At the crack of dawn, we left the marina of Ano Koufonisi behind and our bow was pointing at Donousa. But this time, we were not cruising for the port of Stavros but for the deserted Kalotaritissa at 17 nautical miles.
That was the point which we chose to be the base of our sailing operations for the days we would stay on the island. We slowly entered the cove of Rousa, on the west side of which is Kalotaritissa. We tied on the small dock, feeling from the first moment the absolute serenity of this place. The large bay provides great security to the north winds, since it is protected by the small peninsula that goes along northeast and the islet Skoulonisi located on the east. I was wondering if there was anyone in this desolate place. I stood there measuring one by one the few white houses; eleven, with absolutely no movement or even a noise betraying the presence of life there.
I jumped in the rib and we sailed to a deserted beach located just across the dock, on the east side of the bay Rousa. For quite a long time we took care of the rib – this being the captain’s pleasure- and then dropped off on the beach to rest, having the feeling that we are the only people on the island.
It was getting dark when we went up the concrete alley that leads to the tavern of Mr. Michalis, which was to become our daily hangout. A small terrace, only two wooden benches, and some plastic chairs around. Mr. Georgios, Mr. Vangelis, Mrs. Fanni and of course Mr. Michalis were waiting for us there. That is, they were almost the entire village, with an average age limit of 75 years. It took only a few minutes for us to get to know each other and keep good company to each other, talking mostly about the living conditions of this deserted village. The dirt road was opened just a few years ago, connecting Kalotaritissa with Stavros, the island’s harbor. So, now and then there is a motorcycle or a car coming. Until then, the only channel of communication was the sea, and a quite inaccessible path, that led you to Stavros within two hours. The electricity power was installed quite recently while people get drinking water from a well located two streams away to the south of the village. To wash and cook they use rainwater, which they collect in large water tanks.
Despite the difficult living conditions, however, the only five residents of Kalotaritissa face life with a great sense of humor. The tavern of Mr. Michalis is the focal point of the village’s life.
“I’ve got it for only a few years. It is pirate, but I manage to get by” he tells us.
The time had passed and we went down the concrete path to the rib.
“Tomorrow night I will cook cock! Half of it is an order from some guys from Kampos, so we will eat the rest of it...” Mr. Michalis shouted.
On the northern coasts
The next morning, nestled in the aft sofa we were drinking our first cup of coffee, enjoying the unusual stillness which was perfectly fit with the serenity of the bay. The motionless sea gave us the chance to wander on the northern coasts of Donoussa. We slowly left the narrow channel of Skoulonisi and passed by the cape of Kalotaritissa.
The coast in this part is impressive, while the cliffs fall steep into the sea causing wonder, especially when you are close to them. The deep blue color of the sea is fascinating and catches the eye, provided of course that Aiolos’ winds had subsided. Sailing to the west, a wide bay stretches in front of us that occupy the entire north side of the island and like a big hug welcomes the raging waves when the winds break out. It extends for approximately two nautical miles and reaches the Aspros Kavos, the northwest side of Donoussa. The entire northern coast is spectacular, with only two small pebbled beaches shaped at some points. In the rest of the bay, the slopes fall steep to the sea, while large solid rocks in various shapes, which sometimes reach the surface, dress impressively the bottom. The sight is amazing if we climb a few meters on the steep coast and observe the sea bottom from the top. Since we managed to circumnavigate slowly across the northern coast, we reached the root of Aspros Kavos. The more we approached the cliff, the tinier we looked. A huge opening in front of us, draw our attention. It is the cave of Tichos or Poseidonas as it is also called. It is about 25 meters high and 15 meters wide. Moving in the depths, we find a large rock which looks as if it was detached from the ceiling, forming an impressive sight.
We stayed for quite some time in the cave, when we saw the sudden wrinkling of the sea.
Very soon, the wind was so strong that literally we could not stand still. Having spent some time at the dock watching the rib, we headed for the tavern of Mr. Michalis.
After we dined, we leaned back and gazed at the pitch dark sea, but of course it was impossible to discern it. We were happy, with no real reason. It was five or six people around a lamp, which hardly shed any light in the total darkness. The strong wind was our only companion, which made the wilderness of this place even more intense and wild. We felt that we were in a different world, on the edge of the earth. Far away in the sea, without any contact with anyone or anything. Far away from thoughts and things that we consider important out of necessity.
