A couple who were trained to fly now specialise in mountain hikes
Visitors to Amorgos should take advantage of a remarkable new book. “Amorgos: The Secret Jewel of the Cyclades, A Visitor’s and Walker’s Guide,” just out from Travelleur Publishing, takes you places you’d never find without a guide, such as hidden coves, crystal deposits, caves, Neolithic mines and 6,500-year-old archaeological sites. The cost is 14 euros.
The authors, Paul and Henrietta Delahunt-Rimmer, are a British couple who know the island like the backs of their hands. Their business, Special Interest Holidays, offers customised hikes and tours of Amorgos and is dedicated to ecotourism and to the preservation of nature in Greece.
In addition to detailed walking maps and vivid photos, the book offers a wealth of information about the wildlife, customs and history of the island. It features snippets from “The Cyclades, or Life Among the Insular Greeks,” the 1885 classic by J.T. Bent, and even has an index and bibliography — always a sign of authors who’ve done their homework. For dessert, they tell stories about the “exceptionally friendly” locals. For example, when a tourist couple they know walked into a private home thinking it was a kafeneio, the owner graciously served wine to his unannounced guests, then refused to accept payment and gave them cake and fruit to take with them.
Paul and Henrietta are quite friendly themselves, as I found out when I met them one afternoon at an outdoor cafe on the beach at Ormos. They live in Stroumbos, a settlement of five Cycladic houses estimated to be 300-years-old. The only access is by donkey, and they have no electricity or running water.
“We shower in a beer-mug’s worth of water and use what’s left to flush the toilet,” Paul says proudly.
The tanned, rugged couple didn’t always have this rustic lifestyle. Until 1999, they both worked for the Royal Air Force in the U.K., Paul as a pilot and Henri as an air traffic controller.
“We lived in a house so big we had to shout to find each other,” Henri recalls. “We had to commute every day. I realized I was working myself into an early grave and for what?”
In 1999 they decided it was time for a change. After extensive research, they picked Amorgos as their new home. Eleven years later, you can see they have acquired a lot of wisdom and no regrets.
“We make it our business to know all the secrets — but we don’t tell them all,” Paul jokes. “We don’t want to find a donkey’s head at the end of our bed in the morning.”