by Adam Yamey 



"There was a hissing of compressed air and the squealing of brakes as the train from Belgrade jolted unsteadily, and then drew to a halt in a small station in northern Greece. Laden with a heavy rucksack on my back, I clambered awkwardly down the metal steps that led from the high carriage to the low apology of a platform far below. I stepped off this, and then crossed the shiny steel railway tracks, cautiously looking left and right to ensure that no train was approaching. And then, I began walking along the almost deserted village street. The shops along it were closed. The sun was burning down; the hot air was motionless. It was early afternoon.


            After passing through the small place, I reached a vast, flat, treeless, scrubby wasteland. This was bordered on one side by low dunes that hid the Aegean Sea from view. Opposite these, but far away and piercing the haze, were the peaks of Mount Olympus crowned with clouds. I began walking through this semi-arid terrain along an indistinct sandy track towards a Land Rover which was parked close to a silver painted caravan. Beneath a canopy attached to one end of the caravan, there sat a small woman with white hair. She was reading a book.


            All around the two lonely vehicles standing in the midst of this wasteland, there were low spiky bushes, greyish-green in colour. On some of these, I could see bathing costumes, towels, and other items of clothing, casually draped.


            A man dressed in a khaki jacket and shorts was just about visible within a raised clump of bushes between the caravan and the dunes. His head was almost completely concealed under a wide-brimmed straw sun hat. Most of the time, he was bent over looking intently at something. Now and then, he raised his head briefly, before returning to look downwards. He was unaware of my approach, but the lady reading under the canopy looked up as I drew near, and then waved to me.


            This is how I began one of a series of the most enjoyable and unusual holidays that I have ever made." 


In August 1975, Adam Yamey, travelled overland to northern Greece with his PhD supervisor at University College London Prof. Robert Harkness (1917-2006) and his wife Margaret. The ostensible object of the trip was to enjoy a seaside holiday in the sun. However, this was not the whole story. For Platamon, where the Prof and his wife, chose to spend more than 6 weeks every summer, was home to a species of desert ants. It was these small hard-working creatures that drew us to a resort in Greece, which was hardly ever visited by tourists from Western Europe...


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