Sandals, Birds & Terrapins
My mother-in-law is one of those superwomen. You know, the ones that make your feminist-self fill with pride and aspire to be like. The independent type that travels all over the world on their own and comes back with amazing stories that are told with an incredible amount of humility. She also seems to have an amazing gift for giving tips on travel gear. That's where the sandals come in.
Three years ago when we were planning our first trip to Ikaria, she told us to get some walking Ecco sandals. I must admit that I am not a fan of sandals in general. I was even less impressed by the idea of hiking for hours and hours wearing them. However, having previously had other great pieces of advice from her, I thought why not? Let's have a look at the Ecco sandals.
At first, they looked incredibly unappealing to me - something that my grandpa would wear with white socks to go fishing. Then, I tried them on...and everything changed. Dramatic much? Yes, well...to me they were pretty revolutionary. Being able to cross pools and streams without having to faff about with wet socks? Check. Easy to put on and take off? Check. Comfortable for 8+ hour hikes in challenging rocky terrain? Check again. I became so fond of them that I even began to like the look of them. The only downside that I could so far find, is the incredibly unattractive tan marks that you get on your feet. But then again, were I wearing normal shoes, I would end up with some oddly pale feet anyway so, meh.
Ikaria has a healthy wild Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) population. They can often be found at this time of the year in some of the bigger natural pools. Some of these pools are located by the beach and you can clearly see that the water flows from the mountains during colder months would join the sea. The Balkan terrapins found on these pools, although wild, are somewhat used to human interaction. It's obvious that they are used to being fed and so associate humans standing by the edge of the water as a potentially good thing. Unsurprisingly, these are much easier to photograph.
If you head inland via the canyons, you can normally find much clearer, colder and hidden natural pools between rocks. Unlike their beach babe counterparts, the Terrapins found in those pools are very shy. Therefore, to get a good look at them, you need to sit tight and wait. It was while sitting on the above-mentioned sandals and waiting under the scorching sun for the shy wild Balkan terrapins to come out of the water to bask, that I completely by chance spotted a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).
The Kingfisher's blue and orange colours were so bright that they were a welcome change from intensely looking at the deep green pools while trying to spot some dull coloured frogs and terrapins. It also reminded me of my own bright red skin and the high probability of contracting skin cancer lest I find some shade. So I got up, picked up my trusted sandals, and headed down the canyon towards the sea for a swim.