In the small veranda of Mr. Michalis, which had unlimited space to fit our need for absolute freedom. There, where your only needs are only the essentials. There where you are nothing, in need of nothing. Where you have nothing, but you have the whole world...
The winds were raging for two consecutive days, not allowing us to tour around the island. It turned out to be better that way, because we extended our stay and explored the bay of Kalotaritissa inch by inch.
We anchored just below the village, near the stream where there is the well serving the locals. We swam and went on shore. Looking through the bushes and large rocks, we found the well. We filled with water two twenty-liter containers and carried them to the rib. Time passed slowly. Swimming, fishing, relaxation and constant contact with the nature. Without any comforts or fuss, our only company was the sea splashing in our worn out hull. Time could not touch us anymore. The few days we spent on this place, seemed in fact too many and I cannot deny the fact that we felt incredibly full of everything.
In the evenings, exhausted from the sun heat, we returned to our hangout, the shop of Mr. Michalis. Wine with improvised dishes and endless discussions until late. “Because gentlemen, the first residents of the island were a father with his daughter. The former wanted to name the village Gramboussa - you see he was from Amorgos- while his daughter suggested naming it “Good Girl”, “Kalo Koritsi”. So this is how the name… Kalotaritissa was set”.
The circumnavigation of the island
When the north wind subsided, we decided to sail around the island. We headed south to the cape Moschonas, which is almost in the middle of the east side of Donoussa. Once we passed by, we were sailing along the steep cliffs and we soon reached Fokospilia. Do not forget to get in with the rib. The colors will amaze you! Particularly in places where the water touches the walls of the cave, the strong purple shades will never fade away in your memory. Some dives, and a swim with the mask is an unforgettable experience.
We slowly sailed away from the large opening and a few minutes later we passed by the southeast cape of Glaros. The bay Fykio is the first cove that we encounter on the inner part of which there is a small dock made of cement. A bit further away there is the starting point of the uphill path, which after some time of tiring climbing leads us to the village Mersini. It is only ten people living there, left to their fate. It's really worth the effort to ascend to the famous plane tree with the stream, where the vegetation is lush. If we rest on the bench under the shade of the plane tree and gaze endlessly to Amorgos and Keros, it will definitely compensate our fatigue.
Heading west, we sailed across the southern shores of Donoussa, which host the most beautiful beaches. Here are the amazing beaches of Livadi and Kedros, attracting most people. It is a paradise for those who want to enjoy the unspoilt nature and the crystal clear sea. Often it is in these beaches that the boats from Stavros sail, carrying campers with their supplies. Passing the cape of Panagia, we arrive at the southwestern tip of the island, where there is the bay which hosts the only port. The inner part of the bay is occupied by the large extended beach of Kampos, while on the west side we find the picturesque harbor. It is nice and small, but we will find a place to moor. Just above, for the last few years there is the beautiful stone café Hedgehog “Skantzohiros”, ideal for moments of relaxation with a beautiful view of the harbor. Two small taverns, a grocery store, the bakery and the press agency is the whole infrastructure of the small village of Stavros. It is without a police station and a coastguard, while the residents are no more than a hundred people. A few-minute walk along the small coastal cement road is enough to let us know the place and quickly feel very intimate and welcome while we either observe the old and modest houses or simply chat with the genuinely hospitable people.
While the sun was leaning towards sunset, we were sailing along the northern coasts heading again to Kalotaritissa, to the place we now considered to be ours, to our small dock. So back again to our hangout, our small tavern. The days went by in such a simple and beautiful way and now they were ending in the best possible way at Mr. Michalis’ tavern.
It is as if I can still see with my own eyes his boat sailing every morning by the cape Moschonas and slowly coming towards us loaded with supplies...
Donoussa is the most remote and isolated island of the complex of the Small East Cyclades, with a population of 110 inhabitants, who are engaged in fishing and farming, while in recent years more and more are turning to “tourism”. On the island there are five villages. Stavros, which is the port and the capital on the southwestern tip of Donoussa, where you will find the bare essentials and many rooms to let. The other villages are Kalotaritissa, Troulos, Messaria and Mersini. Unfortunately, they are all abandoned to their fate.
If we plan a trip to Donousa we should know that there is no possibility of refueling.