good fortune and luck comes into the story. We found a letter posted on a site where an abused animal had been chained up and rescued, from an organisation call Samos Animal Welfare. I called and she told me that the shelter had reopened, now run by the council, but was overflowing with strays. She also told us that a local animal lover had built a dog shelter on his land and was taking in strays. It was also full, he had 90 dogs in the shelter, but he might be able help. After a number of phone calls we met with Ilias who gives up his time, with no pay to look after the dogs, and Melanie who raises funds for food and building materials. They agreed to take the dog and look after him until we returned. We donated food and money in return for his care. Paleoti seemed to settle in to the shelter but decided he missed us and his mate Penelope. He escaped twice – ending up back in the village on our doorstep. We had left by this point but our network found him and he was returned safe and sound. The shelter needs funds to build and repair kennels, make a secure place for dogs such as Paleoti, who has the gift of an escapologist, pay for someone to look after the dogs on a full time basis and pay for medication and vets bills. We plan to return to Samos and offer Paleoti a home but there are so many more dogs and animals that need to be cared for. Can you help? I have set up a crowd fundraiser at https://www.youcaring.com/samosanimalwelfaresanctuary-1013204
Last year, as part of the gardening plan, we decided to keep the bath tub when we renovated the bathroom and installed a walk in shower. Having been a social worker for a good part of my life I have seen way too many older people admitted to hospital with broken hips, hypothermia, head injuries and an assortment of other broken bones and skin tears. The cause? A shower installed over a bathtub. A huge falls risk for people with limited mobility and creaky joints. So in the spirit of planning ahead and thinking about our retirement home – we decided that bath tub had to go and with it the daily battle with the shower curtain that constantly tried to mould itself to our bodies.
Our neighbour, Kosta, who happens to be a good tiler, reliable and hardworking – a rare combination for a tradesman on Samos if my experience is anything to go by on this island was hired to carry out most of the work. Our plumber, George, popped in and out to give orders and delegate. First the bath had to be removed and being one of those old cast iron affairs which would be worth a small fortune in scrap but extremely heavy and difficult to transport even if we had a car/truck, we had to decide what to do with it. So I polled my friends for a solution. My preference was to use it as a herb garden down at the allotment or on the terrace of the little unit opposite the house. Most of my friends liked the idea of using it as a huge ice bucket for social gatherings and I have to say that I was tempted for a while. As it turned out the bath was so heavy that the only solution was to move it a short distance onto the terrace and leave it there.
When we returned this year one of the first things on our list of to do was to build a wood surround to support the bath and turn it into a useful item rather than a redundant, rusty, enamel chipped tub. Then I had an idea how to make the it multi-functional that is both garden and ice bucket. Currently I have strawberries in the bath but they are planted in a grow bag that can be removed at a moments notice should a container be required hold a ton of ice in order to chill the copious amounts of alcohol that my friends consume, and clearly think that the two fridges in our house are inadequate. So there, I have planned for happy gardeners and happy drinkers. After all if strawberries and champagne is good enough for Wimbledon its good enough for us. Should be a good summer.
One of the goals for 2016, before we headed off to Asia to avoid the cold and wet weather of Europe, was to dig up the garden ready for planting this year. Not as easy as we thought, as the main weed of the garden was a tree that grows upwards, outwards, downwards and like bindweed proliferates from tiny bits of root. I have no idea what it is called so let’s just name it a triffid tree. Four of us over a period of 5 months dug, cleared, chopped, sawed, raked, pruned the orange and lemon trees, cleared a ridiculous amount of rubbish that the neighbours had chucked down into the garden from their balconies and sorted out the pump that draws up water from the well.
Dreading a jungle when we returned, it was a pleasant surprise to find the land full of knee-high alpine and wild flowers albeit sprinkled liberally with grass and weeds but, thankfully, no triffid trees. The orange and lemon trees were full and ready for harvesting however, we had been told that the oranges were the bitter and they would only be only good for marmalade so they were left alone.
Before we could get someone to plough up the soil we needed to clear the new growth. Three days into the task, under a burning sun I started to eye up the fat, ripe oranges hanging just above my nose and fantasize about rough cut marmalade, orange and chocolate cake, chicken and orange, which is odd because I really don’t like oranges – all that pith, pips and tough pulp….. yuk! but I must have been hungry because I decided to try one to see how bitter they actually were. I ate the whole thing! It was one of the tastiest, sweetest fruit I had eaten in a longtime and organic to boot. We have been picking oranges for over a month now and have freshly squeezed juice every day. admittedly some of it with vodka but hey at least vitamin C deficiency is not an issue.
