We got up early on our last day in Giannitsochori and packed our stuff, leaving our tent behind for another volunteer to use as well as our sleeping mats. We said goodbye to people that had got up to see us off and made it to the bus stop with twenty minutes to spare.
Another volunteer, Anna, was heading back to Germany the same day so we all got the coach together. We arrived in Athens much earlier than expected, by about an hour, happy to feel more comfortable than our original arrival in Athens two months ago.
We arranged to meet Anna for dinner and said a temporary good bye to her in the bus station and we walked out and made our way on foot to our Airbnb apartment.
At this point I would like to take a moment to appreciate the device most of us carry around all the time; a smartphone. This and (offline) Google Maps meant we could walk for 40 minutes in a completely foreign city to our destination without a single wrong turn and barely any hassle. I think that is incredible.
We made it to our Airbnb and waited for our host to meet us and give us the keys. He turned up in typical Greek style, on a moped without a helmet. He greeted us warmly and led us inside.
We looked around, dumped our bags and headed back out to find food. We'd walked in through a market so knew we wouldn't have to go far. We successfully negotiated buying several different things from different stalls and some more food from a small supermarket before heading back to the apartment.
We showered, ate and used the wifi before heading out to meet Anna for dinner. We walked nearly the whole way across the centre of Athens before finding Anna and exploring the tourist areas.
Anna led us round in a circle to get ice cream, showed us a super creepy alley full of graffiti and to the top of a hill near the Acropolis; which gave a good, if slightly bland, view of Athens.
We circled around a few more times before finding somewhere to eat and were entertained by the dry humour of the waiter. He spoke pretty good English to me and Nikki and the odd German to Anna. He laughed when Nikki asked for the 'timologio' (picked up on food shopping trips for Archelon), meaning the 'invoice', and said he'd need our company details.
I don't want to be a downer; we both had a very nice evening with Anna and saw some cool things but overall neither of us was overly taken with Athens by this point. We tried not to judge it too quickly though and kept an open mind as we still had two days left.
Our first full day as full time travellers without a plan led to me staying in bed until about 3pm! Not something I plan to continue but I was shattered and was appreciating having a proper (if not very comfy) mattress.
Eventually I surfaced and we packed our massive duffle bag (thanks Ian!) ready to post back our spare camping equipment and unwanted clothes we'd brought just for while we were with Archelon.
We looked up where the nearest post office was, which is easier said than done, and went to find out if they sold boxes and how to go out posting the bag back home. We came back with no box, and no idea of how to send the bag back.
A little disheartened we searched online for any source of boxes and information on how to get our stuff back home. I looked on the UPS website and got a quote of €180! And we still had to find a box big enough to put a massive duffle bag in.
By this point we were both in less than a great mood. Unsure of how, if at all, we would send our stuff home. The €180 quote briefly made me consider leaving it behind but it would have cost more to replace and it would have been such a waste so we resolved to find a way to get it back. This may sound a little dramatic but at this point we were feeling a little helpless.
If only we could find an Ikea, or a Dunelm Mill or a Big Yellow Storage! But no, it seemed that no where in Athens sold cardboard boxes and that even if we could find one and figure out the post office it might cost a fortune to send back!
We cooked and ate dinner, grateful to have our own kitchen and choice of meal. We watched a film in bed and hoped that somehow we would figure out how to send our bag home the next day.
We woke up, ate super thick yogurt and fruit for breakfast and headed out with our bag, determined to get rid of it somehow.
We walked through Athens searching for any hint of cardboard, sizing up any potential options before dismissing them as either too small or too bin dive-y or both. With increasing desperation we scanned side streets and shop windows. We walked for over a kilometre (I just measured it) before we spotted some flattened boxes stacked up against a window. I don't know what the place was, some kind of stock room for something but we approached and I said "yassas, Anglika?", to our relief the guy spoke English. We asked if they had a spare box we could use to pack our bag in, he looked bemused for a second before shouting to someone else behind him who came forward with a large box. Now, to him this was just an unused cardboard box he was giving to two overly excited foreigners. To us, it was the first step of getting the bloody bag back home and proving to ourselves that we weren't completely inept.
We had a box, the bag fit but the box needed taping up. I felt bad for asking our box benefactor but he produced a tape gun and taped it up for us. He then walked away into the night, without asking for thanks like any good superhero. Ok, so it wasn't night time and he wasn't a superhero but he did just walk off.
Next challenge; write on the box and on closer inspection get some more tape. Parcel tape was found in a small supermarket and a marker pen in the basement of a huge department store.
We'd found all the ingredients, now we needed to navigate the post office. Once inside we worked out we had to get a numbered ticket and while we waited we wrote the address on the box and applied liberal amounts of tape.
We'd been waiting fifteen minutes or so before we saw two girls walk in with boxes filled with clothes. Still unsure of how the post office worked and having seen no-one else with parcels or boxes until now I followed them downstairs, hoping they would lead me in the right direction. I scanned the signs, which upstairs were in Greek but found the words "Mailing and bulk postage" – wooooooooooooooooo. I sprang back up the stairs to Nikki, happy to have found the answer and we carried the box down, finished taping it up and went to the counter.
Without a second glance the guy handed us a document to fill in, easing my concerns that the box might be too big. We filled it in and anxiously waited for the price… €79.77.
We paid happily and walked out the post office elated and actually quite proud that we'd figured it out. We felt lighter, literally and figuratively and felt more ready to face the rest of our travels now we didn't have a third bag to lug around.
We continued our productive day when we got back and booked our next flight; to Bali in Indonesia. Technically proof of onward travel is required when entering Thailand for a visa exemption, despite many people not getting checked. We looked at our options and pretty much at random booked to fly to Bali – it wasn't even really in our original plan!
After all that productiveness Nikki napped and I read and caught up on social media. We headed out to dinner, our last in Europe, and on the way back found ourselves a couple of roads away from where we wanted to be. We passed increasingly, for lack of a better word, rough looking people before spotting a small group gathered around a man sitting on the street injecting drugs. This isn't something either of us has seen before and at night in a foreign city it made us feel quite unsafe. Nikki asked what we should do and I said to keep on walking like we know where we're going (I vaguely did) and to not stop until we felt safe to do so. I knew that we would soon be in an area we knew and wouldn't walk into anywhere worse so we walked briskly and with purpose until we got into a familiar area.
We arrived back to our apartment and looked at each other and finally relaxed. We packed the rest of our stuff and watched a programme about Jack Whitehall travelling Southeast Asia with his dad.
After walking to the bus station and finding out where the X93 bus leaves from we were on our way to the Airport to start our 11 hour flight to Singapore. Nervous about experiencing an entirely new culture but hoping that somehow we'd both feel more at ease than we did in Athens.