MATHRAKI: BREATHE IT IN
SWIMQUEST GUIDE AND ARTIST SAM MOULD REFLECTS ON HER TIME IN MATHRAKI LAST SUMMER AND LOOKS FORWARD TO MORE TRIPS IN JUNE …
It’s my first time visiting this tiny hunk of rock in the Ionian Sea that is the disparate community of Mathraki. The distant isles of Othonoi and Ereikoussa loiter on the horizon; sea mist draws them in and pushes them away with the ebb and flow of a gentle tide.
I arrive in the late afternoon and soon enough the cliffs of Corfu are iridescent pink and the mountains of the Albanian coast rise and fall like shadows. The sun plips below the horizon and the sea and sky melt into a milky satin sheet.
In three weeks I have seen all seasons. The pleasantries of the summer, idyllic ocean waters, where ochre sands and grey green clay meet the shore, that gently laps and beckons me in. Water crystal clear, and warm to boot.
I feel free. The taste of salt on my lips swells my tongue as I swim within the balmy arms of the water that is lifting me along. The wind tickles my toes as I kick and the bright blue sky beats down. Below, the sunlight dances across the sand and rocks playing tricks. Fish everywhere and then nowhere, silver ones with tiny sparkling rainbow flecks blink before my eyes, then a shower of larger fish swim through me darting down to the fine seaweed below.
The weather here snaps in a moment of rage. A storm swells up from nowhere; altocumulus fly dark towards us as an echo of thunder pops above and just to make sure that we have not forgotten nor misunderstood her power, lightening flashes orange in the sunset and night sweeps in.
I see the storm in my eyes. The roar of the forceful waves, eat away at the very coast I am staring at. Rain hammers, wind howls and we are grounded, seemingly small and irrelevant like one of the tiny pebbles tossed asunder that I find on the shore. The waves roar onto the beach, provoking the sand amuck and yet, in minutes the sky clears and the wind settles to reveal a crescent moon surrounded by a clatter of stars and far off planets glowing on the nights horizon above the hill.
The following morning, as a golden globe creeps over the vermillion horizon we brave the sludge of the river road for an 8km jog around the isle. The view from the top of our run expands across the straits to an undulating Corfu. Honeysuckle, bee orchid, rich myrtle wafts, pinks, oregano, cornflowers, the air is ripe with musk. Today we are out swimming. The prevailing northwesterly wind barely breathes and we dip into the big blue where it strikes me that the tone of aquamarine surrounding me has rarely been witness to the human eye. This blue radiates so deeply that we float within it as though we are flying. I can’t imagine this blue. It is the colour of my dreams and I swim towards the sunlight to catch my breath before ducking under again. I’m addicted to that pitch of blue.
That evening we stumble into a tiny tavern located next to the church, half way up the hillside. Vines over lay the terrace and peaches quietly ripen. Around the corner: a view.
The sea and the air melt into one oily ripple; all distinction lost. Only a bearing prevails. My lasting memory from this place that has stolen my heart is that of sweet sea salt in my hair and an overwhelming feeling of peace. And I know if I could bottle that, it would be worth its weight in gold: Mathraki bliss.
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