I arrived in Kalymnos in Fall 2015 with plans for a quick exploration.
I stayed for almost a year.
My husband Nathan and I decided to spend fall of 2015 to spring of 2016 in Europe. We first came to the little village called Masouri on the island of Kalymnos where most of the climbers stay because of the atmosphere and the accessibility to the crags. We arrived in late October, with the intention of going to Spain after a short stay on the island.
A month later we saw people leaving, the shops and restaurants closing, and the little town we were in transform from a crowded melting pot to a ghost town. For two months, we found ourselves alone at the crags, in perfect conditions, with only a few other local climbers. We felt like we had uncovered a huge secret.
The island was so peaceful. There was nowhere else in the world I would rather be than right there. That itself is quite a precious feeling: when you are exactly where you want to be.
The place gave me a feeling of deep peace.
Spring came, and we were still in Kalymnos. Immersed in the experience of watching the island come to life, we no longer had this feeling of Nirvana all to ourselves. But this feeling of change in the season is always good. The hillsides were turning yellow with flowers and the whole island smelled like an herb garden. You could walk through fields of thyme and rosemary to get to the crags, and the aroma was released as the twigs broke under your feet.
Nathan had to go home, but I ended up staying until the main crowd of climbers turned up in May.
As we returned to the island this past fall, it felt like a homecoming. We reconnected with friends and dropped into our routine quickly as new locals in Masouri. Same coffee spot, same meals, same beautiful, peaceful feeling. One of the restaurants near our house there named a salad after me and added it to their menu: the Aamodt Salad is a greek salad with chicken instead of feta, my go-to lunch on the island.
When I look back at what initially drew me to this beautiful place—rumors about an island with a high concentration of sport climbing routes of superb quality—I’m grateful for the unexpected in Kalymnos because it led to unforgettable memories of happy people and ocean views from the crag.
Lingering Memories Of Kalymnos
Beauty & Humanity
One of the most vivid memories from my winter in Kalymnos is one that definitely put my life in perspective. Kalymnos was one of the first stops for thousands of refugees fearing for their lives. Many climbers, myself included, would help in the refugee camp when we could by making lunch and organizing the donations that were sent to the island. It was indescribable to watch the pain and fear in the eyes of the refugees.
To see the people in Kalymnos supporting and welcoming the refugees was truly incredible to watch. People would take off work and help them and make meals for them. It was beautiful to watch the locals handle the situation with such grace when they themselves are struggling. The beauty and the humanity of the situation, it changes you a little bit. These are people, the refugees, they don’t fit the stereotypes I think many of us imagine when we think of the word refugee. You see people like me, like the climbers in Kalymnos, teenagers, families, doctors. You see the similarity between your needs and theirs, and yeah, it changes you quite a bit.
Our Three-Legged Kalymnos Mascot
I love cats, especially one. Her name is Gaia, and she adopted us early on our stay. We cared for her, fed her, and had her neutered so she could live a life with less stress. In turn, she learned the sound of our scooter and would jump out of the bushes to say hi every time we returned home from climbing. One day we found her on a mountainside with a compound fracture of her rear leg, and Gaia, now an amputee, has become the little three-legged mascot in the village.
Physical Pain & Determination
Three weeks into my trip, I started feeling pain in my heel every time I tried to get my climbing shoe on. It turned red and eventually I got a fluid filled bump at the size of a big grape right at the attachment of the Achilles tendon. I was just about to send my long term project when the pain got so bad that I could not even wear my approach shoes. This is called bursitis and it sucks.
It’s an inflammation of the bursa — a fluid filled sack that lies between the tendon and the bone, to protect the ligaments from friction over the bone. I was desperate to find a solution. I tried everything. For a while I had played with using a way oversized shoe and making a prosthetic heel with an opening to take the pressure of the painful spot. It somehow worked, but I quickly got tired of being “Bigfoot” and decided to just cut the entire back of my old Futura off and tape the front half onto my foot. It was nearing the end of its life, so I didn’t feel too bad. This worked okay on steep terrain, and I could play around in Grande Grotta. As my heel got better I eventually found a model shoe that worked, and the old Mythos from La Sportiva became my savior!