Not long after our first batch of juice, the land was cleared and ploughed. I had planted a small amount of tomatoes, rhubarb, beetroot, peppers, herbs, runner beans, peas, egg-plant, strawberries, chinese kale, peas and Bok choy and other vegetables in pots up at the house as a back up just in case things went pear shaped down at the garden. Ready to go we trooped down the hill, seeds in hand, dug out channels for the water, set up the pump and before planting set it in motion to test out the irrigation system. Some time later after unplugging the filters and hose pipes several times we checked the motor. It had burned out!. Planting was put on hold.
The day finally arrived. Water was pumping out of the well via the new equipment. Onions, beetroot, carrots, peas, runner beans peppers, garlic, tomatoes, chinese greens, Kale, and so much more was finally in the ground. I was exhausted, happy and looking forward to watching the plants grow. That is until I woke up the next day. A storm hit the island and howled for 2 days solid. Winds of up to gale force eight moaned and groaned, pushing, plucking those who dared to venture out of the house off their feet. From the safety of the house, I watched the sun umbrella’s 50kg concrete base rock under the table as the wind tried to suck it off the patio and knew that the garden would be destroyed. Top soil and seeds flung asunder, carefully labelled identifying pegs lost, orange trees stripped bare.
So now I have no idea what is growing and where. Am I cultivating grass or are those onions seedlings? Does that look like beetroot or just weeds? Where are the tomato plants? Some of the earth banks remain stubbornly bare whilst there is a plethora of different seedlings sprouting up in one place but what are they? Is that a pea sprouting meters away from where I planted it? I have resolved to let everything grow and try to identify things when they are more mature.
However, there is something quite nice about the element of the unknown. Reminiscent of Christmas and the Secret Santa gift giving, but instead of pulling out a gift from a sack I will be pulling out a vegetable from the ground and what lies under the wrapping of soil will be either delightful or disappointing but in both instances certainly unexpected. Yes I have my back up plants but I think I prefer a Garden of Surprises.
Looks amazing doesn’t it? But then you can’t see the massive building sites in the background or the waste running into the sea from the river, or hear the noise of the cranes and trucks as they rumble along the main road and the many planes as they land and take off, or smell the sewage as you pick your way through roads littered with building materials. Langkawi, once such a go to place in Malaysia is rapidly losing its appeal.
Overpriced accommodation, food and transport, an alarming increase in drug use and as a consequence theft from tourists, dirty sea water, expensive theme parks and trips, aggressive Macaque monkeys and taxi drivers, jet skies and speed boats that make a point of targeting swimmers in the shallows – I could go on but I think you are getting the picture.
There are some nice parts of course, a beach here, some mangroves there but to get to them – since there is no obvious public transport means hiring a car, bike or taking a taxi -not an option for budget travellers like us or people who can’t drive. I am about 15 years too late to visit this place that once was a backpackers haven with small hostels, rice paddies and golden beaches with clear water.
Being a victim of a bag snatch has not improved my opinion. The bike rider knocked me to the ground and dragged me along the road before making off but then came back to give me a victory wiggle as he drove past again. Reporting the theft was hard. The receptionist of my hotel cleaned me up then instead of calling the police and insisting they came out to the hotel stuck me in a taxi and told me there was a police station in Cenang. Of course there was not and the taxi driver started drive to the port town 30 ringgit ride each way before we stopped him and got out.
Luckily someone we had met earlier, who worked in a travel agent was nearby and I limped to the shop. He insisted that the staff call the police out to the scene and at that point they turned out in force so I was able to make a report. Very luckily – I only sustained cuts to my hands and arm, some bumps and bruises and two days of stiffness.
After the incident i decided that i needed a restorative drink – for shock only – to calm the nerves. We headed to a bar on the beach that loudly proclaimed on a board outside the sitting area it was cocktail hour. The list of tempting cocktails and types of beer was extensive. Strangely for cocktail hour we were the only ones there but it was early and the waiter bounded up to us with enthusiasm eager to serve. However, when we ordered he shook his head and said that they didn’t have. We picked again and again with the same response. In the end we asked what that bar did stock – cans of Tiger beer was the answer – but he added, you can try upstairs they will have a full range of drinks. We did and they were closed. I went back to the hostel for a well-known remedy for shock – tea.
As I said I was lucky that my injuries were minor. It could have been a lot worse. Searching the net later I had to laugh at some advice from a local on his website on how to minimise your chance of getting robbed. Try to blend in he wrote. Now I’m blond, white, female and non-muslin. So here is some of my advice – always walk towards oncoming traffic so you can see them approach. Use the paths wherever possible. Only carry as much money as you need and wear it in a small pouch around your neck under your clothing. If you have to take a bag sling it across your shoulders and hang it down on the side away from the traffic or wear a small backpack. Don’t wear lots of jewellery or expensive clothing – it makes you a target. Be vigilant and don’t let your guard down like I did. Carry emergency medical supplies, an umbrella to wave around menacingly and a hip flask full of brandy as a fall back measure. Happy travelling.