Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th
The main feature of our week this week was our first wedding anniversary, for which we booked a night in a hotel in Kyparissia to have a proper bed and a warm shower for a change. We got picked up by a very nice taxi driver from our campsite in Giannitsochori, he helped us with our (small) bags and drove like a chauffeur. He dropped us off on a random street in Kyparissia and we walked around to find our hotel which turned out not to be where Google maps thought it was, which didn't help!
Once we found it though we checked in with the very nice owner and he showed us around a bit and insisted that I must be Greek and asked if was I sure I was English! I was super tired from having boxing the night before and promptly fell asleep on the bed for a couple of hours and woke up in a mood no better than when I went to sleep. We looked on Trip Advisor for a good restaurant and wandered out to find it, but walked straight past it at first! We then found it but it was empty, we dithered outside for a while and eventually decided to find somewhere else. I was too tired and hungry to really be enthusiastic about finding somewhere to eat in an unknown town so my mood got worse when our first option appeared closed. We continued to search and eventually found a random place with a few people eating, we sat down and I ordered a dish translated as 'lamb with potatoes', I wasn't expecting much but it turned out to be pretty nice and lifted my mood ready for a bit more exploring.
Though by this point we'd covered most the of the town, it isn't very big, so we hovered around the main square where a folklore festival was just starting. We hung around for a bit but the introductions of the different countries (who all carried increasingly large flags onto the stage) took so long we slinked off to get ice cream before any performances actually started!
We walked back to the main square and watched some of the performances but after a while decided we'd rather sleep, so again we left.
The air con in our room was put to good use and the bed was much better than broken sleeping mats. Nikki misunderstood the shower and started Sunday with a cold shower! We had a free breakfast as our room had two singles instead of a double, which was a very nice gesture as we hadn't actually booked a double room anyway, thanks Kasimis.
We checked out and walked out the door with no plans for the day so headed down to the harbour, where we found a bench and just sat for a while watching and appreciating where we were. We also appreciated that the bench was painted white otherwise it would have been way too hot to sit on, as we later found with other benches around Kyparissia.
Our only vague plan after that was to walk up to the old town and see the castle ruins. I can't be certain at what point we started regretting this decision but the feeling continued most of the way up the hill to the castle; climbing up a hill for an unknown distance in 35° heat wasn't ideal.
The old town was much more what I expected from Kyparissia as a whole, the main town was a lot newer and ordered but the old town had an old charm and was nice to walk around despite being nearly deserted – Greece, as with France seems to be mostly closed on Sundays!
We started to explore the ruins but I judged that Nikki needed food so we left the castle, I was sure it would be there when we got back, and we went to find a restaurant we'd found on Trip Advisor. Duly fed and watered with very nice food from we made our way back to the castle to continue exploring.
It was nice to have some time to ourselves, to be tourists and it really made both of us look forward to the rest of our year. As nice as volunteering with Archelon is sometimes it's good just to get away for a while. Nikki sat for a while in the opening of the wall and I walked around to see if there was anything else of interest but didn't find anything much so returned to the amphitheatre to try a different kind of selfie. I very nearly didn't bring a tripod on this trip but was very glad I did and made good use of it to take shots of both of us as well as the amphitheatre shot.
We took some more photos in the gap in the wall before heading back down to the main town to get a taxi back and return to camp. Getting a taxi caused much confusion as they mixed up our start and end points, ringing back five minutes later to double check and revise their arrival time by 55 minutes!
We arrived back to camp and had many congratulations from people as we walked to our tent, it was nice to be away but it was nice to be back as well; it did feel like coming home. There was a party in the evening, mostly for the people due to leave the following week but also at least a little for us but Nikki ended up not going as she wasn't feeling well and I left very early as I was so tired. We ended our week and our wedding anniversary by both falling asleep before 10pm – what party animals!
