A Drive Around Chios Island

A Drive Around Chios Island

As Greece's fifth-largest island, it's necessary to rent a car to see all of Chios. Of course, I didn't know this until I got there. I had spent all my research time (which was admittedly not much) on finding a surf spot in Greece, neglecting to really look into what to do on Chios. Other than spending time with the refugees there (and a visit with a friend who was spending her summer across the water in Izmir, Turkey), I had no other plans for my time on the island. 

Upon arrival, I got bored quickly. The port city of Chios is quite small, and beyond cafe-hopping, there wasn't much to do. So I took notes from the in-flight magazine I stole from my flight from Belgrade. They had a feature on Chios, so I made a list of all the highlights and turned that into a road map for a day trip around the island. 

San Josef Bay, Where We Learned the Downsides of Beach Camping

We had camped out at Nels Bight for two nights without issue. Despite the two light station keepers assuring us that rain was not in the forecast, it did drizzle that night after we had returned to camp. But it was nothing that would keep us in our tents. We sat outside and watched the horizon, where a group of whales were spouting, were treated with a phenomenal sunset.

sunset at Nels Bight

The next day, we hiked our way south to San Josef Bay. This beach is a mere 45 minutes from the trailhead, so it’s often a popular choice for day hikers and families. We had seen people carrying large coolers in the parking lot when we arrived at the park on our first day; this was definitely their destination. But we were surprised that it was so vacant now, a long weekend. We had our pick of the camping spots since there was only one other tent, so walked a few minutes down the beach towards where our map indicated the water source was to find a flat spot.

We argued whether we wanted to be closer to the forest or the water. The forest was cozy, but wouldn’t allow for much sun—plus it would be closer to the animals. The tide was far out now, but we wanted to make sure we would be safe when it came in again. But how far was far enough? Amy and I argued that the tufts of grasses in the sand indicated that it was above the water line; Alicia did not believe us.

“What about the rogue waves?” she asked. Neither Amy nor I knew how to respond.

According to my online research later, not much is known about them, with scientists for a long time not even accepting them as real. But, according to an Economist article from 2009, an oil rig recorded a 25.6 metre wave in the North Sea in 1995, and there was a recorded 29 metre wave off Scotland’s coast in 2000. Scientists could no longer deny that these larger-than-normal waves exist (I’m sure to the relief of all the seamen and sailors who were dismissed during all those years of sea exploration). But, fortunately for my friends and me, they occur in deep water, not on the shore where we were. Unless we were going to get hit by a tsunami, we would be fine.

Amy and I convined Alicia we would be fine. We set our tent up right in the middle of the beach. Luckily for Alicia, it was an uneventful night.

camping at San Josef Bay

While the sea was no longer our feared enemy, the beach was. The next day, the wind picked up and we were treated with a sand storm. I tried to read, resting against a log, but couldn’t concentrate. The wind kept blowing our tent fly and I kept walking over to tack it down again. We had left the outer doors open since it was warm out, but the sand kept sifting through the netting and onto our sleeping bags. Eventually the wind got too strong; I couldn’t read anymore because I had to use a shirt to cover my face to protect it from the sand-bullets.

We had planned this, our last full day, as a lazy one where we got to relax and read, but I could do neither of those things. Finally, we decided to move our tent into the forest.

Beach camping is not always what it’s made out to be. We had conquered our fears of rogue waves, but the wind had conquered us.

Cape Scott can be reached by car. Drive  hours via Highway 19 on Vancouver Island from Nanaimo north to Port Hardy. From there, turn west towards Holberg on Holberg Road; of the 2 hour drive, the last hour or so is a dirt logging road. After passing through the very small town of Holberg, turn right onto San Josef Main/San Joseph Road to reach the park's parking lot. 

Be prepared for extreme weather at any time of year. You can find water sources at campsites, but you must treat the water. Pay attention to tides. There are bears in the park, so you must put hang your food or store it in provided bins.

Get yourself a drink at the Scarlet Ibis Pub in Holberg on your way out to celebrate your hike.

The Star Said...

This is a story written by one of my Grade 1 (Grade 7 in North America) students for our annual English Speech Contest. I have copied it exactly as it was written, all errors included---but, impressively, there are very few. I not only liked the story and its theme of environmentalism, but she also performed it very well.

Have you ever heard a star talking? Well, I did and I want to talk about it. Are you ready? I’ll begin.

When I was six or seven, my family went to a beach for vacation. The beach was beautiful; soft sand, white waves, lovely trees nearby. We played there like anyone else. We swam and made sandcastles during the day. We ate delicious food and slept peacefully at night. It seemed a lovely and ordinary holiday.

However, it was different. My parents woke me up at midnight and piggybacked me to the shore. I didn’t realize anything except they were carrying me to some place until mom said,

“Sumin*, look up!”

Stars embroidered the sky’s black cloth. The lights dancing against the black, coal-like sky. I just stared at them in silence. The only think I could hear was the cool sound of the waves lapping.

We walked by the shore, using the star lights as our lanterns and the waves and background music. That stroll by the clean and silent beach is one of the happiest memories of my life.

After some years, my family and I visited the same beach again. I remembered the bright stars and beautiful beach. But, it had changed. The shore was dirty and even made dangerous by debris of glass bottles, Styrofoam plates and paper cups. People had thrown junk onto the beautiful pristine sand and ruined it! I cursed an hoped those people never come to that beach again.

At that moment, I heard someone say,

“Who did you blame? Look at the sky and see how beautiful it is, just as in the past, But look at that shore, all ruined and dirty. While this shore was getting dirtier, what were you doing? Look. The skies, where human hands can’t reach, are the same as ever but the place where human hands have reached has been ruined.

