Olympos Night Swimming

“So, are we going to the beach or not?”

It was about 1 AM and a bunch of us were hanging around the garden at Bayram’s Treehouses, drinking beer, chain smoking, and challenging one another to riddles and brainteasers. We’d been planning on doing a night swim since hearing that afternoon that there were phosphorescent plankton in the water, but mostly we had just talked about it… and now that we’d stuffed ourselves on free dinner and gotten started with the drinking, those couches were feeling mighty comfortable and it didn’t seem like we were ever going to get up. I was laying back with my head on some cushions and my feet propped up on the discarded Backgammon board and my eyes were nearly starting to close on their own.

“Come on guys, we’re going.” Sarah, a blonde Australian who had been to the beach the night before and tipped us off to the bioluminescent phenomenon, was the de facto ringleader. She stood up and prodded all of us for a bit until we stopped grumbling and gathered up our things. I ran back to my room to drop off my bag and grab a flashlight and a towel, then we all set off.

The beach is technically closed at night, but we didn’t bother ourselves with trivial things like entrance gates. Walking up the main road, we turned off to the right at the last parking lot, quickly cut through it, and hopped the fence at the other end with varying degrees of skill. (Mine, not so much.) We continued on through the mostly-dry riverbed that runs parallel to the main path for about ten minutes and I kept my light off for as long as possible on the off-chance that it might attract the attention of a guard, but that proved to be unnecessary, and it’s not like any of us were being particularly covert anyway. We may have been better off stumbling in the dark, though — the flashlight beam illuminated great swaths of thick, yellow-green algae growing all over the rocks that I actually mistook for sewage. (Maybe it was, but I managed to convince myself otherwise, so I don’t want to hear it.)

After a little while we came to a small wooden bridge off to our left which led us onto the main path again. When we approached the beach, I was surprised to see there were actually quite a few people there — locals mostly, some swimming, some gathered around small bonfires on the shore.

We found a fairly secluded spot on the beach a ways down for ourselves. It was dark enough to make swimsuits unnecessary, so we immediately stripped down (though the two boys were more modest than us girls and kept their boxers on) and leaving a pile of clothing on the rocks, waded out into the water.

“Look at your hands,” Sarah told us. I looked down to my wiggling fingers and saw glittery trails surrounding them, bright green galaxies emerging and disappearing as I moved my arms through the water. My whole body seemed to glow as it moved underwater.

There was a electrical sound in the air, distinctive like the snap-crackle-pop of Rice Krispies cereal or Pop Rocks. I could hear it clearly enough with my ears well above water, but when I ducked my head under it was so loud as to be almost deafening.

We took advantage of the ultra-buoyant Mediterranean water and all lay back to float for a while, ears underwater listening to the alien sounds and eyes open, staring up at the stars in the perfectly clear night sky. If it had been light enough for anyone on shore to see us, we probably would have looked like a bunch of dead bodies that had been dumped. Six silent figures laying completely still, floating and letting the mild current carry us where it would. For a while, the only time we spoke or moved was when the slight waves made us inadvertently bump into each other. The night was so still and quiet that it gave me a start each time I floated into someone else’s foot or arm.

We stayed in the water for about an hour, soaking up the magic. Eventually the cold spots started to overwhelm the warm spots, so we got out and toweled off. We sat on the beach for a little while, finding each others’ articles of clothing and performing a futile search for a missing necklace, before trudging back up the path.

Turns out our previous effort at surreptitious entry had been for nothing: there wasn’t even a guard at the gate. The main pedestrian turnstile had been locked closed, but the turnstile into the parking lot was wide open, so we just exited through there and were out on the main road again. After that night swim we were all exhausted, and after our few minutes’ walk back to Bayram’s, we all collapsed immediately into our respective beds.

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