Our week started with kiosk shifts for both of us, at different times. I was in the kiosk from 1430 to 1730 and spoke to two people! Freya (one of the leaders) came to pick me and Alex (a non-English volunteer with a very Kent-ish accent) up and drop off the next kiosk shift, which Nikki was on. Freya announced we were going on an adventure! We'd received a call form a member of the public saying there were hatchlings on a stretch of beach further down the bay so we went to find it. With nothing more than the name, Sunny Beach, we drove straight past it initially, turning round when we reached the next town and driving back much slower looking for any turning to the left. We saw something that looked vaguely right so we turned off and followed a road for what felt like miles and eventually found a hotel on the beach and signs saying 'Sunny Paradise'. We don't monitor this bit of the bay and weren't sure what to expect but we got onto the beach and searched for the nest among many bemused tourists on sun beds. We eventually found the man who'd called and he said all the hatchlings had made it to the sea but that some had been picked up so people could take photos and some children had then thrown some into the sea.
While I understand that seeing any wild animal, especially one as small and cute as a baby turtle can be very exciting; please never unnecessarily disturb a wild animal, especially to get a better selfie. We were too late to give this warning to people on the beach but we handed out some leaflets and explained the work we do before making our way off the beach only to be called back over as another hatchling had surfaced. A crowd gathered as we jogged back to the nest and we assessed the condition of the hatchling and the risk to the nest. The hatchling that surfaced was very weak and had come out at the wrong time of day, mostly caused by the nest being disturbed by so many people around it. We made the decision to rebury it, in order to let it cool down and rest ready to come out later in the day or that night. This is often misunderstood by onlookers so we have to carefully explain that we aren't burying it because it's dead or to kill it but to give it the best chance to survive.
I got back to camp twenty minutes after I was supposed to have left my next shift and ended up leaving around forty minutes late; I had to have dinner and sort out the stuff I needed for the shift. The shift was shading, which involves putting up cut up beach mats around specific nests to try to block light pollution so the hatchlings go the right way and not to the back of the beach. We had a list of about twelve nests but only managed the most important three before it got too dark to work and we rang for a pick up.
The next morning Nikki and I were both morning survey leaders on separate beaches and were responsible for making sure the observations were recorded properly and explaining to newer volunteers what we do and why. I had left my other two team members doing an excavation while I continued with the morning survey and I found a nest that had mass hatched during the night and all the tracks lead the wrong way, about twenty hatchlings had failed to make it to the sea! My heart sank as I realised this might have been on mine and Anna's list from the night before; we could have stopped this happening! I scrubbed the tracks and noted down the nest code so I could check to see if it had been on our list.
My team finished our beach before our neighbouring team so we took over some of their beach for them, which included doing an excavation. I wish that I hadn't rung back to check which nest to excavate as it was a particularly nasty one, with many dead hatchlings and lots of unhatched eggs. Many of the unhatched eggs had very weak shells, which resulted in me poking my finger through them as I tried to dig them out of the nest – yuck!
A stop at the bakery on the way home improved my morning in the shape of a spanakopita, a very nice spinach and feta pastry and a fresh supply of Fanta. After copying the morning's observations out of the books and onto formal paperwork we had lunch and Nikki got roped into putting her hair into bunches by our camp leader Harriet. Lydia soon joined then and they approached Yannis in a quite intimidating gang and put his hair into bunches too!
I also checked the list that Anna and me had used for shading the night before and found that the nest that had hatched wasn't on it so we weren't the reason they'd all gone the wrong way. It was a relief to know I wasn't to blame but was still upsetting to know they'd all died. I made sure to ask it to be shaded that evening.
Nikki's evening shift was to give a presentation at a hotel nearby while I had boxing. I tried to deny that it was happening, even up to five minutes we were due to leave; I really didn't want to go boxing again! It turned out to be a good shift though, our team worked well and we had no major issues, even the impending thunderstorm did little to slow us down.
I went to bed after boxing with the thunderstorm still rumbling in the distance but woke up to the most violent and loud storm I have ever heard, which laying in a tent with only a very thin, very sun baked layer of fabric between me and the rain was quite unnerving! I looked out the door and heard voices and shadows near the tent before an arm reached in and threw our washing into our porch without looking, which was lucky as I was only wearing boxers – it's too hot to sleep in anything else! I tried to get back to sleep and ignore the rain, I was so tired after another night of marching up and down the beach, but it and the thunder were just too loud so I gave up and got dressed and went to get breakfast.