Who was it that said this? There was no one at the shore except me. There was only a star staring at me. Yes, it was a star that just spoken to me.

“Who did I blame? Is it wrong to blame those people? “I wanted to answer the star’s question, but I couldn’t answer. I had done nothing for the beach. Does this mean that someone who has done nothing is the same as those people who made the Earth dirty?

That was it. I am the same as them. Sometimes I littered anywhere even though there were trashcans nearby. I was a part of the mess, even a small amount on this Earth made me complicit.

Now I realized the true meaning of the star’s words and felt remorse.

I made a promise in my heart, to clean up after the places where I stayed. Even now, when I go back home from institutes late at night, I stare at the star of Seoul in silence and believe it was the star who spoke to me. I try to keep the promise I made long ago with the star.

I hope you try to listen to the stars an promise them,

“I will help too.”

-------------- * Name has been changed

Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia

Long Beach, Pulau Perhentian Kecil

Long Beach, Pulau Perhentian Kecil

I ended my vacation with a relaxing couple days on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands. I went to the smaller island, Pulau Perhentian Kecil, where I stayed in a dorm room with a group of other backpackers. It was the first time I my trip that I got hang out with people my own age. We snorkelled in the tourquoise water, drank on the beach, and soaked up the sun.

sunset on Pulau Perhentian Kecil

sunset on Pulau Perhentian Kecil

A Walk in the Woods of Taman Negara

Sunburned after my day on the beach in Cherating, I decided a retreat to the forest was in order. Taman Negara, a national park, is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and one of Malaysia's biggest attractions. So, after a taxi ride from Cherating to Kuantan, a bus ride to from Kuantan to Temerloh, a bus ride from Temerloh to Jerantut, a speedy cab ride from town to the dock, an angry cab ride back to town because there was no accommodation available near the dock, a few phone calls to book a tour, and an overnight at a hotel in Jerantut, I was finally en route.

I booked a tour through the hotel I stayed at in Jerantut, and the man who booked the tour for me, Addy, also turned out to be my guide. He and his friend drove me to the park in their card, speeding the whole way. Despite the sharp corners, wild passes, near-miss with a bus, and interesting maneuver where the driver lit a cigarette as he steered with his knees, we made it to the boat in one piece. We met up with the others members of our group: a French family with two children, aged 5 and 8, and an older German man who was also travelling alone.

The tour started with a boat ride down the river, and the view was fantastic. I, unfortunately, didn't learn my lesson in Cherating and added some more colour to my legs. The forest, at the start of our hike, was similar to those in Canada, with ferns, big trunks, and open skies. Four kilometres in, we stopped at a small cave for a meal break. My backpack, although emptied (I left most of my clothes in storage at the hotel), was heavy due to the three litres of water I was carrying, and my shoulders craved a rest. After the break, we continued on our way to the big cave, where we would spend the night.

The landscaped quickly changed; it began to look more like a rainforest. The undergrowth became thicker, the canopy above closed up, and the sun disappeared. I saw "Tarzan vines" that, for me, identify a true rainforest. The hike was difficult. There were lots of downed trees on the path that we had to pass over and under, and our footwork was further complicated by the mud.

The day was supposed to be long but easy, but having two young children in our group made the day even longer, and I certainly didn't find it easy. "This area has many tigers," Addy said when the sun started going down. "We must arrive before dark or..." He didn't finish his sentence. He didn't need to.

We got out our flashlights and soon they became a necessity. It wasn't until 7.30 that we finally arrived the big caveand, boy, was it big! There were several groups already there, but there was plenty of room for all of us. Addy made dinner for us while we relaxed on the mats and talked. After dinner, we went outside to a nearby stream to brush our teeth and "shower"the whole time I was checking for animals with my flashlight. Soon, all the flashlights were turned off and we all settled in for a night of camping in a cave.

I woke up to sunlight streaming through the cave opening. It was one of those scenes that make you think, Wow. This is why I travel. With the sunlight, I got a good look at the cave. It was one big "room" that was about 40 metres tall and could handle about 300 people at a time. There were two openings: the bigger, higher one (near where we slept), which was almost at the ceiling, and a smaller one to the left that served as the main "door." A big rock sat in the middle and divided the room; people used to rock for privacy when it came to changing clothes and using the "toilet" facilities. Someone, somehow, managed to put a Malay flag high up on the cave wall. It smelled of dampness, fire ashes, and moss inside the cave. I loved every minute of it.

During breakfastbread with Malay jam: coconut with eggAddy told me he couldn't sleep because he thought he heard animals. "I thought I heard animals during the night, too," I said. "It sounded like bats to me."

"Not bats," Addy said. "I think tigers."

After talking with the other guides, Addy seemed convinced tigers were out last night. I doubted it, but the idea certainly added some excitement to our upcoming hike through the woods. Since it rained during the night, mud would be more of a problem, plus leeches would be out, and maybe tigers, too.

The day was supposed to be shorter but more difficult than the day before, and the difficulty part was certainly true. The hike was a challenge. The mud was a mess, twigs scratching my legs burned my rosy legs, and there was always something to crawl over or squeeze under. We crossed rivers on fallen logs, and trailblazed our way through thick underbrush. Biting pain on my ankles or spots of blood on my shorts alerted me to that fact that leeches had decided to join me on the hike. It was so much fun. But, with two small children, the day was not short. The little girl, aged 5, had a lot of problems, so her dad carried her as much as he could. We took a lot longermaybe twice as longas we could have without the kids. I didn't mind, though; I liked being in the woods.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
— Edgar Abbey