My Santorini dream was shattered the day I was told I would never walk again. I remember laying in that hospital bed, thoughts running through my head.  Oh my God, I almost died without making love yet!  Like a true teenager bordering on adulthood, that was the first thing that came to mind. And now I would probably need to drive a van, I’m too young to drive a van… and forget Santorini, how is that ever going to happen now? I remember the emotions rising in me at that very last thought…my Santorini dream gone…

I know this is my second travel post and both are about Greece but for me my two biggest challenges have been conquered in this gorgeous country.  It was back in 2006, I was heading to Europe with mum and dad and I was going to introduce them to cruising. We looked at various itineraries and tried to work out which one to choose.


I knew it could go one of two ways.  Either I could get off the ship and see some beautiful things or I would have to endure a day on the ship whilst I pushed mum and dad to get off and live my dream.  It was important to me that they got to do what I thought I probably would not be able to do when we got there.

(Photo: Celebrity Millennium cruise ship anchored off the coast of Santorini, July 2006)

When that morning came, we lined up for the tender boat ride across the turquoise expanse.  The crew was keen to get me off and check the island out.  It was still in the early days when Work Health and Safety (WHS) wasn’t as strict with getting a person in a wheelchair on a tender boat. It did help that I had mum and dad (two carers) with me. We got to shore and our first obstacle appeared. To get to the cable car (which would take us to the top of the island) we had to navigate two flights of stairs. The local council was yet to approve a lift to get people up. I still don’t think they have put one in ten years later!

As we were sizing up the effort needed to get me up the stairs, two lovely Adelaide women came by and offered to carry our bags whilst mum and dad carried me and the wheelchair up the stairs.  We got to the cable car and managed to get the wheelchair into the cabin by millimetres. My chair is just under 60 centimetres wide, there was no room for my knuckles to get the wheels in!


(Photo: Santorini, cruising the Mediterranean on Celebrity Millennium, July 2006, my alternative to get up to Fira, not really an option!)

Up we went and once we were at the top, we saw the next obstacle.  A series of steps down and around, full of white pebbles.  I think my dad must have seen the colour leave my face.  Here it was… the cruncher, the proverbial thorn, this was not going to happen today. I certainly did not want to force them to take me down.  They had already made a herculean effort to get me up here! Dad quickly told me to sit tight and they would go down and scout the area to see if we could move around at all.

Mum and dad came back with an enthusiastic attitude, something could be done! If we managed to get down those steps, we would then encounter a sealed road which was the main road in the town of Fira. We could go and see the town and take some photos at least.

So before heading off, mum and I went to the bathroom.  Cubicles and more cubicles…not a wheelchair friendly toilet in sight which I must admit was what I was expecting. Again, I was thankful that my friend Luisa had taught me to do frontal transfers onto a cubicle toilet back in the days when I was in rehab. I have used that skill so many times in so many places around the world and it has saved me every time.

(Photo: Santorini, cruising the Mediterranean on Celebrity Millennium, July 2006, pebbled steps in Fira)

So down we went, carefully navigating the rocky surface and made it to town. It was a stinking hot day and we were desperate to find a shady spot whilst we drank some cooling water. At the other end of this sealed road was a paved pathway that led back up the coastline to the top of the cable car station.


The wide steps were about 1 metre deep and only 10 centimetres high so by taking the steps one at a time and stopping at every shop along the way…wink wink nudge nudge! We slowly made our way back up the hill enjoying warm Greek hospitality and buying artisan products to ensure we took memories of this day home so we would never forget it.

(Photo: Santorini, cruising the Mediterranean on Celebrity Millennium, July 2006, Dad & I at the top!)

Once we were back at the top, a little exhausted from the effort and the heat, we stopped into a cafe/trattoria and enjoyed the stunning view over the Aegean Sea. I had the best Greek salad and calamari I had ever tasted. Maybe the obstacles we had overcome made everything taste better but the Feta cheese in Greece is out of this world, nothing can compare to it in Australia.




(Photo: Santorini, cruising the Mediterranean on Celebrity Millennium, July 2006, Mum and Dad with our fun waiter)

We sat and relaxed for a couple of hours, recuperating our strength, mum and dad at least, they had done all the strenuous work! We bantered with our multi-lingual Albanian waiter. From memory, I think it was 7 languages he could speak. A very entertaining character full of one-liners. We were happy and content.  Looking forward to a Greek style dinner on the ship with lamb on a spit and a Greek band playing the Bouzouki.

Santorini sunset from cruise ship


(Photo: Santorini, cruising the Mediterranean on Celebrity Millennium, July 2006, the sun setting on a big Santorini day)

When I asked dad at the end of our cruise from Barcelona to Venice, ‘what was his favourite place?’. He didn’t hesitate – for him Santorini was the best day.  We all conquered a huge mountain that day, quite literally! He was proud to have been an integral part in realising my long-lost dream with me.

I do have the best parents in the world.  Nothing is impossible with them!

lizzy hodgins