Lispi & Marathi Islands, Dodecanese

Kindly contributed by Harry Bucknell, author of In the Dolphin's Wake, Cocktails, Calamities and Caiques in the Greek Islands, an entertaining account of his 183-day journey across the Aegean from Venice to Istanbul, mostly by sea — taking in Corfu, Crete, the Dodecanese, Athens, Mount Athos and other places, both celebrated and out-of-the-way.

High summer has at last arrived here in England; the barley has been cut and in a few weeks, the wheat will be ready for harvest too. Everywhere, the land is a rich golden yellow as if to compliment the long days and balmy nights.

 As I walk out with the dogs of an evening, I look up into the cloudless sky, the swallows scream and dive on the wing and for a moment I am back in the Aegean trailing the Greek Archipelago once again; today, my mind wandered far away to the little island of Lipsi, hidden at the top of the Dodecanese — a caique’s ride from Patmos, where God appeared to St John the Theologian. But you won’t find Lipsi on most maps it is so tiny. Some might say, with its golden beaches void of any thing or anyone save the odd goat and a shading tamarisk tree that it is the perfect spot. The sea nymph Calypso thought so, for many believe it was here that she held Odysseus captive for seven years on his journey home to Ithaca.  It was only when the gods intervened that he was finally released from the curse with which she held him there. It is a tranquil place in that noisy way town-folk like to call “peaceful” when the cockerels crow, doves call and there is the incessant tinkle and tonkle of sheep bells as they graze out on the hill.

 From the port, another caique, Rena, took me to Marathi an hour or so away — a magical island; the sweet scent of lamb, thyme and rosemary cooking on the grill wafts out to greet you as you near. It was deserted until thirty years ago when a Samiot by the name of Pantelis returned home from Australia and built a taverna of the same name from nothing; a latter day Swiss Family Robinson with airy rooms and exquisite food.  On my journey from Venice to Istanbul, with barely two peaks, a little church and a surfeit of goats, Marathi was the smallest island I would visit with fond memories of delicious home cooking and long warm nights spent in eclectic company.

In The Dolphin’s Wake is the tale of Harry Bucknall’s travels from Venice in the West to Istanbul in the East: a journey across the Aegean of over 8,000 kilometres that included the glories of Mount Athos, 36 islands and every island chain in the Greek Archipelago; 57 sea passages on 35 ferries, 4 landing craft, 3 hydrofoils, a fishing caique, a sea plane, 11 buses, 2 trains, an open top Land Rover and a duck egg blue 1961 Morris Oxford.  (GRE485, $12.95)