The Rhodes To My Greek Adventure.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper.
After a gruelling show season that started way back in February at the British Shooting Show 2018 and a really busy Pass It On Young Sports year, this coupled with running my my corporate company Really Wild Adventures (www.reallywildadventures.co.uk) and keeping my pest Control Company going its been a really hard year this year, both physically and mentally with youth no longer on my side its a bit harder to get going in the early mornings now, or as mother says, boy you cant keep burning the candle at both ends, your not getting any younger.
So I finished my last show up in Yorkshire at the South Yorkshire Game Fair at Doncaster at the very end of September 2018, I came home initiated my father into freemasonry, got up the very next morning and jumped aboard a plane and headed out to Rhodes in Greece for a well deserved bit of R&R and to also follow in some masonic foot steps and visit the Grand Masters Palace of the Knights Templar.
I arrived very late on the Wednesday evening, so after a cheeky G&T from the bar I headed to my room to get my head down, blimey it was like being in a sauna, but being as tight as ducks backside I did not pay for the air con, I finally passes out and awoke several hours later, the view from my balcony was quite simply magnificent from on top of the hill just above the hidden village of Afandou, this wonderful little family hotel is owned by Tasos, I am now very good friends with him and his son Niko who hired me a great little car at a good rate, the hotel is called the Rhoda Star I telle boys you will love it there its small but has everything including some good entertainment too.
I asked Tasos if he new anyone who would take me out hunting or fishing, he said my cousin Michael is a hunter he is the best on the island, in Rhodes everyone is the best if you talk to them weather its food drink honey you name it theirs is the best, so I took it all with a pinch of salt, I spoke to Michael on the phone and he agreed we would go hunting on the following Wednesday as he was very busy with his business, we can only go on a Wednesday or a Saturday/Sunday these are the only days hunting is permitted on the island, also you are only allowed to take 3 hare, partridge or grouse, so I had a few days to kill as I also wanted to see the island too.
Driving in Rhodes is quite easy once to get used to their lights system and driving on the wrong side of the road, this coupled with not changing gear with the window winder, at the gear box was on my right not my left, this was some funny moments stopped at traffic lights with the window going up and down and Greek people laughing at me saying daft tourist.
The first place I visited was the Grand Masters Palace in Rodos Town, lets just say the drive in there and parking was some what hairy and comical to say the least, I made it into the old town inside the castle walls, yes it was very tourist driven but I could see right past that in the ole cobbled streets, in my minds eye I could see the armies of old marching up and down the Knights Templar in all their splendour trotting down the narrow passages, I got to the Grand Masters Palace with its awesome views over the ancient port, I must admit it took my breath away for a moment, I paid to go inside and I had a good look around, the building itself was truly a work of art the floors the walls the ceilings etc, but the displays not so for me, old pots, pans and tat for want of a better word, where was the knights armour swords etc, alas I found none of it there apart from a very small room with some remnants of more modern times, all in all I left the Grand Masters Palace quite disappointed, what I will say is don’t judge a book by its cover though, for if I thought Rhodes was judged by Rodos Town then I would never of left the hotel coming home deeply saddened, as I have learnt the world over a city/town is much the same wherever you go, but the countryside is something else if you just go look.
For the next few fays I drove the length and breadth of the island, from hidden bays/castles and churches to high hidden mountain roads, my favourite places on the whole island were the little fishing port called Ancient Kamyros on the Ageian sea side of the island and Lindos on the Mediterranean side of the island, I had the most wonderful Kleftiko there in Lindos sat on a roof top restaurant over looking the Acropolis hi up on the hill and the secluded little bay down below.
Now for the hunting, Michael picked me up at 5.30am out side the hotel, I was fresh as a daisy and as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, right away we hit it off chatting like old friends, we got to the hunting area and we met up with a couple of Michael’s friends, they let the dogs out of the dog boxes, wow what a mixed bunch of dogs, hardy mixed breed dogs, in fact they reminded me of my old dog Billy he was as hard as they come with stamina like no other I had met until this day, I actually fell in love with one young bitch, if I could have smuggled her home in my suit case I would of.
