Thursday, August 27, 2009

Greek Cave-Boating Part 2 - Quay and Away

Walking down the sloped corridor at the Melissani Cave(which was more of a diagonal mine-shaft than anything else), we arrived at the quay and surveyed the place.

video by Elisa Mohr

As you might expect, I was determined to not only ride in the boat, but to row the boat as well.
My family and I waited until the present boat, which had a load of people in it already, had shoved off.

Then, as soon as the next guy rowed over, I had a brief conversation with him, decided that he was the most easy-going of the group, and asked him if we could ride with him and if I could try rowing the boat. He looked like he was on the fence about it, then my wife told him I was a good rower and my two daughters chimed in cheerfully. I don’t know who was most convincing, but he nodded, and said something about rowing “later”.

video by Elisa Mohr
The cave there is half covered, half open.
The locals say that for the longest time it was an unknown cavern and then some say the roof fell in during an earthquake. Other islanders claim that it had been open for five thousand years, but the obscuring trees kept people from finding it. A cave of the same description was mentioned in a book by Dr. Joseph Partsh in 1890. The Melissani Cave was rediscovered in 1951. The entrance tunnel was made and the cave officially opened in 1963.

Once they found it, and the tunnel entryway was excavated, not long after, someone thought it might be fun to put a boat in there. I wonder if any of my readers here can identify with that.

In the middle of the day, when the sun is overhead, the rays of sunlight hit the water directly, illuminating the stone floor of the lake – turning the water amazing shades of turquoise and deep royal blue.
As the lake is only disturbed by a few guys with rowboats, the water stays clear – clear enough to see all the way to the deepest point – some one hundred feet ( 39 meters) below.

As we boarded, a few other people showed up and climbed in too. Our “gondolier” rowed us into the center of the lake and directed our attention to the “aperture” above, which is ringed by trees of the surrounding forest.

Among the many unique features of this location, is the atmosphere within; it could be scorching hot and oppressively dry as you walk across the parking lot to buy your tickets and enter, but by the time you reach the water, you’ve cooled down. The cave and the crystal water of the lake have a remarkable regulating effect on the air inside. Breathing in the cool damp air was refreshing. Our boatman informed us that some of the stalactites were as much as 20,000 years old.

The tour concludes tomorrow – remain seated please.

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