Waking up in the little town of Petra on the island of Lesvos with one of my best friends is a splendid experience. Early twenties and a week to explore what Greece has to offer on a shoe string budget. Let’s say it was a thread bare shoe string, as the trip itself was paid for by our boss, food consisted of stuffing ourselves on the complimentary breakfast and a Gyro for 2 euros in the evening. Who cared, we were free spirits and we were on a Greek island – le Dolce Vita.
On a whim we decided to rent a scooter. Neither had a licence but I had played on motorbikes in my childhood and unlike Anna, I had a car licence. I was the designated driver. We jumped on and were off. Neither of us thought a map, sun screen or water was a requirement. With stop starts and jerking I started to almost get the hang of it. We headed for the closet town, Mithymna. The roads were everything you would expect, small, winding, cobble roads, twisting their way up the beautiful mountain with amazing sea views all around.
Once we arrived we were confronted with a new experience – making it stand on a 45-degree slope. After some maths and calculations and magic (probably asking a divinity to intervene) the bike stood, and we ran up the hill. It didn’t fall but it would, numerous times later that day.
After exploring we decided to get back on the bike to play the travel game. Left or right? The concept is easy, you get to fork in the road and someone says left or right. You don’t need a map and generally it leads to a world of unexpected turns and random encounters. Left, Left, Right.
We were going down a concrete road, the further down we got the steeper the road got. Eventually we realized we could no longer sit on the scooter and drive down. We stopped the bike and parked it horizontally. We needed to re-think our strategy. It was getting hot, really hot….+40◦C. Going up was far more work than using the weight of the bike to go down. We had no idea where down went. Each grabbed a handle bar of the scooter and held it back was we struggled to walk down the hill. It was heavy, and we were lost.
As we reached the bottom we entered a very sandy road but decided to try ride the scooter again. It started, we got on, burning on the black leather seat and started driving. We learnt that day that sand did not create a good riding experience. We fell off. Luckily in the sand but the mirror was off. This scooter was a rental…with no insurance. This is the lesson for today, always take insurance. To our surprise, in front of us was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Large grey pebbles entering clear blue sea water. It did not take us much to get into the water. It was fresh, cool and knee deep. We lay on our backs, all alone in paradise, looking at the blue sky, forgetting the trauma of the last 45 mins. We were in paradise. Many times, after that moment I have dreamed about going back, just to find out if it really existed.
We were off again. At this point a map might have been a positive but remember we were already spent a lot hiring the scooter. This time we were going inland. Left or Right. Anna enjoying the dry Greek landscape, I focused on keeping the scooter on the road.
It was Siesta as we entered a tiny town. I don’t know which town we entered, All I can tell you is I think we were the first people to tell the inhabitants that the second world war was over. People were staring at these two crazy girls on a little scooter, far from any tourist beach or town. All though siesta was in full swing, we were offered a seat outside a small restaurant that luckily had the only English speaker in town. An 8-year-old girl, who must have had English at school. I will never forget the fear in this poor child’s eyes when her parents physically pushed her in our direction, saying what I could only imagine was, go speak to them, go, go, go. She tried, it was going nowhere. I hope all these years later that her English improved and that we did not scar her through the experience.
A local man offered to drive in front of us in his light blue pick-up truck until the turn to Petra. What happened next was straight out of the best cheesy movie. The town locals walked behind us, waving and wishing us well. We followed the car until the turn and then we were on our own. All we had was a direction, a scooter and potential dehydration at this point. The tar turned to sand and like before we ended up off the scooter. In the hot sand, not a tree for miles and right in front of a massive Bull.
It felt like he was towering over us. To be honest there was a tiny, single wire fence between us but in that moment, it felt like a life or death situation. His eyes were on us and we quickly pushed the scooter up, jumped on and drove as fast as we could, with our lives barely intact.
The heat was real, I believe I started seeing mirages on the winding roads as we descended the mountain to Petra.
Now to give the scooter over without them noticing the missing mirror. We wiped down the bike, smiled sweetly and moved away quickly. We spent the next few days watching who was renting the scooter. The theory we had was the more people renting the bike the less possibility they could charge us for the damage, once discovered. We were going to deny it all.
Full disclosure Anne did ask if we could rent the scooter again and find the magical beach. Let’s just say I have never, ever, anywhere in the world opted for scooter hire again. Me and that beach may find each other again but I hope it will be on a bicycle with a map.