No gun for as the boys take safety very seriously and quite rightly so, for they did not know me nor I them yet, so I tagged along picking up a couple of nice pebbles, no gun no problem I would do it Crocodile Dundee style, I wish I had my catapult my Pappy taught me well so a bolting Hare 10 yards away would be no problem, we headed up the mountain and these Greek boys were like mountain goats even the old boy of 82 years old, to start with I held back I didn’t want to intrude and just watched how they hunted, to my surprise they hunted just like me working their dogs close and shooting the bolting hare or often these sure footed quick little dogs would catch the hare, it really was a pleasure to watch these dog men work with their animals both man and dog knowing what each other need to fill the quarry bag.
Michael called me forward said keep your eye out this side of a big bush, the dogs were on point, he gave a little whistle and the dogs flushed on, a hare bolted and Michael quickly snapped shot at it as did I with my pebble, then the dogs grabbed the hare and it was retrieved to hand, all the Greek boys started laughing and cheering, it turned out they were laughing at me and my pebble throwing, now I cant say I hit the hare and I cant say I missed, all I know is the Hare bowled over and the dogs we on it, Michael had defiantly hit in the back back legs it also had a big lump on its head, so who knows my pebble may have struck or not but I am taking that one as a joint effort, we moved off around the mountains jumping arccos small mountain gaps working the dogs all the way, it was getting pretty hot now as the sun was fully up and we had covered several miles high up in the mountains looking down on the trucks like little ants below us.
Michael gave the order to head back to give the dogs a drink and call it a day, we dropped across to another mountain to drop down behind the cars, then the dogs gave voice the chase was on, Michael handed me his shot gun and was off like a mountain goat deep in the scrub after his dogs, I held back at the ready in case something was flushed in to the open, I saw Michael appear at the top of the mountain with a dog and a Hare in Hand, the boys started talking in Greek not sure what they were saying but I think it was all about the dogs doing well.
We walked back to the trucks Michael telling me to keep a hold of the gun, I knew what he was doing, he was checking me out for my gun safety, for I would of done the very same thing, I got to the truck unloaded the gun and made it safe handing it back with the cartridges in one hand and the breech open, he smiled and nodded as he knew without saying I know how to handle a gun and how it should be carried and made safe.
We headed back to Taverna Maria and met up with some other fellow hunters and friends of Michael’s who were there ahead of us, what lovely amazing people the camaraderie could be seen as soon as we got there, I was made to feel most welcome as the food and the drink flowed, although I could not understand the words I could understand the body language and gestures, so with every word and laughter I just simply understood, its a brotherhood of true hunters, no matter where you are from, it crosses all languages and well mere words just cant do it justice, you feel it more than you understand it I just cant explain it.
Those of you who have walked the walk and talked the talk will know what I mean, those of you that have not well I just don’t have the words to explain camaraderie of a true Hunter and Countryman and the understanding we have of each other, then Mama Maria brought the Hares out after bring cooked over the open charcoal oven, it was so moist and well seasoned with a beautiful glaze over it, I was already stuffed from the meze we had already eaten but the countryman in me took over for we all must eat what we hunt, I loosened my belt for my expandable belly to make room as I tucked into the hare, wow it was like an explosion of flavours in my mouth, my mind was immediately taken back to the mountain when we had taken these hares earlier in the morning.
We said farewell to Taverna Maria and I said good by to my new found hunting friends as Michael took me back to the hotel on the hill, he invited me down to his restaurant in the village, a most wonderful Traditional Greek Taverna with a modern twist called Flora, its was started by his mother and father and Michael had inherited it with his wife after his parents retired, he wants to hand it down to his son after he had finished university and after he has done his time in the Greek Army doing his national service, such a wonderful story right there of tradition being passed down through the generations of this awesome Greek Family.
