After a day of rest to get our bearings and ooh and aaah at the scenery and the clean everything and the warm water we threw ourselves wholeheartedly into driving and eating our way around the island. The roads leading up into the hills were steep and sharply curved, the air was abuzz with crickets and the scenery was stunning in its ruggedness and the jewel-like vivacity of its golds and blues. Z took pictures of a million cliffs and olive trees, while I developed an unexpected passion for goat portraiture. (There will soon be a number of pictures in my Flickr attesting to this under appreciated art form).
Driving up towards the heart of the island on our second day, we passed a tiny crossroads cafe that a village entrepreneur had set up in his backyard. It advertised lemon and apple pie which was all the encouragement I needed to badger Z into a stop. We sat down on a rickety picnic table under the olive trees, ate our pies (they were amazing), shared thoughts on Greece and reflected how the faint smell of smoke in the air really in some in fathomable way reminded us of the villages of our childhood. Then Z noticed that the smell of smoke was quite strong actually, and appeared to be originating near the feet of two children who were squatting over a pile of kindling. Perhaps they are incinerating rubbish, we thought, although it seems rather close to the house and those old trees. Then the fire leapt up and the children ran away. Emboldened, the fire doubled in size again.
"Fire", Z said, waving to the proprietor who was blissfully relaxing under a neighbouring olive tree. The proprietor nodded and gave us a friendly wave back.
"Fire!" Z said more urgently, with gestures. "Fire!"
Then things got a good deal more exciting what with the clouds of smoke and people rushing about with hoses and buckets of water and after the blaze was controlled the proprietor going to find the young arsonists and thrash them with a branch of the olive tree - an ironic but convenient choice of weapon.
On the fourth day we were in a car crash. A drunk driver coming out of the bend on the wrong side of the road collided with the taxi we were in. Fortunately it all happened so fast that I didn't have time to be scared - there was suddenly just a truck looming and emergency brakes and violent swerving; the crash of metal and glass and the force of the hit like a punch that knocked the glasses from my face and sent me flying.
After the first incredulous seconds of ensuring that we were actually alive and in one piece we scrambled out onto the road and engaged in a protracted game of explanatory charades with concerned Greek passerbys, while the taxi drive was having a much more energetic discussion with the completely wasted driver of the other car. This included an exciting high speed chase in which the other driver tried to drive off at speed to evade the law and endanger more civilians, while the taxi driver with Jackie Chan like agility ran alongside his car holding on to the steering wheel until forced to let go.
The road then became a congregating point for a number of other drivers and vehicles all having very spirited discussions in Greek while Z took photos of the damage and I busied myself picking out tiny shards of glass from my skin.
Although we had thankfully managed to avoid a direct collision (which would have certainly crumpled the taxi like a harmonica) the damage to the side of the car was extensive (shattered windows, caved in doors) but fortunately the damage to us was very light. (None to Z, while I got off with some impressive bruising and a fractured toe and probably some lasting anxiety responses at the sound of emergency brakes).
We felt incredibly lucky, impossibly blessed to be and the habit of erecting roadside shrines suddenly made perfect sense.
The rest of the holiday passed without incident. We travelled by boat to Zante and saw sheer white cliffs and beautiful sea caves; I did not get stung by jellyfish or drop my cameraphone in the water. Nobody assaulted or distressed us, aside from the weather in England.