Debra, November 2020
I was in Matala at the end of November / early December of 1977. I was at the end of a three month backpacking adventure with a girlfriend. We were a couple of naive young Canadian girls with a sense of adventure and had heard that Matala was a must visit. We had spent a month in Spain and some other backpackers there had recommended we check it out. We were in Mojacar at the time and in some ways it was a comparable experience.
We stayed for about a week or so and just eased into the vibe of the place with three other backpackers we had met on our travels. Two were from California - Diana and Harry and a 30-something lawyer from the mid-west in America who had ditched his career as a lawyer to experience Europe as he had wished he had in his early twenties. Claudia and I stayed in a small hotel/hostel walking distance from the beach as we did not have a tent. It was very basic accommodation and the middle-aged Greek couple that ran the place were not so friendly. Clearly they preferred more well-healed guests despite their modest offerings.
We would have loved to have stayed in the caves but we had to settle for exploration only. It was my first "nude sunbathing" experience and so that alone was unforgettable. We caught a creepy older Greek man sneakily taking photos from a distance and our new, bold, no-nonsense friend from California - Diana - marched straight over to him, snatched his camera away from him without hesitation and yanked the 35 mm film right out of the body of his old manual device.
We ate our meals at the little beach cafe every day and to this day I have never tasted Spanakopita like the one made there. At breakfast the woman who cooked there, hauled this huge large tray out of the oven filled with hot honey cake that again, I have never tasted the likes of since. Our days were spent at the beaches and there was a hilltop we hiked up in the evenings to watch the sunset and smoke some weed. It felt like paradise to us, a couple of 19 yr old girls from a mid-size town in Ontario, Canada. I don't even remember hearing or learning about Joni Mitchell having stayed there, but surely it had been part of the allure for us.
While we were there, some blobs of black oil had been washing up on the beach in random spots sadly. We were unaware of the source at the time. We had been taking our bedsheets down to the beach to use as beach blankets. Some of the oil stained the sheets and when it came time to check out of the "hotel", the owner rushed into our room to check the sheets. He became furious about the oil stains and told us he was keeping our "damage deposit". We were guilty, so we said, "fine -you can keep the deposit, but we will take the sheets." He was holding them in his arms and as we started to make a move to take them, he started a tug of war with us over the soiled sheets. As there were two of us and only one of him, we managed to wrestle the sheets away from him and stuff them in our back packs. Since he had insisted they were ruined and uncleanable, we reckoned we could use them for beach blankets elsewhere. We ran out of the hotel toward the bus that was parked up the road and he chased us all the way to the bus shouting - "Handcuffs in Mires" "Handcuffs in Mires" !!! All the way to Mires, we fretted that he might have arranged to have us arrested at that next bus stop, but once there, we knew he was only bluffing and we managed to avoid a Greek prison!
I wish I had some photos to share with you, but they are back in Canada and I am currently living in Australia. When I am back there, I will try to find them and send them. I was thrilled to see some of the old photos of how it looked in 1977 when I was there including the beach cafe. I recalled the wooden chairs so clearly, as though I had been there yesterday. Matala wrapped up my European backpacking adventure in the best possible way. We had explored 12 countries via hitchhiking and a one month Inter-Rail pass and I did the entire trip including my airfares for $1200 Cdn dollars. We made a few extra bucks cutting grapes in France but that was hardly anything. That trip made such an impact on my life that I wish all young people could experience it the way we did. I wanted to cry when I looked at Google Earth and saw the development and all the cars and beach umbrellas that are there now.
When I say impact, I truly mean that. I met a "boy" in Spain on that trip that I stayed in touch with for many years. We reconnected after we both divorced in 2011 and that is why I now live in Australia. He was an Aussie and we are together now after not seeing each other for 34 years. Who would have imagined we would ever have met again? Travel can be life changing. We are proof of that.
Keep posting stories! I will surely be reading them.
Debra MacFarlane (Boisvert at that time)