Flying Solo – a Flamingo journey

Birds flying over Ayvalik at Sunset, Turkey 2011


Sometimes the universe just does all the work for you. I wanted  to find a quaint seaside town to take some time out in after all my touring in Turkey. It needed to be an easy distance from Ephesus and a good jumping off point to Greece. A facebook buddy had mentioned  Ayvalik when I first arrived in Turkey and it turned out to be exactly the right place for resting, reading and doing some writing as well.


Lesvos, Greece
Then I discovered via one of my dorm buddies that Lesvos- the Greek island closest to Ayvalik and where I planned to exit the Middle East and enter Europe… has Flamingos.
It was the perfect thing.
I rested up in Turkey and eventually made my way over to Greece on the ferry, which left eventually.
Unlike other expeditions I had no driver to direct me and no buddies to share in the spotting. I set out armed with the name of the area the internet seemed to suggest was home to my Flamingos, the name of a bike hire company, some water and a chunk of bread.

I found Skala Kallonis easily enough and ‘Maria Rent Bicycles’, but that was about the point at which the universe stopped giving and demanded that I start peddling. it turned out that the pretty seaside town was not exactly the place I needed to be. I was told- so far as I could gather- to ride back the way I had just come on the bus and find such and such a place and go past there to another place where I would find Flamingos.


View from a bike, Lesvos, Greece, 2011
I said goodbye to my visions of riding happily along quaint back roads and set out, dubiously going back the way I had just come. It was fun sure, I had to ride through places I had already passed on the bus, then get back to return the bike, then walk the 3km back to the nearest town in order to get back to Mitlini to make my evening ferry to Athens, because  the bus stopped in Skalla Kallonis in the morning but not the afternoon. From the air I am sure my trajectory looked like Pooh and Piglet going in circles searching for where the Woozle wasnt.

I was pretty terrified riding on such main roads, especially as I was still  trying to  figure out which side of the road I was supposed to stick to. Luckily for me drivers on Lesvos are habituated to scooter riders so the occasional wobbly bicycle is treated patiently.


Scooters parked in Lesvos, Greece 2011

So that was one issue, the other was trying to assimilate the vaguely recalled place names on the map inside my backpack with the signs (in Greek) that I was passing. As such when I came across a sign starting with A I turned happily and hopefully off the main road. It seemed promising and except for the gearless city bike on the rocky rutted road I felt I was on the right track, especially when two or three Herons took flight from the river by my side.

Herons in flight, Lesvos, Greece, 2011

Unfortunately that was the end of bird sightings on that road and before long I got shooed away by some farmers. So with their little dogs yapping at my heals I made my bumpy way back to the main road.

What with the buses, trucks, cars and road works the ride was a little hair raising, but catching sight of salt flats kept me rolling. Speeding  down a hill and around a corner I missed a turn off for a road signed with bird pictures and a café. With no chance to turn around I rode on in the ‘just around the next corner’ fashion hoping for a spot to stop. Near the opposite side of the salt flats I saw a bird watching hut and although I was divided from it by a bit of an incline and road works I pulled off and hauled the bike up the gravel hill.


My trusty stead: bike riding in Lesvos, Greece 2011

Pleased to be off the road I took some deep breaths, locked the bike to a nearby rail and went for a stroll. I gave myself an hour or so to wander the edge of the salt flat,  figuring I would probably still have time to explore down the alternate road before I had to loop back to Skala Kollonis.


Salt flats – Flamingo habitat Lesvos, Greece 2011


Within about five minutes of walking I found my Flamingos happily squawking away. They were divided from me by a narrow waterway and a strip of land. If the grasses had been lower my view would have been perfect, as it was I had to stand up on a piece of driftwood in order to get a proper look.

Flamingo kiss, Lesvos Greece

I do admit to contemplating crossing the narrow waterway for a better look, but decided that even if no one was there to stop me I still did not want to be the Flamingo rover responsible for disturbing the Flamingo habitat.


Salt flats – Flamingo habitat Lesvos, Greece 2011


Besides which this was closer than I had gotten on any of my previous expeditions.

Instead of being a wild woozle hunt my loop the loop and accidental turn off led me to the perfect spot, and as the birds got on with their business just a little way away from me I watched on, a very happy solo birdwatcher.

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