The Night in question I went to Flora Restaurant they had a Christening celebration on, all I can say is WOW what a wonderful experience, I saw singing/dancing good food and drink and people truly happy to be together and celebrate the baby and his Christening, Tasos told me try Michaels Stiffado Its The Best, now I love Stiffado I have had it many times over the years and indeed cook this traditional Greek dish myself, its made with a lot of thickly chopped onion and what every meat is available, on this occasion it was Hare again and I will say if god himself had cooked this meal I would believe it, for I bow down Michaels Stiffado is the very best I have ever tasted, it was like a cross between an angle dancing across my taste buds and a fire work display all at the same time as well as being as smooth as silk, I telle if any of you go to Rhodes on holiday I urge you go find The Flora Restaurant in Afandou you will truly thank me, Michael took me out back to show me his charcoal spit oven where he was slow roasting a whole sheep, my first thoughts were WOW what a huge kitchen that was spotless you could of eaten your food off the floor it was that clean, I got to taste the sheep off the spit, seriously if I had of popped my clogs right then I would of gone to heaven smiling, Michael took me back to the hotel as we had to be up early the next morning for hunting again.
I was picked up at 5.30am again, again what I loved was the excitement of the dogs, it was just like here at home our dogs the same look in their eyes the same body language over the, pack, they were excited to be going hunting as were Michael and I, if you have never hunted this way its hard to explain its almost prehistoric where man and wolf work as one for the same goal the triumph of the hunt, we got to a new mountain just over from the other mountains we had hunted previously, this had some flat crop areas and dry grass lands at the foot of it with a dried up river bed, we saw some Fallow Deer, a buck and 2 doe grazing in the early morning dim light, Michael and I stalked in on them and I shot them with my camera, they are called Dama Dama by the islanders but they are fallow deer, I have read many a myth and legend about these deer google it you will be surprised.
Off we set along the dried up river bed we covered every hill/bush/tree and grass land but not a sausage could be found, so we headed up the mountain again, almost immediately the dogs changed they had the scent of something, we worked our way up the mountain this time I had a shot gun in my hands, two partridge flushed one forward over the dogs so no safe shot, but one did flush left to right of me, I only had one quick snap shot as I could not follow through as I knew there were hunters to my right, I ruffled a couple of feathers as it sailed on unscathed, further we pushed on around the mountain, our hunting buddies flushed a hare but it gave them the slip as the dogs gave chase in full voice, by golly what a wonderful sound hearing the pack in full voice echoing across the high mountains it sent a shiver up my spine I telle, Michael was coming down the mountain on a crescent just below me as his dogs went on point, he gave the order to flush on and out bolted a hare, he bowled it over with one clean shot as the head dog retrieved it to hand, that was a great shot I telle, it was now getting really hot so we headed back to the truck to give the dogs a drink and head back, the talk was high spirited as we laughed and discussed our day.
I spent the next day or so chilling at the hotel swimming a lot trying to keep fit, I went fishing on one of Michael’s friends boats and caught quite a few mixed fish not monsters but good eating fish, I dropped them off at Flora Restaurant for I was going that evening for a hunters meeting and get together that Michael puts on for his friends, my fish were to be part of this mighty feast.
I arrived at the Flora Restaurant a short time after all the others, again I was made to feel most welcome, some faces I knew others I did not again that camaraderie was there right from the start, the banter jokes and telling stories started, they told stories to me of past times out hunting and I told some of mine back, Michael translated both ways, one chap next to me his phone went off it was his wife asking what time he would be home, so the banter began again, I told them my ex wife would ask what time I would be home, I always said Dark O Clock, this all the lads found hilarious as Michael translated it the room went into laughter, I have a feeling they will be using that little ditty the next time the wives ask what time will you be home.
I went back the next afternoon to say my farewells to Michael and his family and the beautiful Flora Restaurant, I had a most amazing lamb dish the name of I cant even pronounce, but again I just cant do it justice with mere words or photos, I said my good byes with a full belly and full heart, Michael and I parted with tears in our eyes as we had both met our brothers from other mothers, I would say Michael is the Greek version of The Ole Hedge Creeper, I left Rhodes happy to be coming home and sad too leaving a piece of my heart on this beautiful island that I will be going back too.
And yes the Flora Restaurant and Michael the Greek Hunter who’s cooking and company.
Quite simply IT THE BEST.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper.