Betty, Goat Pens and Greek Spice Girls

Betty the Oertzen's Rock Lizard | Credit: Talita Bateman

Betty the Oertzen's Rock Lizard | Credit: Talita Bateman

We decided to hike up the mountain to one of the oldest and most historically significant villages in Ikaria, Lagada. To avoid getting lost in this undeveloped part of the island, we figured that taking a dirt road would make the climb by foot easier. We were wrong.

Despite the lack of 'scrambling', the extreme heat and unrelenting sun that day, made the walk up feel like what I would imagine hell feels like. It may come as no surprise, therefore, that we only managed to make it to the village of Vrakades, before deciding to leave the walk to Lagada for another day.

Mountain goat keepers | Credit: Talita Bateman

Mountain goat keepers | Credit: Talita Bateman

Although we didn't spend a lot of time at Vrakades, the memory of the short visit really stuck with me for three main reasons: Ice-cold local lemonade; Greek Spice Girls and wet shirts. Let me elaborate.

After walking up a mountain in direct sunlight for 3 hours, drinking any water we had on us, was like drinking boiled water. We were all longing for a cold drink - any cold drink at that point would do. Luckily, we were graced with some ice-cold local lemonade that we were able to enjoy to the sound of the Greek version of Spice Girl's 'If you wanna be my lover'. Not singing along to that would have been difficult, if it wasn't for the fact that my grasp of Klingon is probably better than my Greek. 

Credit: Talita Bateman

Credit: Talita Bateman

By the time we decided to start our journey back down the mountain, it felt like a thousand degrees Celsius. So, we had to improvise. We found a tap at one of the village squares and did what any sane person in our situation would do. We took off our shirts, ran it under the cold water, put it back on and hoped that water would take as long as possible to evaporate.  

Although my hiking companions would probably disagree, I found the way down the mountain much more pleasurable. I suddenly started noticing the amount of old stone goat pens along the way, some of which were still in use.  It makes your imagination wander back to a time when these were full of goats and workers. 

Credit: Alex Bateman

Credit: Alex Bateman

The highlight of the whole day, however, has to be Betty. During our failed attempt at reaching Lagada, we stumbled upon what I can only describe as an Oertzen's Rock Lizard Paradise. Having found this heavenly spot, I prepared myself to sit and wait in silence for the lizards to come back out. I will cover their behaviour and much more in a separate post but wanted to mention Betty.  

Betty was an Oertzen's Rock Lizard (Lacerta oertzeni) who seemed to enjoy observing humans, just as much as I enjoy observing lizards. She came very close, watching me carefully at first until seemingly finally deciding that I was OK. At first, I couldn't quite understand what would make her take such a risk. All other lizards were keeping their distance, and that far up the mountain, I knew she couldn't possibly be used to having humans around. 

Betty, the clever Lizard ( Lacerta oertzeni ) | Credit: Talita Bateman

Betty, the clever Lizard (Lacerta oertzeni) | Credit: Talita Bateman

A while later, she made her mind up. She climbed up the rock I was sat on and perched herself on a nice sunny spot. I then noticed that she wasn't only watching me, she was also keeping a close eye on another lizard. Moments later, she caught herself a nice juicy ant that was passing by. And that's when it all clicked! She was using me, or more, she was using the other lizard's fear of approaching me to hunt and sunbathe in its territory. Clever, clever girl!