Monday, August 22, 2011

The beautiful beach of Riha Nera

It's only a three-minute walk from the family house, the beautiful Riha Nera beach of Limnos. Riha Nera, meaning "shallow waters", has a very gradual incline into the deeper sapphire waters of the Aegean sea, so the water temperature stays warm and the waves are always gentle.

Everybody comes to this beach, from little babies with floaties on their arms, to very old men and women in their bathers they've had since the 1940s. Limnians, Athenians and plenty of foreigners of all ages come here because there are no egos on this beach. It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like. The ugliest and the most beautiful people are here, but everyone is accepted. You can go topless or completely cover up, you can just sit under your umbrella and read your book, or spend the whole day in the water until the sun goes down. There's something very free and easy about this beach, and it's not just because it's only a three-minute walk from the house.

The beach is lined with rows and rows of blue and white striped umbrellas, each with its own pair of adjustable banana lounges, a wooden table with ashtray, and a white plastic chair. Mano's beach bar/cafe is only a few metres away where you can sit on bar stools under grass umbrellas with an icecream, a cold beer, or a frothy frappe (iced coffee). Waiters from the bar also provide table service to the sunbathers on the beach, bringing your frappe straight to your banana lounge while you continue to soak in the sun.

I'm not much of a swimmer, but Riha Nera doesn't let me just sit on my banana lounge and watch. The warm, crystal clear water is too hard to resist, and the high salt content makes it incredibly easy to float, so you can lie on your back with only a few centimetres of water below, without any effort at all. Small spotty fish swim around you and softly suck on your skin in search for tasty treats. You might also see a little crab or some tiny yabbies. Then after your dip you make your way back to your banana lounge, just in time for the waiter to take your order.

We have been coming to this beach almost every morning, and sometimes in the afternoons. The mornings are quiet, and the sea is often still. It's easy to secure a banana lounge at this time and it's the perfect time to swim before all the splashing kids arrive. After 2pm the beach comes alive as all the banana lounges fill with people preparing for their afternoon of swimming, wind surfing, and participating in the ever-popular beach sport, sand tennis. The music is turned up at Mano's bar and everyone looks tanned under the golden glow of the sun.

Today we had to return the moped as we'd reached the end of our hiring period. However, we felt we had to fill the void with some other form of vehicle, so we hired a paddle boat at Riha Nera. There's a strong easterly wind today, which means the sea is completely flat (looking at the horizon of the sea you are facing west), but the drift risk is high. The guy warned us not to go too far out, stressing "you won't come back", so we planned on keeping close to shore and not paddling out at all... Only problem is, if you don't paddle, the wind just takes you out to sea whether you like it or not. We'd booked the boat for one hour, and found that the pain of lactic acid coursing through our thighs from constant and severe paddling for the first 20 minutes just to keep the boat near the shore, wasn't worth another minute risking losing our legs. As the water is so shallow, we just decided to get out of the boat and drag it back to shore. It started off fun, and ended up just being "funny"...

Tomorrow is our last day here in Limnos. On Wednesday morning we take an early flight out of the island, then have to endure almost two full days of travel before we get back to Melbourne. In the meantime, I am compiling a series of weird and wonderful photos I've been taking on the island that will come under the topic "Only in Limnos", which I will post on the blog tomorrow.

But for now, here are some of the photos from the hundreds of pictures we've taken over the last few weeks at Riha Nera beach.

Beautiful, warm, shallow waters of Riha Nera.

Outside Mano's beach bar.

Where else can you have frappes delivered to you on the beach?

Tony going out for a swim.

"I'll be brown soon ..."

The ever-popular sand tennis.

Relaxing in the paddle boat ... little did we know we were drifting out to sea.

Desperately paddling to get back to shore!

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