You would think a journey on a ferry though the Greek Islands would be memorable. Mine was, but for all the wrong reasons.

Do you have a memorable, funny or embarrassing travel story? Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing some our most memorable travel experiences here at RE:treat. Nuge shared her 24 hours of hell in Amsterdam and then Babsi told us about her Indian trekking tale, where her friend Jules managed to crack off half of her front tooth. 

Here is the final installment of our three part blog series on funny travel stories - Georgie's Greek ferry debacle!

GEORGIE: The Greek Ferry Debacle

This story goes back 12 years. It has become quite a well known tale in my wider circle of friends. It has also earned me a nickname which seems to have stuck, more than a decade later. 

I was 22 years old, traveling around Europe for the first time. I had been traveling for a few months, and I was in Barcelona. I was really missing family, so I decided that I was somehow going to catapult myself to the other side of Europe to meet up with my sister who was traveling down the coast of Turkey with some friends of hers. I booked a flight from Barcelona to Athens, and from there I would catch a succession of ferries to Turkey where I would then find a bus/taxi/horse drawn cart to drive me to my sister, somewhere on the coast of Turkey. A 3 day affair if all went according to plan. I knew that my sister was going to be in a particular spot for a few days, so I had a small window of time to travel, and catch her before she moved on. I boarded my flight to Athens and as we jetted off, a nice, young, kinda scruffy guy (not unlike myself) asked to borrow my pen. He recognized my accent and quickly identified himself as a fellow Aussie by the name of Rob. Turns out, we are from the same part of Sydney and vaguely know some of the same people. The world didn't seem so big anymore. Rob had been traveling in South America for many months, and was also planning to catch a ferry to "one of the Greek Islands". He didn’t really care where he went. He had a few days to kill before meeting up with his friends in Mykonos. We disembarked the plane in Athens and make our way by bus to the ferry terminal. I bought my ferry ticket to Samos (a 14 hour ride!), the furthest Greek Island I could see on the map before hitting Turkey, hoping I could somehow find a way to skip hop over to Turkey once I got there. Decades of tension between the Greeks and the Turks meant that there was no magical Lonely Planet solution on how this should be done. But several months of backpacking had made me quite savvy (or maybe blaze is a better word) and I thought, like most of my other travel decisions, that I would just figure it out along the way. I was winging it. Rob bought a ticket for the same ferry, and decided he will jump off in Paros, about half way (maybe 6 hours of travel) to where I was going. I was happy to have an English speaking companion for the journey ahead. 

We made our way over to our ferry. The rear bridge was lowered and people were driving their cars onto the boat. There was still about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to leave. Rob declared that we couldn’t start the journey without beers and snacks, to which I heartily agreed and hand over some Euros. I was in charge of minding our bags, and making sure the ferry didn’t leave without him. Seemed simple enough. The minutes ticked by, and there was no sign of Rob. I wondered what was taking so long as we could see the shops from the ferry, maybe 100 yards from where I was standing. The ferry dudes, not the friendliest bunch, announced something in Greek over the PA system. In retrospect, it was likely some pertinent information about the impending departure of the ferry of which I have no comprehension. Still no sign of Rob. My logic was that I was standing on the rear gate of the ferry and the ferry wouldn’t leave until the gate has been closed. I heard a gruff voice behind me, barking something in Greek. Again, I have no idea what he said but I swung around and it is clear he wants to see my ticket. I grovel through my bag for a few minutes, eventually producing my ticket. At this point, I’m oblivious to the fact that the ferry is moving away from the wharf. Panic strikes me like the hot pink flames of a Santorini sunset. They can't leave. Rob's not here. I have all Rob's worldly possessions with me (passport included!), I don't even know this guy!!! I try to tell the Greek ticket checker man to stop the boat. Please stop the boat. We can't leave without Rob. He looks at me, irritated, like it's time for a smoke and an Ouzo and I'm eating up his happy hour. We are about 20 yards from the wharf, and here comes Rob, streaking towards the ferry like his life depends on it, two beers and chips in hand, a look of pure dread and confusion on his face. Why did you let them leave without me. You have my life on that boat! By this stage I was in a complete state. No one seemed to be heeding my desperate please to stop the boat and back up. I was yelling at anyone who would listen (which wasn't really anyone by this stage as everyone had gone to the upper deck to drink wine and watch the sun set over the sea). There was one ferry guy left downstairs who casually proclaimed, “call your boyfriend and tell him to catch the next ferry”. Well, not only did I not have a cell phone, but this guy was not my boyfriend, not even a friend really.  I just met him a few hours ago! In addition to this, we weren’t even traveling to the same destination. I might also add that this was well before the days of social media, so there was no way I could easily contact Rob. We barely even used email. Despite the fact that Dimitri here clearly spoke no English, I yelled at him “this guy is not my boyfriend. NOT BOYFRIEND!”. He looked at me like I was some crazy woman, distancing myself from my significant other after a lover’s tiff. Greek tragedy style. Despite the obvious language barrier, I continued my rant, “NOT BOYFRIEND. DON’T KNOW HIM. HAVE HIS BAGS. YOU MUST TAKE BAGS & LEAVE IN PAROS!”. 

