Mules, Santorini Island
Mules (and a few donkeys) are an important part of the transport system in Fira. We saw mules carrying everything from barrels of beer to building materials, and when you wander the tiny streets and alleys in the town, you will understand why – carrying loads up and down steps everywhere is not a job for most people.
Of course, most people thing of mules as the transport up and down the steps from the harbour, and indeed there are plenty to be seen. There is a system though, you will see groups of mules dozing in the shade near the top of the steps – they get their rest periods too ! I went on a mule during our visit to Thirassia – quite an experience (See the travelogue on my Thirassia page). It cost 4 euros for the trip up the hill – I believe that they charge exactly the same in Fira for a much longer climb.
YES... you can move around by bus (crowded in high season), or you can rent a bike or a car (thousand of shops around the island and specially in Fira), but the funniest way of moving around is by donkey!!!
You can go up from the port to Fira by donkey, or walk up the narrow "street" right next to the cliff from Fira to Imerovigli... once you are in the cliff from Fira you will see the donkeys around.
Take a good look at that first picture. Click on it and have a very good look. Going down is bad, going up is much worse. The main path from Thira to the port is practically a vertical climb of a tall mountain. Walking down still takes 20 minutes. The cable car has a wait to get on of up to 1 hour. Why not take a horse or mule? It’s a few Euros and not an experience to be missed! Alternative if you want to enjoy the daily RUNNING OF THE MULES be very careful! There is a lot of animal poo on the paths and it can be slippery. You do not want to fall into that!
There are over 600 steps to and from Ormos or Gialos the "old port" below the cliffs of Fira - donkeys are waiting to carry you if you can't face it . Alternatively there is a cable car - can be queues at busy times. We did intend to walk down one day and ride the cable car back up but having seen the port from the water we decided to skip in it favour of other sights. Not much there really unless you have to catch a boat from here and a few shops and tavernas. If you do walk just bear in mind what shoes you wear as there will be deposits from the donkeys!
The Mule is used quite a lot for transporting people and good around the island.
You will find them in Fira as an alternative to the cable car going down to the port at the same price as the Cable car, also in Oia to the boats.
All villages on Santorini are placed on the rim of the crater. If you go there by ship there are few opportunities to get up;on foot, on mule or donkey or by cable car.
Climbing the steps with a mule had been a tradition on Santorini for years, until 10 years ago when the cable car made its appearance. The Swiss-made cable car, also known as the "teleferique," was installed as a gift from the wealthy Santorini ship owner Nomikos, whose ships are regular customers to the island. This made things easier for tourists who had luggage to carry with them as the mules were overworked. But the mule owners did not loose completely on the deal as a percentage of the money earned from the cable car is given to the mule owners.
An "interesting" way to get up (and down I suppose) from the old port is by donkey. What makes it more interesting is that you are placed on the donkey which is then left largely to roam its way up the steps on its own. It knows the way, and there's nowhere else to go anyway (unless it gets suicidal). No idea how much this costs, I think it's "price on application" (i.e. negotiate). Maybe the more unfit you look the more they'll try and charge...
First we took the mule, seemed fun, the old fashion way. Then we found that some of the mules were slaughtered and the poor animals were thirsty, some baby mules even couldn't carry the fat rich tourists.. Then we protested by walking on foot back, it's not advised, a very long walk! Take the cable lift!
The alternative mode of transport could be donkies.
You can ride donkies
1. from the port in Fira up to the town
2. from the port in Oia up to the town
3. from Kamari to Ancient Thira.
The ride costs 4 Euro from the port of Fira.
To be frankly I felt pity for the cute donkies and rode only once. They do very hard job bringing you up to the top
On the port side of the island it's a steep climb to get to the top of Santorini. There's a cable car or a path to walk. It you are adventurous you could take a donkey ride to the top. I took the cable car!
.......listen for the tinkling bells, it's a sign that the donkeys are approaching!
Mules and Donkeys are being used extensively in Santorini, still. Locals, usually old farmers, use them for transportation to and from the meadows. Tourists use them as taxis in places like Oia, but it's mostly a novelty rather than a necessity. And now that a teleferique system has been installed to carry cruise ship visitors from the port up the steep cliffs to the village of Fyra, mules are being used for fun rides as opposed to transportation.
A mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse. Mules are preferred to donkeys as beasts of burden as they are bigger and stronger, and therefore can withstand a larger payload, but they cannot procreate.
(Continue to Part II)
It is the scariest thing I've ever did as I haven't even ridden a horse for a long time - my first ride on a horse was disastrous, I hurt my leg as teh horse ran through another horse and my leg was injured!
Having said that, it was difficult to imagine why I should agree to riding on, of all animals, a donkey! t
As luck would have it, it was a choice between waiting for hours getting a cable car ride atop the Santorini shops where all the good stuff are or riding a donkey so we chose the latter as suggesgted by my son. Actually we didn't intend to ride a donkey, we wanted to follow th donkey trail and walk our way to the top. But the Greek donkey owners, with very little English thought we wanted to so we didn't like to annoy them. My youngest was very willing, he convinced us anyway!
So we did and it was a lot of fun, desptie screaming once in a while as I get a glimpse of the views down, and the stone structures which will "cushion" ,my fall, so I held on for dear life! My feet were also tightly secured so thankfully the ordeal ened after almost an hour! At five Euros per person, it was a steal as the memories we would bring home experiencing the ride was just priceless!
OK I admit it, this is just an excuse to use this photo by putting it here, but it is a great pic and does show one way of getting around the island :)
Except motorbike, you can rent mules or donkeys! No,im joking of course!You can rent these animals to the way from Fira to the old port and back!
(Continued from Part I)