The largest part of MCH and a part of the Greek Aquarists’ Association meeting in Syros

(as viewed from Andreas I. Iliopoulos)

 Day Zero (08–15–03): The expected date had come and I found myself at Hermoupolis’ harbor on August 15th, 2003 at 10:00 hours waiting for Christine, George and Johnny Reclos (the Greek part of MCH) and Stefania, Francesco and Leonardo T. B. Zezza (the Italian part). Along with this cichlid-colored company was another fellow aquarist, Nikos Mpalaskas, who also happens to be the secretary of the Greek Aquarists’ Association (GAA from now on). If you take into account that George is the vice president of the very same Association, you can imagine the success of this meeting. I should also mention that there are ten (10) more  members of the GAA that live in the island of Syros. A good opportunity to meet those distant members then.

The happy caravan and George making the last arrangements. photo: Andreas I. Iliopoulos / MCH

After the disembarkation, a convoy, consisting of my famous Dominator motorbike with me on it, R&D Diagnostics’ car, with Christine, George, Johnny and the gear, Christine’s car, with Francesco, Stefania and Leonardo T. B. and Nikos’ car with Nikos and Christos (Nikos’ friend and cousin) headed to Pagos, where my new home is located. All these people had an early awakening, so I thought they should have some refreshments before their final destination at the booked apartments at Delphini Bay.

So we did have the refreshments, coffees and the first “fishy” conversations of course. This is the end of the report for the very first day of this particular meeting in Syros which also happens to be the third meeting of MCH “gang” (the first one in Belgium with all three of them and the second in Syros last year with Frank Panis)

Day One (08 – 16 – ’03): Due to the fact that we recently moved in our new house and 95% of our stuff was still packed, so carton boxes, bags and luggage were all over the floor, I managed to “skip” a meeting today. Instead, I decided to try arranging our things at their places so the new home would become usable.

Of course, devil does not let saints achieve sainthood, so at 21:00 hours I received a phone call from Johnny Reclos. He was asking me if the store of a guy I knew in Hermoupolis who sells diving gear was opened. I was petrified as he explained that he was asking due to the fact that his precious father – George – Nikos and himself would like to buy some stuff and this was urgent. Of course Johnny’s dreams wouldn’t come true at that very moment but I promised him  that I would go tomorrow to check if the guy was at his place by any accident. It was just Saturday after a big religious holiday and it was impossible to find this shop opened.

Day Two (08 – 17 – ’03): As promised, I woke up next morning and at 09:00 hours I was at the shop’s door. And yes, my friends, the owner was there as he was refilling scuba diving bottles with compressed air. I gave the guys a call and asked the shop owner for a coffee, as I hadn’t time to have my morning coffee at my place in peace, with this obligation I had.

After an hour or so, part of the gang appeared in the really small, narrow shop and started buzzing around the gear and the owner’s head.

About eight hundred fifty euros later, we left the shop with one diving suit for George, another one for Nikos and one more for me; plus one new spear gun for Johnny (I did not find that as a very good idea), a pair of flaps for me and another one for Nikos’ friend Christos, plus diving weights for me and Nikos. I bought a mask, a snorkel and a diving knife too. After a generous discount all the boys took their brand new toys and we arranged a meeting at Delphini Bay to test them, on the very same afternoon.

Meanwhile. I had to drive Nikos to the travel agent to change his tickets in order to prolong his vacation for a couple of days more, so the rest of the team had a second coffee at an old nearby coffeehouse. When Nikos and I arrived there, we found the boys talking with a local guy, about sixty years old, examining the local ecological problems with the shipyards, the health problems of the locals that are due to the sandblasts without any precaution measures, the poverty of the sea because of overfishing with very large fishing equipment and harvesting fleets, pollution etc etc etc. The guy was very upset, but justly on the other hand; and the conversation was loud and very alive for a while. But this is another very juicy story and we’ll uncover it another time.

So, I went to my house to have a breakfast, take a better look at and become familiar with my new diving equipment before the first test.

The test was a success but the pray of the underwater hunters a bit poor. Only one – and this is a very personal opinion – of the kills was acceptable according to size. It was a tremendously beautiful male specimen of the species Xyrichthys novacula. The rest were small fish, most of them not even matured and among them a specimen of Balistes carolinensis. The others were very small breams (members of the SPARIDAE family) and wrasses.

My bright new diving gear, drying after their virginal dive. photo: Andreas I. Iliopoulos / MCH

Day three (08 – 18 – ’03) : This day was a calm one – at least for me. You see, I was responsible for our  relocation so I had to take care for the unpacking in my new house. Therefore, I was only able to see the Delphini Bay gang briefly in the afternoon. After a quick dive Francesco, Stefania, Leonardo, Christos and myself went to the beach canteen. Very bad decision, as Christos had the fine idea to buy us some rounds of yellow tequila shots. I think I must say nothing more about this situation, in order to keep our dignity and our good reputation. So consider it as if it never happened. Before the tequila shots Francesco and I had a good conversation about Madagascan cichlids and “plecos”.

Day four (08 – 19 – ’03) : The good news were that Andreas Kamarinos, friend and colleague was arriving at about 10:30 am. I went to the port to pick him up and we went to have a coffee together. When he put his feet on the island, his mobile started ringing. Guess what were all the calls about …

Andreas Kamarinos, right after his arrival at Hermoupolis. Guess what is he talking about. photo: Andreas I. Iliopoulos / MCH

Andreas would stay at my place, as long as he had no problem with the mess there. When he felt better after the early morning awaking and the ship-lag, we went to Delphini to meet the others.

Kisses, jokes etc. We also had a supper at the local tavern, drunk some beers and had an invaluable hobbyist chat as well, but I thought that something was missing. Therefore, I decided that it was a good opportunity to arrange a meeting in our new house since the utilities of our kitchen would allow us to have a real dinner.

L>R: Kalliope, Christos, Nikos and Andreas having lunch at Delphini tavern.

photo: Andreas I. Iliopoulos / MCH

Continued in next page

Take a look at the other reports : Andreas    Francesco   George

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