At this point I think the guy just wanted to get away from me. He told me, via charades, to wait here while he went to speak to the Captain. 

Half an hour later I was still standing there. I was gulping fumes of black smoke that were billowing out of the back of the clunky old ferry. Dimitri was clearly not coming back. Bastard.

I decided I may as well go up on the deck with the other passengers. At least up there I might be able to breathe. I lugged my backpack and Rob’s backpack (or should I say Rob’s ‘bag collection’ - Rob had developed an economical system of expanding his backpack with black plastic garbage bags, tied to his main backpack, full of who knows what). I think I nearly put my back out lugging those things upstairs. I found a spot on the deck and made a makeshift bed out of the pile of bags. I was completely exhausted by this point. The sun was setting and for a second I thought I might actually fall asleep. Until I heard a voice come over the PA system. At first in was in Greek, followed by the ‘English translation’. I put ‘English translation’ in inverted commas as it was barely understandable as English. The guys accent was so thick, I actually giggled when he announced, “Could Gorgee Beehop please come to the Captain’s deck”. Then he said it again. “Could Gorgee Beehop please come to the Captain’s deck”. Again, I was having a bit of a giggle at the English translation, as it barely sounded like English...until I realized that I was ‘Gorgee Beehop’. I leapt to my feet and grabbed that pile of bags. I was so happy that they had found a solution. They were going to take Rob’s bags and leave them in the ferry office in Paros, and I could continue my journey to Turkey. Huffing and puffing, I dragged the gear to the Captain’s deck where I found the Captain, flanked by my friend Dimitri. They informed me that my “boyfriend was catching the next ferry to Paros, and you should get off the ferry at Paros and wait for him to arrive to collect his bags”. Once again I could feel the heat rising in my face. “He’s NOT MY BOYFRIEND. I JUST MET THE GUY. I’m going to Samos, not Paros (I was actually going even further, to Turkey, but I would never say this to a Greek man). YOU NEED TO TAKE HIS BAGS & LEAVE THEM IN THE OFFICE UNTIL HE ARRIVES ON THE NEXT FERRY”. The Captain threw his arms up as if to say, “Don’t blame me that your boyfriend missed the ferry”. Given that this was a few months after September 11, everyone was reluctant to even touch anyone else’s bags, let alone take care of someone’s bags for 24 hours. After another 10 minutes of wild gesturing, frustrated yelling and Greek indifference, I miraculously managed to convince them to take Rob’s bags off at Paros and leave them in the ferry office until he arrived. I was so relieved, I walked out of that office and found a corner to rest my weary head.

The next morning, 14 hours later, we arrived in Samos. I could see the mountains of Turkey in the distance, and I was excited to see my sister in the next 24 hours. That night, I caught another ferry from Samos to Kusadasi. From Kusadasi, I caught an overnight bus to Antalya, where I only just managed to catch my sister, right as she was about to jump on a bus to her next destination. I was so happy to be there.

I recounted the story of my epic voyage to my sister and her friends. By this stage, we were on the beach, beer in hand, and the whole escapade seemed quite amusing really. Since that trip, a lot of people still called me “Gorgee”, as it was so eloquently pronounced by the Greek Ferry Captain. 

You are probably wondering what happened to poor Rob. Well, despite the fact that he was left stranded in a foreign country with no wallet, no passport, and no backpack, I know for sure he had 2 beers and a packet of chips for the ferry ride. Rob did reclaim all his possessions in Paros the next morning. I know this because in 2005 (three years later), I finally bumped into Rob back in Australia. We recounted the hilarity from each of our perspectives, and were so happy we finally were able to fill in the blanks from that day in Greece many years before. I had been feeling so guilty that I couldn’t stop the ferry from leaving, and Rob had been feeling guilty that he took so long getting the beers (I guess he got stuck in a store behind someone having a long conversation) and that, of all things, he still had my euros!