Water was pooling in our porch and puddles were forming all over camp, the temperature had dropped and I was almost cold. This was not the Greece I'd got used to!
The morning survey teams abandoned the beaches and returned to camp soaking wet and Nikki explained how they'd looked up and been practising their lightning poses. Camp was busy all day because shifts were cancelled and it wasn't exactly beach weather so nobody was at the beach! Harriet cooked pancakes for everyone and Nikki got German lessons from Anna, Oliver, Suzi, (another) Nicola and Rita.
In the evening Nikki headed off for another presentation in a nearby hotel and had to explain repeatedly and at length to a German woman why we need donations. In case you are also wondering; Archelon is an NGO and relies solely on donations to keep going. The money raised one year goes directly to the projects the following year.
I was morning survey leader on O and a driver in the morning, which caused much confusion because normally there's a separate driver but I had to drive round in circles to drop off teams and then drive out to do my own survey as well.
Nikki had to get up at about 7am to drive Kira, our longest serving volunteer (she'd been here for four months!), to the bus stop and waited with her for an hour as the bus was fifty minutes late!
Our day was quiet up until after dinner when I was due to be a driver for the evening. Freya approached me after I'd eaten like she was about to ask me favour, instead she offered me the choice to drive or go to a turtle stranding. Freya has a great skill in framing things as a great opportunity so I wasn't sure at first wether to say yes or not but I agreed and was soon on my way to find a dead turtle on the beach in Kyparissia. Not my usual Thursday evening activity.
We arrived in Kyp and began looking for the turtle, there were several short sections of beach separated by rock outcrops which reached to the water. I was wearing sandals so I just carried on through and got ahead of the rest of the team and continued to search the beach, slowly starting to think that it might have washed away or been a mistake. A few hundred meters down the beach though I spotted a shiny, curved rock bobbing in the gentle waves. As I got closer I could smell that this wasn't a rock and was most definitely a dead turtle, I got close enough to see it was a small adult turtle and that it had fishing line trapped around its flipper before turning around and looking to find the rest of the team.
I'd got quite far ahead though and had to walk back about 200m before I could see Hannah well enough to make a signal that would hopefully say "I've found the dead turtle we're looking for, hurry up, what do I do". I saw Hannah run out of sight so I assumed she'd seen me, but it felt like a very long time before someone came into view and Kalvin joined me. Hannah and Michalis joined us shortly afterward having gone back to get the car.
I took some photos before helping Kalvin move the turtle out of the water. Carrying a dead turtle that's starting to decompose across the beach isn't the easiest task but I managed not to drop it or get any turtle innards on me, so that was a plus.
Kalvin and Hannah started taking measurements and details of the injuries and suspected cause of death. The suspected cause of death was most likely the fishing line caught around the flippers, it wasn't a large turtle so it hadn't died of old age.
We had to then move it to the back of the beach to leave for the local authorities to dispose of. I was meant to help Kalvin carry it but we'd run out of gloves and I'd taken mine off to take photos so Hannah had to help him carry it. A task she wasn't too happy about, the turtle was slippery, heavy and rancid air blows out when you put it back down.
While I was fishing a dead turtle out of the water Nikki was on boxing, helping baby turtles make it to the sea. Frustratingly though they only had two live hatchlings the whole night, from 8pm to 5am!
I had my second base camp shift in four weeks, which I'm pretty pleased about and got up at 8.30am to clean the kitchen and toilets before sitting down to write this blog post. Nikki is asleep in a hammock behind me having had a tiring boxing shift and my laptop is warning me it will soon go to sleep because the battery is low.
It's been a tiring week, with lots of early starts and late nights for everyone on camp. We've had another round of people leave, which gets harder each time as we've really grown close to people over the weeks we've been here.
We're into September and the camp will only shrink in numbers from now until the end of the project in early October. We'll have our last shift on the 26th of September and leave on the 27th, it's still some time away but the start of September has reminded me we're over halfway through our time here and as tired as I am that's a sad thought.
We are saying hello to some new volunteers over the next few days and weeks though and Freya has been painting the side of the container, so it's not all bad around camp!